The Basketball Podcast: EP314 with Tanisha Wright on WNBA Culture

RELEASE DATE : 03/04/2024

In this week’s coaching conversation, Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright joined the Basketball Podcast to share insights of WNBA culture and coaching.

Tanisha Wright joined the Atlanta Dream prior to the 2022 WNBA Season and led the franchise to its most wins in a season (14) since 2018. Her breakout first year as a head coach with the Dream also earned her the Associated Press Coach of the Year award and a second-place finish in WNBA Kia Coach of the Year voting.

As head coach, Wright is responsible for fostering the growth of the Dream’s players and establishing a culture of integrity and accountability. She brings 14 years of WNBA experience as a player and 2 more seasons as an assistant coach with the Las Vegas Aces.

A first-round draft pick in 2005, Wright spent 10 seasons as a guard with the Seattle Storm, where she helped lead the team to nine straight playoff appearances and a WNBA Championship in 2010. She played another four seasons with the New York Liberty and Minnesota Lynx before retiring as a player in 2019.

While still playing in the league, Wright began her coaching career in 2017 as an assistant with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers. In 2020, the Aces signed her as an assistant coach, where she worked closely with industry leader Bill Laimbeer.

Prior to joining the WNBA, Wright was a three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-American at Penn State.

Listen Here:

Tanisha Wright Quotes:

“The W is a grind. It’s rewarding, but it’s also work . . When you come to the W, you expect to work and you get great rewards with it. And so, every day that you’re doing this and you’re chopping at it and you’re trying to build every single day, you want to be surrounded by people that you enjoy being around.”

“Building the right culture. How do you want to show up every day? . . I think you have to exhibit it yourself. How you carry yourself and the people within your organization, how they go about carrying themselves, I think that’s the first example of how you build the culture. You make it a place where somebody’s going to be uncomfortable if they don’t fit the culture, if they don’t fit the things the way that you’re doing it. So, I think just setting a standard, ‘This is how we do things from day one.’”

“We practice the small details, holding people accountable to the small details so that the bigger things that matter, they can do those at the drop of a dime.

“We play a very open style of basketball where we actually don’t have a ton of plays . . The reason why we play the way we play is because we don’t like putting players into boxes . . players are multidimensional and can do multiple things. So, for us, we start four out, one in in our offense. We’re setting a lot of screens so players can make reads off those screens.”

“You’re always going to build on what somebody’s strengths are, and then every player has room to grow. We call them ‘areas of growth.’  We don’t want to say it’s a negative, it’s not a negative. It’s just an area where you need to grow.”

“My belief is that you give your team a great opportunity to be successful on any defensive possession, if you can keep the ball in front of you, if you can keep people in front of you. So that’s why I say a lot, ‘Discipline.’”

“This is not practice. This is actually a game. I don’t care what the score is. It’s an opportunity for you to get better. So I think looking at every situation as an opportunity to grow is how we present it and what we focus on.”

“I know that not a lot of the young kids love to be sitting in front of the computer and watching film work, but that is just such a big piece to development, and it’s an underrated piece, in my opinion, in terms of opportunity to get better . . being able to break down film, watch film on yourself and your opponents to gain an extra advantage.”

“We all know everybody in this league is talented. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t talented. Yes, some are more talented than others. We understand that. But on a normal level, everybody is talented. So, what are the things that we’re doing to create a separator? And I just think players that see the importance of really focusing on the mental aspect of the game, not just always the physical aspect of the games, are the ones that are leaps and bounds ahead of it.”

“I’m going to put you in the best situation possible. Trust me that I’m going to do that. And then let’s see how it works. If it doesn’t work, okay, we’ll come back to the drawing board and we’ll try something different. So I think it’s just open dialogue, open conversations with players about where we see them shining.”

“I’ve been in a lot of different positions. I just try to focus and tell these players, ‘Your turn will come.’  Continue to be prepared, continue to do the work so that you’re prepared when your turn comes, when your number is called, that you’re ready to step into that opportunity.”


Tanisha Wright Breakdown:

1:00 – Vision of Coaching
5:00 – Building Culture
8:30 – Player Accountability
12:00 – Unstoppable Moves
13:30 – Analytics
17:00 – Player Development Coach
19:00 – Game Reps
20:30 – Traditional Practices
23:30 – Different Type of Realities
25:30 – Adjustments
27:30 – Special Projects
28:30 – Playing Conceptually
31:00 – Evolving Landscape
34:30 – Development League
38:00 – Value of Mentor
40:30 – Off Season
42:00 – Small Jobs

Tanisha Wright Selected Links from the Podcast:

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