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Cloud confident in Eric Thibault coaching Mystics' final 2 games

/ by Tyler Byrum
Presented By Sandy Spring Bank
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For the just the second time since 2012, Mike Thibault isn't going to be the one patrolling the Mystics bench on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. After the head coach tested positive for the coronavirus, Thibault's son, Eric, will coach the most consequential games of the season.

One win in their final two contests and Washington is in the WNBA postseason. And starting guard Natasha Cloud is not worried one bit about Eric filling in for his dad against the New York Liberty and then the Minnesota Lynx. 

"[It's the] same mindset, it doesn't change. Eric is a phenomenal coach," Cloud said after practice on Wednesday. "Majority of the season he's led our practices. He's a constant voice within our huddles in the games. We trust him so there's not a big drop-off."

It's not like Eric is ill-prepared. After all, Eric Thibault is the associate head coach and has been on staff ever since his father took the head coaching role back in 2013. The players are familiar with him. He's one of the coaches that run the scout team. Being a coach's son obviously helps too. 

Still, it's yet another obstacle that Washington has to overcome just to get one of the final two seeds in the postseason. Momentum was finally on their side with only their third winning streak of the season. Air was taken out of the Mystics' sails with the news of Mike Thibault's positive diagnosis, but there is no dip in confidence. 

 

"I've been with Eric for seven years, so I have a lot of confidence in him as a coach and I'm actually really happy for him that he gets to step into this kind of realm because this is the next chapter for him," Cloud said. 

Stepping into this position wasn't exactly how the Thibaults drew up Eric stepping into the head coaching role for the Mystics. For years, there were rumors of Eric moving on to take on the top role for another team. That was squashed when Mike Thibault laid out a succession plan back before the 2020 season on the Winsidr podcast.

Mike said at some point he wants to step back and be just the general manager, which would allow Eric to be the head coach. This just might be a preview of what's to come and if Mike is ready to hand over the reins. 

"He was very comfortable [at practice]. He did a really great job. We trust him at the head right now," Theresa Plaisance said. "This is our guy and this is who we're rolling with... He knows every set that every team runs by name and hand call. So if there is someone that is prepared it's Eric."

But for now, the focus is on the final two games of the season and getting to the playoffs. Eric Thibault may be as prepared for this spot as any assistant in the league, but Cloud understands that the team still needs to perform as they would for Mike. 

Cloud, as the team's point guard, is constantly engaged in her discussions with Mike Thibault on the sidelines. They discuss strategy, how to run the offense and making adjustments on the fly midgame. 

She believes for them to have success, it's her that needs to be the same constant for Eric that she was for Mike. 

"I wouldn't say it changes that much, I think I still need to keep that constant communication," Cloud said. "I need to be the consistency for Eric because this is new for him. I have no worries in the world, I'm really confident in him. I know he's confident in himself. But I can do him a real solid if I'm just my poised self and we're going to attack this together as a team and it's going to take every single person, not only player, but staff as well this week."

All season long, Washington has found a way to turn things around when they seemed bleak. One more win with Eric Thibault at the helm and they can hit the reset button for the postseason.