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Who are the favorites for WNBA Coach of the Year?

The WNBA coaching carousel has seen all the activity over the past eight months, with three first-time WNBA head coaches getting nods to lead the franchises, a major shift in direction. west to east and, since the swing of the 2022 campaign, two mid-season dismissals in underperforming teams.

As the season nears the halfway point and the separation between team tiers begins to materialize, we offer a look at the early favorites for WNBA Coach of the Year. All three picks are, coincidentally, former WNBA players, including two new head coaches who exceeded expectations in their first seasons.

Freshman Juggernaut: Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces

People weren’t quite sure what to think of Aces before the season. Gone was Liz Cambage, Angel McCoughtry and Bill Laimbeer, and came a freshman head coach in WNBA legend Becky Hammon, returning to the league after serving as a longtime NBA assistant.

Fast forward six weeks into the 2022 campaign, and Hammon powered the WNBA’s top 13-3 aces on the team to beat this summer with his high-octane pace-and-space-based offense. She included Kelsey Plum and Dearica Hamby in the starting five — for the first time in four years, the sixth woman of the year will be not go to a member of the Aces! – where both thrived, while moving A’ja Wilson to 5, where she had an MVP-caliber season. Jackie Young may not have had many 3-point shots in her first three years as a pro, but she now leads the team with 45.7% accuracy from deep.

Along the way, Hammon earned the best 10-game head coaching career start in WNBA history, going 9-1 in May.

A common counterpoint to Hammon’s case is that the Aces’ core five had already been playing together for years – qualifying for at least the semi-finals each of the last three seasons – and that chemistry is helping fuel their success in 2022. Yet, Hammon deserves credit for unlocking these players in a different system plus, in some cases, new roles, and for turning Aces into a juggernaut throughout a season otherwise shaped by parity.

Best Turnaround: Tanisha Wright, Atlanta Dream

Expectations were low for the Atlanta Dream entering 2022: After an overhaul of the ownership franchise over the past year-plus, as well as a host of off-court drama that marred the 2021 season, the Dream n Only had four players left from last season. Atlanta also appeared to be preparing for the future when it decided to trade and select Rhyne Howard with the No. 1 overall pick in the April draft.

Fresh off a two-season stint as the Aces’ assistant, Wright steered the Dream to a 4-1 start, showing early on that Atlanta wasn’t going to struggle at the bottom of the standings this summer. After Tuesday’s victory over the Dallas Wings, Wright has the dream at .500, their eight wins so far equaling their win total in 2021, and if the season ended today they would earn the No. 6 seed. and would reach the playoffs for the first since 2018. Additionally, Wright managed to do so without the luxury of leaning on Dream franchise stalwart Tiffany Hayes, who is still recovering from a knee injury.

As she did as a player and assistant in the league, Wright has established a gritty defensive identity in Atlanta that has made the dream a headache for teams to face – they are currently first in defensive rankings after no having never finished better than eighth in their previous three seasons. And while Howard has been excellent, the first-year coach has also gotten great play from Aari McDonald, Cheyenne Parker and even AD Durr – who only joined the team two weeks ago after leaving muted in New York — in the end, helping Atlanta propel itself into a likely playoff contender after the fact.

Dark Horse: Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty

Don’t cement Brondello — who is in his first season in Brooklyn after spending the previous eight with the Phoenix Mercury — in this conversation just Again; even though the Liberty have won six of their last nine games, including a big Wednesday against the Connecticut Sun, it’s hard to put aside their 1-7 start. But she’s included here because if New York continues on this trajectory, she has a good chance of making the playoffs and winning her best season in years.

Marine Johannes and Han Xu have changed the game. Sabrina Ionescu has flourished since Brondello started playing her alongside Crystal Dangerfield and, more recently, Johannes. Natasha Howard and Stefanie Dolson helped lead a better defensive effort and, on the other side of the field, are increasingly settling into Brondello’s system. Over their last nine games, the Liberty are No. 2 in the league in net rating; their chemistry on the pitch, their ability to make in-game adjustments and ball movement have taken giant leaps in recent weeks.

Who are the favorites for WNBA Coach of the Year?to play


Marine Johannes loses a leg and knocks down a massive triple to help Liberty’s 10-0 run.

That New York managed to compile this streak – which also includes two wins against the Mystics and close losses against Storm and Sky – without Betnijah Laney and Jocelyn Willoughby All-Star 2021 and as DiDi Richards, Rebecca Allen and Lorela Cubaj also missed time due to injuries, makes the race all the more impressive.

There’s a lot of ground to make up for, and they should wrap up close games against big teams, like they did Wednesday against Connecticut, better than they’ve done so far. But it’s not entirely impossible for Brondello to guide the Liberty to a .500-or-better finish for the first time since 2017, when Bill Laimbeer was coach.

Statistics of the week

It can’t be anything other than the Aces scoring a WNBA-record 41 first-quarter points against the defending champions on Tuesday night to give up a 28-point lead as the Sky staged the biggest comeback in the history of the league to walk away with the 104-95 win.

“That first quarter was one of the brightest quarterbacks I’ve ever seen in basketball,” Hammon said. “Basically, after that, they kicked our ass.”

Game of the Week: Washington Mystics at Seattle Storm

The first meeting this summer between the 2019 and 2018/20 champions takes place on Thursday (10 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network). Elena Delle Donne (rest, fullback) did not play in the Mystics’ loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday but is expected to rejoin the team in Seattle. Washington is 8-3 with its double MVP and 3-5 without it

Both teams have struggled to establish consistency with players in and out of line-up due to injuries, illnesses, etc., but are still in the title contender’s conversation and can be dangerous if they peak at the good time.

How will the Storm offense, which at times struggled to get much production outside of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Ezi Magbegor, fare against the Mystics’ stingy defense? Can Washington bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Sparks and channel the effort it exerted in its decisive victory (with Delle Donne) last weekend over Connecticut?


Don’t miss Katie Barnes’ ESPN story on 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones and who is becoming the face of the WNBA.

“I want it to get to the point where we can just share these stories and allow the women in our league to really thrive and thrive,” Jones told Barnes. “And so, if me sitting here speaking my truth and being open and honest is going to do that, then I really hope it’s better for women in the future.”

Fantasy Women’s Basketball Pick

Where to start: Johannes, from New York, has set the WNBA world on fire since arriving in Brooklyn from France with her flashy animation and, even more recently, her hot shot (she’s 8 of 15 on 3 points in her two last matches). She could be a good pickup truck.

Allisha Gray was among the Dallas Wings’ highlights this summer, posting career-high 14.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-0 guard, who has a strong case for an All-Star reserve bid, was No. 20 in ESPN’s latest Fantasy Rankings.

Emma Meesseman is a good person to start the week ahead as the Sky take on the struggling Sparks and Minnesota Lynx. His fantastic 38.2 points per game over the last five games is tied for third in the league.

Who to sit: The Sparks are struggling to find matches against the Sky, Storm and Aces. Chennedy Carter played just two minutes in the Sparks’ upset against the Mystics, and interim head coach Fred Williams warned that his minutes could decrease with the return of Kristi Toliver.

Washington’s Myisha Hines-Allen has struggled in recent games, and Thursday’s game against the defensive-minded Storm, a unit led by Gabby Williams, Stewart and Magbegor, could be tough.

Diamond DeShields scored a season-low five points against Minnesota earlier this week and scored a paltry 14 against Dallas when they played last week. In general, its use has declined in recent times. The Mercurys have rematches against those teams this week, so it might be worth considering sitting DeShields for those matchups if you have stronger options to play.


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