The Storm finalized its search to replace longtime executive Karen Bryant.
The team introduced Alisha Valavanis as chief operating officer on Wednesday. Bryant, who was hired as the franchise’s first employee in 1999, announced her resignation in January.
In 15 years, Bryant, 46, ushered the franchise through four ownership changes, three coaches, two WNBA championships and one split from the NBA. The Storm advanced to a WNBA-record 10th straight playoff appearance in 2013, losing in the opening round to eventual champion Minnesota.
Valavanis is a former California assistant athletic director of development. She’ll oversee all Storm business-related and basketball operations beginning July 1. Bryant’s final day is July 31.
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“My hope is to come in and really honor that brand, continue to elevate it,” said Valavanis via phone on Wednesday. “Basketball, for me, really is a way of life.”
Force 10 Hoops, the Storm’s ownership group, received more than 100 resumes for the position. The pool was narrowed, with five candidates emerging.
Valavanis, 37, was intriguing because of her proven ability to develop a fan base and generate financial support at Cal; her potential as a team leader and her basketball experience. Even not being from the area was a plus for Valavanis, according to co-owner Lisa Brummel.
Valavanis, who was born in Indiana, said she was thrown a basketball before she could walk. She and her twin sister started playing early, with both playing at Chico State (1995-99) and Alisha serving as an assistant coach at Pacific.
“I loved the coaching side of the game,” Valavanis said. “But as I had an opportunity at Pacific to get involved with community relations and fundraising efforts and marketing efforts, it really was something I was interested in.”
Valavanis’ story is similar to Bryant’s. The latter is a native of Edmonds who played at Washington and Seattle U., was a high-school coach and began her executive career with the Seattle Reign of the defunct American Basketball League before spearheading the Storm franchise.
“Karen did such a great job here, it’s unfair to Alisha to have her come in and feel like she’s going to replace Karen,” said Storm coach Brian Agler. “We lost somebody that is extremely valuable, now we’re finding somebody who’s going to be just as valuable in a different way with a different style.”
Valavanis is part of a revamped front office.
On Monday, Shannon Burley, who was a candidate to replace Bryant, was promoted to senior vice president, marketing and business operations. The organization returned Nate Silverman as vice president, marketing partnerships. Kyle Waters returned last winter to be vice president, ticket sales and services, after working for two years in ticket sales at Purdue.
The Storm isn’t expected to make a profit this season and averaged an all-time low in attendance last year (6,980). Seattle also lost its marquee sponsor in Bing — a deal that generated about $1 million the past four years to display its logo on the uniforms.
Brummel is optimistic about the rare opportunity to change leadership with the team. She is undergoing a similar change in her other position as a top executive at Microsoft. CEO Steve Ballmer announced his resignation last year.
“I love it because you never know what’s going to be around the next corner because you never know how new people think and you never know what’s possible,” Brummel said.
• The Storm (5-8) hosts San Antonio (5-6) at KeyArena on Thursday.