One-half of the 12 WNBA head coaches are women, but there are more NBA female assistant coaches (two) than Black WNBA female head coaches (one). The MSR at this year’s All-Star Game asked President Laurel Richie about this.
“We have 12 teams, and our heads of our teams and our GMs are going to make decisions about coaches and assistant coaches and trainers every single day,” responded the only Black woman pro sports leader. “We are always looking to encourage and support and identify and promote diversity within every single level [and] sector of our business.”
Therefore, if and when a coaching job opening materializes, San Antonio Coach-GM Dan Hughes offers a worthy candidate.
“I’ve had a lot of assistants, and she is another one who is going to be good when the opportunity [comes], and I think it can come at any time,” predicted Hughes of Vickie Johnson, who has been a Stars assistant coach for five seasons. He told the MSR that the former WNBA player is ready to move over one chair on the bench. “I think she is sitting on the doorstep of doing it,” adds Hughes.
A second-round pick in the first-ever WNBA draft in 1997, Johnson played 13 seasons (1997-2009), nine with New York (1997-2005) and four with San Antonio (2006-09), before retiring and accepting Hughes’ offer to join his coaching staff. The two-time All-Star also has a sandwich named for her at a Manhattan deli.
Hughes handed the defensive duties to Johnson. “She game plans the defense and dictates to the players the defense,” explains the head coach. “She’s got the ability to talk to players. She’s got a presence that comes from not only her mind but her having played.”
Johnson says this season she acquired more patience. “Dan went out a couple of games and I had to run the team,” she recalls. “I had to have patience in having the calmness in front of the team, letting them know that I believe we can win and be able to draw plays.”
“She has the ability to quickly relate to professional women players,” said Hughes.
“I didn’t know I had it in me,” continues Johnson, who has successfully transitioned from player to coach like she had to transition from a college player at Louisiana Tech to a pro player “from a three (small forward) to a two (shooting guard), and ending my career as a one (point guard).”
If Hughes sees this potential in her, hopefully soon a general manager also will see Johnson as a W head coach.
“I’m ready to be a head coach and take the next journey in life,” concludes Johnson.
During a break at the recent NABJ convention in Minneapolis, former ESPN anchor and reporter Cindy Brunson and this reporter talked about the WNBA in general and the Lynx in particular.
“Not too shabby of a team, not with five Olympians,” said Brunson, now an Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Mercury reporter, on Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Ashja Jones.
“I’m a fan of two-thirds of the ladies that are out there,” admitted Brunson, who hosted ESPN WNBA telecasts for five years. “It isn’t a novelty anymore,” she said of the 19-year-old league.
Two overlooked Black women: Chicago Coach-GM Pokey Chatman and Atlanta GM Angela Taylor were just as instrumental as anyone else in pulling off the three-team, four-player midseason trade that brought Fowles to Minnesota, but no one is talking about them. Why not?
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.