Prior to the WNBA
None of the players on the two teams’ rosters were born before the mid-1980s, but by the time any of them started to hone their craft, their coaches were already becoming masters of theirs.
Mystics assistant coach Marianne Stanley has been around women’s basketball the longest, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer herself. Out of Pennsylvania, she played at the famed Immaculata College in the mid-1970s, part of the school’s six straight AIAW Final Fours and three straight national championships from 1972 to 1974.
She began coaching shortly thereafter at her alma mater, followed by her first head coaching position at Old Dominion University, where she led the team to two AIAW titles and the 1985 NCAA Championship. She went on to coaching stints at Penn, USC, Stanford, and Cal through the late ’80s and ’90s.
All the while, Mike Thibault came out of Saint Martin’s University in the Pacific Northwest and started working in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers as a scout and later as an assistant coach as part of their title runs in the early 80s, followed by a stint with the Chicago Bulls through the mid-80s.
His first head coaching opportunity came in the World Basketball League with the Calgary 88’s, followed by a long run in the Continental Basketball Association with the Omaha Racers, a perennial playoff team and title winner in 1993. Thibault returned to the NBA as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks at the turn of the century while the WNBA was in its infancy.
Throughout the 1990s Miller spent time as an assistant coach at Cleveland State, Syracuse, and Colorado State, where he worked with future Sun assistant and 2018 WNBA Coach of the Year Nicki Collen. That led to his hiring at Bowling Green in 2001, where he would spend the next decade.