Hiring Nicki Collen has proven to be a perfect move for Atlanta. The rookie head coach has had a lot of success this season. In fact, the league has named her the 2018 WNBA Coach of the Year. Collen is now the second coach in Atlanta history to win the honor, joining Marynell Meadors (2009).
Last season, the Dream missed the playoffs and finished 12-22. With Collen leading the team, Atlanta finished second in league standings with an overall record of 23-11. With 23 regular season victories, this is the most wins the franchise has ever had. The Dream earned a two-round bye into the playoffs.
Defense has become a staple for Collen’s team. Atlanta led the WNBA in defensive rating, allowing 97.1 points per 100 possessions, and blocked a league-high 5.29 shots per game. The Dream’s defense held its opponent to the lowest field goal percentage at 42.3 and second-lowest from behind the arc at 32.1%.
A big change with the Dream has been the way Collen’s players have responded to her. Tiffany Hayes had a career regular season in scoring at 17.2 PPG and assists with 2.7 APG. Jessica Breland has been a force for Atlanta on the boards (7.9 RPG) and blocks (1.9 BPG) which are also career-highs. Renee Montgomery is another player who has improved under Collen’s coaching as she posted her highest scoring average with 10.3 PPG.
Behind Collen’s impressive year was an executive who helped put the team together. The WNBA honored Atlanta’s Chris Sienko as the 2018 Executive of the Year. This is also Sienko’s first year in the general manager position with the Dream and winning the award.
Last November, Sienko was hired by Atlanta to assist in hiring a new coach, therefore, he was instrumental in bringing in Collen.
Not only did Sienko help hire Collen, he added core players and 2017 All-Stars Hayes and Elizabeth Williams. In fact, earlier this year Hayes signed a contract extension with the Dream. Another big signing was having Angel McCoughtry ink a multi-year contract when she returned to playing. Free agency period was a huge time for Atlanta as they added Breland and Montgomery.
A big spark off the bench for Atlanta has been Alex Bentley. Sienko traded Layshia Clarendon and a second-round pick in the 2019 draft in order to acquire Bentley from Connecticut.
The Atlanta Dream tip-off again tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 against Washington in Game 2 of the semifinals.