This post is part of a series on WNBA coaching staffs in order to better understand each staff’s history and experience in women’s basketball and the game of basketball more widely.
Head Coach: Curt Miller
Curt Miller enters his third season with the Connecticut Sun, serving as head coach and general manager. He led a turnaround from his first year record of 14 – 20 to finish the 2017 season with a 21 – 13 record and a second-round loss in the Playoffs. Prior to taking over the top coaching job for the Sun, Miller’s basketball history goes back to the early 1990s.
Miller was a standout track athlete and senior starting point guard for Girard High School in Pennsylvania, taking his school’s team to new heights, reaching the western semifinals in the state playoffs in 1986. During his college years at Baldwin Wallace University, Curt worked with the Girard boys basketball team while on breaks. After graduating, Miller jumped in to coaching immediately, beginning as a volunteer graduate assistant at Kent State University. He then served several assistant coaching positions, starting at Cleveland State University in 1991. After three years there, he coached from 1994 to 1998 at Syracuse University before moving to Colorado State University as associate head coach alongside Tom Collen. While in Colorado, the Rams went 81-20.
Then began Curt’s first and longest head coaching stint at Bowling Green State University. In his first season (2001-02), the falcons went 9-19, and by 2004-05 Miller turned the program around to a 23-8 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance. His best season with the Falcons came two seasons later when Bowling Green finished 31-4, reaching the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, beating Oklahoma State University and #2 seed Vanderbilt University to make Bowling Green the first MAC team to get there. Until his exit, Miller led the Falcons to nine consecutive 20-win seasons, eight MAC regular seasons championships, five MAC Tournament championships, five NCAA Tournament appearances, and eight consecutive postseason tournament appearances while being named MAC Coach of the Year six times.
In 2012, Miller moved to Bloomington, Indiana, for his “dream job” as head coach at Indiana University. Again, he led a turnaround, taking a Hoosier team from 11-19 in 2012-13 to a 21-13 record and WNIT Quarterfinal finish in 2014. After a year off for personal reasons, Miller joined Brian Agler’s staff in Los Angeles as assistant coach for the Sparks for the 2015 summer. When the Connecticut Sun head coaching position opened up, Miller jumped at the opportunity and was named the third head coach of the Sun starting for the 2016 season. Notably, Miller became the first openly gay male coach of a professional sports team in the United States. In his second season, Miller was named the WNBA Coach of the Year.
Some interesting connections:
- Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen coached on Curt’s Connecticut staff his first two seasons as assistant, and overlapped briefly with his time at Colorado State University.
- While at Indiana University, Miller coached Taylor Agler, the daughter of Sparks’ head coach (who Curt previously worked for) Brian Agler.
- While at Syracuse, Miller’s teams played in the Big East against the University of Connecticut, led by head coach Geno Auriemma, who is noted as having recommended Curt for the Sun head coaching position, along with Brian Agler.
Assistant Coach: Steve Smith
Smith’s coaching career began at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania, and he had a long stint as head coach of the men’s basketball team at Dominican College — a California independent NAIA school — from 1990 to 1997 before joining the WNBA ranks with the Phoenix Mercury in the first year of the league, 1997. The following year he joined the Los Angeles Sparks, where he has served three separate stints as assistant coach. He also served on the staff in 2010 and 2014 to 2015. He was assistant for the Detroit Shock from 1999 to 2001 as well.
In the interim, he was the head varsity basketball coach for the girls basketball team for Windward High School in California from 2000 to 2012. In that time, they won 12 league titles, two California Interscholastic (CIF) championships, and the 2011 state title. He stepped away from the team in 2012 and came back to the school as the boys varsity coach from 2014 to 2016. From 2001 to 2016, he was also Athletic Director at Windward. His overall high school record is 304-90.
An interesting connection: Windward High School is the alma mater of Seattle Storm rookie Jordin Canada, though she played after Smith’s time as head coach. Smith’s teams matched up with many current WNBA stars, including Kelsey Plum, Danielle Robinson, and current Connecticut Sun star Jonquel Jones.
Assistant Coach: Brandi Poole
Brandi Poole joins the Connecticut Sun for her first year in the WNBA this summer, but she is no stranger to Curt Miller as she served as his assistant during his two head coaching jobs in the college game. Poole graduated from the University of the South in Tennessee in 1997, where she was a three-time all-conference honoree and three-year co-captain of the women’s basketball team.
Her professional career in basketball started with the Colorado Xplosion of the ABL, where she was a season ticket account executive and director of group sales. She had a short stint as assistant at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and her first experience in the WNBA came in 2000 when she was hired as director of basketball operations for the Portland Fire. She returned to the state of West Virginia as an assistant coach on the WVU staff during the 2000-01 season before teaming up with Miller as assistant on his Bowling Green staff for his historic run from 2001 to 2012 and again at Indiana University from 2012 to 2014.
During her four years apart from Miller, she served as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Texas Tech University from 2015 until the end of the 2018 season.