We finally got clarity on the Sky’s front-office structure Monday. It didn’t come from anyone in management or ownership, but rather from the franchise’s star player, Kahleah Copper.
During exit interviews, Copper answered the question that ownership said it would address after the season regarding the separation of the head coach and general manager jobs.
“I know for sure the positions are going to be separate,” Copper said. “Which is great.”
Sky CEO Adam Fox told the Sun-Times that the franchise is not holding itself to any specific timeline for filling the positions.
“We are looking to make the most informed decision possible to make sure we have the right people,” Fox said.
After James Wade resigned, his lead assistant, Emre Vatansever, took over his dual role of coach/GM on an interim basis. He led the Sky to an 11-13 record to close the regular season before going 0-2 against the Aces in the first round of the playoffs. Vatansever was transparent about his lack of GM experience from the outset.
After the Sky’s Game 2 loss Sunday, Vatansever said he would “absolutely” like to return as the Sky’s coach. As of Monday afternoon, he had yet to discuss that possibility with ownership. Fox said Vatansever is expected to meet with principal owner Michael Alter this week.
As for whether that conversation will be about Vatansever remaining on the staff, Fox said, “We’re considering every option.”
The Sky have begun talking with potential candidates, multiple sources told the Sun-Times, including Teresa Weatherspoon. If the team doesn’t hire Vatansever as head coach, he said he wouldn’t be opposed to returning as an assistant depending on the circumstances.
“I would love to be here,” Vatansever said. “But everything has to fall into place, like getting players and being on the same page. I fell into this situation during the middle of the season. What I was trying to do was get this ship going and do the right things to make the playoffs.”
The Sky have five players signed to protected contracts next season: Copper, Elizabeth Williams, Marina Mabrey, Dana Evans and Isabelle Harrison. Williams said ideally she’d like to know who the coach will be sooner than later.
“But I also know that’s not a decision that wants to feel rushed, either,” she added.
All except Copper’s contract were secured by Wade in his final moves as general manager. Copper negotiated with Alter, Fox and operating chairman Nadia Rawlinson. Filling out the rest of the Sky’s 2024 roster and beyond can’t begin officially until January, giving the team, at most, a four-month runway to hire a general manager.
Fox didn’t answer definitively whether the Sky will have a general manager in place by the start of free agency.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we’re putting our organization in the best position to be successful,” Fox said.
What if that means the Sky can’t find the right person to fill the GM role by January? Will they handle free agency as they handled Copper’s extension?
Fox reiterated that management is committed to making a decision that will help the franchise succeed.
Over the next month, Sky players will disperse on overseas assignments. Evans, Williams and Mabrey will play for different clubs in Turkey. Copper said she’s still deciding whether to play overseas after taking last year off.
When they return to the Sky in the spring, the franchise undoubtedly will look different. But they all expressed confidence that the 2023 season was foundational.
“Despite the changes and adversity faced, there was an overall understanding of where this organization should be and what we can do,” Williams said.