After missing the playoffs last season for only the fourth time in 15 years, the Sparks made a coaching change, hiring Carol Ross to replace Joe Bryant, the team announced Thursday.
Ross was an assistant with Atlanta for three years, helping the Dream to the WNBA Finals the last two seasons.
The Sparks finished with a record of 15-19 last season, when Bryant replaced Jennifer Gillom as coach after a 4-6 start. Bryant's contract expired at the end of the season.
"It hurts when you underachieve, but anyone in sports knows it can happen," Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said. "I felt we were really, really talented but the chemistry was bad."
So she chose Ross, who is known as a defense-minded coach who relates well with players.
"She knows how to get good players and strong personalities to play together as a team," Toler said.
Before Ross moved to the WNBA ranks, she had stints as the head coach at Florida (1990-2002) and Mississippi (2003-2007), where she had a combined record of 324-161 with 12 NCAA tournament appearances and two WNIT berths.
"The thing I like the most is she's won at every level," Toler said.
Ross will be the Sparks' fourth head coach in four years — a tumultuous stretch for the team. Candace Parker, the top overall pick in the 2008 draft, played in only 52 of 102 regular-season games the last three seasons because of pregnancy and multiple injuries.
Moving forward, Ross said the Sparks need to work harder, learn to play together and must improve their defensive rebounding — they ranked eighth out of 12 WNBA teams last season with 23.1 defensive rebounds a game.
"I'm going to know these players. I'm going to know what makes them tick, and I'm going to know what buttons to push," Ross said during a conference call. "That's how I coach."