Sparks fire Toler after 20 seasons, Fisher expected to return for 2020
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Longtime Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler has been dismissed after 20 seasons in the front office, the team announced Friday.

The move comes in the wake of mounting controversy regarding the conclusion of the Sparks' 2019 campaign. In the team's season-ending defeat against the Connecticut Sun in Game 3 of the semifinals, first-year head coach Derek Fisher raised eyebrows with his decision to bench core players down the stretch, including future Hall of Famer Candace Parker.

Fisher is expected to return for the 2020 season after shepherding the team to a 22-12 record this year, a source told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

It was reported Thursday that Toler delivered a profane locker room speech that included racial epithets after the Sparks' Game 2 loss. The WNBA has announced its intent to investigate the incident in the coming days.

Some Sparks players reportedly believed Fisher's perplexing rotation decisions in Game 3 were a byproduct of Toler's outburst; one unnamed player told Shelburne the moves "didn't make any sense except that Penny had just ripped everyone and put pressure on Fish."

The Sparks are the only WNBA team Toler has ever known. As a player with L.A. during the league's inaugural season, Toler recorded the first-ever basket in WNBA history. Upon retiring after the 1999 season, she immediately transitioned to a front-office role as the team's general manager. She later assumed the role of executive vice president as well.

Under Toler's leadership, the Sparks captured three titles (2001, 2002, 2016) and made two additional Finals appearances (2003, 2017), missing the playoffs just twice.

But her tenure was also characterized by instability behind the bench. In her 20 years as a top executive, Toler employed 10 head coaches - including herself after dismissing Carol Ross midway through the 2014 season. Two of those coaches - Michael Cooper and Joe Bryant - had two separate stints as head coach.

"Penny is a foundational figure in the growth of the WNBA and helped lead our franchise to perennial playoff success and multiple titles," managing partner Eric Holoman said in a statement. "We wish her nothing but the best moving forward."

Sparks fire Toler after 20 seasons, Fisher expected to return for 2020
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