Congratulations to the Connecticut Sun’s Stephanie White, winner of the 2023 WNBA Coach of the Year Award.
After leading the Sun to a 27-13 record and No. 3 seed in her first season in Connecticut, White received 36 of 60 first-place votes from a panel of media members. The Dallas Wings’ Latricia Trammell finished second with 11 first-place votes, while the New York Liberty’s Sandy Brondello was third with six votes. Others receiving votes were: Becky Hammon of the Las Vegas Aces (three), Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx (two) and Tanisha Wright of the Atlanta Dream (two).
White is the fourth former player and third former Sun coach to win the award, joining Hammon (2022), Brondello (2014) and Suzie McConnell-Serio (2004) in the former category and Mike Thibault (2006, 2008) and Curt Miller (2017, 2021) in the latter.
White has sustained the Sun’s success
Out of the WNBA coaching ranks since 2016, when she led the Indiana Fever to the franchise’s last playoff appearance, Stephanie White arrived in Uncasville, Connecticut expected to do something different but also to keep things the same.
Since 2017, the Sun have been a postseason fixture and, with roster organized around a trio of All-Star players in Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner, a playoff appearance, at minimum, remained the expectation under White. Yet, the departures of former head coach Curt Miller and former MVP Jonquel Jones signaled that the Sun also needed a refresh, with White tasked with guiding Connecticut out of a sense of stagnation.
White expertly solved this riddle, even as it was made more difficult when Brionna Jones suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in late June.
She did so by leaning further into the Sun’s strength, empowering the avatar of the Sun’s aggression and athleticism in Alyssa Thomas. Under White, Thomas put together one of the most unique seasons in WNBA history, functioning as a versatile, defensive anchor on one end while operating as the primary offensive initiator on the other as she established new records for triple-doubles (six) and double-doubles (28) in a single season.
DeWanna Bonner also turned back the clock under White’s tutelage, with the 36 year old having her most efficient and effective scoring season in a Sun uniform. Offseason addition Rebecca Allen has been optimized as a defender in Connecticut. And, as Eric Nemchock noted when making her Coach of the Year case, White has empowered young players more than her predecessor, evidenced by DiJonai Carrington establishing herself as a Sixth Player of the Year candidate in her third season in the W.
Can White and Connecticut claim the franchise’s first championship?
That a title is a possible for the Sun might be the strongest testament to White’s success.
In the “Season of the Super Team,” with the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty expected clearly to outclass all other teams on their way to a championship clash, it would not be a shock if the Sun disrupted this destiny, bumping, bruising and bursting their way back to the Finals.
Regardless, White has shown she was the right person to navigate the current and coming eras of Connecticut basketball.