Mystics

Coaches' Roundtable: How the Mystics' Mike Thibault handled being fired from the Connecticut Sun in 2012

Mystics

Losing a job is one of the most difficult challenges in one's life. For coaches - where hiring and firing is a common element of the trade - many are used to the eventual ousting that comes with the position. 

When current Mystics head coach Mike Thibault was fired from his first WNBA head coaching gig with the Connecticut Sun in 2012, he was surprisingly optimistic about what his future held. 

"You know we've all been told you're hired to be fired, and I got fired in Connecticut after we had the second-best record in the league," Thibault said in NBC Sports Washington's Coaches' Roundtable.

"I mean my wife was worried about (it)- we cleaned out my desk in like, I don't know, three hours and I was out the door and she said 'Are you okay?'" Thibault said. "And I said I'm good because some new opportunities [are] gonna be there that I'll get excited about and I'm gonna bring this same energy to somebody else."

Things obviously worked out well for Thibault. One reason he could afford to be optimistic was that he had a year's worth of pay to ride on. The Sun fired Thibault with a year remaining on his deal after being with the franchise for 10 seasons. 

He had the option of sitting out a full year - in what he called a "sabbatical" -  or get back on the horse and prove his former organization wrong. He pointed out that of the four coaches on Roundtable that three of them (Thibault, Washington football coach Ron Rivera and Wizards coach Scott Brooks) were all successful coaches that had to go through that process. Rivera was fired from Carolina after once leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl just five years prior, Brooks was fired three years after making the NBA Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's a part of the profession. 

 

COACHES' ROUNDTABLE: WATCH THE FULL DISCUSSION WITH COACH BROOKS, REIRDEN, RIVERA AND THIBAULT

For Thibault to move on, all it took was the first phone call and that was it.

"I got a call shortly and I was like over it," Thibault said. "My attitude was you made a mistake, Connecticut. Okay, we’re moving on."

In fact, the constant flow of the coaching profession doesn't wear on the coaches as much one would think. Thibault was more concerned about how it affects his wife and the rest of his family that have to read about it.

"Your family sometimes feel the pain a lot more than you do as the coach. You are already on the next thing, they gotta read about it in the paper or have somebody say something," Thibault said. "I think you just have to be if you're confident that you’re doing the right things and how you're going about things then stay confident." 

His second WNBA job was and remains leading the Mystics. In seven seasons Thibault turned the team around from being in the basement of the league to being on the precipice of creating the next great team. He changed the culture in D.C. and changed the team's expectations. This is all while his former team has still yet to break through for an elusive WNBA title. And the Sun have used two separate coaches trying. 

Still, the 70-year-old coach has learned from his first time leading Connecticut. While he doesn't think he could have done things differently, he is more than reflective of what happened. 

"I don't know if there's much I would do differently, maybe try to be smarter sooner and not be so hard-headed about some things," Thibault said."And then look back and be reflective and say, OK, what can I change, what can I do a little bit better? Can I have been better in these circumstances? Every opportunity and everything in this game is an opportunity to get better and I think that's how you have to look at it."

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