The noise was deafening. As Cheryl Reeve shouted from the sideline, the Lynx surged to a 93-85 victory over Chicago at Target Center to clinch a playoff berth for the ninth straight season.
Sky coach James Wade had seen it before, from a seat next to Reeve. His new vantage point hardly changed his perspective.
Reeve thinks Wade should be the WNBA coach of the year.
Wade thinks even more highly of Reeve.
“Cheryl?’’ he said. “She might be the best coach in basketball, period.’’
There were moments Tuesday when Reeve had to wonder whether no good lesson goes unpunished. She hired Wade to be an assistant coach with the Lynx in 2017. They won a WNBA title together, and Reeve recommended Wade when he interviewed with Chicago last year.
In his first year as a head coach, Wade is taking the Sky to its first playoff berth since 2016. His philosophy: Why reinvent the wheel when you can borrow one?
“I stole everything,’’ he said. “You don’t want to overthink things and reinvent stuff. They have a winning culture, and they won for so long and there’s a reason for that, and I tried to steal their reasons.’’
For a coach who won four league championships in seven years, Reeve hasn’t grown much of a coaching tree, in part because some of her assistants stay in their roles, in part because Jim Petersen, one of her best-known aides, left his job to concentrate on his Timberwolves broadcast duties for FSN.
Wade is a strong first branch, even if his mentor is making his job more difficult. He brought Chicago to Target Center for the season opener, and the Lynx won, 89-71. After another loss at Target Center, Chicago is 18-12 and fighting for a top-three seed.
“I mean, it feels a little bit surreal, seeing how far we’ve come since then,’’ Wade said. “I don’t think we’re the same team. That’s a credit to our coaching staff and a credit to how hard our players have worked to not duplicate that performance and keep pushing forward. For us to have already clinched by the time we came back here, with some games to go, it feels pretty good.’’
While with the Lynx, Wade became friends with Ed Prohofsky, a Wolves and Lynx adviser and recent inductee into the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
The two spent time together Monday. Late Tuesday night, Prohofsky huddled with Reeve in a Target Center hallway.
“Ed is like another father to me,’’ Wade said. “We have a special relationship. I was with him like every day when we were here. He still sends me messages of encouragement I have an affection and a love for him and his basketball mind.’’
Wade was a basketball-playing vagabond. In college, he played for Middle Tennessee, Chattanooga State Community College and Kennesaw State. As a pro, he played in France, Russia, Spain and the Czech Republic over 13 seasons.
He broke into coaching with San Antonio in the WNBA in 2012. Seven years later, he was seeking advice from Reeve on how to be a head coach.
“The first thought when you’ve never been a head coach is, ‘Am I good enough?’ ” Reeve said. “That’s the first step. It didn’t take long for James to realize he was good enough — and then, I always say, be yourself. I think he’s done that.’’
Wade coaches a player whose career path resembles his. Sky guard Allie Quigley was a second-round pick in 2008. She is with her fifth WNBA team, and she has become one of the best pure shooters in league history.
“It can take a long time to find a role in the WNBA,’’ Wade said. “It took her a while to get situated; look where she is now.’’
Reeve and the Lynx will continue their run of playoff berths. Wade and the Sky look like they’re just starting theirs.
“I’m not surprised by what Cheryl and her staff are doing,’’ Wade said. “They get stuff done.’’
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org