Changing Attitude: Sparks Look for Joe Bryant to Deliver

Joe "Jellybean" Bryant is hoping to lead the L.A. Sparks into the postseason./Dennis J. Freeman

By Dennis J. Freeman

The Los Angeles Sparks are loaded with perhaps the biggest and most talented frontline in the WNBA.

Through the first 10 games of the regular season the Sparks haven’t gotten what they needed out of a frontline consisting of Candace Parker, Tina Thompson, Delisha Milton-Jones, Jantel Lavender and Ebony Hoffman.

With Parker down and out for at least a month and mired in a five-game losing streak, the Sparks got a facelift at the head coaching spot that may save their season.  

Welcome back, Joe Bryant. Whatever Jennifer Gillom tried wasn’t working. With a 17-28 record as head coach of the Sparks, Gillom was officially ousted from the position after Los Angeles got ripped by the Seattle Storm, 99-80.

Taking over the head coaching reigns isn’t something new for Bryant. Hired in March as an assistant coach, Bryant guided the Sparks to a 25-9 record and a conference finals berth during the 2005 season.

“This was a very difficult decision, but I felt it was necessary to take the team in a different direction at this point in the season. Joe’s familiarity with the Sparks organization puts us in the best possible position to compete going forward, and should make for a seamless transition,” Sparks Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler said. 

“We respect Jennifer’s commitment to the Sparks and understand she has faced adversity with player injuries during her tenure.  That being said, with a short season and playing in the competitive Western Conference, winning games early in the year is critical and the Sparks’ goal remains to contend for a WNBA Championship.”

Before he was called back to the United States to help with the Sparks, Bryant was in Japan, working as head coach of a Japanese first division men’s team, and teaching at a private basketball academy. Bryant, the father of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, said during the team’s media day this year that it was a no-brainer for him to come back to coach the team.

 He faces a pretty daunting task in front of him to get the Sparks back on track towards a potential playoff berth, especially with his best player sitting on the sidelines, injured.

“What’s most important is the personnel on the floor hasn’t changed; we have the right mix of players to be a successful WNBA ballclub,” Bryant said.

During’s interview with Bryant during the Sparks media day in Inglewood, California, the newly announced head coach said the expectation has always been about winning titles.  

Being in L.A., the expectations are always going to be to win championships,” Bryant said. “This is really the first that since I’ve been gone that is really legitimate. This Western Conference is going to be tough.”

Even then, Bryant talked about the type of challenges the height of the Sparks’ players would pose for opponents this season.  

“Team are going to have it difficult matching up with us at certain times,” Bryant said.

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