Top 10 WNBA Coaches Of All Time
From rookie season wonders to multi WNBA title winning coaches, these are the all time greats. Ranking the 10 greatest coaches in WNBA history.
Get ready to dive into the world of WNBA coaching greatness! In this article, we'll take a closer look at the top 10 coaches in WNBA history. From rookies making a splash to coaches with multiple championship victories under their belts, these individuals have left an indelible mark on the league. So, let's get started and celebrate the outstanding achievements of these extraordinary coaches.
Famous WNBA Coaches
Both Van Chancellor and Cheryl Reeve fired themselves into WNBA history by winning four championships a piece. They are now the co-leaders in WNBA history and two of the most famous coaches in the league as a result.
Two-time NBA champion Bill Laimbeer had been coaching in the WNBA for many years before retiring in 2021. The former Detroit Pistons big man won three WNBA championships and was twice named the WNBA coach of the year during his tenure in the league.
Michael Cooper is another of the WNBA’s greatest coaches, the former five-time NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers during their tremendous dynasty run in the 1980’s.
Other top coaches include Brian Agler and Mike Thibault, who are both among the WNBA coaches with the most wins, while the story of WNBA legend Becky Hammon is just getting started.
The six-time WNBA All Star who had been an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs took over the Las Vegas Aces in 2022 and immediately coached them to a championship.
In her very first year, she triumphed and showcased the potential to become a future all-time head coach in the women's game.
Who’s the winningest coach in the WNBA?
Nobody has won more games in the WNBA than Mike Thibault, who spent long coaching spells with both the Connecticut Sun and the Washington Mystics. He won 379 regular season games and 34 playoff games, plus a lone title in 2019 with the Mystics over his former franchise Connecticut.
Thibault boasts an impressive regular season winning percentage of 0.567, having won the most games. However, when it comes to coaches who have coached at least 50 regular season games, the title for the highest winning percentage belongs to Van Chancellor with a remarkable 0.655%. This narrowly edges out Cheryl Reeve's impressive 0.653% winning percentage.
While Chancellor is currently at the very top, Becky Hammon’s one season in charge saw her coach the Aces to a 26-10 season, giving her a 0.722% winning percentage. If she maintains that pace, she’ll quickly become one of the winningest WNBA coaches in history.
Ranking the 10 Greatest WNBA Coaches of all time
- Lin Dunn (2000-2002, 2008-2014)
Regular Season Record: 168-166 (0.503%)
Playoff Record: 23-20 (0.535%)
Teams: Seattle Storm, Indiana Fever
Awards: WNBA Champion 2012
Lin Dunn’s coaching career started in 1970, when she took over at Austin Peay State. She held down a highly successful college coaching career that included a trip to the final four of the Women’s NCAA Basketball tournament with Purdue before making the switch to coach a professional team.
Her pro career began with the Portland Power in the ABL in 1996, which disbanded in 1998. She then returned in 2000 in the WNBA to coach the Seattle Storm and later moved on to the Indiana Fever.
It was in Indiana that she would claim the WNBA title in 2012, led by an inspired performance by Tamika Catchings in the finals.
Dunn was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, shortly after retiring from coaching.
- Sandy Brondello (2010, 2014-Present)
Regular Season Record: 180-148 (0.549%)
Playoff Record: 25-23 (0.521%)
Teams: San Antonio Stars, Phoenix Mercury, New York Liberty
Awards: WNBA Champion 2014, WNBA Coach of the Year 2014
Sandy Brondello is an Australian former basketball star who won the Women’s National Basketball League MVP award in 1995. She was a two time WNBL All Star and a WNBA All Star while playing for the Detroit Shock in 1999.
Brondello’s first shot at a head coaching role in San Antonio didn’t go as she had planned, so after just one season she was relieved of her duties and went back to developing her skills in an assistant coaching role with the Los Angeles Sparks.
She spent three seasons there before she was offered the head coaching job with the Phoenix Mercury, and this time she was prepared. That season the Mercury stormed to a 29-5 record, the best season record in WNBA history, and Brondello was named the WNBA Coach of the Year.
The Mercury went on to claim the WNBA title by sweeping Chicago in the finals, giving Brondello a championship season in her first year in charge of Phoenix.
She took the Mercury back to the finals in 2021 but couldn’t claim the title this time around, and is now the New York Liberty coach having moved on when her contract expired in Phoenix.
- Curt Miller (2016-Present)
Regular Season Record: 136-86 (0.613%)
Playoff Record: 16-17 (0.485%)
Teams: Connecticut Sun, Los Angeles Sparks
Awards: 2x WNBA Coach of the Year 2017, 2022
Curt Miller made a name for himself as the head coach at Bowling Green, leading the Falcon’s to five MAC regular season championships and five MAC tournament championships between 2001 and 2012.
After a spell at Indiana he found his way into the WNBA in an assistant’s role with the Los Angeles Sparks. Just one season later he’d be offered his first professional coaching job as the new head coach of the Connecticut Sun, and once again he proved his value as a talented coach.
