The WNBA coaching circuit has seen a lot of activity over the past eight months, with three first-time WNBA head coaches getting nods to lead franchises, one major change from West to East, and since the 2022 campaign, two firings mid-season within underperforming teams.
As the season approaches the halfway point and the division of team categories begins to emerge, we offer a look at the first contestants for the WNBA Coach of the Year. All three selections are, coincidentally, former WNBA players, including two first-time head coaches who exceeded expectations in their first season.
Leviathan Year One: Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces
People weren’t sure what to do with the foundations before the season. He went Liz CampageAngel McGoughtree and Bill Laimbere, and in the first year came head coach on WNBA legend Becky Hammon, returning to the league after serving as an assistant for a long time in the NBA.
Fast-paced six weeks into the 2022 campaign, Hammon has pushed the best WNBA 13-3 Aces team to victory this summer thanks to her high-octane attack based on speed and space. inserted Kelsey Bloom And the Derica Hampi At the beginning of the five years – for the first time in four years, the sixth woman of the year will do Not Go to a member of the Aces! – Where they both thrive, while also moving Aja Wilson to 5, where she had a caliber MVP season. Jacky Young She may not have gotten much from three points in her first three years as a pro, but now she leads the team with an accuracy of 45.7% from depth.
Along the way, Hammon made the best 10-game start to a head coaching career in WNBA history, going 9-1 in May.
A common comparison to Hamon’s case is that the top five of the Aces have been playing together for years – at least advancing to the semi-finals in each of the past three seasons – and that this chemistry helps cement their success in 2022. However, Hamon deserves credit for opening it up. For these players in a different system, as well as new roles in some cases, and to turn the Aces into a tyrannical force throughout the otherwise formed season with parity.
Best Transformation: Tanesha Wright, Atlanta Dream
Expectations were low for the Atlanta Dream in 2022: After the franchise’s overhaul of ownership down last year as well as a slew of off-field drama that marred the 2021 season, Dream only had four players from last season. Atlanta seemed to be building the future too, when I decided to trade and choose Ryan Howard With the #1 overall pick in the April draft.
After serving a two-season stint as an assistant for the Aces, Wright led the Dream to a 4-1 start, showing from the start that Atlanta wouldn’t be hard at the bottom of the standings this summer. After Tuesday’s win over the Dallas Wings, Wright earned the dream at 0.500, their eight wins so far equaling their 2021 win total, and if the season ends today, they’d get a No. 6 seed and make it to the top playoffs. Time since 2018. Furthermore, Wright managed to do so without the luxury of relying on the Dream franchisee Tiffany Hayeswho is still recovering from a knee injury.
As she did as a player and assistant in the league, Wright has created a gritty defensive identity in Atlanta that has made the dream a headache for the teams they face – she is currently number one in the defensive standings after not previously finishing eighth. Three seasons. And although Howard was excellent, the Year 1 coach also had a great performance Ari MacDonaldAnd the Cheyenne Parker even AD Der — who joined the team just two weeks ago after a silent start in New York — most recently helped Atlanta jump from an afterthought to a potential playoff contender.
The dark horse: Sandy Brundillo, New York Liberty
Don’t back Brondello – who was in her first season in Brooklyn after spending the previous eight with Phoenix Mercury – In this conversation Just Until now; Although Liberty has won six of their last nine games, including a big game on Wednesday during Connecticut Sun, difficult to allocate their start 1-7. But it’s listed here because if New York continues down this path, it will have a solid chance of making the playoffs and coming out with its best season in years.
johannes navy And the Han Shuo You have changed the rules of the game. Sabrina Unescu It has flourished since Brundillo started playing along with it Crystal Dangerfield More recently, Johannes. Natasha Howard And the Stephanie Dolson Help lead a better defensive effort, and on the other side of the earth they are increasingly settling into the Brondello system. Over the last nine games, Liberty has ranked second in the league’s net rankings. Their on-pitch harmony, ability to make game adjustments and ball movement have taken huge leaps in recent weeks.
Marines Johannes shoots off one leg and drops a massive triple to contribute to Liberty’s 10-0 run.
New York managed to put together that streak – which also includes two wins over the Mystics and close losses to Storm and Sky – without the 2021 All-Stars. Petnia Lani And the Jocelyn Willoughby and as Diddy RichardsAnd the Rebecca Allen And the Lorella Cobag The time also lost due to injuries, makes the run all the more impressive.
There is a lot of space to make up, and they will have to finish tight games against great teams, like the way they played Wednesday against Connecticut, better than they have so far. But it’s not entirely useless for Brundello to lead Liberty to 0.500 or better for the first time since 2017, when Bill Laimbere was the coach.
It couldn’t be anything other than that the ace scored 41 points in the first quarter of the WNBA against the defending champions on Tuesday night only to give up a 28-point lead as Sky put together the biggest comeback in league history to clinch a 104-95 victory.
“This first quarter was one of the smartest neighborhoods I’ve ever seen in basketball,” Hammon said. “Then, they kicked our ass.”
Game of the Week: Washington Mystics at Seattle Storm
This summer’s first meeting between the 2019 and 2018/20 Champions takes place on Thursday (10 p.m. ET on CBS Sports). Elena Delle Donne (Rest, back) Didn’t play in Mystics’ loss to Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday, but is expected to join the team in Seattle. Washington 8-3 with the best player twice and 3-5 without her
Both teams have struggled to have consistency with players in and out of the squad due to injury, illness etc, but they are still in the conversation of title contenders and can be dangerous if they peak in time.
How would the storm attack, which sometimes struggled to get so much production out Brianna StewartAnd the Joel Lloyd And the Azi Magbegor, fare against the defense of the miserly mystics? Can Washington recover from a disappointing loss to the Sparks and direct the effort they put into their decisive victory (with Daily Dawn) last weekend over Connecticut?
Don’t miss Katie Barnes’ story on ESPN’s 2021 MVP Jonquil Jones And who will be the face of the WNBA.
“I want her to be able to get to the point where we can just share those stories and let the ladies in our league really thrive and thrive,” Jones told Barnes. “So if you just sit here to tell me the truth and be open and honest it will, I really hope it’s better for the ladies in the future.”
Women’s fantasy basketball picks
Who starts: Johannes of New York has set the WNBA world on fire since arriving in Brooklyn from France with her brilliant facilitation and, even more recently, her hot shot (she’s 8 of 15 in her 3 throws in her last two games). It could be a good pickup.
Alisha Gray It was among the bright spots in Dallas Suites This summer, she has both 14.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game which is the best score of her career. The 6-foot-0 guard, who has a strong case for an All-Star reserve show, was No. 20 in ESPN’s latest fantasy rankings.
Emma Mesman Is a good person to start this coming week as the sky faces faltering sparks and Minnesota Linux. She has 38.2 Fantasia points in every game in her last five matches tied to third place in the league.
Who sits: Sparks has a hard time coming up with matches against Sky, Storm and Aces. Shenedy Carter Playing only two minutes in upset Sparks on Mystics, interim coach Fred Williams She warned that her record might go down with return Christy Tolliver.
Diamond DeShields He scored a five-point low of the season against Minnesota earlier this week and scored 14 goals against Dallas when they played last week. In general, its use has recently decreased. Mercury has had rematches against those teams this week, so it might be worth considering sitting down with the DeShields for those rematches if you have stronger options to play.