Alexa PhilippouESPN4 minute read
The Connecticut Sun’s Stephanie White has been named the 2023 WNBA Coach of the Year in her first year leading the team, the league announced Sunday.
White received 36 of a possible 60 votes, with Latricia Trammell of the Dallas Wings in second place with 11 votes and Sandy Brondello of the New York Liberty in third place with six votes.
White led the Sun to a 27-13 regular-season record and a third-place finish in the playoffs, where they are tied 1-1 in their best-of-three first-round series after an 82-75 loss to Minnesota. Lynx on Sunday. She was hired in November following the departure of former coach Curt Miller to the Los Angeles Sparks and as Connecticut was coming off a second WNBA Finals appearance in four years. The Sun are still seeking the franchise’s first WNBA title.
Outside expectations for the Sun were mixed after they lost 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas in the offseason. But if viewers thought the Sun would be rebuilding, White never did, given the competitive and experienced pieces the team returned (Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, Brionna Jones and Natisha Hiedeman) and those they would later add in Tiffany Hayes and Rebecca. Allen.
It was clear from the start of the season that the Sun were contenders, as they started 9-3 and were the first team to beat the first-place Las Vegas Aces before losing two-time All-Star Brionna Jones , facing a torn Achilles tendon that ended the season at the end of June.
But the Sun barely stumbled after Jones’ injury, earning a seventh straight playoff berth, marking the league’s longest active streak. Along the way, Thomas emerged as an MVP candidate and Bonner had a career season in Year 14.
“We could have easily thrown in the towel, but that’s not the makeup of these players,” White told ESPN this weekend. “…(After Jones fell) it’s like, ‘Okay, how can we revamp and restructure what we want to do to stay in contention?’ And I think the whole time, our team, our players, our coaching staff, our support staff, everyone here has had the expectation that we want to compete for a championship, and that’s just our mentality.”
The Sun finished the regular season with the league’s third-best net rating (4.4 points per possession) behind the Aces and Liberty, while their defensive rating (98.8 points per possession) ranks second behind the Aces.
White has spent 16 years in the WNBA as a player, assistant and head coach (for the Indiana Fever in 2015 and 2016), bringing the perspective of a former player that Sun management was looking for in its new coach. She is the fourth former WNBA player to win the Coach of the Year award.
She describes their culture as building on where they’ve been, particularly in regards to the franchise’s trademark “grit, toughness, resilience and competitiveness,” but she left her mark by “improving communication styles” among the equipment and staff.
“We’re just restructuring the dynamic between players and coaches and within our own roster, what that looks like,” White said. “We’re honest. We’re transparent. We expect a lot, they give a lot, they expect a lot from each other and they expect a lot from us. And I think that allows us, I guess by default, to get over ourselves when people think we might not be there or “We wouldn’t have been in the position we are in.”
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