She becomes only Black woman head coach in the WNBA
By Dorothy J. Gentry
That she just became the only Black woman head coach in the WNBA—in the backdrop of 2020, the #SayHerName and Black Lives Matter movements and the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd among others—is not lost on Vickie Johnson.
“I take great pride in that. I know this is an incredible moment for all of us and for the League,” said the new coach of the Dallas Wings.
“I’m a Black woman. I walk this every day. But it’s more than just that it’s about being a role model for all people—Black women, white women—everyone; young guys, young girls and more, so I take great pride in that and everything I do.
Johnson, 48, knows and accepts the fact that she is a role model. “I hope they see me and they are proud and one day want to be like me—not only just me but my team as well” she said. “We represent a very small group of people being professional athletes, being professional coaches and we take great pride in that.”
On December 9th, The Wings officially announced the hiring of Johnson, a two-time WNBA All-Star, as the team’s head coach. She joins the Wings after serving as an Assistant Coach with the Las Vegas Aces franchise, helping guide Las Vegas to the best record in the WNBA this past summer. The Aces made the team’s second consecutive trip to the WNBA Playoffs and earned a berth in the 2020 WNBA Finals.
“Vickie was the right person to lead out team at this time,” said Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb. “Someone who can relate to the players, who understands the challenges of the profession and someone who knows how to develop the skill sets of young professional athletes.
“As an original member of the WNBA, a two-time All-Star and a respected assistant coach who has served under some of the game’s most successful head coaches and an individual who is proud to call North Texas home, Vickie Johnson met or exceeded all the criteria we were looking for in our head coach.”
Johnson—who has lived in the North Texas area since 2004—is not only a WNBA coach, she is also a former player. She was drafted twelfth overall by the New York Liberty during the inaugural WNBA season of 1997. She became a two-time WNBA All-Star (1999, 2001) and the first player in franchise history to record 2,000 points. Johnson would go on to score 3,000 points with the Liberty in eight seasons before finishing her career with the San Antonio Silver Stars from 2006 to 2009, winning the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award in 2008.
In 2011, Johnson was hired by the Silver Stars as an assistant coach. She served in that role for seven years before spending one year as the head coach in San Antonio. When the Silver Stars relocated to Las Vegas in 2018, Johnson was retained as an assistant coach on Bill Laimbeer’s staff where she was prior to coming to the Wings.
“I am excited to be able to work with a promising group of young and talented players. My goal is to build a strong foundation and a championship team. I know that it will take time, hard work and dedication, and I am up for the challenge. I have established Dallas as my home base since 2004 and I have been an active member of this community. I am now thrilled to be able to coach in the city that I love.”
Johnson said she has talked with the team and is looking forward to coaching what has been one of the youngest WNBA teams the past two seasons. She inherits an extremely talented team including the reigning 2020 WNBA scoring champ Arike Ogunbowale; Satou Sabally who finished third in 2020 Rookie of the Year voting; veteran Allisha Gray—the 2017 WNBA Rookie of the Year—and Isabelle Harrison, the 2019 Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.
“The thing I love about this young team is the passion they have and the willingness to be better. It’s just a matter of bringing it all together. They have all come from prestigious universities so they know how to win,” she said. “I have to put them in position to be successful on and off the court. It’s also important to talk about off the court and touching the community; we’re role models and every aspect of it and I want to make my team represents that.
“I am going to help them reach another level and develop their skills to fit into a system that will highlight their talent as individuals and as a team. But it will be a team aspect all the way through,” Johnson stressed. “Chemistry is the key to success and also sisterhood. Not just in season but off season. It’s very important for them to reach out and ensure they are okay as people first and then as teammates. “
As excited as Johnson is to take the reigns of the Wings, the players are equally thrilled at their new coach.
“I’m really excited about Coach Johnson coming on board,” said Ogunbowale. “She has a great reputation and it will be exciting to be coached by someone who played in the WNBA. We’re a young team, and I know I’m looking forward to her leadership.”
“The future is very bright in Dallas,” said Gray. “And with the hire of Vickie Johnson I’m sure she will do great things for the Dallas Wings organization.”
A Louisiana native, Johnson was a two-letter athlete in high school before beginning her collegiate career at Louisiana Tech University in 1992. She was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 1995 and a two-time All-American, leading her team to the NCAA Championship game in 1994. Johnson ended her collegiate career with 1,891 points and 831 rebounds, earning an induction into the Louisiana Tech Hall of Fame in 2007.