Up-and-Coming WNBA Head Coaches

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 04: Assistant GM Talisa Rhea, Head coach Gary Kloppenburg, and assistant head coach Noelle Quinn look on during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals against the Las Vegas Aces at Feld Entertainment Center on October 02, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The 2021 WNBA season is right around the corner as free agency is in full swing, and the WNBA has had an incredible coaching tree the past 24 years, which leads us to the question: Who is the next generation of WNBA head coaches?

Former coaches in the WNBA are always in discussion for returning, and basketball odds would say some of these are likely. Names like Stephanie White, Pokey Chatman, Carol Ross, Brian Agler, Amber Stocks, and even NBA coaches Becky Hammond, and Jenny Boucek are certainly in the conversation.

Here is a look at some of the top names for up-and-coming future WNBA head coaches, all of who are currently assistant coaches in the WNBA.

Noelle Quinn

Noelle Quinn has been in the league since 2007 as a player and is the current assistant coach for the Seattle Storm. Quinn was vital to Seattle’s last two WNBA championships in 2018 and 2020 from a leadership perspective on the bench, and her tireless work ethic and leadership earned her the title of Associate Head Coach of the Storm.

Quinn knows what it takes to be successful in the WNBA, so we expect to see her in a lead role shortly soon. Potentially Seattle? 

Katie Smith

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 15: Head coach Katie Smith of the New York Liberty talks to Sugar Rodgers #14 of the New York Liberty during a timeout of their game against the Las Vegas Aces at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on August 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

Katie Smith has it all. She began her coaching career as an assistant under Bill Laimbeer with the New York Liberty, then took over as Liberty’s head coach for two seasons following Laimbeer’s departure for Las Vegas. After her brief stint with the New York Liberty, Smith joined the Minnesota Lynx staff as an assistant coach. 

She inherited a tough situation during her time with the Liberty, and it was short-lived, but we fully expect her to get another shot and be in a head role soon.

Eric Thibault

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach Mike Thibault (R) of the Washington Mystics looks on with assistant coach Eric Thibault during the first half of a game against the Chicago Sky at Feld Entertainment Center on September 04, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

For those who have followed the WNBA for any substantial amount of time, Eric Thibault on this list is no surprise. Thibault has been in numerous conversations for head coaching vacancies the last two seasons, including the openings with the New York Liberty, and Dallas Wings. The young coach has assisted his father, Mike Thibault, with the Washington Mystics for the past eight years.

It is safe to assume the most obvious scenario would be for Eric to take over as head coach for the Mystics when his father retires. With a WNBA championship under his belt, a great reputation amongst peers, and extensive experience creating the Mystics into a basketball betting powerhouse, this one is just a matter of time.

Tanisha Wright

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 06: Assistant coach Tanisha Wright and Head Coach Bill Laimbeer of the Las Vegas Aces looks on during the second half of Game 3 of the WNBA Finals against the Seattle Storm at Feld Entertainment Center on October 06, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

As one of the fastest up-and-coming coaches in the league, Tanisha Wright finished her 14-year WNBA playing career after the 2019 season. Shortly after, she was hired as an assistant with her former coach, Bill Laimbeer, with the Las Vegas Aces. 

Wright was also hired as an assistant for the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in 2017 and has served on the staff for the last three seasons. She has even worked directly with perimeter development and recruiting operations for the 49ers. 

Latricia Trammell

Trammel holds one of the most extensive resumes in the WNBA after having coached nearly every level of women’s basketball, and her experience and reputation have propelled her as one of the most sought after assistants in the league. While Trammell realistically has a couple more years of experience in the WNBA as an assistant, she’s on the list because of her extensive head coaching experience in other leagues. 

Trammel’s contract was recently renewed to rejoin the Los Angeles Sparks for the 2021 season as an assistant coach. She joined Derek Fisher’s staff in 2019, and has built a reputation of being defensive-minded, highly influential, and effective in the film room with her team. 

This list is broken down into three tiers. Tier 1 are coaches immediately ready to step into head coaching positions based on their resume and complete body of work. Tier 2 are current assistants who while might be relatively new to the WNBA, hold extensive head coaching experience outside of the league. Tier 3 coaches still have years of experience to gain, but are working up the ranks fast.

TierNameCurrent Team
1.Noelle QuinnSeattle Storm
1.Katie SmithMinnesota Lynx
1.Eric ThibaultWashington Mystics
1.Gary KloppenburgSeattle Storm
2.Olaf LangeChicago Sky
2.Latricia TrammellLos Angeles Sparks
2.Crystal RobinsonDallas Wings
3.Tanisha WrightLas Vegas Aces
3.Kelly RaimonNew York Liberty
3.Chasity MelvinPhoenix Mercury
3.Darius TaylorAtlanta Dream
3.Brandi PooleConnecticut Sun
3.Asjha JonesWashington Mystics

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Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at BetMGM, HERO Sports, and Winsidr, focusing on college hoops and the WNBA. She’s a former D1 standout at Eastern Illinois University, a three-time Hall of Famer, professional basketball player, and collegiate coach. Rachel also has served as a color analyst for ESPN, OVC Sports Network, and Mountain West Network.

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