Basketball Australia hires Brondello as Opals head coach

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Sandy Brondello has been hired as head coach of the Australian Opals in a deal that will allow the three-time Olympic medalist to combine her international duties with her coaching role at Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.

Basketball Australia announced the deal Tuesday, saying the signing marked the start of the road to the Olympics at Tokyo in 2020.

Brondello, who started her international playing career as a teenager and played 302 games for the Australian women's team, has four seasons of experience as a head coach in the WNBA and led the Mercury to the championship in 2014, when she was voted the league's coach of the year.

''This is a fantastic acquisition for the Opals with Sandy owning an intimate knowledge of both the Opals and the international game,'' Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore said. ''We are confident this will ensure we remain as one of the top basketball countries in the world.''

Brondello will start with the Opals on May 1, two days before the squad gathers for a camp in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said Brondello was among the top coaches in the game and a good choice for Australia.

''Her unparalleled preparation, high-level basketball IQ, and her ability to build relationships with players make her the perfect choice to lead Australia's program,'' Pitman said. ''We are thrilled our head coach is now recognized as one of the best coaches in the world and we wish her the best of luck.''

Brondello played 193 games in Australia's national women's league and was the player of the year in 1992, and also played in Germany as well as spending five seasons playing in the WNBA.

At the Olympics, she won bronze in 1996 and back-to-back silver medals with the Opals in 2000 and 2004 as well as winning two medals at the world championships.

''After 18 years playing for the Opals, I am humbled and excited about the opportunity to be back with the program and look forward to helping to build the team for success in Tokyo,'' Brondello said.