- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

The Washington Mystics scooped up two major WNBA awards yesterday when coach Marianne Stanley was named coach of the year and shooting guard Coco Miller the most improved player.

Stanley, who is in her first season with the Mystics, led the team to a 17-15 regular-season record and the franchise's second playoff berth. It was the Mystics' first winning season in franchise history. She resurrected a team that tied for the league's worst record (10-22) a year ago and delivered the best season in the Mystics' five years of existence.

Stanley received 22 of a possible 60 votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. She easily outdistanced Seattle's Lin Dunn (nine votes) for the honor.

"In 1993, I couldn't get a job because nobody wanted me," Stanley said. "So, to go from that point to today is pretty special. I never stopped believing in what I could do as a coach. I like working with really talented people that need to be pushed. I've always felt that's kind of the niche that I do really well. I find a way."

Miller can thank Stanley for giving her playing time. In her second year, she posted personal highs in almost every statistical category, averaging 9.3 points, 2.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds. Miller, an 82-percent free throw shooter (46 of 56), also made 37.5 percent of her 3-pointers (24 of 64).

Miller, who edged New York Liberty forward Tamika Whitmore by two votes, never scored more than six points in a game last season during limited spot duty (6.9 minutes a game). But she started every game, scored six points or more in 25 games and averaged 28.3 minutes.

"Just getting out there and playing comfortable was a big factor," Miller said. "Playing in the system that we have fastbreak an uptempo game I love that. I play the best in that type of system. This year I got a lot of easy looks at the basket. I don't have a lot of pressure on me, and I can go out there and play free."

As the WNBA's most improved player, Miller will receive a Tiffany-designed trophy and $5,000. Miller and Stanley join Chamique Holdsclaw, the 1999 WNBA rookie of the year, as Mystics who have collected the league's top awards.

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