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Mystics vs. Sun: 5 interesting facts on the teams in the 2019 WNBA Finals

Here are some facts on the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun, ranging from the coaches to the players and more!

Washington Mystics v Connecticut Sun
The Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun do share some common DNA. They both lay much of their success to Mike Thibault (right).
Photo by Khoi Ton/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun will face off in the 2019 WNBA Finals. Here are five interesting facts on the two teams that you may not have previously known about. So let’s get to them!

This is the first WNBA Finals between two Eastern Conference teams since 1997

The WNBA has been dominated by Western Conference teams, almost since the league’s inaugural season in 1997. Eastern Conference teams have only won the WNBA championship five times in 1997, 2003, 2006. 2008 and 2012.

Of these five teams, the Houston Comets, the 1997 champions moved to the Western Conference from 1998 where they would win three more titles and folded after the 2008 season. The Detroit Shock won the 2003, 2006 and 2008 championships, but they are now known as the Dallas Wings, a Western Conference team. Therefore, the Indiana Fever are the only active Eastern Conference team with a championship.

The WNBA Playoffs have changed since 2016 to remove conference record from consideration. Initially, we saw the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks form an All-Western Conference championship series, confirming the West’s dominance at the time.

The Seattle Storm won the 2018 championship against the Mystics, but the second through fourth seeds (Atlanta Dream, Mystics, Sun respectively) in the WNBA Playoffs were from the East.

This season, the Mystics and Sun are the top two seeds in the league. That means the East will finally have a second active team with a championship after this season.

I wouldn’t say that the power has totally shifted to the East. The Dream have fallen off a cliff since last year, while the Fever and New York Liberty are still in the middle of major rebuilding projects. But the WNBA’s power teams have now shifted to the Mystics and Sun after both teams went through major rebuilding projects.

Mike Thibault is the winningest AND BEST head coach in Washington Mystics AND Connecticut Sun history

Curt Miller is a great WNBA head coach and has shaken off the “Ghost of Mike Thibault” since coming to the Sun franchise in 2016. Before he arrived, Connecticut missed the playoffs for three straight years and just looked lost. In four seasons, Miller has led the Sun to three consecutive 20-win seasons and a Finals berth.

That said, the best head coach in Connecticut Sun history is still .....

Detroit Shock v Connecticut Sun
Mike Thibault led the Connecticut Sun to two WNBA Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005.

Mike Thibault!

In ten years from 2003-12, Thibault led the Sun to eight winning seasons, a 206-134 record and two WNBA Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005.

In an interview with Mike Anthony of The Hartford Courant, Thibault still loved his time in Connecticut. However, he felt that the Sun didn’t give him a chance to complete a rebuild after he traded starting point guard Lindsay Whalen to the Minnesota Lynx for the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Draft. The Sun used that pick to draft Tina Charles who would win the 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player Award.

From Anthony’s article:

The only thing that probably eats at me about that is, as a group — ownership, management, coaches — we had signed off on a rebuild that was going to take three to four years when we traded Lindsay Whalen [in 2010] for the draft pick to get Tina [Charles]. I thought, for what we were doing, it was on track. And most people would tell you it was ahead of schedule. … That’s how the business is. You get fired sometimes even when you might have done a good job.

From there, Thibault also noted that he is happy that he came to Washington anyway. I think we are too.

The Sun are also happy to be back in the Finals in the post-Thibault Era. Before Miller came around, it was pretty obvious that ownership made a grave mistake, at least in my humble opinion.

A former Mystics starting point guard is now a star with the Sun

Mystics fans are generally reluctant to talk about Trudi Lacey, Washington’s General Manager and Head Coach from 2011-12. Washington went a combined 11-57 in those two seasons which resulted in her firing.

I didn’t like most of Lacey’s player acquisitions. But I especially hated her veteran-first approach in the 2012 season which drew the team back big time. Still, it wouldn’t be fair for me to say that every player Lacey coached in Washington fared poorly.

Jasmine Thomas was an on again, off again starting point guard for Washington in 2011 and 2012 in her first two professional seasons. Thomas was rather streaky in her first two years in D.C., but she has blossomed into a strong starting point guard for the Sun, where she’s been since 2015. Thomas was named an All-Star in 2017 and was named to this year’s WNBA All-Defensive First Team.

The Maryland Terrapins will be very, VERY well represented.

The DMV will have no shortage of talent in this year’s Finals. The Mystics have several players with ties to our area, whether in college and/or because they grew up here.

The Maryland Terrapins have SEVEN alumnae playing in this series. For the Mystics, Kristi Toliver, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Tianna Hawkins, Natasha Cloud and Kiara Leslie all graduated or began their college basketball careers at College Park. Cloud finished her college career at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia while Leslie finished her college career at NC State. For the Sun, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones played their entire college basketball careers at Maryland.

And there are more D.C. area natives as well

Of the non-Maryland alumnae playing in the Finals, Thomas is also from the D.C. area, where she went to Oakton High School in Vienna, Va. And Sun center Jonquel Jones went to Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, Md. She also finished her college basketball career with the George Washington Colonials.