There was tons of big news in the world of women’s basketball over the past week:
The WNBA to the Bay?
For the second time in recent months, news is percolating about the possibility of WNBA expansion. In mid-August, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, along with other league officials, visited Denver, meeting with the group interested in bringing a team to the Mile High City.
Last week, The Athletic reported that the Bay Area is the anticipated home of a long-awaited expansion team, with the ownership group of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in the process of finalizing the necessary details to establish a team in Oakland. While the team would be based in Oakland, they would play at the Chase Center in San Francisco. A formal announcement is expected sometime this month.
Joe Lacob, the controlling owner of the Warriors, has a history in women’s basketball, as he was the owner of the ABL’s San Jose Lasers.
An announcement on the WNBA's new team in the Bay Area could come as soon as early October.— The Athletic WBB (@TheAthleticWBB) September 27, 2023
Owning a WNBA franchise would be a full circle moment for Warriors owner Joe Lacob, who has long been a supporter of American women’s basketball.https://t.co/x1NPZ4Vpzo
Eyes on the WNBA playoffs
Positive playoff viewership numbers should provide further momentum for league expansion. Tuesday’s Game 2 between the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun was the most-watched playoff game since 2001, while the second semifinal game between the Las Vegas Aces and Dallas Wings attracted the seventh-most viewers in 22 years.
It won’t be surprising if this year’s Finals establish a new high-water mark.
Team USA to take on Tennessee, Duke
Team USA is set to continue it’s pre-Olympic tradition of playing exhibition games against elite college teams. On Nov. 5, Team USA will take on Tennessee in Knoxville. One week later, they head to Durham for a contest against Duke.
The games will serve as an opportunity for the national team coaching staff—headed by Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve with Washington Mystics general manager Mike Thibault and Los Angeles Sparks head coach Curt Miller assisting—to begin determining the players who will represent the United States in Paris in the summer of 2024.
Between the contests, a training camp for players in the national team pool will be held in Atlanta.
South Carolina, Rutgers to celebrate Nikki McCray-Penson
To celebrate the legacy of Nikki McCray-Penson, South Carolina will host Rutgers for an exhibition game on Oct. 22. McCray-Penson served as an assistant coach both for Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks (2008-17) and Coquese Washington’s Scarlet Knights (2022-23).
The game will raise money for In The Middle, a Columbia-based non-profit organization that supports women fighting breast cancer.
My heart hurts every day knowing my friend and colleague won’t be able to utilize her passion….so we will do it for her and keep her legacy alive! Love you Nik Nik!— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) September 27, 2023
NCAA announces WBIT
The rising interest in women’s college basketball has inspired more investment in the game, with the NCAA establishing the 32-team Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament.
Early-round games, which will be held on the campuses of higher-seed teams, will be broadcast on ESPN-plus. Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, the site the semifinals and finals for the men’s NIT, also will host the semifinals and final of the WBIT. The final is scheduled for Apr. 3. Regular-season conference champions that do not earn a bid to the NCAA tournament will receive an automatic bid to the WBIT, with the rest of the field determined by a selection committee.
The NCAA will hold the inaugural 32-team Women's Basketball Invitation Tournament next spring on campus sites with the champion crowned April 3 in Indianapolis. https://t.co/Cnn2QLcmUU— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) September 26, 2023
Quinn extended, Chatman promoted in Seattle
Despite missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015, the Seattle Storm are confident that the organization is equipped for future success, which they tangibly expressed by extending the contract of head coach Noelle Quinn and promoting assistant coach Pokey Chatman to associate general manager. Chatman will continue to serve as an assistant coach.
In announcing the promotions, general manager Talisa Rhea praised Quinn’s “competitive passion, basketball IQ and extensive playing career” and celebrated Chatman as “an exceptional ambassador for the game and for the Storm.”
Building for the future pic.twitter.com/K3F3qmCPyp— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) September 25, 2023
Watson, Koclanes depart Sparks
Longtime athletic trainer Courtney Watson and assistant coach Chris Koclanes are leaving the Los Angeles Sparks for other opportunities in the basketball world. After 16 seasons with the Sparks, Watson is headed to the NBA, where she will serve as the head athletic trainer for the Portland Trailblazers. Koclanes—Curt Miller’s righthand man for eight seasons, first with the Connecticut Sun and last season with the Sparks—is joining head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s staff at USC as an assistant coach. From 2015 to 2019, he was the video coordinator for USC.
Chiney Ogwumike named to council on African diplomacy
Already a WNBA player for the LA Sparks and a NBA analyst for ESPN, add diplomat to the impressive resume of Chiney Ogwumike, who recently was named by President Biden to the 12-person council on African diplomacy. In an interview with the Associated Press, the Nigerian-American Ogwumike called the appointment “a calling of a lifetime,” elaborating, “It’s something so authentic to who I am and what I stand for and what I want to do for service. You can be exponentially impactful — calling of a lifetime for me.”