WNBA by the numbers: 2010s Part 2 (coaches)

This is Part 2 of a three-part series breaking down the numbers of the past decade in the WNBA. Part 1 focused on overall team numbers, and a future installment will look at individual players. This part is exclusively on the league’s coaches.

35 coaches led a WNBA team in at least one game in the 2010s. With 2,040 total regular season games over the past ten years, that comes out to about 58.3 regular season games per coach. The ten years prior saw 57 total coaches, though the league featured the most teams it has ever seen, at one time as many as 16 total franchises. With a total of 2,366 regular season games over that same time period, coaches averaged just 41.5 regular season games each.

WNBA Coach Counts by Team (2010-2019) (Courtesy of Across The Timeline)

The Los Angeles Sparks and Tulsa Shock/Dallas Wings featured the most turnover in coaches in the 2010s, each being led by six different head coaches over ten years. Next closest were the Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, New York Liberty, Seattle Storm, and San Antonio Stars/Las Vegas Aces, who each had four. The Lynx were the only team in the league with just one head coach through the entire decade.

Despite the turnover, overall longer tenures has led to a league that currently features active coaches at the top of the leader boards. The top four in games coached are all active head coaches as are the top five in wins.

If you read the first part of the series (or paid even moderate attention to the WNBA over the past ten years), it’s no surprise that Cheryl Reeve leads a number of coaching categories in the 2010s. The Minnesota Lynx were the most successful team in that time, and Reeve was their head coach all ten years. But beyond just Reeve, all of the league’s all-time leaders in games coached and won jumped to their spots atop the list this decade.

Reeve leads all coaches with an even 400 total games coached between the regular season, All Star games, and the Playoffs. Brian Agler is the only other person to coach all ten full regular seasons (340 games), though Mike Thibault is just one short due to that 2018 travel nightmare that resulted in a Las Vegas Aces forfeit.

ARLINGTON, TX – JULY 14: Head Coach Brian Agler and Glory Johnson #25 of the Dallas Wings talk during the game against the Chicago Sky on July 14, 2019 at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images)

Each of those three also led teams to at least one title over the past ten years, Reeve leading with four total and Agler right behind after getting one with the Seattle Storm (2010) and one with the Los Angeles Sparks (2016). Agler is the only coach to win a WNBA championship with two different franchises.

The Lynx appeared in 57 total postseason games under Reeve, 19 more than second-place Thibault who coached 38 games in the Playoffs between the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics.

As the 2010s began, former Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor was the all-time leader in WNBA regular season games coached (322) and won (211), with former Los Angeles Sparks coach Michael Cooper leading in win percentage (66.3% with 167 of 252 games won). With Chancellor and Cooper having exited the WNBA coaching ranks (temporarily for the latter), the leader boards changed significantly in the 2010s.

As of the end of 2019, Dan Hughes now leads all WNBA coaches with 592 regular season games coached, with Thibault close behind at 577. Thibault became the first coach to reach 300 regular season wins (now at 335), with Hughes and Agler neck-and-neck with 281 and 279, respectively.

Reeve, having led the decade in win percentage (67.9%) and jumped up in to the all-time lead in win percentage throughout the league’s full history, Chancellor in second at 65.5% (211 wins out of 322 games).

Carol Ross, who coached the Los Angeles Sparks from 2012 to 2014 and was Coach of the Year in her first season, had the second-best win percentage over the past ten years (64.4% with 58 wins out of 90 games). She also led in average win margin in the 2010s, winning 58 games by 14.1 points per game. Reeve is second at 12.8 points per game in her wins, and Curt Miller (12.5), Mike Thibault (12.5), and Jenny Boucek (11.9) round out the top five of coaches who registered at least 30 games.

Reeve led the decade in double-digit wins with 138, and she won that by a wide margin; Thibault came in at second with 98 such wins. She also led the Lynx to a league-leading 39 wins by 20 or more, but Thibault edged her out in 30-point wins with 10 to Reeve’s 9 in the 2010s. Thibault is the only coach to have two 40-point wins in the decade (one each with the Sun and Mystics), but Reeve is the only coach to lead her team to a win by 50 or more points (59 over the Indiana Fever) over the past ten years.

Of course, none of that success comes without the players, so we’ll focus on the WNBA’s statistical leaders on the court in the final installment in this series next — coming soon!

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