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Who is the better head coach? Mike Thibault or Cheryl Reeve?

Last month, I was part of a selection committee to help pick out a bracket of who the best head coaches could be.

Washington Mystics v Minnesota Lynx
Mike Thibault has won the most WNBA regular season games as a coach. Cheryl Reeve is tied for winning the most championships.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Mystics are beginning their 2020 season tomorrow! But I also wanted to revisit this topic one last time before they and the Washington Wizards start playing games simultaneously.

Last month, I was part of an informal selection committee which was arranged by Aneela Khan, who runs her own blog on women’s basketball and also wrote some pieces on Swish Appeal back in the day. The committee selected 16 WNBA head coaches to be part of the list.

As you might have guessed, Mike Thibault made the list. There are some other Washington coaches in the bracket. Former Mystics head coach Richie Adubato and current Wizards assistant coach Corey Gaines (he was once the Phoenix Mercury’s head coach) were in the field of 16.

Thibault advanced in three rounds of social media voting where he was matched up against long-time Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve in the final round and lost.

From a pro-Mystics or pro-Thibault perspective, here is his cased on why he should be considered the best head coach of all-time in the WNBA:

  • Thibault led two teams to the WNBA Finals — While with the Connecticut Sun, Thibault coached them to two Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005. In Washington, he did so in 2018 and 2019.
  • He didn’t have many juggernaut teams — I don’t think Thibault ever had a superstar-laden team with multiple first overall and second overall picks from the draft. The 2019 Mystics are probably the closest to that, but they had to trade for Elena Delle Donne (the second pick in 2013) and sign Kristi Toliver (the third pick in 2009) in free agency.
  • Youth development from “diamonds in the rough” in D.C. — When he took over the Sun, they relocated from Orlando and were a mediocre team. Thibault’s job rebuilding the Mystics is nothing short of exceptionally good, considering that they were 5-29 in 2012, the season before he arrived — and didn’t have many pieces to rebuild with. It’s also just as remarkable that two second round draft picks in two different seasons: Emma Meesseman in 2013 and Natasha Cloud in 2015 became two of their core pieces of Washington’s championship run last year.

But ultimately, these are reasons why Reeve won the final round

  • Four championships in seven years — Thibault has one WNBA championship and Reeve has four, tied for first among all coaches.
  • The ability to manage multiple superstar personalities over the years — A team with an in-prime Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and centers from Taj McWilliams-Franklin to Janel McCarville and then Sylvia Fowles for most of the 2010s? That’s a juggernaut squad that would have beaten the 2019 Mystics (Sorry fans). I’m not going to insinuate that there was locker room drama in Minnesota. But superstar-laden teams have to be managed well so no one player gets dissatisfied. Reeve deserves credit for that.
  • Reeve is rebuilding Minnesota. — It’s easy to label Reeve as “being lucky to be in the right place at the right time” for their dynasty because she first arrived in 2010, the year before Moore was drafted. But now, the Lynx Dynasty of the 2010s is now gone. Whalen retired, Augustus left for the Los Angeles Sparks this season and Moore is missing the second straight season of her career to focus on social justice issues. Napheesa Collier was drafted sixth overall last season and was the Rookie of the Year after being their third leading scorer (13.1 ppg) while the Lynx made the playoffs with an 18-16 record. Collier will have a bigger role this season with Odyssey Sims sitting out due to having her first child, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the Lynx do this year.

So who do you think is the better head coach between Thibault and Reeve? Let us know in the comments below.


Who is the better head coach, all things considered?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Mike Thibautl
    (19 votes)
  • 53%
    Cheryl Reeve
    (22 votes)
41 votes total Vote Now