The Phoenix Mercury is one win from clinching a championship and becoming one of the greatest WNBA teams ever. And while Diana Turasi and Britney Griner’s play has provided inspiration at times, the Mercury have also had a guest on their bench who has provided extra inspiration this postseason.
The Mercury introduced 11-year-old Mia McPoland as the team’s “honorary” assistant coach a pre-playoff press conference in Phoenix. Head coach Sandy Brondello said she was searching for someone with strength, determination, and perseverance to help move her team through the playoffs. And Coach Mia fit the bill.
Since she was a baby, Mia has been fighting a disease called Diamond-Blackfan anemia. It’s a rare bone marrow failure syndrome that prevents her body from producing red blood cells she needs to survive. She has already endured more than 100 blood transfusions. But what she really needs is a bone morrow transplant.
While Mia waits to find a donor, the Mercury family has used their playoff run to increase awareness about the disorder. When they “signed” Coach Mia, part of her contract stated that for every time the Mercury advances this postseason, the team will donate $1000 to Coach Mia and Be the Match, an organization designed to help bone marrow recipients find donors.
When she found out she’d be an honorary member of the Mercury, Mia issued an excited warning. ““Oh yeah! People better watch out because I’m a new coach in the WNBA!”
When she met the team, Brondello says Mia wasn’t starstruck. Instead, she connected with players such as Britney Griner almost immediately (they share a love for bacon). She also wasted no time implementing a simple game plan focusing on offense, defense, and getting to rebounds.
Even in Mia’s brief time with the team, she has had a big impact. Everyone in the organization knows her and they have been feeding off her energy. “She was excited and upbeat, and she has such a go-get it attitude,” Brondello says. “She’s really an inspiration.”
Mia says this experience has been “so-o-o amazing.” It makes me feel so special that everyone wants to support Be the Match,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot and had so-o-o much fun. I’m going to be a Mercury fan forever.”
Photos courtesy Phoenix Mercury