WNBA coach will be on the clock from France in virtual draft

Apr 15, 2020

Chicago coach James Wade jokes he might have an advantage in the WNBA’s virtual draft despite picking from France where it will be after midnight when the Sky make their first choice

NEW YORK (AP) — Chicago coach James Wade jokes that he might have an advantage in the WNBA's virtual draft Friday night despite picking from France where it will be after midnight when the Sky make their first choice.

It’s not his first time having to draft virtually. Wade worked from a hotel room in Hungary during last year's draft as the Russian team he coaches in the winter was in the European Final Four when the event was taking place in New York.

“The Wi-Fi wasn’t great. We had the same exact setup. I’m a pro with this type of setup, other coaches are rookies," Wade said laughing from his home in Montpellier, France where he has been staying with his wife and son since leaving Russia in early March.

Wade and the Chicago ownership group discussed him returning to the windy city for the draft, but they suggested that he should be with his family in France since it was uncertain when the season would be starting. While the league decided to hold the draft on Friday as scheduled, the WNBA announced on April 3 that the start of the season would be indefinitely postponed.

Having a virtual draft poses a host of logistical challenges for teams, coaches, general managers and ESPN, which will also host the NFL draft virtually a week later.

Usually staffs are together in rooms in their own team facilities. But with coaches and GMs spread throughout the country, there neeeds to be extra computers, IPads, phones and of course solid internet service.

“I’m going to have the coaches on Zoom the entire time and it's like we’re in the same room," Wade said. "Zoom is going to be on the IPad. The other computer will be used to look at analytical stuff and data. I’m going on one phone, which is the league call. The other, emergency phone, I will have ownership on that to let them know who we're picking.”

And there is no concern if somehow his phone drops the call right before Chicago's No. 8 pick. Wade said his assistants will also be on the league call if necessary.

The league-wide call that all the teams are on during the draft is done in real time, a few minutes ahead of the ESPN broadcast, so there isn’t a fear that a pick won’t be in on time.

Washington coach Mike Thibault, who traded out of the first round on Tuesday to acquire Tina Charles, wasn't sure if he would get together with his son Eric, who is an assistant coach. If they did, he said they would maintain social distancing, but not having a pick until the end of the second round means they might not need to be in the same room.

Unlike the previous three years when the Las Vegas franchise had the No. 1 pick, the team doesn't have a selection until the third round. Aces general manager Dan Padover will be in Connecticut and coach Bill Laimbeer in Florida.

Padover said that he's already missed the camaraderie that usually happens this week.

“The biggest difference between last year and this virtual setup is the week leading up to the draft. In the past, you'd have good banter with staff members in person,” he said. “There's a natural component to walk in and out of conference rooms to mock (draft) things up with people. That's the funnest part with our staff and those across the leagues. It sort of ramps up the season.”

And of course there will be no live photo ops for players with the WNBA commissioner.

ESPN hosts Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo and Sue Bird will be in studio in Connecticut which should feel similar to their normal onsite draft setup. But the draftees will all be at remote sites around the country.

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