Oct. 8, 2012
Release Courtesy of the WNBA
NEW YORK, Oct. 7, 2012 – The Los Angeles Sparks' coach Carol Ross is the recipient of the 2012 WNBA Coach of the Year Award, the league announced Sunday. Ross received 15 votes from a national panel of 41 sportswriters and broadcasters.
Ross, who coached at Ole Miss from 2003-07, is the third member of the Los Angeles organization to receive WNBA honors in 2012. Last week, Sparks' guard Kristi Toliver was named the 2012 WNBA Most Improved Player presented by Boost Mobile. Earlier Sunday, forward Nneka Ogwumike was honored as the league's Rookie of the Year.
In 2012, the Sparks authored a significant turnaround, finishing the regular season with the league's third-best record (24-10) and earning the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference of the WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile. Los Angeles' nine-game improvement over last season (15-19) is the second-largest turnaround in franchise history. The Sparks are now taking on the Minnesota Lynx in the Western Conference Semifinals.
WNBA success is not new to Ross, who, as an assistant with Atlanta under Marynell Meadors from 2009-11, helped the Dream earn a pair of Eastern Conference crowns and a berth in the WNBA Finals in each of the past two seasons. In 2009, her first campaign with the Dream, Ross helped build the framework of those championship-contending teams as Atlanta enjoyed a 14-game turnaround from its inaugural WNBA season of 2008, tied for second place in the Eastern Conference and earned a berth in the playoffs.
Not only have teams thrived with Ross on the sidelines but individual players have excelled as well, particularly in Los Angeles where Toliver flourished under the first-year head coach's tutelage. In her fourth season in the league, Toliver posted career highs in scoring (17.5 ppg, sixth best in the WNBA this year), field goal percentage (.491, 197-of-401), assists (4.9 apg), rebounds (3.2 rpg), and steals (1.3 apg). She scored 20-plus points in every game played in August and was honored as the WNBA Western Conference Player of the Month presented by Boost Mobile.
Similarly, with Ross at the helm, Sparks forward Candace Parker returned to her All-Star form after a pair of injury shortened seasons and guard Alana Beard overcame career-threatening foot and ankle injuries to excel for Los Angeles. Parker led the league in blocks (2.3 bpg), ranked third in rebounds (9.7 rpg), and seventh in scoring (17.4 ppg). Beard, in her seventh season, registered the top three-point field goal percentage of her career (.402, 35-of-87), and her second best marks for field goal percentage (.436, 137-of-314) and free throw percentage (.795, 66-of-83). Ogwumike led all rookies in scoring (14 ppg), rebounds (7.5 rpg), and double-doubles (nine).
Prior to her tenure in WNBA, Ross amassed a 324-161 (.668) record in 16 seasons as an NCAA Division I head coach in the Southeastern Conference, guiding her teams to 12 NCAA Tournaments and two WNIT appearances. Twelve of those seasons (1990-02) were spent at the University of Florida - where she coached current Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who would go on to become a two-time WNBA All-Star, win two WNBA championships, and earn a pair of Olympic gold medals.