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Joe Bryant a good fit for Sparks

Jennifer Gillom's Sparks lost five straight games to drop to 4-6. David Butler II/US Presswire

It seemed to be sort of an "enough is enough" weekend in the WNBA. Friday night, coach Nolan Richardson stepped down after the 10th loss of Tulsa's season, finishing his stay in the WNBA at 7-38.

Then Sunday, Los Angeles announced that coach Jennifer Gillom was being relieved of her duties, as the Sparks are 4-6 and have lost five games in a row. Assistant Joe Bryant is moving up for his second tour of duty as Sparks head coach. It's also the second time he has taken over during the season.

The first was in 2005, when Henry Bibby resigned in August of that year. There have been a lot of bizarro coaching hires in the WNBA -- in fact, that might be the biggest understatement of my writing career -- but Bibby was way up on that list. He "fit" in with the WNBA and the Sparks about as well as if he were a character from one movie who was randomly spliced into another movie.

Bryant, however, did seem a pretty good fit for the franchise. This is a guy who really loves to coach, and has done a lot of that overseas. His interest in women's basketball did not start with the WNBA; it actually began when he was coaching a high school girls' team in the 1990s.

In 2006, Bryant did a good job in his only full season with the Sparks, as they went 25-9 but lost to defending WNBA champion Sacramento in the Western Conference finals. Then Michael Cooper, who had won two WNBA titles with L.A., opted to come back to the league in 2007.

Now Bryant has returned, and it strikes me as a good move. In writing a couple of days ago about Richardson's struggles in Tulsa, I referenced the differences in coaching professional versus college basketball. Bryant is used to dealing with pros, and he has an upbeat kind of personality.

Which the Sparks need right now. Certainly, they've been impacted a lot by the knee injury to Candace Parker, who was hurt June 26. But even with as impactful a figure as Parker out, the Sparks should be playing better. They looked borderline dysfunctional in recent losses: at Phoenix last Tuesday and Seattle on Saturday.

Admittedly, those are tough road games, so it wasn't just the fact that the Sparks lost them that alarmed the L.A. brass. It was how Los Angeles looked in those two 19-point losses that convinced management that Gillom was more hindrance than help to a team trying to find its equilibrium without Parker.

That's why the move to Bryant could be helpful. Gillom didn't seem to be communicating well with the Sparks, who in turn weren't communicating well with each other. Bryant might be able to help L.A. seem more a cohesive unit, one that will be ready to re-incorporate Parker whenever she comes back.

The Sparks play most of the rest of this month on the road, with only two games at the Staples Center in July. However, they will have their first six games in August at home, so they need to find a way to survive as best they can through the rest of July.

It won't be easy to dislodge one of the West's current top four teams -- San Antonio, Minnesota, Phoenix and Seattle -- from a playoff spot. But it's not impossible. Already out of the postseason equation is Tulsa, which dropped to 1-11 Sunday in interim coach Teresa Edwards' first game as Shock head coach.

Tulsa had the misfortune of encountering a very hot Phoenix team and was practically run out of Arizona with a 102-63 loss to the Mercury. Edwards will have her hands full just trying to keep the Shock's season from advancing into rigor mortis.

Realistically, Edwards will be doing OK if it can at least look like the Shock are making some progress toward next season. Even if that doesn't mean many more victories this summer.

Bryant, on the other hand, can have bigger expectations for the Sparks. Again, it's not that a playoff spot is going to be ripe for the taking in the West. It isn't like last year, when every West team, short of the Storm, kind of played demolition derby through the season.

This year's West appears to be tougher … but the Sparks are also tougher. Or should be. They're definitely more capable than they've shown. Bryant does have something to tap into.

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at mechellevoepelblog.com.