Coaching Milestones

Following up on the feature on 2018 regular season player milestones, there are a number of head coaching milestones to keep an eye out for this season. Again I’ll focus on WNBA regular season milestones, so all numbers given are regular season statistics unless otherwise noted.

This summer will mark the first games as head coach for both Katie Smith and Nicki Collen, who will lead the New York Liberty and Atlanta Dream, respectively. Both will step on the court for their first regular season games as head coach on May 20th, when the Liberty will be in Chicago against the Sky, and the Dream travel to Arlington to try to notch a win against the Dallas Wings.

With that said, let’s take a look at the rest of the coaches around the league.

The ‘Tweeners

There are a few coaches who are between major numbers this season, two in the East and two in the West.

Starting in Chicago, Amber Stocks enters her second year as head coach in the WNBA. Last season, Stocks notched her first game in a loss to the Lynx in Minnesota and first win as head coach a week later in Atlanta against the Dream. She finished her first season with the Sky 12 – 22.

Pokey Chatman made the move from Chicago to Indianapolis to coach the Fever last season after six years with the Sky, compiling a 106 – 98 record, four playoff appearances and one WNBA Finals appearance. Chatman took on a Fever team starting a rebuild and finished the season 9 – 25.

Out west, Fred Williams enters his third season in Dallas and fifth overall with the franchise. Williams had previous stints as head coach in Utah (1999 – 2001) and Atlanta (2012 – 2013). Overall as head coach he sits at a 117 – 136 record.

Lastly, Brian Agler enters his fifteenth season as head coach in the league and fourth in Los Angeles. He has compiled a 252 – 203 record combining his time in Minnesota (1999 – 2002), Seattle (2008 – 2014) and with the Sparks since 2015. Agler is one of just five coaches with over 400 games coached in the WNBA. Anne Donovan coached 419 games with five different teams. Dan Hughes, Mike Thibault, and Bill Laimbeer are also over the 400-game mark and will be featured later.

Moving up the Board

Curt Miller is in his third season as head coach of the Connecticut Sun, which means he’ll become the 25th person to coach 100 games in the WNBA. He’ll hit the century mark on August 14 at home against the Dallas Wings. With a current record of 35 – 33, he also has a good opportunity to get his 50th win this year and would be the 24th coach to do so.

Sandy Brondello is no new face as a head coach, having coached the past four seasons in Phoenix including the 2014 WNBA Championship and the 2010 in San Antonio, and she can hit a couple of big milestones this year. With a current overall coaching record of 97 – 73, Brondello will coach her 200th game on August 7 at home against the Washington Mystics, and she’s a lock to go over 100 wins in her career this season. She’ll move up the list as the 15th coach with 200 games coached and the 15th coach with over 100 wins in her career.

Leaders of the Pack

Then, there are the coaches who have made their way to the top of the leaderboards in terms of games coached, wins, and winning percentage. Each is likely to hit even bigger milestones in the 2018 season.

Bill Laimbeer is one of the five WNBA coaches with 400 games coached, and he is the first head coach of the relocated Las Vegas Aces. Laimbeer won three championships in Detroit in his initial coaching position there (2002 – 2009), and he coached previously in New York (2013 – 2017). He’ll add to his history coaching the first WNBA game for the Las Vegas team, and with a huge (but improbable) turnaround, could get his 250th regular season win. His record is currently 229 – 171, so it would take at least 21 wins to do so. With a career winning percentage of 0.573, it’s going to take an above-average season (0.618) to get there this year.

Leading the way in terms of head coaching wins, Mike Thibault will extend that record this season in his 16th season as head coach overall and 6th with the Washington Mystics. He is 36 wins ahead of Agler with 288 total in that time, and he is one of just two people to have coached over 500 games in the league. Entering the season at 288 – 222, Thibault has a good chance to get his 300th regular season win as head coach this year. Additionally, he’ll hit 200 games coached in Washington on August 9 at home against the Seattle Storm and with at least 18 wins this season would notch his 100th win with the franchise as well.

The other coach to have over 500 games coached in the league is the leader in that category. Dan Hughes returns to coaching after a year out of the league to lead the Seattle Storm. Hughes has coached 524 regular season games with an overall record of 237 – 287. This is the fourth team he has coached, having spent the majority of his career in San Antonio (2005 – 2009, 2011 – 2016) after some time in Charlotte (1999) and Cleveland (2000 – 2003). Dan will hit his 550th game coached on July 24 in Indianapolis against the Fever and with at least 13 wins would hit 250 wins for his WNBA coaching career.

Last but not least is the all-time leader in winning percentage¬† — as well as playoff games coached (55), playoff wins (40), and playoff winning percentage (0.727). Cheryl Reeve has a regular season winning percentage of 0.717 and is tied with Van Chancellor with four WNBA titles. Reeve, currently with an overall record of 195 – 77 in her eight seasons as head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, will work toward breaking that record this year while also going over 300 games coached and 200 wins. Her 300th game as head coach will come on August 5 at home against the Dream.

A Look Back

There have been 115 head coaches in the history of the WNBA, so I want to leave by noting a few who are no longer coaching in the league but have left their mark on the game:

Along with Hughes, Thibault, Agler, Donovan, and Laimbeer, three individuals have coached over 300 games:

  1. Michael Cooper left Atlanta last season after four years coaching the Dream and 12 seasons of coaching overall — he coached Los Angeles from 2000 – 2004 and again from 2007 – 2009 — with an overall record of 230 – 158 and a winning percent of 0.593. Cooper won two championships with the Sparks in 2001 and 2002.
  2. Lin Dunn is now on Matthew Mitchell’s staff at the University of Kentucky after leaving the WNBA with a 168 – 166 record including her time in Seattle (2000 – 2002) and Indiana (2008 – 2014), where she won a WNBA championship in 2012.
  3. Van Chancellor coached the Houston Comets for the majority of its existence, from 1997 to 2006. He returned to college coaching in 2007 at LSU after compiling a 211 – 111 record in the WNBA and 0.655 winning percentage. As mentioned before, he is one of just two coaches (Reeve) to have won four titles in the league and the only coach to have won more than two consecutively.

Besides those mentioned previously, three prior WNBA coaches have over 100 wins:

  1. Richie Adubato coached 250 games and left the league with a 134 – 116 record after six years in New York (1999 – 2004) and two full seasons in Washington (2005 – 2006). He resigned four games in to his third season (2007) after starting 0 – 4. He also spent time as head coach in the NBA with three different teams (Detroiot, Dallas, and Orlando).
  2. John Whisenant coached in Sacramento (2003 – 2006 and 2009) and New York (2011 – 2012), including the 2005 title with the Monarchs, finishing with a 119 – 88 record and a winning percentage of 0.575.
  3. Marynell Meadors was one of the first eight coaches in the league, leading the Charlotte Sting (1997 – 1999) and Atlanta (2008 – 2012), compiling a 111 – 119 record in her time in the league

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