Miller won the WNBA Coach of the Year award twice, including a 26-6 regular season record in 2021. Between 2019 and 2022 Miller led the Sun to the WNBA Finals twice, and the semi-finals in the other two years. While a championship has eluded him in the WNBA so far, he is becoming one of the most respected coaches in the league.
Miller took the opportunity to return to the Los Angeles Sparks, this time as the head coach. His hunt for a WNBA championship continues.
- Dan Hughes (1999, 2000-2003, 2005-2009, 2011-2016, 2018-2019, 2021)
Regular Season Record: 286-312 (0.478%)
Playoff Record: 22-28 (0.440%)
Teams: Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockets, San Antonio Stars, Seattle Storm
Awards: WNBA Champion 2018, 2x WNBA Coach of the Year 2001, 2007
Dan Hughes has been around the WNBA since its very early years. He had been an assistant with the Charlotte Sting before taking over as the head coach, but it was with the San Antonio Stars that his coaching career took off.
While he didn’t win a championship with the Stars, he did coach them to five straight playoff appearances and a spot in the WNBA Finals in 2008. Hughes would have to be patient in getting another shot at the finals, but he did so in 2018 as the head coach of the Seattle Storm.
This time he was dominating the league with his team. Hughes had led the Storm to a 26-8 record in 2018 and won the WNBA Finals with a 3-0 sweep of the Washington Mystics. Led by Finals MVP Breanna Stewart, the 2018 Storm were one of the most powerful teams in league history.
- Michael Cooper (2000-2004, 2007-2009, 2014-2017)
Regular Season Record: 230-158 (0.593%)
Playoff Record: 27-16 (0.628%)
Teams: Los Angeles Sparks, Atlanta Dream
Awards: 2x WNBA Champion 2001, 2002, WNBA Coach of the Year 2000
Michael Cooper had a wildly successful career in the NBA winning five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 1987.
When he retired Cooper took assistant roles under Lakers legends Jerry West and later Magic Johnson, developing his knowledge for the game before going solo. He took an assistant job with the Los Angeles Sparks in 1999 and was promoted to the team's head coach in 2000.
The Sparks finished 28-4 in the 2000 season and held the same record a year later, this time advancing beyond the Conference Finals and into the WNBA Finals against the Charlotte Sting.
Cooper’s Sparks won the series 2-0 and claimed their first WNBA title and went back to back by retaining that title the following year. They made three straight WNBA finals appearances but were denied the three-peat in a loss to the Detroit Shock.
Michael Copper was named the WNBA Coach of the Year for his efforts in turning the Sparks around in 2000 and followed that up by delivering two championships. For that he is considered one of the best coaches in WNBA history.
- Brian Agler (1999-2002, 2008-2020)
Regular Season Record: 287-258 (0.527%)
Playoff Record: 24-19 (0.558%)
Teams: Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm, Los Angeles Sparks, Dallas Wings
Awards: 2x WNBA Champion 2010, 2016, WNBA Coach of the Year 2010
Brian Agler was the very first head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, beginning his career with the newly founded franchise in 1999.
From there he would work in multiple assistant roles with both the Phoenix Mercury and the San Antonio Silver Stars before returning to a head coaching position with the Seattle Storm in 2007.
It was with the Storm that he claimed his first championship in the WNBA, guiding a team led by MVP and Finals MVP Lauren Jackson to the title in the 2010 season.
Agler led six straight WNBA playoff runs as the coach and GM of the Storm, and was offered a deal to become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks in 2015. He took his defensive mindset and commitment to locking down his team's opponents to the Sparks and in 2016 won his second championship as a coach.
Brian Agler coached in the WNBA for two decades, parting ways with the Dallas Wings in 2020 in what appears to have been his final stop. He’s one of the most successful coaches the league has seen and boasts a strong 24-19 playoff record.
- Mike Thibault (2003-2012, 2013-2022)
Regular Season Record: 379-289 (0.567%)
Playoff Record: 34-38 (0.472%)
Teams: Connecticut Sun, Washington Mystics
Awards: WNBA Champion 2019, 3x WNBA Coach of the Year 2006, 2008, 2013
Nobody has won more games in the WNBA than Mike Thibault. He had 379 regular season wins on his resume, and his closest contender is Bill Laimbeer with 306. They are the only two coaches to win over 300 games and Thibault did it during two long tenures with two of the WNBA’s franchises.
He took the head coaching job with the Connecticut Sun in 2003 and helped them to the WNBA Finals in consecutive seasons in both 2004 and 2005. In both 2005 and 2006 the team went 26-8 in the regular season and Thibault was recognised with the WNBA Coach of the Year award for his efforts in the latter.
Under his guidance, the Sun had become a regular contender making the Conference finals or beyond in four straight years. Thibault was awarded with his second WNBA Coach of the Year award in 2008 and would guide the Sun back to the Conference finals in 2012, his final year with the team.
In 2013 Thibault moved on to the head coaching role with the Washington Mystics, who had struggled to make the playoffs in recent years and hadn’t made it past a Conference semi final since 2002.
