Sandy Brondello guided the Phoenix Mercury to the best record in WNBA history and Brittney Griner’s defense was a big reason why.
Both were honored by the league Friday, with Brondello winning coach of the year and Griner earning the defensive player of the year award. The Mercury finished the regular season 29-5 before heading into the playoffs.
“Defensive player of the year is MVP in my book,” Griner said. “Defense is my favorite part of the game and what I want to be known for.”
The second-year star broke the league’s single-season shot block record with 129, including 11 in one game against Tulsa on June 29. Griner was most proud that many of her blocks led to points on the other end for her team.
“This year I got better at keeping them in play so my team can have a chance to get an early fast break going,” Griner said. “Still it was also always nice to have a big block go into the stands out of bounds and fire us up and get us going.”
Griner credits a lot of the team’s success this season — including 16 straight wins — to the Mercury’s first-year coach.
“She pays amazing attention to detail. When we go into that game, I know everything my man’s going to do,” Griner said. “She knows every play the other team’s going to run. It’s amazing being able to go into a game that prepared to play our game. She’s definitely been the key to our success.”
Griner, who averaged 15.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks this season, received 31 of the 38 votes by a national media panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
“She’s 6-foot-8, but has mobility,” Brondello said of her young star. “Shot blocking is about anticipation and she does a great job anticipating. She wasn’t where she thought she would be last year, but has really developed this past year. She’s really just scratched the surface.”
Atlanta’s Sancho Lyttle was second with four votes. Lyttle’s teammate Angel McCoughtry, Chicago’s Jessica Breland and Minnesota’s Maya Moore each received one vote.
Brondello also won in a landslide, garnering 33 of the 38 votes. Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve and Washington’s Mike Thibault each received two votes, while Atlanta’s Michael Cooper got one.
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