Former Maryland women's basketball star Kristi Toliver will join the Washington Wizards’ staff as an assistant coach for player development, head coach Scott Brooks announced Tuesday.
Toliver, 31, is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA coaching staff and just the second woman ever, following current San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon.
After helping lead the Washington Mystics to the WNBA Finals, Toliver passed on playing overseas to work as a Wizards assistant during an NBA summer league game and help the coaching staff with film study and player development during training camp.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could,” Toliver told reporters.
At Maryland, Toliver helped lead the Terps to the 2006 national championship, a run highlighted by her game-tying 3-pointer late in the final against Duke. Toliver is still the Terps’ all-time leader in assists (751), 3-pointers made (300) and free-throw percentage (86.6). She was drafted No. 3 overall in 2009 and has played 10 season in the WNBA, winning a league championship in 2016 with the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Washington Mystics overcame a quiet night from Elena Delle Donne to earn a trip to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, holding off the Atlanta Dream 86-81 in the decisive fifth game of their semifinal series Tuesday night.
Toliver, whose father served as an NBA referee, has said her dream is to be an NBA coach. In her role in Washington, which opens its season Thursday against the Miami Heat, she’s helped lead five-on-five scrimmages and worked with the Wizards on ball-handling drills.
“She’s done a great job,” Brooks told reporters. “Like I said, she’s very talented. I’m excited about having her and continuing to get to know her and her strengths. We all want to be better every day, and she has that mentality, as I have that mentality. I don’t know everything. She doesn’t know everything. But we can learn some things together.”
Over the past few years, five members of Maryland coach Brenda Frese’s staff have made the jump to work in the NBA. Toliver joins former Terps women's basketball assistant David Adkins on the Wizards' player development staff. Adkins, who spent five years on Frese’s staff, came to Maryland after becoming a respected development coach at the high school level. Months after the Terps’ Final Four appearance in 2014, the Wizards hired him as their assistant coach for player development.
Former women’s practice player and coaching intern Ryan Richman, who also served as a graduate assistant for the Maryland men, was promoted from Wizards player development coordinator to assistant coach this summer.
After three years in College Park under Freese, assistant coach Terry Nooner was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers as a player development coach in August.
And former practice player and director of recruiting operations Winston Gandy spent three seasons as the Wizards’ player development coordinator before taking an assistant coaching job with the women's program at Rice.