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If there's one thing Latricia Trammell is confident about heading into her first season as a WNBA head coach, it's that the Dallas Wings' days as a poor defensive team are over. 

Any player who joins a Trammell-coached team will be up to the task defensively within a month, she says. In fact, her belief is so strong that you don't even have to be a WNBA player to succeed in her system. "I can pull you in and you and I will be a great defensive team," Trammell joked over Zoom earlier this offseason. 

Trammell and the Wings won't have to rely on any writers this season, which is good news considering her task ahead is already formidable enough: change the culture of a franchise that has historically eschewed defense and knit together a new-look roster as a first-time head coach on the WNBA level. 

A basketball lifer who began her coaching career at Midwest City High School in Oklahoma in 1994, Trammell was entrusted with that responsibility for her player management skills as much as the wealth of on-court knowledge she's accumulated over the years. 

"She is such an unbelievable basketball mind and such an unbelievable person in terms of relationships," Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb told CBS Sports. "I've never seen someone be able to make connections with people – players, non-players – as quickly and as deeply as Latricia does."

The early returns suggest the players agree. Satou Sabally said the new coaching staff has "transformed the energy" on and off the court, Arike Ogunbowale praised the "fun" vibes in training camp and Teaira McCowan noted Trammell's ability to "make everyone smile, make everyone feel welcome." 

All of that is well and good and is truly a positive first step. But it only matters so much if it doesn't contribute to winning. For the first time in many years, there are real expectations that the Wings will do so, both internally and externally. 

They finished .500 last season for the first time since moving to Dallas in 2016 and won a playoff game for the first time since 2009 when they were still known as the Detroit Shock – two relocations ago. The early stages of their rebuild are now over, and it's time for them to take the next step. Bibb said he wants to see the Wings "advance in the playoffs" this season, something that also has not happened since 2009.  

A primary reason the Wings have struggled so much over the past decade-plus has been a porous defense. They were ninth in the league in defensive rating in 2022, allowing 104.3 points per 100 possessions, and have not finished in the top half on that side of the ball since 2008. Trammell, who was responsible for a Los Angeles Sparks defense that finished in the top three in the league in three of her four seasons as an assistant there, has a particular remit to address this issue. 

For her, forming a tight-knit locker room, constructing a high-level defense and winning games are all intertwined. When training camp opened, the Wings' initial work was all on the defensive side of the ball in order to create strong connections between each other. 

"I think honestly on the defensive end, that's really where you build your team chemistry," Trammell said. "Because I believe that it's a team defense. It's not just putting a player out on an island, it's being there and having your teammate's back when needed."

Trammell is a firm believer in the power of hard work, belief and togetherness on defense. "Tighten up the shoelaces stuff," she calls it. But it helps to have some real talent, too, which is why the Wings were eager to bring in Natasha Howard this winter. The 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-Defensive First Team performer has the ability to anchor the Wings' defense and adds some much-needed championship experience to the roster. 

Howard, the headline addition from a busy offseason, has played in more playoff games than the Wings' entire roster from last season combined. Diamond DeShields – unfortunately now set to miss extended time with a knee injury – and Crystal Dangerfield were two other veterans the front office added. Having players that have been there before doesn't guarantee anything in the future, but the Wings' brass views it as a "crucial" aspect of winning. 

"There's gonna be a lot of things that we do that these experienced, championship players can relay to the rest of the group," Trammel said. "You've gotta have other voices, not just yourself relaying that. A lot of times, it's better when players do it."

Trammell is an expert at teaching defense. She gets "fired up" just thinking about it and can scheme and adjust with the best of them. But she's also aware that Xs and Os only matter to the extent that the players buy into them, which is why she works just as hard to foster an atmosphere where everyone feels valued and takes ownership of the team's collective success. 

Once that is achieved, the results will follow. 

"It's just hearing your passion, showing them what works and why it works," Trammell said. "It's passion, it's grit and that's what I love. I want to create an environment, a championship environment on and off the court and I know these players are gonna back me."