Thibault immediately led them back to the playoffs taking them from a team that won 11 games in the last two seasons combined to a 17 win team with a spot in the postseason. That effort earned him his third Coach of the Year honors, and in 2018 the Mystics were in the WNBA Finals.
While they suffered a heartbreaking loss, Thibault retooled and guided them right back to the finals in 2019, this time completing the task and finally crowning his career with a WNBA Championship.
- Bill Laimbeer (2002-2009, 2013-2021)
Regular Season Record: 306-215 (0.577)
Playoff Record: 37-31 (0.544)
Teams: Detroit Shock, New York Liberty, Las Vegas Aces
Awards: 3x WNBA Champion 2003, 2006, 2008, 2x WNBA Coach of the Year 2003, 2015
Bill Laimbeer had a successful career in the NBA as a player, winning two titles in consecutive years with the bad boy Pistons in 1989 and 1990. He was a battle tested center who led the NBA in rebounding in 1986, and upon retirement and a ten year break from the game, returned in 2002 to take a coaching job with the Detroit Shock.
He took over in the middle of the 2002 season, and one year later during his first season in charge coached the Shock to the WNBA championship following a 25-9 regular season record. His efforts in turning the franchise’s fate around earned him the WNBA Coach of the Year award in 2003.
After making the playoffs just once in their first five seasons in the league, Laimbeer turned the Shock into a regular contender, and helped them win a second title three years later in 2006.
The 2006 season would be the beginning of three straight WNBA finals appearances, winning it all again in 2008 to give Laimbeer his third WNBA title as a head coach.
Under Laimbeer’s coaching the Shock never missed the playoffs and appeared in four WNBA finals. He resigned in 2009 and went into a role as an assistant in the NBA before returning to the women's game with the New York Liberty in 2013. They struggled for the first couple of seasons but Laimbeer prevailed and they were in the Conference championship in 2015, which led to a second WNBA Coach of the Year recognition for the former Pistons legend.
Laimbeer is now one of just two coaches to win over 300 regular season games in the WNBA, and one of only three coaches to win three or more titles.
- Van Chancellor (1997-2006)
Regular Season Record: 211-111 (0.655%)
Playoff Record: 20-14 (0.588%)
Teams: Houston Comets
Awards: 4x WNBA Champion 1997-2001, 3x WNBA Coach of the Year
When the WNBA got started in 1997, Van Chancellor and the Houston Comets quickly became the most dominant force in the league. The team boasted some of the best talent in the women's game including Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson and they won the opening season championship in 1997 with a finals win over New York.
The following year they got even better, winning 27 regular season games to just three losses, and retained their title, which would set a trend that saw the Comets win four straight championships under Chancellor’s guidance.
The league was in operation for five years before anybody but the Comets won the title, and in the ten seasons Chancellor coached the team they suffered just one losing season.
The 27-3 team in 1998 is considered one of, if not the greatest, WNBA basketball team of all time. Chancellor’s 0.655% winning percentage is one of the most impressive in league history, only topped by the recent single season performance by Becky Hammon.
Chancellor is one of just two coaches to win four WNBA titles, and one of the greatest WNBA coaches of all time.
- Cheryl Reeve (2010-Present)
Regular Season Record: 281-149 (0.653%)
Playoff Record: 41-21 (0.661%)
Teams: Minnesota Lynx
Awards: 4x WNBA Champion 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 3x WNBA Coach of the Year
Cheryl Reeve transformed the Minnesota Lynx in stunning fashion. The team had missed the playoffs in 9 of their 11 seasons since coming into the WNBA in 1999, and Reeve had a task on her hands when she took the head coaching job in 2010.
It took a year to get things turned around, but in the 2011 season, her second in charge, the Lynx went from a team that couldn’t even manage a winning record to a playoff contender. They went all the way to the WNBA finals following a 27-7 regular season record and then swept Atlanta in the finals to claim the WNBA title.
It was a phenomenal turnaround and Reeve was voted the WNBA Coach of the Year for her efforts in a landslide. The Lynx went back to the finals the following season with a shot at defending their title but this time fell short, only to go back in 2013 and reclaim what they felt was rightfully theirs.
By 2017 the Lynx were one of the WNBA’s most powerful franchises and Reeve had managed four WNBA titles and three WNBA Coach of the Year awards. She is beloved by her players and considered a trailblazer for female coaches at the very top of the game.
Her background in coaching began at La Salle, where she had played her college ball. Upon graduation she stayed on as an assistant coach for a couple of years before doing the same at George Washington for five seasons. She then coached Indiana State with her first head coaching opportunity from 1995-2000 before heading to the WNBA where she would win two titles as an assistant to Bill Laimbeer with the Detroit Shock.
Reeve is still coaching the Lynx and is the only active coach with three or more WNBA titles. If she wins a fifth, she will stand alone as the most successful coach of all time.
Parameters for ranking
These WNBA coaches have been ranked based on their success and influence on the women’s game, as well as WNBA Coach of the Year titles and of course WNBA titles won.
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