Atlanta Dream exercise third-year option for 2018 WNBA Coach of the Year
Nicki Collen just wrapped up her first season with the Atlanta Dream, and the team is already prepared to extend her contract through the 2020 WNBA season.
The Dream announced Tuesday they exercised the third-year option in Collen’s contract. Co-owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler released a statement offering effusive praise of Collen’s work this past year:
"On the strong foundation of her phenomenal basketball IQ and passion for building our team, Nicki established a tremendous culture that enabled the Dream to achieve our best record in our 11 season history. In building a strong staff and bringing out the best in our players, she and the team earned many well-deserved accolades. And because of her relentless drive to build the best team, we are excited to extend Nicki’s contract to ensure we maintain the strong momentum in building on this early success for our players, staff and our fans."
Atlanta’s record improved by 11 games between 2017 and 2018 as it finished second in the WNBA at 23-11. The Dream reached the WNBA semifinals, losing to the Washington Mystics in five games.
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- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 14: Mystics are going dancing
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 10: Dream are (mathematically) stayin’ alive
Some will argue the Dream would’ve reached the WNBA Finals with a healthy Angel McCoughtry, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in August. Granted, others can counter the Mystics would’ve closed out the series sooner if Elena Delle Donne didn’t get hurt in Game 2.
Still, Collen laid the groundwork for the Dream to be a title contender in 2019 and beyond.
Defense was Atlanta’s hallmark. The team finished first in defensive rating (97.1), per WNBA.com, and held opponents to a league-best .423 field-goal percentage. Jessica Breland was a terror inside en route to earning All-Defensive first-team honors, while McCoughtry and Tiffany Hayes were suffocating on the perimeter.
No one player was more integral to the Dream’s success than Hayes. An All-Star in 2017, she took her game to another level in 2018. The 28-year-old averaged 17.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists and finished 15th in the WNBA in win shares (4.1), according to Basketball Reference.
Collen far exceeded expectations in her first year on the sidelines. Now, the hard part will be doing even more next season.
Some regression might be on the horizon in 2019.
The Dream may have had the WNBA’s second-best record, but they were fifth in net rating (2.8), per WNBA.com. They were also 11th in both effective field-goal percentage (.468) and true shooting percentage (.514). Atlanta will also have a 33-year-old McCoughtry coming off a major knee injury.
With floor-spacing more important than it has ever been, those kind of offensive numbers aren’t sustainable for a contending team. Unless the Dream can add some proven shooters in the offseason, matching their 2018 win total may prove difficult.
Having said that, picking up Collen’s 2020 option was a no-brainer and there’s no question Atlanta is in good hands going forward.