Three-time WNBA champion Sue Bird, introduced Friday as a basketball operations associate for the Denver Nuggets, wasn’t looking to get into NBA management when the team’s president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly, called this fall with what she called the “perfect match” for her goals.
Not long after Bird led the Seattle Storm past the Washington Mystics in the WNBA finals, Connelly reached out to her through a mutual friend — longtime NBA forward Caron Butler, a contemporary of Bird’s at the University of Connecticut who played for Connelly with the Wizards before Connelly’s move to Denver.
Bird, who plans to return for her 17th WNBA season at age 38, was quickly sold on the fit.
“It was really a perfect match, because here they are giving me this amazing opportunity but also understanding that I’m still a player,” said Bird, the WNBA’s all-time assists leader. “I still have a season, and I’m still preparing for that. It’s just, for me personally, the best of both worlds.”
Since retiring from playing overseas during the WNBA’s offseason, Bird has used the winter to check out possible post-playing careers. Most notably, she has broadcast women’s college basketball games for ESPN. However, she figured getting into coaching or a front-office role would have to wait until after her career.
“I never thought of myself in a place to really seek that out because I was still playing,” Bird said. “I shouldn’t sit here and say this was my end goal, but of course coaching has always crossed my mind, of course what it takes to build a championship team now that I’ve been part of a few, it always crosses my mind.”
Bird joins a handful of women to make the move from playing in the WNBA to working in the NBA. Rival point guard Becky Hammon is in her fifth season as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, having started in a similar role before being hired full time. Jenny Boucek, Bird’s former coach in Seattle, has been an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings and now the Dallas Mavericks. And Bird’s opposing number in this year’s finals, Kristi Toliver, was named the Wizards’ assistant coach for player development last month.
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SOURCE: ESPN, Kevin Pelton