Published November 21. 2012 4:00AM
Here is my take on Mike Thibault: I love the guy. Always will. Same for the whole family: Nanci, Eric, Carly. And that's why Tuesday is the single worst day in the history of my 20 years here. By a lot.
Why do you need to know this? Because I offer no intent to deceive. It's virtually impossible for me to be objective. So if you dismiss what follows as the rantings of a friend, I am guilty. And offer no apologies. Zero.
I'm not sure why we became so close in the last 10 years. You can't help how you feel.
I never thought Thibault would get fired as coach of the Connecticut Sun. He'd win a few titles, retire among the best coaches in the history of the league, go on the lecturing circuit.
Instead, Coach T got canned Tuesday.
After 10 years.
I can't stand it.
So let's begin here: This franchise is on notice. You want to lay all the blame with Thibault? That's your prerogative. Let me just say that I better see maximum effort from all of you survivors exactly 100 percent of the time next year. Because it's nobody else's fault, apparently.
Not the players who soiled themselves against Indiana in the playoffs.
Not management who, while always treating Thibault well, has decided that Thibault is the franchise's lone gunman. Lee Harvey Thibault. The patsy.
Lee Harvey was the best of this franchise, which, if you haven't noticed, isn't exactly a haven for free agents. So while I agree things are generally first class, players still don't want to summer in Uncasville. Thibault got one quality free agent here (Kara Lawson) in 10 years and never had a team stink bad enough to get a good draft pick or get a bounce from a dispersal draft.
And how many teams have ever won a blessed thing in this league without a good draft choice or a bounce from a dispersal draft?
At least the players had the good sense to be irritated about this. Maybe they had a case of the guilts. Maybe not. Don't know. Don't care. But I hope the Sun brings in a butt kicker to replace Thibault. Too bad Bill Laimbeer is otherwise occupied. You'd all deserve him.
There's no denying the end of the 2012 season was not acceptable. Agreed. Thibault deserved some blame. I thought he was too wrapped up in barking at officials in Game 3 of the playoffs instead of measuring the pulse of his wacked out team. But I am in full disagreement with dismissing him, given that:
The Sun return a talented roster, including MVP Tina Charles. They may — glory hallelujah — finally get that small forward/wing scorer they've lacked for what feels like forever in Alba Torrens, a promising European star. Thibault said he expects Sandrine Gruda to return, too. So even if they add nobody in free agency, they should be better based on Torrens and Gruda alone.
Hence, I don't understand the harm in bringing Thibault back for one last season to complete his contract. Team president Mitchell Etess said Tuesday that there's no reason to think next season's ending would be any different.
I disagree. And it's because the addition of a quality wing scorer — what they don't have now with Kalana Greene or Danielle McCray — opens the floor even more for Charles and Asjha Jones. I believe Thibault squeezed 28 wins out of this team. His superiors act like 28 wins were a foregone conclusion.
My enduring memory of the 2012 season was not the way it ended. It was after practice late in the year, the day Tina Charles learned she won the MVP. She emerged from the locker room with tears in her eyes and threw her arms around Thibault, saying "thank you, thank you, thank you" repeatedly.
That's the guy who just got fired.
I can't stand it.
I believe Etess and vice president and general manager Chris Sienko when they say they agonized over this. They say they'll get a more than capable replacement. They better. Because I'd hate for somebody to screw up a talented roster next year.
And about next year: You will all be held to the standards Mike Thibault set here. Good luck. You'll need it.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.