Stephanie White was honoured as the WNBA’s coach of the year on Sunday after guiding the Connecticut Sun to a 27-win season and a No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
White, the former Indiana Fever and Vanderbilt coach, took over a team that made it to last year’s Finals before coach Curt Miller left for Los Angeles and star player Jonquel Jones, a former MVP, was traded to New York and point guard Jasmine Thomas left to join her former coach out west.
The team also had to deal with a season-ending injury to key player Brionna Jones a month into the season.
White received 36 votes from a national panel of 60 sportswriters and broadcasters. Latricia Trammell of the Dallas Wings finished in second place with 11 votes, and Sandy Brondello of the New York Liberty was third with six votes. Becky Hammon of the Las Vegas Aces received three votes; Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx and Tanisha Wright of the Atlanta Dream each received two votes.
White put in an offence that went through six-foot-two veteran forward Alyssa Thomas, who responded by becoming the first player in WNBA history to record more than 600 points, 300 rebounds and 300 assists in one season, putting up a league-record six triple-doubles.
WATCH | Sun top Lynx in playoff opener:
Connecticut defeats Minnesota 90-60 in Game 1 of their first-round series. Alyssa Thomas becomes the second player in WNBA playoff history to record at least 15 points, 10 assists and five steals in a game.
“I think she’s brought in a new energy for us,” Thomas said of White. “Of course a new offence that has allowed both of us [Thomas and DeWanna Bonner] to thrive offensively. I think, everyone has talked all season long about what we lost in coaches, players. But the team has balled out and found a way to win with this group that we have.”
White said she never considered it a rebuilding year for the Sun, who have had three different people win the league’s highest coaching award as she joined Miller and Mike Thibault.
“I think that we’re a group that knows that we have really good pieces, a good core, an experienced core, who has won a lot of games, been to championships as well,” said White, who also was the AP coach of the year. “The noise outside the locker room was talking about it being rebuilding, but our expectation was to compete.”
The Sun are on the verge of returning to the WNBA semifinals for a sixth consecutive season, up 1-0 headed into Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx.
“I think to lose such an important piece like Brionna Jones and have to adjust pretty dramatically … I think Steph has done an incredible job,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.