A tearful James Wade accepts Coach of Year award: ‘What I’m doing, doesn’t belong to me’

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Two hours before the Sky played their first playoff game in two years, coach James Wade sat in the front row of a press conference in a side room at Wintrust Arena. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert showered the first-year coach with praises for the way he turned around the organization before honoring him as the league’s Coach of the Year.

But here’s the thing about Wade: It’s never about him, it’s about his players.

Asked what, in his eyes, was the biggest moment this season, he pointed to his players’ accomplishments — from Astou Ndour’s breakthrough after Jantel Lavender was injured to Diamond DeShields rebounding after a bad performance to Courtney Vandersloot recording her 300th assist this season.

“A lot of those moments that mean a lot to me, it’s not a moment that belongs to me but the players,” he said.

But this time, it was Wade’s moment. And in typical fashion, he shared with everyone.

After Engelbert presented him with a pristine Tiffany & Co. trophy, Wade stood in front of an orange WNBA backdrop at a podium and pulled out a piece of white folded paper with a list of people he wanted to recognize.

He thanked Sky fans for their support and then after a brief moment to catch his emotions, he thanked the organization for taking a chance on him.

Wade thanked his wife, Edwige Lawson-Wade, who is helping him co-parent their son, though his job responsibilities have increased immensely over the last 10 months. He thanked his parents and friends for their support. And of course, he thanked his players for buying into his process.

Wade wants to set an example for his players and inspire others.

“What I’m going, it doesn’t belong to me,” Wade said. “What I mean by that is everything can be taken away from you but what can’t is what you impart on people and so forth.

“I just try to be an example so somebody can follow. Like the little kids on the West Side of Chicago, they can see somebody that looks like me on the stage today, I think it’s special.”

Wade doesn’t give himself enough credit. He was integral in helping the Sky jump from a 10th-place finish last season to being a playoff team this season.

“He’s been such a good leader for us,” Vandersloot said. “He would tell you, ‘Oh, it’s their chemistry and all this,’ but we’ve had chemistry. … This is almost the same roster with the addition of a couple of rookies and Jantel obviously helps a lot, but it’s him at the head of this thing.”

“He’s a great coach, to be able to come in here year one and do what he’s done, we give most of the credit to him,” DeShields said. “And on the flip side, he gives most the credit to us. So I think we’ve had a very, very good relationship. And [we’re] just excited for the future.”

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