March 18, 2021
Dallas Wings announce rest of coaching staff
Just over three months after hiring Vicki Johnson, the Wings' coaching staff is complete
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On Tuesday morning, just over three months after naming Vicki Johnson as the franchise’s next head coach, the Dallas Wings announced the remainder of their coaching staff. Le’Coe Willingham and Kelly Schumacher fill out the bench as assistant coaches, and Tim Gittens will focus on player development.
Many have been waiting for this announcement, particularly after Johnson mentioned in a press conference earlier this year that her staff would consist of former players, which most assumed meant former WNBA players. Willingham and Schumacher fit the bill perfectly, and the notable outlier is Gittens.
Gittens is known as one of the most influential streetball players in the world and a member of the Rucker Park Hall of Fame. He was a founding member of the world-renowned And 1 streetball team after being a collegiate all-star and spending time playing overseas. Gittens also played for the Harlem Globetrotters and wore No. 13 in honor of his father, who was also a Globetrotter.
Adding a streetball player as a player development coach is a unique move, but it’s one that could turn out to be highly effective in the new culture Johnson is building in Dallas.
“I am excited to introduce Tim as our new player development coach,” Johnson said in the team’s statement. “Known for his outstanding streetball performances, Tim’s unique experience and basketball knowledge at the professional level are also key for our team. He works endless hours in the gym. His work ethic is contagious, and he will be fully committed to working with the players on call. He fits perfectly in our culture.”
His addition to the staff in the player development role will be huge for a very young Wings team — and especially for Arike Ogunbowale — because of his ability to handle the ball and his offensive prowess. Ogunbowale already has a tight handle and is dynamic with the basketball in her hands offensively, and working with a coach like Gittens will help her further maximize her potential.
Johnson’s top assistants, Willingham and Schumacher, were once her competition on the court. From 2004 to 2009, all three were in the league together.
In a fun twist of fate, Schumacher was one year shy of playing with her colleagues on separate occasions. Schumacher joined the New York Liberty in 2006, the year just after Johnson left after being there since 1997. One year later, Schumacher joined the Phoenix Mercury, but moved on to Detroit after one season and would’ve played with Willingham had she stayed — Willingham joined the Mercury for the 2008 season.
Willingham spent 10 years in the WNBA and won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 with the Phoenix Sun and the Seattle Storm. For her career, she averaged 5.2 points per game and 3.5 rebounds. She is one of three players in WNBA history who won two consecutive WNBA titles with different teams.
Since then, she has obtained many years of valuable coaching experience. The Georgia native began as an assistant coach at Tennessee State in 2014 and spent two years there, helping to lead them to a conference championship in 2015. After her time with Tennessee State, she came into a head coaching position at Fort Valley State in 2017 and stayed there through 2019. This previous season, after leaving the Fort Valley State, she joined the Indiana Fever coaching staff in 2020 as an assistant coach.
“Le’Coe is a great addition to our team,” Johnson said. “She brings a wealth of experience from the WNBA with ten years as an undersized post player and two championships. Her career is a testament to her character and her drive to succeed. She is key to help guide our young team to move in the right direction.”
Schumacher spent eight years in the WNBA and also won back-to-back championships, which came in 2007 with Phoenix and 2008 with the Detroit Shock. For her career, she averaged 4.9 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game.
After basketball, Schumacher spent four years playing professional beach volleyball before joining the Chicago Sky as a team development coach and advance scout in 2017. The Ohio native came into a new role after her time with the Sky after the San Antonio Stars moved to Las Vegas and because the Aces, where she took on the role of assistant coach, along with Johnson. Schumacher was apart of the run the Aces made to the WNBA semifinals in 2019. Her stint with the Aces was short lived, as she joined the New York Liberty in 2020 as an assistant coach.
“I am very happy to reunite with Kelly here in Dallas,” Johnson said. “Kelly’s valuable experience as both a coach and a former player is an important asset to our team. Kelly has also won two WNBA titles and knows the league and its players very well. She is a high character person with exceptional values.”
Johnson has assembled an exceptional staff with collegiate and professional experience, as well as WNBA coaching reps. The experience dovetails with the goals Johnson has set for this team — one of top teams in terms of steals and pace.
And there’s the big picture, too: the Wings now have multiple coaches that have won championships, that have reached the mountaintop. That is, after all, Dallas’ goal, too.