For 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section will feature a column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series.
This week: back to work
The 2016 WNBA regular season resumes this week after a nearly a month off. But for nearly 30 current players, including the entire 12-player U.S. gold-winning Olympic team in Rio that included four Minnesota Lynx team members, there may be an Olympic hangover that they will have to battle as they get back to competing for playoff slots.
Minnesota begins the second half nine-games-remaining schedule Friday in Connecticut, and its second-half home opener is Sunday vs. Seattle.
As truncated as the first half of the season was, the season’s remaining couple of weeks will be equally so. As a result, any lingering after-effects or slow starts must be avoided as much as possible.
Not to be overlooked are milestones that are expected to be reached before this season ends: Fred Williams (Dallas) and Pokey Chatman (Chicago) both will join the 100-wins club. They join Michael Cooper (Atlanta) as the only Black coaches with at least a century’s worth of league victories — Cooper reached the 200-win mark last season.
“To get 100 wins in a league [or] a conference in any sport is very gratifying,” said Williams to the MSR. The veteran coach is in his 18th season and has coached in Utah (1999-2001) and Atlanta (2012-13) and is currently in his third season with the now-Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).
He also was a head coach at USC from 1994-97 and an assistant coach at the school during its back-to-back national championship seasons in 1983 and 1984. He has been instrumental in the development of several Hall of Famers, including Cynthia Cooper, Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie, as well as Tina Thompson and Pamela McGee, whose daughter Imani Boyette is now a W rookie.
“To be in that 100 [wins] league club means a lot to me,” continued Williams, “knowing that I put my mark in what these players are all about and what this league is standing for.”
Chatman, Boyette’s coach, coached both Lynx players Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles in college, and the latter also in Chicago, where she has been both coach and general manager for six seasons.
“I’m just ecstatic to be a part of it,” she said of the WNBA’s 20th season. “To have a front row seat as it continues to grow is something special.”
Dan Hughes at season’s end will conclude his 16th and final W season as the winningest coach in San Antonio history. He is the only coach in league history to take three different franchises (Charlotte, Cleveland and the Stars) to the playoffs. The two-time Coach of the Year (2001, 2007) has finished runner-up four times.
But Hughes’ place in league history was secured when he orchestrated the 2007 trade that brought repeated all-star Becky Hammon to San Antonio, as well as by his ability to sign notable veterans such as Chamique Holdsclaw, Vickie Johnson (now a Stars assistant coach), Delisha Milton-Jones and Tangela Smith during his tenure as coach and general manager.
“I’ve had a nice foray of former players who found their way to me, and coaches across the world…people all the way to Australia reached out” to him once he announced his intention to retire after this season, said Hughes.
“I’ve been real lucky.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com