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A second look at potential WNBA Coach of the Year candidates

With the 2013 season well over halfway done now, let's take a second look at which WNBA head coaches are in the running for the 2013 Coach of the Year award.

Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault and his coaching ability has been a major reason why DC now controls their playoff destiny.
Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault and his coaching ability has been a major reason why DC now controls their playoff destiny.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Like the first list of candidates, I am not considering GM'ing accomplishments into the award even though many of these head coaches also handle personnel matters and have the team's long term strategy into their hands. Only wins and losses and how well the teams are playing given expectations will be considered. So here are my top three contenders for the award.

1. Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics (12-14)

At this point in the season, I'm voting for him. Coach Thibault has the hardest job by far of every WNBA head coach where we've given every reason why so I'm not repeating it. He also has made a team that most believed would be terrible, into a workable unit. A season sweep of the Lynx is the season highlight for sure.

The Mystics now have about as many wins as I thought they were capable of getting in the preseason and could realistically be at least a .500 team. However, no WNBA head coach won this award without going past .500 and it's not unrealistic to see them end up under that mark. Though I'm voting for him, I am skeptical that he will win this award without the Mystics being at least an 18-16 team which would be better than .500.

Also, some folks who won't vote for Thibault will note that the Mystics had a four game and five game losing streak during this season and say that's why. But most people also believed this would be the last place team in the East, if not the entire league, and it isn't unexpected to see the Mystics at times get into some rough patches. But Thibault knows how to get them out of rough patches as well.

Bottom line, in terms of coaching, this is Mike Thibault's best performance as a coach while in the WNBA.

2. Pokey Chatman, Chicago Sky (16-8)

If the voting happened today I think Coach Chatman will win it. The Sky is sitting at the #1 spot in the Eastern Conference, and should make the playoffs for the first time. Though this team does have one of the Big Three in Elena Delle Donne, Chatman has integrated her the best among the three teams with such rookies.

The big knock on Chatman is that last year's team should have made the playoffs without Delle Donne, but for an award like this, I can only look at this year so throw last year out the window. They did lose to Tulsa and Seattle earlier this season and lost two in a row to the Fever earlier this month, but still, my gut is going with Chatman as of today as the winner though I vote for Coach Thibault.

3. Brian Agler, Seattle Storm (11-13)

Though his GM'ing decisions and ability are up for debate, as a coach, Agler has faced many of the same challenges that Thibault has for the Mystics which is fielding a competitive team without any clear A List talent. Seattle has accomplished that mission by continuing to play well on most nights and their highlight is beating the Phoenix Mercury three times this season and they also got a win against the Sparks on the road.

The knock on Agler's win and loss record is that Seattle was blown out three times against the Tulsa Shock and they still have two more matches against them. Also, it's possible, if not likely that the Storm will finish under .500 even with a playoff berth. If the league was giving this award to a sub .500 team's coach and had to decide between Thibault and Agler for this award, well, Thibault's winning it because the Mystics had and still have a LOT more adversity than the Storm.

But overall, this team's objective was to continue playing competitively and show which players can possibly good complementary pieces to Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson who should return next year, they've done that, and also some younger players have begun to be consistent rotation players like Alysha Clark (even if she's 26) or better like Shekinna Stricklen.

Other coaches to consider

I don't have these coaches in my top three, but others likely do and here are their cases in no order.

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx (18-6)

The Lynx are continuing to perform at a high level like the last two seasons when they were head and shoulders the best team in the WNBA, and that's even considering their Finals loss to Indy. But the storylines for Thibault, Chatman, and Agler are more compelling than a coach who was expected to keep her team playing at a high level and they have.

Carol Ross, Los Angeles Sparks (18-7)

With the Sparks going on a 6 game winning streak and the Lynx on a 3 game losing streak, that put LA right at 1st in the West. Should the Sparks finish first in the West, Coach Ross deserves consideration. But the knock on her, if you want to call it a knock, is that she won this award last year. This hasn't happened since the first three years of the league when Van Chancellor won it from 1997-1999.

Fred Williams, Atlanta Dream (13-9)

Since their 10-1 start, the Dream has gone 3-8. That's close to night and day. Barring a hot finish to the regular season, I don't think Williams deserves this award. Still, he's a first year coach, and if he can get ATL to finish with a Top 2 seed in the East, and without Angel-drama where I don't see any indication that there is, Williams could win it.

Lin Dunn, Indiana Fever (11-14)

The Fever started out 1-7, but went 10-7 since then and that has put them at 4th place in the Eastern Conference playoff race of today which is notable because the recent run was done without Katie Douglas. If Dunn wins this award, it could be a "career-award" since she's been in this league for a long time, and she didn't win the 2012 Coach of the Year Award, which was given out before the Finals. After the Finals, you know Coach Dunn deserved it and if the Fever can finish at least .500, it could be enough to give it to her.


The 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year race appears to be relatively even because many coaches have a good reason to win the award. But also, many, if not most of these coaches have legitimate reasons why they do not deserve it. The remaining games in the regular season should help decide which coach has shined the most with playoff berths and positioning on the line.

Update at 5:25 PM ET - H/T to Shades for also noting some of the trends in Coach of the Year voting, which can be seen here.