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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
21 Oct 2023

NextImg:James Wade offers support for new Sky coach in return to Chicago on anniversary of title

Tuesday had little significance in the basketball world — depending on the context applied.

In the NBA, another slate of preseason games was scheduled. The Raptors were in town to play the Bulls in what was essentially a glorified practice. With no impact on the regular-season record, the Bulls’ 106-102 loss was nothing more than an opportunity for both teams to trot out potential lineups and size up who belongs where on opening night.

But the application of some historical context brought significance to the presence of one man in particular on the Raptors’ bench — assistant James Wade.

Two years ago to the day, Wade was five miles south at a different arena, wearing Sky blue and yellow instead of Raptors red and black. He stood under confetti as he raised the city’s first WNBA title alongside a team he constructed.

Before the Raptors’ game, nearly five months after resigning as the Sky’s coach and general manager, Wade wasn’t immediately aware of the title’s anniversary.

“Wow,” Wade told the Sun-Times when asked about the 2021 WNBA championship. “That just made my heart drop a little bit. You never know what life is going to bring you.

“It was a wonderful time. I never would have thought in a million years — I would have given you all my money — I’d be at a shootaround with Toronto against Chicago.”

It all happened so fast, seemingly overnight. One night, Wade was coaching the Sky in an 86-78 win over the Sparks, and the next morning, the team was announcing his resignation. The Sky have since announced Teresa Weatherspoon as his official successor. Wade believes they got the right person for the job and has already spoken to Weatherspoon about her future in Chicago.

Since his career started as an assistant on Dan Hughes’ San Antonio Stars staff, Wade has followed a desire to avoid being the smartest person in the room. That pursuit led him to an assistant position on Cheryl Reeve’s Lynx staff, where he won his first WNBA championship and helped WNBA legend Sylvia Fowles earn league MVP honors and her second Finals MVP award.

After two seasons in Minnesota, he was hired by the Sky. While Wade’s resignation came after the departure of three franchise stars, a hasty trade that left the Sky’s draft stock depleted and in the midst of a rebuild, there’s no arguing the success he brought to the franchise.

Along with the banner he helped raise — Chicago’s first since the Cubs’ 2016 World Series title — Wade earned coach of the year honors in 2019 and executive of the year honors in 2022.

Asked if he has any regrets, Wade said he can’t live his life that way.

“Even in the circumstances of things I could regret, I can’t regret it because if you live like that, you don’t spend your time learning from situations,” Wade said.

As an assistant, Wade’s workflow is different, but the hours he puts in haven’t changed. Instead of shouldering the responsibility of putting the entire puzzle together, he’s learning to appreciate being a piece.

Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said Wade has seamlessly fit with his coaching staff and is making an immediate impact.

On Tuesday night, Wade was one of the last people off the court after warmups. He made his way back to the locker room with a little over 30 minutes left on the pregame clock. Even during his tenure with the Sky, Wade rarely indulged in questions about future goals. He often shared his thoughts about how removing expectations has helped him navigate his coaching career.

So when asked if he has goals of being a head coach again and in what league he sees that happening, he withdrew a bit and talked about thinking only of the game in front of him — against the Bulls.

He did, however, admit to having a five-year plan without divulging it.

“Someone gave me that advice,” Wade said. “But you have to keep it to yourself. You have to close that. Write it down and close it.”