Carol Ross has been fired as coach of the slumping Los Angeles Sparks, and will be replaced by general manager Penny Toler for the rest of the season.
The team made the move Sunday. The Sparks are in fourth place in the Western Conference, 8½ games behind first-place Phoenix.
Ross had a 61-36 record in 2 ½ years with the Sparks, including two playoff appearances and was the WNBA coach of the year in 2012.
“I’d like to thank Carol for her contributions to the Sparks organization, team and Los Angeles community,” said Toler. “Carol is a tremendous coach, but we felt it was time to bring in a different energy to this team. Decisions like this are never easy, and we wish Carol the best.”
Also out is assistant coach Gail Goestenkors, who was elected to the women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Toler was the first woman to score a basket in the WNBA in 1997, when she played for the Sparks. She retired from playing in 1999 and became the team’s general manager in 2000, presiding over the Sparks’ back-to-back WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002. She also has the title of executive vice president.
Current assistant Gary Kloppenburg will stay on and be joined by Steve Smith, who returns after three previous stints as a Sparks assistant. Smith had been serving as athletic director at a high school in Los Angeles.
Ross signed a multi-year contract extension last December. Then the Sparks organization went into limbo when the Paula Madison-led group relinquished ownership of the franchise. A new ownership group took over in February led by Magic Johnson.
The Sparks last won a WNBA title in 2002, the second of back-to-back ones.