Maria Giovannitti is the assistant of the Mystics, the secret weapon

Theresa Plaisance She played with the Washington Mystics only one season, in 2021. But the WNBA veteran returned to Washington on May 10 with the Las Vegas Aces, and when she walked off the field after her team lost 89-76, she stopped hugging a member of the Mystics staff who had them Significant influence on her experience: Assistant General Manager Maria Giovannitti.

“Maria is much more than what her job requires,” said Pleasance. next one that night. “…not only does she handle everything for the Mystics, but you can talk to her as a friend and as a mentor…she is a person first, and you definitely feel that in everything you do.

“I just have great things to say about Maria and the Mystics organization. … It’s no surprise that Mystics are constantly on top, and it starts with Maria and Coach. [Mike] Tipo “.

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Giovannitti has worked at Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns Mystics, since 2006, when was known As Lincoln Holdings. But she took an unusual path to the top of the organization. As a guard at Virginia Commonwealth University, she I started 80 of 105 career games and averaged 7.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.0 steals at 23.4 minutes per game. she also Drove Colonial Athletics Association (CAA) in free throw percentage, 83.8%, as top in 2005.

“I was the player who guarded the best player in the opposing team,” Giovannitti said. next one. “I did my best not to be offensively responsible.”

Giovanniti graduated in 2005 after earning Degree In criminal justice, two CAA academic team selections and 2005 CAA Athlete of the Year prize. The following year, when she was a graduate student at George Washington University, she was a friend he was working to the Mystics game operations team and invite Giovannitti to help out in the next home game. She did, and the mystics called her to keep coming back.

Never leaving Giovanniti, she joined the sales department as a full-time account executive in 2007 and helped launch the Mystics and Wizards youth basketball program in 2010. She has also built institutional relationships and knowledge, including with Trudy Lacey. Lacey was a member of the Mystics coaching staff in the 2009 and 2010 seasons and ran several community events with the help of Giovanniti.

“I saw in her someone who cared so deeply about what we were trying to do and developing our players, not just as basketball players but as people, and who embraced the community of Washington, Virginia and Maryland,” Lacey said. next one. “She was very dedicated to that, but most importantly, she was very organized, very efficient, easy to be around and easy to work with.”

Maria Giovanniti began her career with the Washington Mystics to help sell tickets. (Photo credit: Dominic Allegra)

lacy promoted She took over as Head Coach and General Manager in November 2010 and eventually appointed Giovanniti to fill the long-desired job, Director of Basketball Operations. Mystics were rebuilding around the young players, and Lacey believed Giovannitti could teach them how to become a pro, from showing up in time to packing the right stuff for a road trip. Lacey, from was previously Assistant and head coach with Charlotte Sting for five seasons, admitted that promoting someone from sales to basketball operations is “pretty drastic” in the WNBA, but she knew Giovannitti was interested in working on the basketball side of the organization and decided to give her a chance to develop along with With the players during the rebuilding of the team.

After the 2012 season, though, Lacey eviction, leaving Giovanniti’s future with the mystics uncertain. But she convinced the organization to allow her interview with the next coach and general manager, and Tibow chose to keep her.

“She has a complete understanding of how the entire organization operates,” Tibow said. next one, citing her experience in both sales and basketball operations. “This is huge. I mean, I somehow inherited it when I came here and I keep promoting it because it’s good.”

This promotion happened in 2017 when Giovanniti had become Team Assistant General Manager – A leap that Lacey described as “extraordinary” but not unprecedented. In the team’s press release, Thibault described Giovanniti as “one of the most integral parts of the Mystics organization since I’ve been here.” Giovanniti helped lead the franchise to its first WNBA title in 2019, and his contract has been extended last november.

“As an assistant to GM, I couldn’t have asked for better,” Tybalt said. “It’s one of those people who anticipates things in advance that I probably haven’t had on my radar yet. I’ve already set it up.”

“She flies under the radar… but she is definitely an integral part of this team,” said the forward Misha Heinz Allenwhich Giovanniti helped recruit in 2018. “We can’t go without her.”

Giovannitti’s role includes a variety of tasks that she puts into two broad categories: “office work” and “court work.” The work of the office includes coordinating team travel and daily schedule, managing player contracts and team budget, and doing other day to day operations. On the field, she participates in coaches’ meetings, assists with scouts and films, leads off-season player development alongside assistant coach Eric Thibault, and even serves as an occasional coaching player, despite having knee surgery in 2020. She, too, is She traveled on every road trip from 2012 to 2021, although she’ll stay home occasionally this season to spend more time with her three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.

