Who is Nate Tibbetts? Looking at Phoenix Mercury's new head coach's relation with NBA

Nate Tibbetts leaves the Orlando Magic after 2 years as an assistant to take over the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA (Photo credit: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Nate Tibbetts (left) leaves the Orlando Magic after 2 years as an assistant to take over the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA (Photo credit: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Nate Tibbetts will become the new head coach of the Phoenix Mercury. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the deal between the two sides will make Tibbetts the highest-paid coach in WNBA history, surpassing Hall of Famer and coach of the Las Vegas Aces, Becky Hammon.

Tibbett's hiring comes as the next move of Phoenix Mercury's owner Mat Ishbia to make the franchise a force to be reckoned with in the WNBA once again. The Mercury finished the 2023 season at the bottom of the standings, with a league-worst 9-31.

Ishbia, who is also the owner of the Phoenix Suns, wants to see both the men's and women's teams win a championship and views Tibbetts as the ideal coach for the Mercury.

"We want to have one of the greatest sports organizations in the world. And to do that you have to invest in the people," Ishbia said, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN (via Bleacher Report).

The 46-year-old coach replaces Nikki Blue, who took over early in the season, replacing then-coach Vanessa Nygaard. Phoenix didn't advance to the WNBA playoffs for just the second time in 16 years, while finishing the season at 9-31 is their worst record in 11 years.


How is Nate Tibbetts related to the NBA?

Nate Tibbetts leaves the NBA after spending the last 16 years in the league as an assistant coach and head coach in the G-League.

Tibbetts started his professional career in the G-League and spent five years there. He joined the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the affiliate team of the Miami Heat, first as an assistant coach (2005-2007) and then as head coach (2007-2009).

In 2009, he left Miami and joined the Tulsa 66ers, the affiliate team of the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is now playing under the Oklahoma City Blue name. He stayed with OKC for two years as head coach (2009-2011) before moving to the NBA.

In 2011, Nate Tibbetts joined the coaching staff of the Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant to then-head coach Byron Scott (2011-2013). After two years, he moved to Portland, where he stayed for eight years as an assistant of then Blazers' coach Terry Stotts (2013-2021).

Portland became a legit playoff contender in the West and played in the 2019 Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors.

In 2021, he parted ways with the Blazers and moved to Orlando, joining the Magic's coaching staff under head coach Jamahl Mosley. Despite their young and talented core, the Magic didn't qualify for the playoffs in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Moving to the WNBA now, Nate Tibbetts is hopeful he will be able to bring the Phoenix Mercury back to the upper echelon after a disappointing 2023 campaign.

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Edited by Parag Jain