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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
|1.||Noelle Quinn||Seattle Storm|
|1.||Katie Smith||Minnesota Lynx|
|1.||Eric Thibault||Washington Mystics|
|1.||Gary Kloppenburg||Seattle Storm|
|2.||Olaf Lange||Chicago Sky|
|2.||Latricia Trammell||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2.||Crystal Robinson||Dallas Wings|
|3.||Tanisha Wright||Las Vegas Aces|
|3.||Kelly Raimon||New York Liberty|
|3.||Chasity Melvin||Phoenix Mercury|
|3.||Darius Taylor||Atlanta Dream|
|3.||Brandi Poole||Connecticut Sun|
|3.||Asjha Jones||Washington 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.