In the WNBA, being multifaceted is part of the game.
From head coaches who also serve as general managers like James Wade, to players who also build business empires like Candace Parker, the league is made up of individuals who have honed the ability to juggle.
There are several reasons for this, but the simplest explanation is that the WNBA is a six-month season and the maximum base salary is $228,094. So not only is there enough time to earn more money, but there is also a need.
Seven of Sky’s 11 players are currently playing overseas, with most expected to report within two weeks of the end of the WNBA season. As for Wade’s coaching staff, well, they’re no different.
Emre Vatansever, Tonya Edwards and Ann Wauters all replace their WNBA hats at the end of the season.
Here’s what the WNBA offseason looks like for Sky’s assistant coaches:
Vatansever has been coaching since he was 17 and got his first head coaching job this year, managing Çukurova BK in Turkey. Its roster includes five current WNBA players: Chelsea Gray, Briann January, Tiffany Hayes, DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones.
The relationship between Wade and Vatansever dates back several years when the two coaches faced each other in Europe. Wade’s first memory of Vatansever was his energy.
“The first thing I said to him after the game was ‘your energy seems contagious,'” Wade said.
Vatansever’s first coaching job in the WNBA was as a trainee coach on Jenny Boucek’s Seattle Storm staff. He spent three seasons there before joining Amber Stock’s coaching staff with Sky in 2017. When Wade became Sky’s sixth manager and chief executive, Vatansever stayed on. Over the past four seasons, Vatansever has developed into one of the league’s best assistant managers, and he led Sky to back-to-back wins in June during Wade’s two-game absence due to COVID-19.
Vatansever didn’t interview for any of the three WNBA coaching vacancies (Indiana, Dallas and Los Angeles), which came as a surprise to him and Wade.
“My time will come,” Vatansever said. “I trust my work. I always have. Opportunities always come, all I have to do is keep working hard.
The first person to ask Edwards about coaching was his college coach, Pat Summitt.
Approaching graduation, exhausted from a tournament that ended in a heartbreaking 79-75 overtime loss to Virginia after already winning two national championships for Tennessee, Edwards told Summitt that she had no interest. But less than a year later, she was coaching her high school alma mater in Flint, Michigan. It was the opportunity to make an impact on young people that attracted Edwards. Her bench career was cut short when she returned to the court to play overseas in Turkey, Israel and Italy before four seasons in the WNBA and two in the American Basketball League between 1996 and 2002. .
The 2022 season was Edwards’ second with the Sky and fifth as an assistant coach in the WNBA. She previously worked as an assistant coach with the Sparks from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was head coach at Alcorn State from 2008 to 2015.
“One of the things I’ve looked at over the years coaching at the top level is that sometimes you think you’re going to have the biggest impact at the college level,” Edwards said. “But at this level too, you can still leave that imprint on players’ lives.”
Edwards dabbled in real estate during the WNBA offseason, buying properties and flipping them. She is currently finishing a property in Detroit and working to sell another in Columbus, Ohio.
Edwards was never completely retired from the game, even during the offseason. She’s adding the NBA and college practices to her schedule to keep learning, she said.
When Wauters retired after the Tokyo Olympics, she expected to briefly step away from basketball. She had started thinking about a coaching career towards the end of her playing career, but did not expect the transition to be immediate.
After the 2022 season, Wauters returned to Belgium. In addition to coaching, Wauters works as a keynote speaker, working with large companies and small groups to share messages about resilience and building successful teams.
Next week, Wauters’ first book, ”The Game of Life,” will be published in Belgium. The book is written in Dutch, but Wauters said it’s possible it will eventually be translated into other languages. In the book, similar to her posts as a public speaker, Wauters explains how the lessons she’s learned throughout her career can be interpreted across industries and applied for success.
After a season as an assistant with the Sky, Wauters has no plans to step away from her fledgling coaching career largely because of the balance the WNBA offers her and his family. Ambition is important to Wauters, so a future as a WNBA head coach is already something she’s considering, but she knows it’s a process.
“I hope one day I will also have the opportunity to be a head coach,” Wauters said. “This is the right time and the right place. For now, I would like to continue my learning process and improve.
REMARK: Unless one of his assistants is hired for a head coaching position, Wade expects his staff to remain the same in 2023.