Sky’s James Wade tapped to join USA Basketball’s coaching staff

In the last four years, Wade has made his head-coaching debut in the WNBA (2018) and won WNBA Coach of the Year (2019) and two WNBA titles, as an assistant in 2017 and leading the Sky in 2021.

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Sky coach and GM James Wade will serve as an assistant coach for USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Washington D.C.

Sky coach and GM James Wade will serve as an assistant coach for USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Washington D.C.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Over the past week, Jet Wade, Sky coach/general manager James Wade’s son has been running around their home chanting,

“USA! USA! USA!”

It’s the same chant Wade and his wife Edwige Lawson-Wade listened to him yell during the Tokyo Olympics, to her surprise. You see, the Wade household is one that’s slightly divided. Lawson-Wade helped lead the French Women’s National basketball team to their first Olympic medal, a silver after losing to Team USA in the gold medal game in 2012.

Jet has bounced back and forth between the two teams in his young fandom, but now he has a whole new reason to cheer.

Wednesday, Wade was tapped by USA Basketball to serve as an assistant for the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Washington D.C.

“My parents always tried to do the best thing for me,” Wade said. “The fact that their hard work affords me the opportunity to share this with him is not lost on me.”

WNBA head coaches Vickie Johnson (Dallas Wings), Curt Miller (Connecticut Sun) and Mike Thibault (Washington Mystics) were also selected to join Cheryl Reeve’s staff for the upcoming training camp and qualifying games.

All four will be court coaches during the Feb. 5-9 training camp. Johnson and Thibault will assist on the bench for the tournament, while Wade and Miller will continue as court coaches and team scouts. This staff does not necessarily reflect who will be with the team in September and October for the FIBA World Cup in Australia.

Wade’s hire reunites him with Reeve. He spent two seasons as an assistant on Reeve’s Lynx staff, helping guide them to their fourth WNBA title in 2017.

In the last four years, Wade made his head coaching debut in the WNBA (2018), won WNBA Coach of the Year (2019) and won two WNBA titles, as an assistant in 2017 and leading the Sky in 2021. His meteoric rise as a coach is further evidenced by his hiring to USA’s staff, but if you ask Wade about his success he’ll likely evade the question and opt instead to share how thankful he is for the moment.

His coaching career is marked by a lot of character traits, and depending on who you talk to you’ll hear different ones each time. One you’ll hear directly from him is his lack of expectation. When he retired as a player to pursue a career as a coach, he promised himself he would remove all expectations.

“It was hard to reach certain expectations [as a player],” Wade said. “I never really reached them. It causes disappointment instead of appreciation for what you do have.”

Since Wade’s coaching career began as an intern on Dan Hughes’ San Antonio Stars staff in 2012, he always kept his attention focused on the task at hand. Within a year he was promoted to a full-time assistant position and four years later he was hired in Minnesota.

Hughes has described Wade as one of the best player-development coaches he’s worked with. Reeve similarly commended him for his ability to bring the best out of the game's most elite players.

Wade’s authenticity is what struck Sky principal owner Michael Alter the most in one of their first meetings. Alter said it’s one quality that’s contributed to his success with players.

“He has a good personality with players and a love for teaching,” Reeve said on an episode of Sun-Times podcast, Equal Play. “He enjoys being in the trenches with players. Whatever players needed he was going to do that.”

Wade was being considered to lead the Canadian Women’s National basketball team. He had a couple of discussions about the head coach position but said it was always his intention to be part of USA Basketball in any capacity they would have him.

The next month will be busy for Wade.

Negotiations began Jan. 15 for free agents, contracts can be signed on Feb. 1 and the World Cup qualifying tournament is scheduled for Feb. 10-12. Athletes selected for the upcoming training camp will be announced at a later date but are expected to be WNBA players.

The Washington D.C. tournament site will feature USA, Belgium and Puerto Rico. Team USA will play Belgium on Feb. 11 and Puerto Rico on Feb. 12.

Beyond winning the qualifying tournament and making Reeve’s and the players' jobs easier, Wade only has one other expectation for the future.

“Get these players signed in free agency,” Wade said.

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