PHOENIX -- The Mercury are looking for the perfect "Spark" to help them advance through the playoffs and win a championship.
That’s why they hired Mia McPoland, 11, as the team’s honorary assistant coach. Mia is winning her battle with Diamond-Blackfan anemia, a rare bone marrow failure syndrome. She can’t produce red blood cells. She is not even a teenager but has already powered through more than 100 blood transfusions. She goes through one every month, but she does not let the slow her down.
"Even though I'm small in size, I have big goals," Coach Mia said. "I am very excited to be a part of the Phoenix Mercury family, because they also dream big, and know how important it is to help people out when they are in need."
Brittney Griner was immediately impressed by Mia’s on-the-court attitude.
"I said, 'I heard you are our new coach?' She said, 'Yes, I am!' She is up and she is ready," Griner said. "She is going to bring us a lot of energy."
Diana Taurasi also likes what the 11-year-old brings to the team.
"Oh, Coach Mia? I hear she's basketball savvy," she said. "Our coaching staff is a little shaky this year. They need a little help." (While Coach Mia's help will be essential to the team, the coaching staff is anything but "shaky." First-year Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello was named the 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year Friday morning.)
Mia has a lot to teach, but has little advice for Griner, who was named the 2014 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Friday morning. (She and Brondello won in landslides. Griner had 31 of the 38 votes while Brondello had 33.)
"Well, I have seen her dunk; she doesn’t need any help," Coach Mia said.
Mia has been on the bone marrow donor list since she was 2 years old.
Motivated by her new coach's story, Mistie Bass swabbed her check to see if she could be a bone marrow match.
"I jumped at it in a heartbeat," Bass said. "I was like, 'Can we get tested?' They said, ‘Yeah, of course." I was like let me try it. If I happen to be a match then I would be really excited."
Odds of being a match are 1 in 500.
If you want to see if you are a match for Coach Mia, you can during Game 1 of the First Round of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs. The Mercury organization has teamed up with Be the Match to host a bone marrow registry drive Friday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4 p.m.-7 p.m. The drive will be held in the Casino Arizona Pavilion at US Airways Center prior to the Mercury’s matchup with the Los Angeles Sparks.
You also can make a contribution to Mia's search for a bone marrow donor on her Be the Match page.
Tickets for Friday’s (August 22) Game 1 of the Mercury’s opening round series against the Sparks are on sale now starting at just $17 and can be purchased at PhoenixMercury.com, the US Airways Center ticket office or by phone at 602-252-WNBA.
By the way...