Los Angeles Sparks fire longtime GM Penny Toler amid reports of internal drama
Toler was the Sparks' general manager for 20 seasons, during which they won three championships
The Los Angeles Sparks' season ended in disarray. They were swept in the semifinals by the Connecticut Sun, losing the three games by an average of 19 points, and their legendary forward Candace Parker was benched in Game 3, playing just 11 minutes as their season faded away. Now, general manager Penny Toler's time with the team has come to an end as well.
Late on Friday afternoon, the Sparks announced that they've parted ways with Toler, who had served as GM for 20 seasons.
The Los Angeles Sparks announced today that Executive Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler was relieved of her duties and will no longer be with the organization, effective immediately. A national search will begin immediately to identify the next general manager of the Sparks. Managing Partner and Governor Eric Holoman will assume the duties in the interim.
"On behalf of ownership and the entire Sparks organization, I'd like to thank Penny Toler for a successful and historic tenure with the organization," Holoman said. "Penny is a foundational figure in the growth of the WNBA and helped lead our franchise to perennial playoff success and multiple titles. We wish her nothing but the best moving forward."
Toler -- who scored the first basket in WNBA history as a player for the Sparks -- oversaw a successful two decades of basketball in Los Angeles. The Sparks won three titles during her time in charge, and made the playoffs in 18 of her 20 seasons. For all of the winning, however, there always seemed to be drama behind the scenes.
The Sparks went through nine different coaches in Toler's tenure, and she even took over the coaching duties herself at the end of the 2014 season. That trend continued last offseason, when Brian Agler, who led the Sparks to the title in 2016, shocked everyone outside the organization by resigning. Only later did it come out that Toler effectively ran him out of town by repeatedly asking her friend Derek Fisher to coach the team, despite Agler still being under contract.
Fisher was eventually hired as head coach, and Toler was widely criticized for her handling of the situation. Those complaints only grew louder following Fisher's strange decision to bench Parker at the end of Game 3. Yet despite how she mishandled the coaching situation, she may have retained her job if not for a locker room outburst at the end of Game 2.
A report from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne detailed a profanity-laced rant that also included the use of racial epithets. Multiple Sparks player told ESPN that Toler showed "total disrespect" for them. While it's not clear if Toler was fired simply for that ouburst, it appears to have been the last straw for Sparks ownership.
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