Report: Wings to hire Vickie Johnson, making her only Black woman head coach in WNBA

Cassandra Negley
·3 min read

The Dallas Wings are expected to name Vickie Johnson as their next head coach, The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings reported on Thursday. It would make Johnson the only Black woman currently in a head coaching position in the WNBA, which is made up of nearly 70 percent Black players.

The Wings parted ways with coach Brian Agler in October after a 8-14 season and missing the playoffs. The team has a talented roster from recent drafts and a title run in its sights.

Who is Vickie Johnson?

Vickie Johnson on the sideline.
Vickie Johnson will reportedly return to the WNBA as a head coach. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Johnson helped lead the Las Vegas Aces and MVP A’ja Wilson to the 2020 WNBA Finals, where they were swept by the powerhouse Seattle Storm.

She’s been a head coach in the league before and it was with the same franchise. Johnson was an assistant with the San Antonio Stars from 2011-16 and was named head coach for 2017. The Stars relocated to Las Vegas that offseason, making Bill Laimbeer president of basketball operations and coach. He brought Johnson on as an assistant in 2018.

Johnson is a member of the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame after a stellar four-year career that included the 1994 NCAA championship. She was the No. 12 overall pick in the WNBA elite draft ahead of the inaugural season meant for players who had already graduated and started playing professionally. She spent the first nine years with the New York Liberty and four with the Stars. The shooting guard made two All-Star teams and played overseas for 15 years.

Why aren’t there more Black women coaching?

The lack of Black women coaching has become a focal point for the WNBA in recent years. The issue hit peaks after the Los Angeles Sparks hired Derek Fisher while barely considering anyone else and the New York Liberty brought on Walt Hopkins after only two years assisting the Minnesota Lynx.

In the league’s inaugural season, nine of 10 head coaches were women, according to research from Lindsey Gibbs at PowerPlays. A mid-season coaching change that year brought the number of Black women coaches to three.

The number of women coaching dipped over the years, but up until 2020 there had always been at least one Black woman in the position. Per Gibbs, in 10 out of 24 seasons there was only one Black coach.

Of the 11 other teams, there are four women and two Black men (Fisher and James Wade with the Chicago Sky). It’s a nuanced issue that prominent members of the sport have addressed.

Wings set up for postseasons to come

The Wings were in contention for the playoffs up until the final day of the season and have the pieces to get there as soon as next year.

Arike Ogunbowale nearly won Rookie of the Year in 2019, during which she was third in the WNBA in scoring. The guard led the league in scoring in 2020 with 22.8 points per game. She was joined this season by No. 2 overall pick Satou Sabally, who missed time with a back injury and concussion, and fellow top-10 picks Bella Alarie and Tyasha Harris.

Johnson has a current connection with the Wings, having coached Jefferson and Isabelle Harrison while they were with the Stars in 2017.

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