Sky Notebook: James Wade’s departure, Courtney Williams posts career week
The Chicago Sky (8-9) snapped their six-game losing skid and went 3-0 on the week to jump up to 6th in WNBA rankings.
The biggest news of the week came Saturday afternoon when the Sky announced that James Wade was stepping down from his roles as head coach and general manager effective immediately to pursue an assistant coaching position with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.
With this move, the Sky promoted Emre Vatansever to interim head coach and general manager. Vatansever has been with the franchise since 2017 and stepped up in 2022 for two straight games and wins when Wade went down with COVID-19.
Win No. 1 for Vatansever in 2023
Vatansever is now 3-0 as an interim head coach as the Sky brought home a nail-biting 89-87 victory on Sunday against the Indiana Fever.
“I feel good [after the win moreso] because of the players’ reaction,” Vatansever said after the game. “I talked to them before the game and said I’m going to measure everything with the response. Respond to what’s been going on the last couple of days, respond to a new coach, respond to teammates, respond to the process we’ve been having. I felt that they fought and that’s enough of an answer for me. I’m happier for that more than winning [the game].”
It was the Williams & Williams connection in Indiana with Courtney setting a new season-high with 28 points and Elizabeth with a new season-high of 17 points – the most for Elizabeth in a single game since 2020.
“When we say ‘together,’ it’s all of us,” Courtney Williams said after the win. “So we understand that [Emre’s] going to hold us to that same standard. He’s going to continue to communicate with us and he knows where we can be successful. He knows the places to put us in which is what we saw today. We trust him. He trusts us.”
Sweeping the Sparks at home
The Sky’s six-game skid may have started with a June 9 loss to the Sparks, but it came to a close with two straight victories against Los Angeles with a 80-63 win on Wednesday and 86-78 win on Friday.
Courtney Williams ran the show in both games, putting up 21 points on Wednesday and racking up her first career triple-double on Friday night with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists.
“I didn’t even take that many shots, but I got it going. My teammates were knocking down shots. You don’t have a triple-double without your teammates. They’re just trusting me to play-make and knock down shots,” Williams said after Friday’s game.
Williams’ triple-double is just the 5th in Sky franchise history, and she is just the third player to do so behind Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot. All starters scored in double-digits in Friday’s game with Alanna Smith leading the way with 18 points.
As for Wednesday’s game, it was the catalyst to start the three-game winning streak. The Sky had the lead at halftime for the first time since June 2 against New York. They also cut back on their turnovers with just 13 and scored 17 points off the Sparks’ 18 turnovers.
The 17-point victory was the largest margin of victory for the Sky since the 2022 WNBA playoffs against the New York Liberty. The themes in both games remained the same: cut back on turnovers, creating transition offense with quick ball movement and crashing the glass on both ends of the floor.
“It doesn’t always happen in the way you expected to or how you saw it in your mind,” Marina Mabrey said on Wednesday. “So we learned from the mistakes, we got in the win column again but we still have a lot more work to do. I don’t think we’re even close to where we’ll be by the time the playoffs come.”
Stats and Notes
- Courtney Williams reached 900 career defensive rebounds vs. LA (Wed)
- Elizabeth Williams surpassed Tina Charles to move to 12th on the all-time blocks list with 390 vs. LA (Wed)
- Marina Mabrey reached 600 career three-point attempts vs. LA (Fri)