Chicago Sky lacks ‘winning culture,’ and James Wade wants to fix thatMarch 23, 2019
After spending the last three winters playing basketball in Turkey, Chicago Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot took her talents this offseason to BC UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, which just so happens to be where new coach and general manager James Wade is an assistant coach.
Vandersloot, whom the Sky designated as a core player in January, said Wade played a vital role in helping her adjust to her new team and country, and she hopes to assist him in a similar capacity when the Sky opens up training camp May 5.
Over the last few months, the two have created a special bond. They routinely bounce ideas off of one another about how they can make the Sky more successful this season.
Vandersloot identified one of the Sky’s biggest problems last season as the fact the team got complacent.
“We’ve almost established a losing culture,” Vandersloot said in a phone interview. “We’re out there competing and we’re trying to win games but we became a little bit too comfortable.
“It was never on purpose, it was never intentional, but we never had that experience to know what it’s like [to win a championship]. We can fake it because we think this is what you do to create a winning culture, but until you really have a championship or have that type of franchise, you don’t really know.”
But Wade does know what it takes to be a championship-caliber team.
Wade coached several seasons under Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and former San Antonio Stars coach Dan Hughes, both of whom have been named WNBA Coach of the Year twice and have a combined five championship titles. He also was apart of the Lynx’ 2017 WNBA title run.
Last spring, Wade helped UMMC, the top women’s basketball club in Russia, win the Super Cup along with Euroleague and Russian League titles.
Wade believes his past experience can help him change the trajectory the Sky was heading before his arrival.
Asked how he plans to get the players to buy into his methodology, Wade said: “The thing is we have no choice.
“Our backs are against the wall,” he continued. “We have to win. Every little detail, there’s going to be accountability … Coming from the program that I came from, I saw how we handle things I saw how we handle players and it just gave me a blueprint for what it takes. And I’m going to use that to my strength.”
Wade doesn’t want to talk about the Sky in the playoffs this season because that’s not his immediate goal. He wants to focus on the “little details” that’ll help the team get overall better.
As Wade has said, there’s no denying that the Sky has the talent to compete in the WNBA. They have the two best three-point shooters in the league in Vandersloot and guard Allie Quigley. They also have a great deal of young talent with Diamond DeShields, Cheyenne Parker and Gabby Williams — all of whom haven’t necessarily reached their ceiling yet. And though Stefanie Dolson is coming off a down year, Wade sees no reason why she can’t return to her All-Star form.
Vandersloot is eager to get back to Chicago next month and start working with her team. Wade might not want to predict the Sky going to playoffs, but Vandersloot says it’s possible.
“If we play to our best potential and really create a good environment, then we should be a playoff team,” Vandersloot said. “And we should be competing for a championship, too. I’m not saying that we’re going to be winning a championship next year, we have steps to take but we are a playoff-caliber team that should be competing and playing for something.”