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Mystics’ Kristi Toliver joins Wizards as assistant, becoming the team’s first female coach

Kristi Toliver has played for the Washington Mystics the past two seasons, helping them reach the WNBA Finals this year for the first time.
Kristi Toliver has played for the Washington Mystics the past two seasons, helping them reach the WNBA Finals this year for the first time.(Terrance Williams For The Washington Post)

Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks announced several coaching moves Tuesday afternoon, most notably adding Kristi Toliver as an assistant with player development responsibilities.

Toliver becomes the first woman in franchise history to hold a coaching position and the fourth in NBA history, joining Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs), Jenny Boucek (Dallas Mavericks) and Nancy Lieberman (Sacramento Kings). Toliver served as an assistant on the Wizards’ summer league team this year.

Toliver has played for the Washington Mystics the past two seasons, helping them reach the WNBA Finals this year for the first time. The All-Star guard won a WNBA championship in 2016 with the Los Angeles Sparks before joining the Mystics as a free agent.

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‘‘Thrilled for the opportunity that Scott and [general manager] Ernie [Grunfeld] and all these guys have given me,’’ Toliver said. ‘‘I’m blessed to be in the position that I am. As an active player and now an active assistant coach, it’s an honor. It’s something that I’ve worked for and that I’ve earned, so I feel good about that.

‘‘The Wizards have been great, and I’m just super blessed with this opportunity.’’

The Wizards also announced the hiring of Robert Pack and promotion of Ryan Richman. Pack, a former NBA guard, spent last season as a scout with the Portland Trail Blazers, and Richman, entering his fifth season with Washington, most recently served as the Wizards’ summer league head coach.

Washington opens the season Thursday night at Capital One Arena against the Miami Heat.

‘‘We’re excited to begin the season with a revamped, versatile staff of coaches and trainers,’’ Brooks said in a statement. ‘‘We have a good mix of returning veteran NBA coaches, valuable new additions and promotions from within the organization that will help our players improve.’’

Toliver, Richman and assistant coach David Adkins, the director of player development, all have ties with the Maryland women’s basketball program, either working for or playing under coach Brenda Frese.

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Toliver, then a freshman, led the Terrapins to the 2006 national championship, making a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the NCAA tournament final to force overtime against archrival Duke. Maryland went to win, 78-75.

Her first season with the Mystics coincided with the arrival of Elena Delle Donne, the 2015 WNBA MVP who helped transform Washington into a championship contender.

Among the first of her peers Toliver, the daughter of a former NBA referee, revealed she spoke with after learning she would be joining the Wizards staff was Sue Bird. The Seattle Storm point guard and four-time Olympic gold medalist for the United States directed a three-game sweep of the Mystics in this year’s WNBA Finals.

‘‘I did talk to Sue Bird two days ago because I know she has Becky Hammon’s number, and I wanted to get in contact with her as soon as I could,’’ Toliver said of Hammon, the NBA’s first full-time assistant whom Spurs coach Gregg Popovich hired in 2014. ‘‘Because I have a lot to learn, not only through the coaches here with the Wizards but other people throughout the league.’’

Toliver indicated playing for the Mystics remains her top basketball priority but that the opportunity to be involved with the sport during the offseason as a coach rather than going overseas to compete presented an ideal situation.

Adkins, meantime, was an assistant for the Maryland women’s team for five seasons, including in 2013-14 when the Terrapins advanced to the second of three Final Fours under Frese.

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Richman was a practice player for the Maryland women before becoming a graduate assistant for men’s coach Mark Turgeon. Richman spent consecutive seasons beginning in 2011-12 with the Terrapins men’s program and joined the Wizards in 2013-14 as a video coordinator.


The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner contributed to this report.