The Atlanta Dream hired longtime WNBA player Tanisha Wright as its new head coach on Tuesday, looking to bring stability to a team that struggled under two interim coaches this past season.
The 37-year-old Wright played 14 seasons with the Seattle Storm, New York Liberty and Minnesota Lynx.
She retired after the 2019 season and spent the last two years as an assistant for the Las Vegas Aces. She also had been a college assistant with Charlotte since 2017.
“It’s an honour to be chosen as head coach for the Atlanta Dream, and I’m excited to play a role in building a successful organization centred around the player experience,” Wright said in a statement.
“I have been part of championship teams and understand what it takes to win in this league. I look forward to bringing my talents to this franchise and helping the Dream achieve success.”
Wright joins an organization that has gone through tumultuous changes in the past year.
Owner Kelly Loeffler was pressured to sell her 49 per cent stake in the team after she objected to the league’s social justice initiatives, which led to her own players wearing shirts in support of her opponent in the Georgia U.S. Senate race, Raphael Warnock.
Warnock defeated Loeffler in a January runoff.
The Dream now has a new ownership group, which is led by real estate investor Larry Gottesdiener and includes former Dream guard Renee Montgomery.
3 consecutive missed playoffs
Less than two weeks before the season opener, coach Nicki Collen abruptly left the team to take over the powerhouse women’s program at Baylor. Collen had coached the Dream for three seasons, leading them to the WNBA semifinals in 2018 but struggling to a 15-41 record over the next two years.
Her assistant, Mike Peterson, hastily took over as interim coach, but he resigned July 24 during the Olympic break for health reasons. His assistant, Darius Taylor, coached the team for the remainder of the season, winning just two of 13 games.
The Dream finished 8-24, missing the playoffs for the third straight year.
The addition of Wright is part of a total overhaul of the organization that also included the hiring of former NFL executive Morgan Shaw Parker as president and chief operating officer.
“Known for her defensive mindset, emotional intelligence, and grit, we are beyond thrilled that Tanisha Wright is joining the Atlanta Dream,” Gottesdiener said. “Tanisha demonstrates a rare depth of character that is inspiring, and we can’t wait to see the positive impact she will have on this team.”
Wright spent 10 seasons as a guard with the Seattle Storm, where she helped lead the team to nine straight playoff appearances and the WNBA Championship in 2010.
With the Aces, she worked under head coach Bill Laimbeer.
The Dream believe Wright, a native of Brooklyn who played collegiately at Penn State, can help improve the team’s performance on the court as well as establishing a culture of integrity and accountability after the recent turmoil.
“Words cannot express how excited I am for a rising talent like Tanisha to join the Dream,” Montgomery said. “Tanisha is widely respected across the league, and as with all great leaders, she will set a strong example for our team.”