Two seasons ago, the Chicago Sky got its first taste of WNBA championship euphoria as they prevailed on their home floor against the Phoenix Mercury in four games to bring the Windy City its first WNBA title.
With free agency 2023 lurking in the WNBA, the Sky are looking more and more like an outlier. And it remains to be seen how free agency will play out in Chicago given the number of free agents it hopes to re-up with.
That list reads like a who’s who and includes Candace Parker, Emma Meesseman, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Rebekah Gardner and Azura Stevens. If that looks like the Sky’s core, then it certainly is.
We will see how Chicago does in free agency, but the Sky did absolutely nothing to make them look like the outlier they currently resemble.
That was done by virtually the rest of the WNBA throughout the last few months.
One of the storylines that has engulfed the W over the last few months have been how teams are restructuring their front offices to hire full-time general managers. This offseason has seen a noticeable trend throughout front offices in the WNBA where the concept of the dual coach and general manager could be going the way of the dodo bird.
A few days ago, the Los Angeles Sparks introduced its new coach – former Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller. Also at that presser was Karen Bryant (a former Seattle Storm executive), who was recently named the Sparks’ new general manager.
The Washington Mystics earlier this offseason announced that longtime coach Mike Thibault would be stepping down from his head coaching post and assuming those responsibilities will be his son, Eric. Mike on the other hand is getting a higher rank in the Mystics’ front office as its general manager.
Cheryl Reeve has not only been the longtime coach with the Minnesota Lynx, she has also been the team’s general manager. Reeve received a promotion as the team’s president, but Clare Duwelius has since assumed its new GM role. Minnesota is going through a full-scale transition with Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore set to assume the co-ownership roles as the Lynx and NBA’s Timberwolves get sold to them.
Miller assumed both the coaching and general manager roles during his time in Connecticut. The Sun, however, have been another team that has gone through a massive restructuring of its front office. Jen Rizzotti has taken over the reins as the team’s president and has hired Stephanie White as its head coach in addition to Abi Olajuwon and Briann January as assistant coaches. Also, the team hired former Atlanta Dream assistant Darius Taylor as its general manager and Morgan Tuck as assistant general manager.
Yet, while seemingly every other WNBA team is announcing it is separating the coach and general manager positions, there is James Wade in Chicago who is now the last combination coach and general manager standing.
One wonders how much longer this will be the case. The Sky have been notorious through its WNBA existence for being understaffed given the team does not have an NBA big brother ala the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, Lynx, Mystics or Mercury.
At the Sparks’ media availability session, both Bryant and Miller were asked about this league-wide sea change by Jackie Powell, the esteemed Liberty and WNBA journalist. Miller believes that this wave of changes within team front offices is a domino effect from the 2020 collective bargaining agreement.
The maelstrom that has become WNBA free agency in recent seasons certainly proves Miller correct. General managers have certainly earned their salaries during February and March.
As for Wade, he, in many ways, gets to dictate his future since he did coach the Sky to its first-ever championship while also assuming GM duties.
This upcoming free agency period will tell us a lot about Wade and his future as Chicago’s general manager. The Sky are not in a position similar to the defending champion Las Vegas Aces where that team has deals with virtually its entire core.
Chicago has to convince that core to run it back and give the Windy City one more WNBA championship – or the Sky themselves may be convinced to accept that the sky may no longer (for now) be the limit.