Eric Thibault is in line as successor as Mystics head coach

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Mike Thibault wished his son, Eric, to develop into a author. The winningest coach in WNBA historical past was studying Eric’s thesis paper, bought about 30 pages in and really believed his child boy had a future with the written phrase.

“I’m going why the hell does he want to coach? He’s such a good writer,” Mike stated. “Then I got to about 60 pages in it and he had written it so well about basketball that I said, no, I get why he wants to coach. His writing was good enough to convince me, just reading it, that he loved the game.

“So I stopped trying to talk him out of it.”

Making an attempt to speak his children out of teaching simply often is the greatest failure of Thibault’s life. Eric serves as affiliate head coach on Mike’s Washington Mystics workers and his daughter, Carly Thibault-DuDonis, is the pinnacle coach of the Fairfield College ladies’s basketball workforce. The children by no means actually had an opportunity.

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Eric, 33, is in line to be the pinnacle coach when Mike finally decides to step away. The plan is for Mike to retain his basic supervisor duties whereas Eric slides over to the primary chair. Mike reevaluates his scenario after each season and doesn’t appear desperate to stroll away, however Eric has handed on different alternatives in anticipation of taking up in the future.

The job isn’t assured to be Eric’s, however possession has all the time trusted in Mike’s decision-making.

“What’s most interesting is that players tell you when a coach is doing a good job or not doing a good job,” Proprietor Ted Leonsis stated. “We believe in Mike so much, he’ll have a big voice and say in what we do. Mike wouldn’t put the wrong person in.

“We have to approve as ownership. But Mike is tending to the team and is involved in every part of what we do. Eric is playing a bigger and bigger role, obviously. But we really trust and believe in Mike, and he’ll let us know when the time is, who the succession should be and why. And then we would stress test that. But it’s not the royal family.”

Mike and Nanci Thibault met by basketball when he was teaching earlier than he had graduated from St. Martin’s College. The remainder of their lives have revolved across the sport as Mike gained two NBA championships as an assistant with the Lakers, was a Bulls’ assistant within the early Michael Jordan years, had stints within the WBL and CBA earlier than returning to the NBA with the Bucks. His WNBA profession started in 2003 with the Connecticut Solar. Eric got here alongside in 1987 and was born a basketball junkie.

The 2 dad and mom used flashlights so Eric might script and mimic the Bulls introductions, going by each participant with high-fives and all. He was drawing up performs as a baby with every ending in a Jordan dunk. By highschool, Nanci was bribing Eric to get off the bed with the promise of with the ability to watch “SportsCenter” throughout breakfast.

“It was the best idea I ever had as a mom, I felt,” Nanci stated.

The sport was utterly intertwined with their lives to the purpose the place Eric took ESPN analyst and former NBA participant Tim Legler to elementary college in the future and was paid by former Bucks heart Ervin Johnson to run errands. Nanci chuckled and stated younger Eric thought Legler was his finest pal and got here to the home particularly to see him. Whereas many school college students spend their summers operating amok, Eric hurried again to Connecticut to work with the Solar — and finally write that paper about their 2009 season.

“I was just trying to avoid doing a research thesis,” Eric stated with fun.

Mike had a tough determination to make as he took over the Mystics. The newly employed coach and basic supervisor was developing his workers and wished to carry his 23-year-old son alongside. However would gamers older than Eric respect him as a coach or imagine that nepotism was at play?

Thibault turned to some former gamers with Connecticut, the place Eric would assist whereas nonetheless in school, to get their ideas.

“I’m like, why would he not?” stated Asjha Jones, a two-time all-star and Olympic gold medalist. “He would be in drills. He was there all the time. So we kind of saw how we worked. And you trusted him.

“He was there every day, so you knew he knew what he was talking about. And he’s dedicated his life to this sport. So he knew things already that it takes people years to kind of hone in on and develop.”

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That’s the identical line of considering from Mystics gamers. Eric, who was named affiliate head coach 4 years in the past, runs practices as a lot as Mike, if no more, and is particularly fingers on — taking part in drills, operating full-court five-on-five and doing one-on-one improvement with each participant. He takes half in three-point capturing contests and spends pregame with a laptop computer on the sideline going over movie with gamers. Twice this season, Eric needed to coach common season video games with Mike unavailable.

Elena Delle Donne raves about Eric’s data of X’s and O’s. Myisha Hines-Allen factors to his ardour, management and intelligence. Las Vegas Aces ahead Theresa Plaisance, a coach’s child herself, famous the subtle method he sees the sport and stated Eric sees issues two and three steps forward of the gamers.

“I think he does a really great job of establishing himself as Eric and not coach Thibault’s son,” stated Plaisance, a Mystic in 2021.

It is a transformative interval within the Thibaults’ lives. Carly is about to begin her first season as a head coach. Mike and Eric are attempting to maximise a championship window, because the playoffs start subsequent week, that began with a Finals journey in 2018 and a title in 2019. Mike, nevertheless, doesn’t need to go away the cabinet naked when he departs. Eric not too long ago came upon he’ll be a first-time father in January.

There’s a stability between being current and getting ready for a future that will get nearer and nearer every single day, however there’s no rush for Eric.

“The last thing the world needs is Mike Thibault thinking he left too soon,” Eric joked after which stated in all seriousness, “It would be selfish of me to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I think about that all the time. But everybody else stay in your role, do your role.’ I’ve got to do my role for this for this team first and foremost.

“I’ve had a lot of support and indications that I’ll hopefully be able to be here for a while. And we’re treated very well. So that’s it. That’s pretty simple to me. I like my life in D.C.”

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The years have gone about in addition to might be anticipated as Mike was capable of tutor Eric alongside the way in which. They had been capable of share the 2019 championship collectively after Eric was supplied one other WNBA job beforehand. The pair don’t hesitate to problem one another and there are days when Eric might decline a dinner invitation from Nanci after spending all day with dad.

However basketball is the household enterprise for the Thibaults and it has been good for 4 a long time.

“When they decided to start working together, it was a family decision, really,” Nanci stated. “And mine was, if it starts to wear our family life out, this isn’t going to happen. Because that’s what’s important. And they have done amazingly well.

“I mean, that’s a hard thing to do. I’ve never had to say, okay, you guys can’t do this anymore. Not once. … It hasn’t gone without its fireworks, but it has gone well.”

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