Mercury GM, responding to Tibbetts hire criticism, touts diverse candidate pool, process

Alexa Philippou
Oct 20, 2023, 08:40 PM ET
4 Minute Read

Phoenix Mercury general manager Nick U’Ren addressed criticism regarding the hiring of head coach Nate Tibbetts, emphasizing the organization’s extensive and diverse candidate pool. U’Ren stated that the hiring process was meticulous and thorough.

The decision to hire Tibbetts received backlash due to concerns about diversity and his lack of experience in women’s basketball. Tibbetts, having previously worked as an assistant coach in the NBA, moved to the WNBA after coaching in the G League.

At the news conference introducing Tibbetts, U’Ren mentioned that the organization prioritizes diversity and opportunity. However, U’Ren did not disclose the names of the candidates or finalists.

The Mercury appointed U’Ren as the general manager in July, and Josh Bartelstein is the CEO of both the Phoenix Suns and the Mercury. Mat Ishbia became the new owner of the Mercury and Suns in February.

Addressing public scrutiny over the hiring decision, U’Ren expressed excitement about assembling a basketball operations and coaching staff that reflects diversity and provides equal opportunities to individuals of all backgrounds and skill sets.

Phoenix’s previous three coaches (Sandy Brondello, Vanessa Nygaard, and Nikki Blue) all had experience as WNBA players and assistants in the league before becoming head coaches.

Tibbetts, one of the three male head coaches in the WNBA, joins the league with his background as an NBA assistant coach and experience in women’s college basketball. U’Ren highlighted the extensive hiring process that involved exploring various basketball domains, ultimately leading them to Tibbetts.

Tibbetts’ contract with the Mercury makes him the highest-paid coach in WNBA history, according to sources. Tibbetts expressed eagerness to learn and immerse himself in the WNBA, emphasizing his commitment to the team and the league’s growth.

When questioned about Nikki Blue’s candidacy for the head coaching position, U’Ren focused on Tibbetts’ qualifications and potential, rather than discussing other candidates.

The Mercury faced challenges in the previous season, finishing with a league-worst record due to injuries and player absences. The organization aims to build a roster with an emphasis on shooting, intelligence, and versatility.

U’Ren mentioned the owner’s determination to improve and move away from being last in the league.


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