Season wrapup: With Copper locked in, Sky to begin search for right supporting cast

There's certainly a long checklist for Sky ownership following an 18-22 season and a first-round playoff exit.

It starts with hiring a general manager, then a coach. Eventually, they'll be looking to add players in free agency, so those decisions need to be made, and if they can solidify plans for some sort of practice facility, that might help in the recruiting department. The Sky also has a few free agents of its own that could be worth re-signing.

Preparing for next year's WNBA Draft is a lower priority, since former coach and GM James Wade, who left for a job with the Toronto Raptors in July, traded the team's 2024 first-round pick to Dallas to get guard Marina Mabrey.

All-star forward Kahleah Copper broke the news that the team plans to split the coach and GM positions moving forward.

"I know for sure the positions are going to be separate, which is great," Copper said during her exit interview. "As a player, if you have a problem with something, you shouldn't have to go to your head coach. You should be going to the GM. That's good for the organization."

Former assistant Emre Vatansever took over as head coach for Wade and helped steer the Sky into the playoffs for the fifth-straight year. The Turkey native confirmed he is very interested in returning as coach. A few Sky players made a point of endorsing Vatansever for the job during exit interviews.

"You actually don't need a whole lot to build around this team," Vatansever said. "I believe we can build something around this team if we (add) a couple of key players."

The Sky did accomplish their biggest task already, signing Copper to a two-year extension before the final game of the regular season. She averaged a career-high 18.7 points to lead the team, and saw enough positives to commit to the Sky for two more seasons.

"The grass is just not always greener at other places," Copper said. "Imagine being at an organization and growing your entire career and setting records and doing all kinds of things, then going somewhere new and you hate it. ... Chicago was where I needed to be."

The Sky has five other players under contract for next season: Mabrey, center Elizabeth Williams, forward Isabelle Harrison, guard Dana Evans and 6-7 center Li Yueru. Harrison missed the season with a knee injury, while Yueru didn't play.

Two starters will become free agents: guard Courtney Williams and forward Alanna Smith. After having the best season of her WNBA career, Smith said she's planning to keep an open mind about free-agency.

Center Ruthy Hebard is a restricted free agent, while Rebekah Gardner, Morgan Bertsch and Robyn Parks are under team control with less than four years in the league.

Besides losing Wade at midseason, the biggest issue for the Sky was not having Harrison, an expensive free-agent addition; or Gardner, one of the team's best defensive players; on the floor due to injuries. It's reasonable to think the Sky could have finished a few slots higher in the standings with those players.

Another variable is Mabrey. Wade must have thought the former Notre Dame guard had star potential by trading two first-rounders, plus a pick swap in '25, to get her. Mabrey herself admitted her season did not live up to expectations. She averaged 15 points and 3.6 assists.

"I need to be in better shape and I need to be stronger," she said. "The physicality I saw this season is something I'd never seen before. The double-teams, the defensive schemes just to take the ball out of my hands.

"Me and Kahleah, we definitely went through it. It was really tough. There was a ton of changes, injuries, this and that, while we're getting to know each other. I'm so excited for next year because I feel like it made us so strong and we may not even know it to the full extent."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

'Next coach up' - Sky moves on after Wade's sudden departure

Dwyane Wade to join WNBA's Chicago Sky ownership group

Chicago Sky trying to squeeze into playoffs after undergoing major changes

Sky beat Fever, move into tie for eighth place

Sky needs one win this weekend to clinch playoff berth

Copper shows faith in Sky, signs contract extension

Sky ready to roll dice against top-seeded Aces

Sky drop Game 1 to top-seeded Aces

Sky swept in first round of playoffs with 92-70 loss to Aces

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.