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Sparks General Manager Penny Toler explains Carol Ross hire

January 5, 2012 | 11:54 am

Sparks.logoAfter the Sparks missed the playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history last season, General Manager Penny Toler knew the team needed a change.

"It hurts when you underachieve, but anyone in sports knows it can happen," Toler said in a phone interview with The Times. "I felt we were really, really talented but the chemistry was bad."

She said that's part of the reason she decided to hire Carol Ross as the team's new head coach, a move the franchise announced Thursday.

"She knows how to get good players and strong personalities to play together as a team," Toler said.

Ross spent the last three years as an assistant with Atlanta, where she helped the Dream reach the finals in 2010 and 2011. As a college coach at Florida (1990-2002) and Mississippi (2003-2007), she had a combined record of 324-161.

"The thing I like the most is she's won at every level," Toler said.

The Sparks have recently experienced a lot of change at the coaching position.

Jennifer Gillom was hired in 2009 to replace Michael Cooper, who went on to coach at USC. Then, 10 games into last season, the Sparks fired Gillom and promoted assistant Joe Bryant. The team finished with a 15-19 record.

Toler said she considered rehiring Bryant, whose contract expired at the end of last season, but "decided on a different direction."

Ross is known as a defense-minded coach who can relate well to her players.

Said Toler: "I think she's going to do a great job here."

ALSO:

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-- Melissa Rohlin

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