Wade’s Chicago Sky team posted a 20-14 record in his first year at the helm
James Wade will receive the WNBA’s Coach of the Year award Wednesday night before the Chicago Sky face the Phoenix Mercury in a single-elimination playoff game at Wintrust Arena, as first reported by Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun Times.
This year, the Sky returned nearly the same roster as last season’s—a 13-21 venture that ended with the dismissal of former head coach Amber Stocks. Most notably, Wade traded for then-Sparks post Jantel Lavender before the start of the regular season.
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Now Chicago sits at a 20-14 record, the franchise’s third-best finish. A rebuilt team culture and a sense of urgency has been the difference that has helped elevate this year’s Sky team into playoff contention. The team was able to power through a slow start to the season and has bounced back from tough losses and losing streaks alike, something the Sky teams of 2017 and 2018 could never do.
At the heart of it has been Wade, who has preached accountability and improvement since day one. Sky players raved about the intensity and effort from players during training camp, citing Wade as the driving force. The team transformed from an intriguing storyline to a bonafide playoff force midseason, even after the loss of Lavender to a foot injury.
That transformation will be tested Wednesday night against the battle-hardened Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury will likely be without Diana Taurasi, who underwent back surgery this season, but will rely on the dangerous duo of Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner. Chicago has had trouble containing big front courts this season, and Griner and Bonner are one of the most dangerous pairs in the league.
While the Sky are 3-0 against the Mercury this season, James Wade’s system and many of Chicago’s young contributors—most notably sophomore Diamond DeShields—are unproven in the playoffs.
In the postseason, there is no room for off nights or “next times.” Losses turn into eight months of waiting for another shot at a title. They are what separates the regular season darlings from the hallowed greats, the GOATS from the forgotten. They can change the future of a franchise in the span of 40 minutes.
The Coach of the Year won’t be looking to rest on the laurels of his award, and his first real challenge awaits.
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