Chicago Sky head coach and general manager James Wade has been named the 2022 WNBA Executive of the Year, the league announced on Monday. This is the first time Wade has won the award, and as 2019's Coach of the Year, he is now the third person in the history of the league to have won both honors. Furthermore, Wade is the first Black executive to earn this award.
Wade won by a narrow margin, as he received 11 votes compared to seven for runner-up Dan Padover of the Atlanta Dream. In third place with six votes was the Washington Mystics' Mike Thibault.
After leading the Sky to their first title in franchise history last season as a coach, Wade then had to put on his executive hat for a busy winter. Key members of the title team were hitting free agency, and the aging squad needed reinforcements in order to remain at the top of the league.
Wade re-signed franchise legends Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley to one-year deals, and agreed to a multi-year extension with Finals MVP Kahleah Copper. He then scoured the free agent market to add some talent and brought in Emma Meesseman and Rebekah Gardner.
Adding Gardner, a now-32-year-old rookie, was arguably the sharpest move any team made all winter. After a solid collegiate career at UCLA, she went overseas and became a key contributor in Spain. For whatever reason, no franchise had brought her to the WNBA until Wade and the Sky did so this season. Gardner scored 14 points in her first game and has been an important part of the Sky's rotation ever since. She will almost certainly be on the All-Rookie Team and has a chance to make an All-Defensive team as well.
In addition to his moves on the free agent market, Wade swung a major trade. In a three-team deal, he sent Diamond DeShields to the Phoenix Mercury and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to the Indiana Fever. In return, the Sky received the Mercury's 2023 first-round pick and veteran point guard Julie Allemand from the Fever. The Mercury's pick very nearly became a lottery selection, but even at No. 5 it will be an upgrade from what would have been the Sky's position. Meanwhile, Allemand slotted in as the back-up point guard to Vandersloot.
Thanks to Wade's moves, the Sky put together another terrific season. Though they ultimately lost out on the No. 1 overall seed via a tiebreaker, they still won a franchise-record 26 games.