After a tumultuous season, during which three different people served as acting coach, the Atlanta Dream hope they have finally found some stability on the sideline. On Tuesday, the team announced that they hired Tanisha Wright as their new coach.
"It's an honor to be chosen as head coach for the Atlanta Dream, and I'm excited to play a role in building a successful organization centered around the player experience," Wright said. "I have been part of championship teams and understand what it takes to win in this league. I look forward to bringing my talents to this franchise and helping the Dream achieve success."
A first-round pick back in 2005, Wright spent 14 seasons in the league with the Seattle Storm, New York Liberty, and Minnesota Lynx, earning a reputation as a determined defender. Towards the end of her playing career, Wright broke into the coaching world at the collegiate level as an assistant with the Charlotte 49ers women's basketball program. After retiring from the WNBA, she became an assistant with the Las Vegas Aces. Now, she'll join the Dream as the fifth head coach in franchise history.
Becoming a head coach for the first time is a challenge no matter the circumstances, but Wright will really have her work cut out for her as she tries to turn around a franchise that has just been through a chaotic and disappointing season both on and off the court.
Things got off to a rough start when former head coach Nicki Collen left abruptly in the middle of training camp to become the head women's basketball coach at Baylor University. Mike Petersen was then put in charge as interim head coach, but soon stepped down due to health concerns, and Darius Taylor finished the season in that role.
In addition, budding young star Chennedy Carter, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team and missed the final 15 games. Her absence, along with the coaching changes and various injuries combined to sink the Dream's season. They finished in 11th place with an 8-24 record and missed the playoffs for a third straight season.
Then, a short time after the season ended, Courtney Williams posted a video of herself and teammates involved in a brawl outside of a club in Atlanta. Williams later apologized for the incident, which took place during the season, but the team reportedly told her and Crystal Bradford, who was also involved, that they will not be re-signed under any circumstances.
As Wright assumes control of the team, she'll not only have to move them past these various problems, but also answer major questions about the roster. First and foremost, that means deciding what to do about Carter, who has shown signs of being a dynamic scorer and playmaker. When she was drafted, they expected her to be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. Can Wright help mend the relationship and build around Carter? Or will they explore a trade?
Furthermore, Carter is one of only five players under contract for next season, and only one of them -- Cheyenne Parker -- has a fully guaranteed deal. It's safe to assume that No. 3 overall pick Aari McDonald will be back, but other than her and Parker this team could look completely different next season. While Wright isn't the general manager, she'll have a big say in how they build the roster.
Speaking of the general manager, the Dream still do not have one after firing Chris Sienko back in April. Going an entire season without a GM surely contributed to some of the dysfunction around the franchise, and it's surprising that they hired a new coach before sorting out the front office. They'll have to make sure whoever they eventually hire is on the same page as Wright, or the issues could continue in Atlanta.