Special Delivery: Brondello expecting new baby, new duties

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who covered his first Spurs game in 1981 for The Daily Texan, the University of Texas student newspaper. He spent 26 years in the newspaper business -- 21 of them covering sports -- before joining the marketing department at Our Lady of the Lake University in 2009. His Spurs.com column will appear every Wednesday. >> En Espanol | Read more Ken Rodriguez Articles

(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)
Sandy Brondello cuts a unique WNBA profile. She’s the pregnant, 41-year-old head coach of the Silver Stars, who makes game plans and family plans with her associate head coach/husband, a man she once played for as a point guard in Germany.

Olaf Lange cuts a remarkable profile, too. He’s the one-time boy wonder who became a women’s basketball coach at 16, turned Brondello into a lethal, three-point shooter, fell in love with her, married her, fathered a son with her and began coaching with her.

Together, they form an unusual husband-wife coaching combination – a couple soon to be juggling clipboards and diapers. Their second child is due not long after the season opens in May.

"I’m very excited," Brondello says.

Brondello isn’t sure whether she’ll give birth while the team is at home or on the road. But she’s certain the Silver Stars won’t suffer. Why? Her husband will assume head coaching duties.

"I’ve been with the Silver Stars five years, Olaf’s been with the team three years," Brondello says. "So the players know us and are used to us."

General manager Dan Hughes recently handpicked Brondello to replace him as head coach. He also promoted Lange and predicts the coaching transition will be as smooth as a swish.

"The two of them have a remarkable chemistry factor," Hughes says. "I have seen it. They’re going to be fun to watch."

Brondello’s recent promotion to head coach completes an improbable basketball journey that began in the sugar cane fields of Australia. She grew up on a farm near the Great Barrier Reef, the daughter of a cane worker. As a young girl, Brondello played rugby with her rough-and-tumble brothers. The collisions toughened her and helped turn her into a physical and fearless athlete.

On the farm, her father hung a basketball hoop on a water tank. The tank’s metal bars prevented her from making layups. The rocks on the grass court kept her from dribbling. So Brondello became a catch-and-shoot player.

Lange has seen the rim and rocks and marvels. From a primitive court came a world-class ballplayer. "It’s amazing," Lange says.

In 1988, Brondello made the first of four Australian Olympic teams. She led the Aussies to two silver medals and one bronze and became the nation’s premier player. In 1992, she joined the German club team, BTV Wuppertal, and in 1995 Lange became her coach. A year later, they led the team to the European Cup title and romance bloomed.

"When love hits," Brondello says, "it hits."

For a while, they hid their relationship. "Outside the team, no one knew we were a couple," Brondello says. "He pushed me harder than anyone else. Everyone thought the coach was picking on me all the time."

It was a roller coaster ride in Germany. One year they were feted as champions. Another year, the team went bankrupt and they couldn’t cash a check. "We went through tough times and good times," Lange says.

The climb from Down Under continued in the WNBA. Brundello signed with the Detroit Shock and played in the league’s inaugural All-Star game. Though she stood only 5-foot-7, Brondello set screens on post players, played gritty D and developed a three-point stroke.

"One of the best screeners I’ve ever seen in the women’s game," Lange says. "There’s a picture of her setting a screen on Margo Dydek, who’s 7-2. Sandy comes up to her hip. It’s one of the funniest pictures I’ve ever seen."

After five WNBA seasons, Brondello retired as one of the best three-point shooters (41 percent) in league history. She got married and became a Silver Stars assistant in 2005 while her husband coached at Liberty University.

It wasn’t long before Brondello showed an affinity for coaching. She took copious notes, made detailed scouting reports and connected with players. When Lange arrived in 2007, the two clicked with Hughes and the Silver Stars clinched their first playoff berth.

All Stars like Becky Hammon and Sophia Young certainly helped. But Hughes will tell you he received a strong assist from Brondello and Lange.

"Sandy's biggest influence is Olaf," Hughes says. "They are not carbon copies of one another. They are different. They're like a puzzle. You've got one half over here, the other half over there. When you put the two pieces together, you've got a complete picture."

The family portrait is developing. Three-year-old Brody Max is waiting for a baby sister and hanging out at the gym. "He's talking basketball," Brondello says. "Pretty soon, he'll be writing up plays."

Brody's mother is writing another chapter in a remarkable life story. The girl who began shooting hoops on a grass court at age 9 is now drawing up plans for her first season as a WNBA head coach. Brondello cuts a unique profile, all right. She's getting ready to deliver a baby and a new team -- all in the same month.

>> Read more Ken Rodriguez Articles | Contact Ken