Sky’s search for new coach tops offseason priorities

The team has two of their starters, Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith, set to become free agents and four others hitting the market as reserved or restricted free agents.

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Sky interim head coach Emre Vatansever

The Sky will have to decide the fate of interim head coach Emre Vatansever during this offseason.

Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP

LAS VEGAS — Change is coming.

With two of their starters — Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith — set to become free agents and four others hitting the market as reserved or restricted free agents, the Sky have to address who their next coach will be.

Whether that means removing the interim tag on coach Emre Vatansever, who took over for James Wade midway through the season, remains to be seen. But the Sky have begun talking with potential candidates, including Teresa Weatherspoon, indicating they’re prepared to go in a different direction.

When asked about the job he has done to solidify himself as the Sky’s future coach, Vatansever commended his players.

“My job is to make them look good on the floor,” Vatansever said. “As much as I can do that, I will be successful, too. That’s what I’m looking for. These guys have done a great job.

“I have no thoughts on the future or the immediate future right now.’’

Vatansever has been vocal about the fact that he hasn’t been able to contribute much as the general manager since taking over for Wade. The only move he made as GM was releasing Kristine Anigwe from her hardship contract when Ruthy Hebard returned from maternity leave.

The GM role is being handled by Sky ownership and management, including principal owner Michael Alter, CEO Adam Fox and operating chairman Nadia Rawlinson. They were successful in getting three-time All-Star Kahleah Copper to sign an extension.

To keep Copper, they needed to answer questions she had regarding who the next coach will be. She also was eager to learn who the next general manager would be.

While she was unwilling to divulge how the Sky met her needs, the fact that they did indicates that major changes are coming to the front office in the offseason.

Playoff format

The WNBA switched its playoff format from single elimination games in the first round to best-of-three series. The higher seed receives home-court advantage in the first two games. But if unable to pull off the sweep, the higher seed would give up that advantage to the lower seed in a Game 3.

Last season, the Sky played the Liberty in the first round. After winning Game 1, the Sky allowed the Liberty to force a Game 3 in Brooklyn. Now, with the shoe on the other foot, the Sky had no qualms with the playoff format.

“Obviously, the atmosphere plays a part in it,” Dana Evans said. “But it’s still a game of basketball. We have to do what we’re supposed to and handle business. We can’t really look at the format and things like that.”

The Aces also expressed support for the format. Having earned the No. 1 seed, five-time All-Star Chelsea Gray said they earned the opportunity to clinch a semifinals berth on their home court.

Award-winning coach

Stephanie White was named the 2023 Coach of the Year after leading the Sun to a 27-13 regular-season record and the third seed in the playoffs, becoming the fourth former WNBA player to win the award.

She joins Becky Hammon (2022), Sandy Brondello (2014) and Suzie McConnell-Serio (2004).

White received 36 votes after her success in her first year with the Sun despite the losses suffered in free agency and All-Star Brionna Jones’ season-ending Achilles injury.

Wings coach Latricia Trammell finished with 11 votes, Liberty coach Brondello received six votes, and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and Dream coach Tanisha Wright received two votes apiece.

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