Rhea promoted to general manager by WNBA’s Seattle Storm

April 13, 2021

Talisa Rhea

Talisa Rhea’s remarkable rise through the ranks of the Seattle Storm has seen the Juneau native go from intern to head honcho.

The WNBA team promoted the 31-year-old to general manager, making her one of the youngest GMs in pro hoops.

“I’m just really, really excited,” Rhea said. “It’s definitely something that I’ve been working towards. The timing came up a little quick, but this for sure has been the goal that I’ve been working towards.

“I’m feeling really supported by our organization and I think we have a great team to head into the 2021 season.”

Seattle is one of the premier teams in the league with two championships in the last three years and a roster stacked with veterans, including Breanna Stewart, Candice Dupree and Sue Bird. The Hall-of-Famer Bird is actually nine years older than Rhea.

Rhea joined the Storm in 2015 as a video coordinator and quickly progressed to director of basketball operations in 2016 and then assistant general manager in 2019.

During that time, Seattle won WNBA championships in 2020 and 2018.

“I’ve been lucky to be a part of some successful teams, especially over these past few years, and I’m just really excited to continue to work with them,” she said.

Rhea is one of Alaska’s most accomplished women’s players in Alaska history, a former high school and college star who played pro ball in Poland.

At Juneau-Douglas High, she was a 1,000-point scorer and the 2007 Gatorade Alaska Player the Year.

In college, Rhea started her career at Oregon State University and scored 1,214 points in two seasons. She still holds the school record with 10 3-pointers in a game and her career-high 42 points are the most by an Alaskan at the NCAA D1 level.

She finished her career at Seattle University, where she scored 450 points to give her 1,664 points – No. 5 all-time among Alaskans at the college level.

In Poland, she played with Gdynia of the Euroleague and had as many as 20 points in one game.

Rhea returned to the States in 2013 and got her master’s degree from the University of Illinois in sports management.

Then she joined the Seattle Storm as an intern and eventually worked her way up the pecking order.

“I think you take advantage of opportunities that are in front of you. When I started as an intern, I was trying to get some experience. I wasn’t sure direction I wanted to go.”

That’s when the job for director of basketball operations became available.

“Right place, right time,” Rhea said.

She got that job and just three years later was named assistant general manager.

“I’ve definitely been fortunate to be able to grow as much as I have in the time that I’ve been here.”

Rhea credited Seattle Storm CEO and President Alisha Valavanis, the former GM, for shaping her development in the front office.

“She empowered me to be a part of this process so I could learn and experience what it takes and how to handle different situations,” Rhea said.

She learned the job isn’t just about Xs and Os, and how building relationships with coaches and players is how chemistry is developed.

“The job is obviously about evaluating talent through the draft and free agency, but you’re also trying to build pieces that will come together to be a successful team,” Rhea said. “We know it’s not always about having the most talent on one team, but it’s identifying players that will work well together and play a style the team is trying to play. It’s finding 12 pieces that fit together.”