The WNBA coaching carousel has stopped — for now. While the Las Vegas Aces were still sipping champagne to celebrate their championship, teams were busy replacing coaches. What do each of the new hires face? Let's take a look.
Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally were on-hand for head coach Latricia Trammell’s first news conference, signaling their support. It’s the main thing Trammell will need to help the Wings move from making the playoffs to actually winning a championship.
Ogunbowale is approaching her fifth season with Dallas and is on her third coach. The Wings are not short on talent, making it to the playoffs the last two seasons. In 2022, they pushed the Connecticut Sun to three games in the first round.
Ogunbowale has been one of the league’s most reliable scorers since she graduated from Notre Dame. Teaira McCowan came on strong in 2022 as a huge presence in the paint, and Allisha Gray, Sabally and Marina Mabrey have all shown elite play. What the Wings need is a coach who will harness their disparate skills, and it’s why Trammell was so interested in the job.
“The unlimited talents! I could go on and on and on about this particular roster,” Trammell said. “They're ready to take it to the next level. And I want to be a part of that as I'm known for.”
Before taking over the Wings, Trammell was an assistant with the Los Angeles Sparks. She also coached in college, helping NAIA Oklahoma City win national championships in 2014 and 2015. Players working with her have excelled at defense, which is an area Dallas needs to improve.
In her first news conference as Fever head coach, Christie Sides talked about defense, defense and more defense. Considering that Indiana had the WNBA’s worst defensive rating, this is the smart way to go.
Sides has been an assistant coach both in the WNBA and at the college level for years, and this will be her first shot at leading a team. When news of her hiring broke, several of her former players in Atlanta spoke up to say how deserving she was.
“That means everything and makes you reassure yourself that you're doing something right. And the relationship is one of my high priorities,” Sides said. “You can't do anything without relationships and trust.”
Indiana’s core is young. Kelsey Mitchell, the team’s leading scorer at 18.4 points per game, is 27, but five players will be heading into just their second season.
In Friday’s draft lottery, the Fever snagged the first pick, which means they’ll get another young player — likely Aliyah Boston — who can be a star but will need help. Sides’ energy and experience will be crucial as she tackles the tough task of helping Indiana fulfill its potential.
Connecticut Sun and Los Angeles Sparks
After seven years leading the Sun, with two WNBA Finals appearances but no championships, Curt Miller headed to Los Angeles to take the Sparks job. To replace Miller, the Sun reportedly hired Stephanie White, who was most recently the coach at Vanderbilt.
The two franchises are in a similar position, with several roster spots to fill thanks to free agency.
Connecticut made it to the Finals in 2022 but will likely lose several key players to free agency, including Natisha Hiedeman and Brionna Jones. Much of their salary-cap space is already tied up in stars Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas, so White will need to figure out how to build around the team’s stars on a budget and create an environment where they will thrive.
It’s not a full rebuild, but this won’t be the same Sun team we’ve seen in recent years.
In LA, Miller is also likely to have a new look. He will not be the team’s general manager, but until free agency ends in February, he won’t truly know what the Sparks will look like.
Only five players are under contract for 2023, and that group doesn’t include Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, the All-Star sisters at the heart of the team. Assuming the Ogwumikes stay in Los Angeles, Miller’s main job will be helping meld their talents with the young players already on the roster.
On Tuesday, the Washington Mystics added to the coaching changes, though this one won’t cause as much upheaval as others. Longtime Mystics coach Mike Thibault announced his retirement from the sideline, and his son and former assistant coach Eric Thibault will take his place. Mike Thibault will stay on as the team’s general manager.
No coaching job is a perfect one to walk into, but the Mystics are in a good position to help Eric become an immediate success. Washington finished 22-14 last season, and that was with former MVP Elena Delle Donne missing several games. With Delle Donne hopefully at full strength, stars Ariel Atkins, Alysha Clark and Natasha Cloud, and the fourth overall draft pick, Washington has a good shot of returning to championship form.