The end of the 2022 WNBA season has arrived, and the axe has fallen in Dallas. The Wings announced Monday that they have declined their team option on Vickie Johnson, ending her tenure after two seasons.
Johnson was 32-26 in her two years in Dallas. The team finished 14-18 in 2021, earning the seventh seed in the playoffs and losing to eventual champion Chicago in the first round in single elimination. This year, the record bumped up to 18-18, and the Wings climbed up to the sixth seed and pushed the Connecticut Sun to a maximum three games in the first round. Johnson also earned coach of the month honors in August, joining Teaira McCowan as player of the month in her first year in Dallas.
Ultimately, the four-game improvement that still left the Wings in the middle of the pack of the WNBA standings wasn’t good enough to keep Johnson around. Dallas is now the third team in the league to have an opening at head coach this offseason, joining Indiana and Los Angeles.
In the team’s press release, Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb implicitly referenced Dallas’ stagnation over the last two years when he said:
“While our organization has taken steps forward this season, at this time I believe a change provides our team with the best opportunity to achieve our long-term goals of advancing in the playoffs and ultimately competing for a WNBA Championship. I would like to thank Vickie for her work on behalf of the organization and wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
In addition to the overall record, there were some specific areas of concern for the Wings. They failed to optimize their draft picks in the last two seasons, specifically their four picks in 2021. Charli Collier, last year’s no. 1 pick, played about 5 percent of the team’s minutes this year. No. 2 pick Awak Kuier was a fairly consistent part of the rotation, but no. 5 pick Chelsea Dungee is out of the league, and no. 13 pick Dana Evans was sent to Chicago for Shyla Heal, who is also not in the WNBA.
2022 first-rounder at least Veronica Burton took on a larger role in her first season, but much of that came as a result of injuries, specifically Arike Ogunbowale’s absence at the end of the year.
It wasn’t just rookies who chafed at the minutes distribution, as Isabelle Harrison took to social media — multiple times — to complain about her role in the frontcourt rotation. There was also a midseason report from Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV that the team would “most likely” be trading Allisha Gray during the offseason, another indication of dysfunction within the locker room.
INBOX: @DallasWings are looking for a new head coach. Vickie Johnson out. Significant dissatisfaction in that locker room, despite the on-court success this season. #WNBA @TheNextHoops pic.twitter.com/kgF4DhYq8O— Howard Megdal (@howardmegdal) September 19, 2022
Harrison is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Marina Mabrey and McCowan are both restricted, but fitting their new deals under the hard cap will be tight with Ogunbowale’s max extension set to kick in. As such, the new head coach in Dallas could have several new faces to work with in 2023.
Whoever steps into the role will have the understanding that mediocrity is not to be tolerated. Johnson’s team finished with a .500 record and won a playoff game, but that wasn’t enough to convince the Dallas management of her long-term upside.