WNBA Coaching Hot Seat Tiers

Of all the occupational roles in sports, being a coach may be the most unfair. When your team succeeds, most of the credit goes to the players, and when your team fails, all the blame is placed squarely upon you. There’s no reprieve from the constant scrutiny, second-guessing, and critiquing offered by fans and media members alike.

With that said, armed with empathy and speculation, let’s explore the wild landscape of WNBA head coaches. I placed each of the dozen WNBA head coaches in a number of categories. Now that the 2023 season has tipped off,  who’s safe, and who’s in the hot seat? 


You’re New Here, So Take Your Time

Christie Sides, Indiana Fever: This category is for our rookie head coaches this season (although technically Stephanie White has been a head coach before). If I were to make a revision to this tier for Sides specifically,  it would read, “You’re new here, but for the love of all things holy, please win a darn game.” The Fever came into the season riding a horrendous 18-game losing streak and opened 2023 with two more losses before finally claiming a W in their game on May 28. Despite that, Sides has visibly changed the culture and energy around this team. For now, she’s safe, but Lin Dunn is going to expect rising numbers in the W column in due time.


Latricia Trammell, Dallas Wings: Much like Sides, Trammell is coming into her first year at the helm and has been tasked with reshaping a culture. With plenty of new and somewhat mismatched parts, Trammell will have plenty of leash to get the Wings all moving in the same direction.


Stephanie White, Connecticut Sun: This is a team that has championship aspirations despite what you tell them about the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces. With a veteran-laden team, the right coach was needed to push this team over the playoff hump in order to win the elusive championship. White has already shown she’s earned the respect of her experienced team, and she has the faith of the front office to get this job done.


Eric Thibault, Washington Mystics: Speaking of front office faith, it’s hard to find a coach with more of that than Thibault, whose father, Mike, vacated the head coaching position for Eric and perched himself in the general manager position.  The head coach title has seemingly been earmarked for Thibault since he joined his father’s ranks as an assistant. Therefore, Thibault the Younger has the entire organization’s support to take this dark-horse title contender to the promised land. 


You’re Sort Of New Here

Tanisha Wright, Atlanta Dream: This spot is for our sophomore coach who has a bright future in their organization. Wright was hired last year to clean up a messy culture (sensing a theme?), and she has done just that. Current GM Dan Padover has given Wright the keys to turn this team into whatever she needs it to be to become a winner. With Wright under contract through the 2027 season, she will be a mainstay for years to come.


Can Pressure Make Diamonds?

Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty: Brondello is a long-time coach in this league with a reputation for producing winners. She has arguably one of her best teams of her coaching career in the 2023 Liberty squad. All eyes are locked in on them and their rivals in Sin City, so can Brondello live up to the pressure? She is as experienced as few others are, so if anyone can manage it, it’s likely her. But I’m not too sure how Liberty owner Joe Tsai would feel if this team falls short of their expected finals-round finish. 


You’re So Money

Curt Miller, Los Angeles Sparks: This section is for the coaches who can take a breather and simply enjoy the ride. Despite being a first-year head coach in Los Angeles, Miller is no first-year head coach in the league. Coming off a very successful tenure as the Sun coach, Miller moved back to familiar pastures in Los Angeles, where he was an assistant in 2015. Everything I’ve seen coming out of LA says the organization loves Miller and what he has already brought to this team. That tells me he’s likely to be there as long as he wants to be.


Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces: This choice is obvious. When you win, you stay. Hammon’s two-game suspension for violating the league’s respect in the workplace policies certainly tarnishes Hammon’s shine a bit, but Hammon is coming off a championship in her inaugural season as the Aces’ head coach, which will likely afford her the freedom to be in Vegas until she decides otherwise. 

See Also


All I Do Is Win, But…

James Wade, Chicago Sky: Since Wade took over in 2019 as Chicago’s head coach, the Sky have won the championship and been a regular playoff team. Wade is a gifted coach, and winning the championship certainly gives him credibility and staying power. But with so many franchise faces now gone, Wade will be taking on one of his toughest challenges yet in restructuring this newly-assembled Sky team into a perennial contender.  Each lump he takes along the way can be forgiven, but the longer that process takes, the further in the distance that championship will feel. Wade’s contract runs through 2025, which may only give him that time frame to get this right.


Wake Me Up When September Ends

Vanessa Nygaard, Phoenix Mercury: Nygaard, also entering her second season, has dealt with nothing but adversity since coming to Phoenix. From Brittney Griner’s imprisonment to managing the strong personalities of Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith, Nygaard has had her hands full meeting the championship-or-bust credo of this Mercury organization. I’m higher on her as a coach than most, but that’s not what matters. Nygaard has had a few miscues along the way but seems to have the faith of Mercury GM Jim Pitman, at least for now. With Griner back and the team facing significantly fewer injuries than last season, the expectations for Nygaard will be much higher, fair or not. My hunch is wherever the Mercury end up in the standings—especially if they don’t make the playoffs—will be the telling piece for whether Nygaard stays or goes.


Noelle Quinn, Seattle Storm: Let’s be honest, not many people are expecting much from the Storm this season. This team is in full rebuild mode, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t important, tangible benchmarks this team needs to hit this season. In Quinn’s first full season, she had Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart alongside Jewell Loyd, and that team finished fourth in the league. This year, Bird and Stewart are gone, leaving Quinn with a massive undertaking to reshape this roster in her vision. While not much is expected of the 2023 Storm, the focus needs to be on evaluating Quinn’s ability to assess her roster and produce growth. Quinn possesses the nurturing capacity to help a very wet-behind-the-ears Storm team. What progress they make throughout the season—and less about where they fall in the standings—will spell praise or doom for Quinn.


Legend, But the Future Is Murky

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx: Reeve is one of the all-time best coaches the league has ever seen. She is the longest-tenured head coach in WNBA history, and Reeve is not only the head coach of the Lynx but also the president of basketball operations. Reeve, of four WNBA titles, has nothing left to prove to the Lynx or to the league, and she can likely stay as long as she wishes to in the Twin Cities. However, just because you’re a legend doesn’t mean you can eternally reign. Reeve is notorious for liking things done her way, which can prickle vets and rookies alike. Like the Storm, the Lynx are in transition mode after a legendary player’s retirement, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for tangible growth. Reeve’s ability to mentor and gel with the fresh faces and youngbloods on this team will be critical to building the next Lynx dynasty.

© 2023 Winsidr. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top