As teams staff more front office jobs, WNBA as a whole improves

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Yesterday’s price is not today’s price – once said the prophet known as New York’s very own Fat Joe. 

When the Las Vegas Aces won the 2022 WNBA championship, not only was it the first-ever championship in the shorting professional sports history of Sin City. It was also seen, in many ways, as a win for many in the WNBA community who believe the era of owners simply treating teams as nothing more than charity cases had come to an end. 

After all, Mark Davis has assembled one of the more fully staffed front offices in the W. From Nikki Fargas as team president to Natalie Williams as general manager to Becky Hammon as head coach to Larry Delsen also. 

This is becoming more and more common throughout the WNBA – and has been one of the stories of this still relatively young offseason that may not have received the attention it deserves. 

The first major domino that fell in the WNBA’s coaching carousel happened when Curt Miller, who built a storied career as head coach and general manager of the Connecticut Sun, announced he would be assuming a similar role with the Los Angeles Sparks. 

Except the Sparks organization also declared it would be hiring someone different for its general manager position. Los Angeles still obviously has flashbacks to when they bestowed the same responsibilities upon Derek Fisher and the results were less than desirable. 

Eventually – a former Sparks assistant in Latricia Trammell ended up assuming the head coaching role with the Dallas Wings – a move that Greg Bibb, Bill Cameron and Amber Cox hope will give Dallas better fortunes when we get to free agency in late January and early February. Also, a former Atlanta Dream assistant coach in Christie Sides was hired as the new coach of the Indiana Fever. 

It was back in Connecticut where this shift in philosophy really took hold. The Sun’s new team president, Jen Rizzotti, not only hired Stephanie White as the new Connecticut Sun head coach, it also hired Darius Taylor, another former assistant with the Dream as its general manager. Along with this, Morgan Tuck was announced as the Sun’s new assistant general manager. 

We talk all the time about teams that undergo new looks on the court. Apparently, Keesusk is boasting a new-look front office as we are still a few weeks shy of the start of free agency – and a few months shy of the 2023 WNBA season. 

Another city where a WNBA team underwent a capital improvement in its front office was our Nation’s Capital. It was not that long ago that the Washington Mystics, that saw its coach Mike Thibault, who won a championship with the ‘Stics in 2019, announce that he would step into a full-time general manager role. Eric Thibault, Mike’s son, was announced as the new head coach. 

Arrangements where a coach also used to assume a role of general manager used to be commonplace throughout the WNBA. As the Connecticut, Los Angeles and Washington examples appear to show, it seems to be going the way of the dodo bird. 

There are still a couple of noteworthy cases where this is still a thing. The first is with the Minnesota Lynx, where Cheryl Reeve has been the coach and general manager for as long as one can remember. Earlier this offseason, coach Reeve signed an extension with the Lynx that not only allows her to stay on as coach, but gives her a promotion to the team’s president as well. 

The second is with the Chicago Sky where James Wade has been coach and general manager ever since he initially assumed the role in the Windy City. 

The Lynx and Sky can get away with the coach/general manager combination with both of their coaches because Reeve and Wade have won championships. Reeve, of course, has won four (2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017). Wade put a ring on his finger in another odd-numbered year in 2021 and one must also remember that he is a product of Reeve’s coaching tree. 

With this new direction that more WNBA front offices are embracing, it may not be long before Minnesota and Chicago eventually do the same. After all, there will eventually be life with the Lynx after Reeve and life with the Sky after Wade. Also – in the case of the Lynx, the organization is undergoing an ownership transition to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez and they may bring a different philosophy to a front office ala what Rizzotti has done already in Connecticut. 

More jobs are always a good thing – and while it is a lesser talked about element to the overall growth of the W, larger WNBA front offices do help the league. They give the league even more legitimacy among casual sports fans and makes the look of a WNBA front office more conventional. Plus, it shows that more owners are willing to put more money into a WNBA product so those benefits will be seen on the basketball court. 

And if more money is going towards boosting a front office, eventually the players will see more of the money as well that they rightfully deserve. 

After all, yesterday’s price is not today’s price because yesterday’s WNBA is not today’s WNBA.