Does the WNBA have an officiating problem? Coaches cite high turnover, inconsistency

The Athletic’s Live Coverage of WNBA Finals Game 2: New York Liberty vs. Las Vegas Aces

The Frustrations of WNBA Officiating

LAS VEGAS — Jonquel Jones, sitting at the postgame media dais after the New York Liberty’s loss to the Las Vegas Aces in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, was asked about a controversial call during the game. Rather than fully answering the question, she responded with a smile and a refusal to comment, hinting at the possibility of fines. This marked a change from her previous criticisms of officiating.

While complaints about officiating are common in sports, this WNBA season has seen an increase in frustration voiced by players and teams. The Athletic has had conversations with several WNBA general managers, head coaches, and assistants about the officiating woes, with many expressing concerns about inconsistency and turnover among officials.

Sue Blauch, the head of WNBA referee performance and development, defended the league’s officiating performance, stating that independent NBA-hired game reviewers evaluate every call and non-call. Monty McCutchen, the NBA senior vice president and head of referee development and training, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the consistent training and expectations for officials across the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, and Basketball Africa League.

However, some within the WNBA remain skeptical. They point to the high turnover rate of officials moving from the WNBA to the NBA and argue that their league is left with less experienced officials as a result. The question arises: how can the WNBA retain the best officials?

Despite disagreements between coaches and officials, there is an avenue for feedback and improvement. Coaches and team executives can submit plays for review, and coaches are asked to fill out feedback surveys after games. However, some coaches feel that these efforts do not yield significant changes in officiating.

Overall, the frustrations surrounding WNBA officiating continue as the league enters Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. While the officiating performance has received praise from some, there is a consensus that improvements can be made to ensure more consistent and fair calls.


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