“Maria is wonderful,” he said forward Tiana Hawkins, which is in its seventh season with Mystics. “It was a lot of days where the coaches were out of town and Maria and I were going to the gym… I’m from here, so I don’t need much from the team in terms of living and logistical matters. [in the offseason]but in terms of working on my game, the expansion [it]-She’s been there…every day. “

for Latoya Sanders, who played four seasons with the Mystics and is now an assistant coach, Giovannitti’s presence helps her breathe easier throughout the season. Sanders gave birth to to her first child, son Samih, in September 2021, and he travels with her on every road trip.

“[Maria] He makes sure he always carries his ticket, nanny or mom, everyone traveling with me, to help make sure they have all their rooms together, even on the same floor,” Sanders said. next one. “Just little things you might not think are important, but they mean a lot, especially to a new mom.”

As a former college player, Giovannitti can also relate to and sympathize with players, and they appreciate the emotional support – and sometimes the humor – you provide. Plaisance described Giovannitti as “the perfect person to talk to about anything”, while Heinz Allen said Giovanniti is “someone you know in your corner who wants you to do good.” [is] Able and willing to help you, no matter what.”

“She has a great relationship with us,” 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne Tell next one. “She’s fun. She has a dry sense of humor. So there are little things she’ll drop and tell me throughout a workout or day that bothers me.” [She] Keep things light… I love Maria. “

In 2020, Giovannitti gets to know some of the players better in the WNBA bubble, or “wubble,” in Bradenton, Florida. She and her family lived directly above some of the players, including Hines-Allen, and the players often stopped socializing. Giovannitti’s daughter, Estelle, also had several play dates with Hawkins’ son Emmanuel.

But Giovanniti’s business has been all-consuming, with games happening roughly every two days and teams limited in the number of employees who can come to Bradenton. She worked around the clock and took on more player development responsibilities in the absence of Sefu Bernard, the team’s Director of Player Development. I filmed an exercise when the team’s video coordinator wasn’t around and learned some uniform design skills.

“I was making shirts for players in the bubble,” she said. “[I] I learned how to heat stress over everything.”

This season, short-term contracts have kept Giovanniti on her toes. On May 6 alone, the Sufis fell Stephanie Jones To hold the hardship, then the wing was awarded Kennedy Burke Of concessions and had to cut off guard Katie Banzan A few hours before the season opens. Seated on the Mystics’ bench, Mike Tebow went to reporters during the transactions and said he was happy that Giovannitti had taken over all the logistics. (Banzan returned to the team a few days later on another hardship contract.)

Giovannitti also got involved in one of the general manager’s signing moments by calling the WNBA to present the Mystics’ latest picks in the first round, Kiara Leslie in 2019 and Shakira Austin in 2022.

“When you’re a kid… you see the person come out onto the podium and they say, ‘With the third pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, picks The Washington Mystics.'” So you know these lines word for word. It’s like your favorite song or something,” Giovannitti said. “But you don’t really think about what happens before they get to the podium, and he’s someone from the team.” [has] to summon him. So it’s very fun. I appreciate Coach T for letting me do that.”

Thibault said he wanted Giovannite to have that moment after he had done it for so long. But not every GM has this option because some teams don’t even have an assistant GM position.

“I don’t really remember having Maria when I was in LA or Phoenix or Minnesota [from 2008-11]Sanders said. “You had one person who had like five trophies. So just to have Maria as the assistant general manager… for me, it is an integral part of our league, and I think every team should have someone who takes care of that.”

Even when Lacey was the managing director and general manager in Washington, the Mystics team didn’t have an assistant general manager. When asked how useful this position is, Lacey did not hesitate: “About 100% useful.”

The Washington Mystics bench, including assistant general manager Maria Giovannitti (second row, far left), head coach Mike Thibault (front) and assistant coach Eric Thibault (standing, right), react during a game against the Dallas Wings on May 13, 2022 (Photo credit: Dominic Allegra)

In some ways, the position of Assistant General Manager is ideal for Giovannitti as an all-rounder who prefers to stay out of the spotlight. However, mystics may once again promote their secret weapon – this time following a more traditional path.

“Somewhere down the road, my heir probably looks like General Motors,” Tibow said.

For now, though, Giovanniti will continue to be a team-maker for shoppers in her current position. According to Eric Thibault, her biggest strength is that she can not only handle all the different responsibilities of her position, but also excel in them. Giovanniti enjoys diversity, and struggles to decide which task is preferred.

She said, “Oh, man.” “This is very difficult. I don’t even know if I can narrow it down.”

She did not ultimately settle on a specific task, but rather on the cascading effect of all her tasks beyond gains and losses. “My best bet is for my daughter to come and watch her train, work on her tail, be honest and be a strong woman,” she said, adding that she hopes her son will start watching practices this season as well.

As Giovanniti’s children grow up and spend more time in the Mystics, they are likely to see what others see: their mother is someone who always pushes the organization, calmly and methodically.

“It’s the gum,” Hawkins said. “…it’s the engine that makes everything go here in the capital.”