In three years, James Wade helps lead the Sky to a championship


CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 17: Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky hugs Head Coach James Wade of the Chicago Sky after winning Game Four of the 2021 WNBA Finals on October 17, 2021 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – When he took over the team in November of 2018 as the head coach and general manager, he was inheriting a group that had some remaining talent but was looking for a direction.

Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA’s 2015 MVP, was gone for a couple of years after a trade and they’d failed to make the playoffs the previous two seasons. Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley were the standouts, but a new group would have to be formed to compete for a championship that didn’t happen during the Delle Donne Era.

Under three years later, the Chicago Sky are WNBA champions. Wade is the man who helped build around the players he inherited and then led them to their first title, creating the greatest moment in franchise history. He instilled the faith in the group and the die-hard fans that such a moment like what occurred on Sunday at Wintrust Arena could happen, and it was rewarded with wins in two “win-or-go-home” games and then the WNBA semifinals and finals.

“When I got the job in 2018, I still remember saying that we were going to win a championship. No idea how. We were coming off a team that was 10th place and no Playoffs, and you couldn’t have told anybody after we finished in sixth that we were going to be the champions,” said Wade. “We did it because we believed. We probably did something that no other team has ever done.

“We just changed who we were because we wanted to change, and we decided to change, and here we are.”

Players that Wade inherited like Quigley and Vandersloot continued their strong play while Kahleah Copper, who arrived in the Delle Donne trade, blossomed into a major contributor the last two years. Stefanie Dolson was also in that deal and has taken on starter and reserve roles for the team.

Diamond DeShields was drafted in 2019 by Wade and has already been an All-Star while contributing heavily in her three years with the team. Azura Stevens was acquired in a trade with the Wings in 2020 and then in 2021 six-time All-Star Candace Parker arrived.

They along with others played a major part in building the team back to prominence and created a chemistry that worked at the right time. After a 16-16 regular season, the Sky went 8-2 to bring home their first championship in their 16th season.

It also adds a landmark moment to Wade’s career in basketball that began in Memphis, Tennessee where he grew up. He played at three different colleges then began a playing career overseas from 2001-2013. He started his coaching career with the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2012 and worked with them along with French women’s club BLMA through 2016.

Wade was then an assistant coach in the 2017-2018 season for the Minnesota Lynx before he got the Sky head coaching job in November of 2018.

Now he’s a WNBA champion, and he got to celebrate with his family who came from France to be a part of the moment. Wade saw a full house celebrated his team as his career and a franchise came full circle over the course of three years.

“The Playoffs is nothing I’ve ever seen, and this has been amazing, and you can tell Chicago, like they’re behind us 100 percent, and you felt the energy. Like you felt — you actually feel the energy,” said Wade. “Now, this is how you make household names in your city. People are going to go around, they’re going to know who Sloot is, they’re going to know who Kah [Kahleah Copper] is. They already know who Candace is, but there’s so many stories out there on the floor that are unique, that represent Chicago and what they mean to the city and what the city means to them.

“So I just want those stories to be told, but winning a championship helped those stories be told.”

His will be told, too.

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