Coach Thibault on 2023 WNBA Rule Changes

The WNBA is growing and adjusting with the times, which means new rules to keep up with how women’s basketball is evolving. If you have not heard of the new rules this season, there are four big changes that fans should be aware of: 

Coach’s Challenge 

This rule will allow a team one challenge per game (including overtime), regardless of whether that challenge is successful. When a team calls this challenge, they will have the chance to get an instant replay on a few different play calls, including a called foul on their team, a called out-of-bounds violation, or a called basket interference violation.  

This new rule will showcase some of the more strategic decisions of WNBA coaches, as they have to really decide when and how they utilize this challenge. Launching this challenge will be used as a timeout for the team, whether the ruling on the floor is overturned or not.  

On the new Coach’s Challenge rule, Coach Eric says, “We (the coaching staff) definitely have a strategy around it. I think it will be good for two reasons. One, I think it actually helps the officials. I know the official will tell you they feel bad when they miss a call, and so they have a chance to get it right. Especially what can be a crucial call in the game. And the second thing is, I’m perfectly fine with doing away with the last two-minute out-of-bounds reviews automatically.” 

He adds, “I think it will be good for fan experience and player experience of not stopping a million times in the last two minutes of a game. If you really think a call is messed up, you have your challenge and can use it.” 

Transition Take Foul 

During this season, a new penalty will be implemented in response to defensive players committing “transition take fouls”. 

In the instance of a Transition Take Foul, once awarded, the offensive team will have the opportunity to select any player to shoot one free throw.  That offensive team will retain possession of the ball and the defensive player who commits the foul will be assessed as a common foul. The primary factor to determine if a foul constitutes a “take foul” is whether the defender made a legitimate play on the ball. 

Coach Eric weighed in, “I think it will definitely improve game flow. It’ll be more transition opportunities, which are some of the most exciting plays.” 

“It will be, I feel, less dangerous plays in the middle of the court, where you have someone almost borderline clotheslining somebody at halfcourt while they’re in full flow.” 

“It makes everybody play basketball. Nobody wants to see the ball stop and now we take it out on the sidelines, and everybody resets. They want to see great athletes and great players in full speed and in transition, trying to make plays. It’ll put a premium on transition offense and transition defense.” 

Resumptions of Play Procedures 

This rule has been modified this season to include the new Coach’s Challenge, or any call treated as an inadvertent whistle. There will be two main factors that will create a clear decision as to which team will have imminently gained possession of the ball at the time of the whistle. Those include the proximity of opposing player(s) to the ball (or lack thereof); as well as the actual outcome of the play in the natural and immediate aftermath of the whistle (e.g. a player secured the ball). This will cause for a smoother and more cohesive game in terms of flow, for both teams.  

Bench Conduct

This rule is in place for the 2023 WNBA Season to reduce disruptions and distractions during live play. Specifically, players not in the game may not remain standing at or away from their team’s bench during the game for a prolonged period and, along with coaches, are prohibited from attempting to distract their opponents in an unsportsmanlike manner.

Violations are subject to penalties (e.g., technical foul, delay of game). The introduction of this rule has been an adjustment for most teams.

All these rules were set in place and updated this season to benefit the teams and the coaches in attempts to improve the game. To see how the Mystics and Coach Eric use these different rules to their advantage, fans will have to tune-in to this exciting 2023 WNBA season.