Amber Stocks out as Chicago Sky Head Coach and GM

The Sky will once again be looking for a new head coach after going 25-43 over the past two seasons.

Chicago Sky head coach and general manager Amber Stocks has been relieved of her duties, the team announced Friday afternoon.

“The entire organization would like to thank Amber for the hard work and dedication that she has given to the Chicago Sky for the past two seasons,” said Sky President and CEO Adam Fox. “At this time, we felt a change was necessary for the 2019 season. We wish her nothing but the best in the future. Our search for a new coach will begin immediately.”

Stocks was chosen to lead the Sky into the post-Elena Delle Donne era, which - somewhat predictably - got off to a rocky start. After making the playoffs in four straight seasons under previous head coach Pokey Chatman, the Sky went just 12-22 in 2017. They were, however, compensated with a pair of lottery picks in the subsequent WNBA Draft (one of which was acquired by Stocks midseason in exchange for Tamera Young and Imani McGee-Stafford), and after using them to select high-ceiling wing players Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams, expectations for the Sky were significantly higher in 2018.

Those expectations were not met, however. Despite a solid rookie campaign by DeShields and outstanding point guard play from Courtney Vandersloot, the Sky finished just one game better than they did in 2017, missing the playoffs once again and landing the #4 overall pick in the 2019 Draft - the worst possible scenario after finishing with a two-year cumulative record of 25-43.

In a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Sky owner Michael Alter expressed his disappointment with the team's 2018 performance. 

“I didn’t expect we’d be in the championship, but I thought we’d be a [playoff] team and sort of on the climb-up,” Alter said. “We’re a little behind where I hoped we’d be, based on that. Last year was kind of what I expected with all the new parts. This year, I don’t feel like we moved forward from last year as much as I would’ve hoped."

Alter went on to say that he would examine Stocks' performance "within the next 30 to 60 days." Friday, it was made obvious that the process did not take nearly that long.

Sky ownership will now be tasked with bringing in a head coach who can effectively tap into their reservoir of talent. The future is bright for DeShields and Williams, and the backcourt of Vandersloot and Allie Quigley make this an enticing job opening for anyone who enjoys coaching offense.

It's the Sky's defense, however, that must be addressed. Chicago finished last in the WNBA in Defensive Rating in 2018 - allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions - and one wonders whether they might have snuck into the playoffs if their defensive performance was even slightly more effective. 

As for who Alter eventually hires, that's anyone's guess. The Sky have a history of asking their head coaches to also perform GM duties, and if that's the case once again, their next leader will have to make a wise selection at #4, keeping in mind that backup point guard Jamierra Faulkner will likely spend most of next season rehabbing from a severe knee injury. The team will also need to retain their core; High Post Hoops reports that both Quigley and Vandersloot are due for contract extensions. It's quite a bit to address, but the Sky's arrow is definitely pointed up, so don't be surprised if the team makes a decision sooner rather than later.

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