LA Sparks fire head coach Carol Ross

July 20, 2014

The new ownership group of the Los Angeles Sparks has made one of its first significant moves thus far, as the team relieved Carol Ross of her head coaching duties and replaced her with Sparks General Manager Penny Toler for the remainder of the season.

“I’d like to thank Carol for her contributions to the Sparks organization, team and Los Angeles community,” said Toler. “Carol is a tremendous coach, but we felt it was time to bring in a different energy to this team. Decisions like this are never easy, and we wish Carol the best.”

Ross joined the Sparks as head coach in 2012, amassing a 61 – 36 career record in two and a half seasons, including two playoff appearances. This season, the team has produced a mediocre 10-12 record.

Toler has spent her entire WNBA career in Los Angeles, amassing 17 years as a player, general manager, and executive vice president with the Sparks. The longest tenured general manager in the WNBA, Toler took over the reigns just prior to the 2000 season and compiled back-to-back WNBA Championship teams two seasons into her tenure, bringing Los Angeles titles in 2001 and 2002.

In her 14 seasons as general manager, Toler has guided the team to the WNBA Playoffs 12 times (2000-06 and 2008-10, 2012-13), three conference championships (2001-2003), and two WNBA titles.

However, she does not have coaching experience.

As a player, she scored the first basket in WNBA history on June 21, 1997 vs. the New York Liberty, and finished the inaugural season as the Sparks’ second leading scorer with 13.1 points per game. The following season, she shot an impressive 41.7% from three-point range to rank second in the WNBA while finishing fifth in the league in assists at 4.8 per game.

After three seasons, she hung up her basketball shoes following the 1999 season with WNBA career averages of 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 88 games played. She retired from playing professional basketball with a combined 13 years overseas/WNBA experience.

Joining Toler on the Sparks sideline are assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg and former Sparks assistant, Steve Smith. Smith returns to the Sparks after serving as an assistant coach during the 1998, 2009, and 2010 Sparks seasons. He has over 20 years of coaching experience at the high school, collegiate, and professional level, most recently serving as the athletic director at Winward School in Los Angeles.

By Staff of and news services

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