For new Sky coach James Wade, love and basketball is a way of life

 
 
Updated 11/16/2018 6:40 PM
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  • Minnesota Lynx WNBA basketball head coach Cheryl Reeve listens to assistant coach James Wade on the bench during a game against the Los Angeles Sparks last season. The new Sky coach's love of basketball started with legend Dawn Staley and really deepened with his wife, a former WNBA player. Now, he's got his first head coaching job in the league that he has followed so closely for years.

    Minnesota Lynx WNBA basketball head coach Cheryl Reeve listens to assistant coach James Wade on the bench during a game against the Los Angeles Sparks last season. The new Sky coach's love of basketball started with legend Dawn Staley and really deepened with his wife, a former WNBA player. Now, he's got his first head coaching job in the league that he has followed so closely for years.

His wife wasn't his first love.

In basketball terms, anyway.

But it's OK. Edwige Lawson-Wade knows this about her husband, James Wade.

James Wade loved Dawn Staley and her game back in the early 1990s, long before he even met Edwige.

"In high school, I saw Dawn play on TV," Wade said of Staley, a former college and WNBA star and now the successful head coach of the women's basketball team at the University of South Carolina. "I am 5-foot-9, and Dawn is small like me. But she could go. She piqued my interest in women's basketball."

But it was Edwige, a former WNBA player and a star basketball player in her native country of France, who gave James Wade a deeper appreciation of women's basketball, its athletes and the WNBA.

"I met Edwige in France. We were both playing there on pro teams that were about 30 minutes apart," James Wade said. "The WNBA was her big goal back then and I would help her work out for it. We got married and she didn't get it on her first try but she made it on her second try and she played five years in the WNBA (2005-2010). My interest in the WNBA really came from Edwige."

Now, Wade is a WNBA insider, who just got his first head coaching gig this week.

On Tuesday, Wade was named the new head coach of the Chicago Sky, replacing Amber Stocks after her two-year stint. He comes from the perennial power Minnesota Lynx, where he was an assistant coach and worked closely with former Sky star center Sylvia Fowles, who won the WNBA most valuable player award under Wade's watch.

"I'm really appreciative of this opportunity. I don't take it lightly," Wade said of his new job with the Sky. "I've always been a fan of the WNBA and this is a great opportunity for me to grow as a coach. I am ready to just get to work."

Actually, Wade is already at work in Russia, coaching in a league that employs many WNBA players during their offseasons.

One of those players happens to be Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who is actually on Wade's team. Wade has found it invaluable to be so closely connected to Vandersloot as he slowly assumes his responsibilities with the Sky.

"I like the fact that we have one of the best playmakers and point guards in the world on our Sky roster in Courtney Vandersloot," Wade said. "It's an interesting dynamic right now coaching Courtney in Russia. She's a (WNBA) free agent right now, so we've got to keep things pretty general, but once free agency starts and we are able to get her signed, I think I will be having some pretty interesting conversations with Courtney about the team and her observations and some things that we can do (with the Sky)."

Wade, a native of Memphis who played basketball for multiple colleges but graduated from Kennesaw State, wants to allow Vandersloot to guide a fast, free-flowing offense.

"I want the ball in our playmakers' hands," Wade said. "And I want to run."

Defensively, the work for Wade will be extensive.

"The last few years, this has been a Sky team that has struggled on defense," Wade said. "That's something I'm going to concentrate on from Day 1."

Wade can't wait for that first day. As soon as his season finishes in Russia, Wade will head to Chicago where he hopes to quickly settle in and find a place for his wife and 2-year-old son James Wade III, whose nickname is "Jet."

With two pro basketball players for parents, Jet could be destined for the NBA, and Wade is looking forward to helping him get there just as he did for Edwige with the WNBA.

"Jet is almost 3 and it's amazing what this kid can do with a basketball," said Wade, starting to chuckle. "He might be a one-and-done (one year of college and then off to the NBA) kind of kid."

Of course, Wade is looking for something a little more long term in Chicago.

He'd like to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Cheryl Reeve, the long-term (9 years) head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, and make his permanent home in Chicago. He wants to turn the Sky into a perennial contender, just like the Lynx.

"That's the plan," Wade said. "I'd love to be here (in Chicago) for a long time."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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