January 05, 2015

Brian Agler is very familiar with how talented the Los Angeles Sparks are, having coached against them for so many years. Now he'll get a chance to lead them.

Agler was announced as the new coach of the Sparks on Monday.

''It's a great opportunity and I know that I'm leaving a really tremendous organization from top to bottom from ownership to front office to players and fans,'' Agler said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Monday afternoon. ''I have a lot of great friendships there.''

The 56-year-old coach had been with Seattle since 2008 and guided the team to the WNBA championship in 2010.

''I had a great desire to stay in Seattle and I know that all franchises are in different stages,'' he said. ''Seattle's in a rebuilding mode right now and I wanted to see it through. But sometimes things don't work out that way, sometimes it's just time.''

Agler will get an early look at his former team - the Sparks open the season at Seattle on June 6.

He inherits a talented Sparks team led by stars Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike.

''I know LA has great people in the organization and has a strong nucleus,'' Agler said. ''I've spent almost my whole WNBA career in the Western Conference and know it well. I also know it isn't easy to win a WNBA championship.''

It's been a whirlwind year for the Sparks. It was just over a year ago when the team was in a state of chaos after previous owner Paula Madison said she was going to sell the team. A group led by Magic Johnson stepped up and bought the team in February.

''I think that when Magic Johnson and his group purchased the Sparks it could have been one of the top influential occurrences that's happened to the WNBA in its existence,'' Agler said. ''The respect people have for him in the basketball world and him investing in the team in the WNBA, it speaks volumes and I feel real fortunate to be part of that.''

Sparks general manager Penny Toler fired coach Carol Ross midway through last season and took over the coaching duties herself. Toler said at the time she wasn't interested in being the permanent choice as head coach. The Sparks lost in the first round of the playoffs to Phoenix.

''In what was a very extensive search to find a talented leader and winner to be our head coach, Brian stood out as the right person to lead the Sparks,'' Toler said. ''A proven winner, Brian's experience and leadership will energize our offense and challenge our defense to return the Sparks to a championship caliber team.''

While Agler was both the GM and coach in Seattle, he'll just be on the bench for the Sparks. The 56-year-old Agler also led the Columbus Quest of the now-defunct American Basketball League to two championships. He was extremely successful in Seattle, guiding the Storm to the playoffs every year except last season.

''Brian has had a wonderful career here in Seattle, the pinnacle was with the 2010 championship and the historic run. We have a great deal of respect for him and wish him all the best in Los Angeles,'' Storm president Alisha Valavanis said. ''We gave permission for Brian to leave and have been in constant communication and dialogue with him.''

Valavanis will take over as Seattle's general manager, the team announced Monday. A search is underway to find a new coach.

The Storm have the top pick in the WNBA draft after winning the lottery. Seattle missed the playoffs for the first time this past year as they finished in sixth place without injured star Lauren Jackson.

Agler said he'll miss his players and it was tough telling them of his move.

''It was difficult telling Sue and Lauren ... as they've been part of the foundation since I've been there,'' Agler said. ''But also I'm going to really miss the Storm crazies. They are phenomenal and I've never worked in an environment where the fans have been so passionate. They really love their sports teams.''

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