Paving the way: Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff

addByline("Zach Rosen", "WashingtonWizards.com", "ZacharySRosen");

For a while now, Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks have wanted to bring a unique perspective to their team, specifically the coaching staff. As it turns out, somebody that Brooks would end up targeting for a long time was already in the same building.

On Tuesday, the Washington Wizards announced their coaching and training staff changes. Included in the announcement was that Washington Mystics All-Star guard Kristi Toliver would be joining the assistant coach/player development staff.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to be on an NBA coaching staff. Her spot on the Wizards’ bench is historic, joining the likes of Becky Hammon and Nancy Lieberman as female coaches in the NBA. Hammon and Lieberman both played in the WNBA, but neither were active players while coaching in the NBA.

The 10-year WNBA veteran Toliver helped the Wizards at Summer League during the Mystics’ season, showing her dedication to making the most of that opportunity. As time went on, Grunfeld and Brooks decided to bring her on full time for the season.

Toliver, 31, has been working closely with the team on ball-handling, working out with players ranging from Dwight Howard to Bradley Beal. She’s also coached the Wizards during five on five on five drills, with Brooks giving her the responsibility of managing a team.

“She’s done a great job,” Brooks said. “Like I said, she’s very talented. I’m excited about having her and continuing to get to know her and her strengths. We all want to be better every day, and she has that mentality, as I have that mentality. I don’t know everything. She doesn’t know everything. But we can learn some things together.”

Toliver understands the magnitude of this new job, but also feels that she’s earned the opportunity. Her dream as a kid was to be the first female player in the NBA, and this is a step toward that. To Toliver, the dream has been a long time coming, but it started settling in when she had a chance to coach the team at Summer League. She made it clear in her interview that playing is her priority, and she will be with the Mystics once their season begins.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Toliver said on Tuesday. “When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could."

"To me, you get everything that you earn, everything that you work for. I want young ladies to know - dream big, anything is possible as long as you put in the work and have a passion for what you do."