Why Sky coach James Wade says he’s not coaching in Russia this offseason

Wade decided to nix a coaching gig in Russia during the offseason to spend more time with his family.

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James Wade poses for a picture with his 4-year-old son, Jet.

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When James Wade left France last summer to coach the Sky, his son still had training wheels on his bicycle and hadn’t yet learned how to swim.

Wade FaceTimed his wife and son every day he was away. Still, when he returned home after five months, he couldn’t believe how much had changed.

‘‘He [was] a foot taller!’’ Wade said. ‘‘When I came back, he was able to express himself and talk, and he told me, ‘I miss you so much, and I’m so glad that you’re back.’ And . . . he wasn’t talking to me like that before I left.’’

Jet, who turns 5 next month, ditched his training wheels and fell in love with soccer and swimming while his father was gone. And he wanted his dad to be there with him on bike rides and at practices and games.

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James Wade said he goes on daily bike rides to the beach with Jet.

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Wade wanted to be there, too. That’s why he said he decided to step away from coaching Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg this offseason.

‘‘There were a lot of determining factors,’’ Wade said. ‘‘But . . . I was in Russia [last spring], and then I came back and spent time with my family during the first lockdown. Then when I left, I didn’t see my son for five months. Imagine if I come back and I have to leave again right away.’’

Wade said he didn’t want to be separated from his son again and recognizes the importance of being there. The two are nearly inseparable. They go on bike rides every day along the beach near their home in Montpellier, France.

Wade plays soccer with Jet and would take him swimming before the country entered another lockdown.

‘‘He wanted to do those things with me, and now we get a chance to do them,’’ Wade said. ‘‘And I’m pretty happy with that.’’

Spending time with his family isn’t the only benefit to his offseason coaching hiatus.

Wade has more time to focus on improving the Sky’s roster as the team enters a critical offseason after a lackluster 2020. He has been having weekly Zoom meetings with the Sky’s coaching staff in preparation for free agency, which starts next month, and the 2021 draft in April.

‘‘I just feel like this is an important year for us going forward, where we’re going

to take steps forward,’’ Wade said. ‘‘I think that the circumstances of injuries and things of that nature, we were kind of stagnant a little bit in our progression [last season]. We started off the season well, but we took a couple of steps backward, and I just want to make sure that we’re making Chicago take steps forward.’’

The same issues that hurt the Sky in 2019 plagued them last season. Their defense lacked energy and effort at times, and they struggled to stay healthy during the accelerated season.

The Sky plan to be aggressive in free agency, looking to add frontcourt depth and a backup point guard who complements Courtney Vandersloot and Gabby Williams.

‘‘Right now, we’re re-evaluating everyone, our whole entire team,’’ Wade said. ‘‘Of course, I’m not going to go off on the rails and say, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna try to trade this person.’ You know who our team is built around . . . but we’re going to try to get better.’’

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