Stanley, 65, is one of the most deeply entrenched figures in women’s basketball. A member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, she has coached since 1977, winning championships at both the college and WNBA levels. She led Old Dominion to AIAW national championships in 1979 and 1980 and an NCAA title in 1985.
As a player at formative women’s basketball powerhouse Immaculata, she won consecutive national championships in 1973 and 1974 and was an all-American in 1975 and 1976. She played in the first nationally televised women’s basketball game, against Maryland in 1975.
Stanley’s ties to Washington run deep.
Hired as an assistant for the Mystics in 2001, Stanley was promoted to head coach in 2002 and won the WNBA’s Coach of the Year award after leading Washington to its first appearance in the Eastern Conference finals. She resigned in January 2004 after amassing a 26-40 record.
Stanley returned to the Mystics in 2010 and stayed on as an assistant when Mike Thibault took over as coach and general manager in 2012.
This past season, the Mystics enjoyed one of the best seasons in WNBA history, breaking numerous franchise and league offensive records on the way to finishing the regular season with a 26-8 mark. Elena Delle Donne was honored as league MVP, and Emma Meesseman won Finals MVP.
At her introductory news conference in Indianapolis, Stanley thanked Mystics ownership and Thibault, saying of the head coach: “The challenge was to take this team that had been struggling at that point in time and to build a championship culture, and that’s exactly what we set out to do. It took seven years to get to our goal, and this past season to know that we achieved this goal of WNBA champions was terrific. I thank Mike for allowing me to be a part of that journey.”
At the professional level, Stanley has been an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty in addition to the Mystics. She most frequently worked to develop post players and has coached some of the best bigs in league history, including Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker.
After Old Dominion, Stanley coached at Penn, Southern Cal, Stanford and California, as well as an assistant at Rutgers. While at California in the late 1990s, Stanley was cited in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by an assistant coach, who accused Stanley of giving the assistant a choice between having an abortion or quitting. The university settled the case.
“We are all so happy for Marianne as she heads up a new era in Indiana,” Thibault said in a statement. “It was extremely important to me when I took the job here to try to convince Marianne to remain a part of the coaching staff. Luckily for all of us, she did, and she has been a great contributor to our success the past seven years.”
Stanley inherits a young, promising team from Pokey Chatman, who was fired in September after three seasons. Indiana holds the third pick in next year’s draft.