What are the obstacles facing Stephanie White and the WNBA’s five new head coaches?

With the official announcement of Stephanie White as the new coach on Monday Connecticut sunevery WNBA coaching position is now filled for the 2023 season.

White is returning to the WNBA, where she was previously head coach Indiana fever 2015 and 2016. There are also new trainers for the Dallas Wings (Latricia Trammell), Indiana (Christie Sides), the Sparks from Los Angeles (Curt Miller) and the Washington mystic (Erich Thibault). White and Miller were both head coaches at the WNBA level — for the past seven years, Miller has managed the Sun team, which White now takes over — while the others were WNBA assistants.

The eventual sale of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury could possibly still influence Mercury’s coaching position, but Vanessa Nygard is poised to return there for her second season. White, Trammell, Sides, Miller and Thibault all have careers in women’s collegiate basketball and the WNBA. But everyone had their own journey.

Here’s a look at their backgrounds, their strengths, and some of the challenges they may face.

Connecticut sun
Out of: Kurt Mueller
In the: Stephanie Weiss

Miller, who led the Sun to the 2022 WNBA Finals, left Connecticut to become the head coach of the WNBA Sparks from Los Angeles on October 21st. Miller felt it was time for a change after guiding the Sun to the WNBA Finals twice in his tenure. White has a long history in the WNBA as a player and coach.

who is white One of the greatest prep players in Indiana history, she guided Purdue to the 1999 NCAA title and then played five seasons in the WNBA. She has coached in college and the WNBA, most recently at Vanderbilt.

Why it’s a good attitude: Things didn’t fare as White hoped at Vanderbilt, where she won 46-83 in five seasons. But coaching the WNBA is something else entirely. It’s about talent management and strategic decisions, not recruiting. White was an assistant at the Indiana fever Team that won the WNBA title in 2012 and head coach of the last Fever team to reach the WNBA Finals in 2015.

Biggest question: Can White be the coach who finally leads the Sun to their first WNBA title? Some key players will return, but the window could close for this group.


Dallas Wings
Out of:
Vicky Johnson
In the: Latricia Trammell

Dallas introduced Trammell as head coach on November 7. Johnson was fired Sept. 19 after leading the Wings to a 32-36 record and two playoff appearances in 2021 and 2022. Given the strides the Wings made in winning their first playoff game since moving to Dallas in 2016, some thought Johnson would get a shot at moving on. But the Wings moved on.

Who is Trammell: Trammell has been a Sparks assistant for the past four seasons and has coached at the high school, collegiate and professional levels for more than 30 years. She is known for forging good chemistry with building relationships and is said to be particularly strong on defensive X and O.

Why it’s a good attitude: Good coaches can be geographically successful anywhere. But there’s evidence that Trammell knows the North Texas area as an Oklahoman native. It has a “folk” style – and yes, we mean that complimentally – that players and fans can feel comfortable with. But she also has a history of winning two NAIA National Championships.

Biggest question: Can Trammell take the organization over the edge of sometimes being a ‘pretty good’ team that’s still not among the league’s elite? The Wings have a lot of young talent led by Arike Ogunbowale, but they weren’t a team that anyone really thought was seriously in the mix to go on a long playoff run. We’ll see if that changes.


Indiana fever
Out of:
Carlo Knox
In the: Christie pages

Sides was appointed manager on November 4. She replaced Knox, who was coaching 27 games on an interim basis after Marianne Stanley was fired in May when the fever started at 2-7. Things didn’t improve under Knox, who went 3-24. Indiana hasn’t made the WNBA playoffs since 2016, but the Fevers have the No. 1 draft pick in 2023.

Who is Pages: Like White, she also played in the 1999 Final Four; Their Louisiana Tech team lost to White’s Purdue team in the semifinals. A Louisiana native, Sides played her first two college seasons at Ole Miss and her last two at Louisiana Tech. Then she started coaching. She has been an assistant on four college programs, three WNBA teams and abroad in Russia. Now she is head coach for the first time.

Why it’s a good attitude: Sides has spent significant time as an assistant at Pokey Chatman, at the collegiate, WNBA, and international levels. She has a lot of experience with what works and what doesn’t at the pro level. Sides was part of Fever’s team for Chatman for the first few seasons after Tamika Catchings left in 2016, so she should have a good idea of ​​what went wrong.

Biggest question: Can Sides stop six-year fever decline? If things go as expected, South Carolina will have her Aliyah Boston as the new star of a young team. Sides needs to help change the way Fever thinks. Because although they didn’t want to, the Fever got very used to losing.


Sparks from Los Angeles
Out of:
Fred Williams
In the: Kurt Mueller

Longtime WNBA/college veteran Williams received the provisional tag June 7 after Derek Fisher was fired early in his fourth season after a 54-46 run. Williams, who was not to be retained, is now an assistant head coach at Auburn. The Sparks missed the playoffs under Fisher for the first time since 2011 in 2021 and then missed the postseason again this year under Williams.

Who is Mueller: He was a college assistant for a decade before becoming the head coach at Bowling Green in 2001. After 11 seasons there, he coached Indiana for two years and then transferred to the WNBA for a year as an assistant. He then took over the Connecticut Sun and led them to six playoff berths in seven seasons, including two trips to the WNBA Finals.

Why it’s a good attitude: Both the Sparks and Miller appear ready for a reset. Los Angeles has won three WNBA titles, but the last was in 2016, and key players like candace parker and Chelsea Grey have since departed as free agents. Miller returned to the finals this year, but there seemed to be a growing distance between him and the organization and the players. This is not uncommon at the pro level. He’s a strong strategic trainer who can energize the Sparks

Biggest question: Can Miller help reverse the Sparks’ mojo? Because it was downhill. Los Angeles should be a free agent destination. Miller is not currently in the general manager role at LA like he was in Connecticut, but he will still be involved in personnel decisions and their impact on chemistry. The Sparks always seem to have it some Drama, but at best, that was just part of her mysticism. In recent years, it’s been part of their downfall.


Washington mystic
Out of:
Mike Thibaut
In the: Eric Thibaut

Mike Thibault announced he was retiring from coaching on November 15, and the Mystics named assistant coach Eric Thibault, Mike’s son, to the head coaching role. Mike Thibault will continue as general manager.

Who is Eric Thibault: Like his sister Carly, who is the head coach of the Fairfield women’s team, Eric has been a lifelong basketball coach. He has spent the last decade working with his father in the Mystics.

Why it’s a good attitude: Nobody knows the Mystics better than Eric Thibault, so there won’t be much of a transition or the team will have to become familiar with him and vice versa. Eric, 35, was a key part of Washington’s only championship season in 2019.

Biggest question: Can he establish his own identity while making the most of the Mystics’ mastery window? Eric proved himself as an assistant, but he worked for his father. There have been questions about whether the mystics did the right thing, essentially passing the coaching torch from father to son without opening up the position and seriously considering other candidates. The organization clearly thinks he’s the best for the job. These situations are always a little tricky, and Eric is aware that eyes will be on him to see him take charge. He had plenty of time to prepare for it.


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