Chasity Melvin in as Mercury assistant coach, Penny Taylor out

Taylor will step down after one season as a Mercury assistant and focus full-time on parenting her son, Leo.

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The Phoenix Mercury will have a new face at the clean site at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., as the team filled out its coaching staff with the hiring of 12-year WNBA veteran Chasity Melvin to head coach Sandy Brondello’s staff.

Melvin will replace franchise legend and 2019 assistant Penny Taylor, who will step down in order to dedicate herself full-time to parenting Leo, the 2-year-old son of Taylor and wife Diana Taurasi.

“Part of being a family and working toward equality in this space is supporting working moms,” general manager Jim Pitman said of the move. “We fully understand and support Penny’s decision to focus on her role as a mother.”

Yet Melvin is by no means simply a replacement. After 12 years in the league, Melvin joined the NBA Player Development Assistant Coaches program and earned a spot coaching for the Charlotte Hornets’ G League squad, the Greensboro Swarm. Part of a growing wave of WNBA veterans getting into coaching, Melvin parlayed that into a gig as an assistant for the Loyola (Maryland) women’s team in 2019 and spoke with Brondello recently about an opportunity with Phoenix.

Still, Melvin was (understandably) pessimistic about the chances of the WNBA having a season in 2020, so she took the call, “planning for the future,” she told Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic. Melvin also told Metcalfe it’s possible she returns to Loyola for the next college season, meaning this could be a momentary partnership between Melvin and the Mercury.

As female coaches like Muffet McGraw and Cheryl Reeve continue to call on their colleagues to hire former players into the coaching ranks, Brondello and the Mercury’s decision to do so was conscious.

“Creating opportunities for former players to grow in our game is central to our mission, and an important part of that is ensuring that we are replacing a former WNBA player on our coaching staff with another former player,” Pitman said.

The Mercury could, however, get Taylor back soon. Though Taurasi has all but solidified that she will be at the Bradenton clean site when the WNBA tips off this month, it’s understandable that Taylor would want to stay home with 2-year-old Leo.

Melvin told the Arizona Republic she is solely “focused on this summer.”

In the meantime, the Mercury will compete this season with the turned-over coaching staff to go along with its reformed roster. Phoenix acquired perennial All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith this winter in a trade, in addition to veteran depth pieces such as Jessica Breland, Kia Vaughn, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Nia Coffey and Bria Hartley.

This is the second change to Phoenix’s coaching staff since last season, with another former G League assistant, Zach O’Brien, taking the place of Jennifer Gillom, another former Mercury player and 2019 hire who was replaced after one season. Coaching alongside O’Brien and Melvin will be longtime lead assistant Julie Hairgrove, the only mainstay on Brondello’s staff after two straight years of sweeping change on the bench.

As a late addition to a risky endeavor, Melvin is not without worry about the cleanliness of the clean site. But the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“I was chilling at home with my parents so for me to say I'll do this, I understand everything that comes with it but I love the game too,” Melvin told the Arizona Republic. “If (the WNBA is) going to do it, why not be a part of history and trying to bring the game and showing people it can be successful."