August 22, 2022
James Wade wins Executive of the Year after masterclass offseason
2019 Coach of the Year adds to list of accolades
Coming off the franchise’s first championship, the Chicago Sky had multiple uncertainties around their roster. The team only had four players signed through 2022 with a championship standard cemented into its culture. The pressure was evident but when it was time to step up, Sky head coach/general manager James Wade was there to piece together another contender.
It was announced today Wade’s work in the front office has culminated with him taking home this year’s 2022 Executive of the Year honors.
“We are a championship team,” Wade told The Next this past offseason. “The championship culture is there and you can’t have it without having the championship. We put a championship culture in place that we thought would lead to a championship and now you’re seeing season tickets [being sold], TV stations, everybody is behind us now.
“This is the kind of team that you want to play for because [culture] is where it starts.”
Culture was the centerpiece of Wade being able to cultivate his current roster. Since 2019, his “us against the world” mentality has permeated throughout the organization, with the Sky improving with every year under his guidance. Without the culture he laid out over his tenure, Wade wouldn’t have the roster he was able to construct into a 2022 Finals contender. Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper all took pay cuts to stay with the Sky and compete for another title.
|Player||2021 Salary (2022 Eligible Salary)||2022 Salary|
|Kahleah Copper||$165,000 ($228,094)||$200,000|
“I thought, ‘Why not?’, ” Copper told the Chicago Tribune when asked about signing for less money to stay with Chicago. “This is my second home. I love it here. They believed in me and wanted to take care of me.”
After retaining the championship core from the previous year, Wade had to look outside of the box for piecing together the rest of the roster. Diamond DeShields was looking for a deal (and a role) the Sky couldn’t offer her and the team didn’t have obvious in-league replacements for her athleticism behind Copper.
“The wing market was only dried out depending on where you were looking,” Wade said back in May.
Only 90 minutes away from his home in southern France was Rebekah Gardner, who went undrafted out of UCLA ten years ago. Wade drove up to watch her a couple times before being sold he had found the athleticism he was looking for at a price that fit under the cap. The move has paid off dividends, as Gardner has played All WNBA level defense and complements Copper’s ability to finish in transition. She has been the fourth quarter defensive stopper Wade has turned to at the games and is fifth on the team in fourth quarter minutes.
“I feel like we hit the lottery,” Wade said about Gardner last May.
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Perhaps the biggest fish Wade was able to catch this year was 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman. The former Mystic has quietly had one of the best seasons in the league this year and has meshed well with the Sky’s selfless team identity. Meesseman averaged 12.4 points per game while shooting 59.9% on two-point attempts, 34.2% on three-point attempts and 88.7% from the line. Her 1.353 points per possessions on post-up opportunities ranked in the 96th percentile this season and is one of the reasons the Sky’s offense had the highest field goal percentage in the league.
Meesseman won’t get the recognition she deserves but she doesn’t care and “only wants to win championships.”
Wade’s EOY honors aren’t only attached to how he elevated his team this year. He was able to turn restricted free agents Lexie Brown and DeShields into Julie Allemand, the Phoenix Mercury’s 2023 first round pick and Li Yueru. Allemand has showed flashes this season she can be a part of the Sky’s future backcourt once Quigley and Vandersloot retire. Wade also landed next year’s fifth overall pick after the Mercury’s turbulent 2022 campaign. Even after this year, Chicago’s future is bright after Wade’s masterclass offseason.
James Wade was not available when The Next reached out for an interview request.
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