Editor’s Note: In 2019, Nothing But Nylon created Prestige Rankings, a system designed to display the very best and very worst teams any basketball league has had to offer over history. Using points based upon various accomplishments or failures, we have ranked every WNBA team in multiple ways to show you who has truly run the show since 1997. We’re examining the defunct teams, currently the Charlotte Sting, but take a look at all of the criteria to get a good idea of how things work.
Years Active: 1997-2006
Prestige Score: 33.4
Prestige Rank: 12/23
Charlotte wasn’t too bad in its first few years, earning positive points in our system in the league’s first three seasons, including 72 points in 1999 for its run to the Eastern Conference Finals. An off year in 2000 set the Sting back slightly, but they more than made up for it with their WNBA Finals showing in 2001.
After getting close to a championship, Charlotte fell off, failing to win a single playoff game from 2002-06 during the team’s last five seasons of operations. The Sting made the postseason in 2002 and 2003, but otherwise, they had only negative seasons to close their existence. That one WNBA Finals run is what has kept Charlotte the tiniest bit relevant in the league’s history.
Without that, it would be as forgotten as the Utah Starzz and Orlando Miracle. But it happened, and one of the best coaches to ever sit on the sidelines of a WNBA game took the team there. That’s why the Sting matter.
Charlotte Sting Totals
- WNBA Championships: 0 |0 points|
- WNBA Finals Appearances: 1 |60 points|
- Series Wins: 3 |90 points|
- Playoffs Wins: 6 |90 points|
- Playoffs Byes: 0 |0 points)|
- Playoffs Appearances: 6 |98 points|
- Regular Season Top Record: 0 |0 points|
- Above .500 Regular Season: 5 |20 points|
- All-WNBA Player on Roster: 2 |6 points|
- MVP on Roster: 0 |0 points|
- Coach of the Year: 0 | 0points|
- Regular Season Worst Record: 1 |-10 points|
- Below .500 Regular Season: 5 |-20 points|
Total points: |334|
Best Year: 2001
Charlotte’s 2001 campaign couldn’t have kicked off much worse. The team won its first game of the season on its fourth try, then dropped seven straight to solidify its 1-10 start. But the Sting immediately followed that with a six-game winning streak to add some balance to their record. Charlotte won its final seven matchups of the regular season to complete an 18-14 mark, placing the team fourth in the East for the conference’s last playoff berth.
The Sting faced the No. 1 seed Cleveland Rockets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a rematch of a regular season game played six days before Game 1, which Charlotte won, 55-53. Charlotte won again in the second meeting, 53-46, behind 16 points from Andrea Stinson, but couldn’t keep it going in Game 2 as Penny Taylor and Rushia Brown combined for 24 points off the bench for the Rockers in Cleveland’s 69-51 victory. In the rubber match, Stinson again scored in double figures, with three other Sting players joining her, as Charlotte pulled off the upset, 72-64, to advance to the second round.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Charlotte was pitted against No. 2 seed New York Liberty, who had won the conference three of the last four years. To begin the series, the higher seed set the tone, with Tari Phillips and her 14 points leading the way for New York in its 61-57 triumph. But the Sting responded in Game 2. Stinson and Dawn Staley scored 18 points each, and Stinson posted eight rebounds and eight assists, as Charlotte knotted the series with a 62-53 win. Charlotte finished the job in Game 3, with Staley and Allison Feaster combining for 31 points as the Sting won a low-scoring battle, 48-44, earning a trip to the organization’s first-ever WNBA Finals.
The road ended there, though, as the West’s representative, No. 1 seed Los Angeles Sparks, dominated like they did to the rest of the league during the regular season. Charlotte hung around somewhat in Game 1, only falling 75-66 as LA’s Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton-Jones posted 43 points between them, but the dam broke in Game 2. The Sparks routed the Sting, 82-54, as Leslie scored 24 again and three other Sparks scored in double digits, a disappointing end to Charlotte’s best-ever season.
Stinson was the team’s leading scorer, posting 14.1 points per game. Feaster was next, putting up 11.4 per night, with Staley (9.3) and Tammy Sutton-Brown (6.8) following her. Feaster also pulled down the most rebounds, averaging 4.8 per contest, and Staley was the team’s top distributor, dishing 5.6 dimes per outing. It was Anne Donovan’s first season as Charlotte’s head coach and second of her career after serving as the interim honcho for the Indiana Fever in 2000.
Worst Year: 2005
Charlotte began 2005 similar to 2001, losing its first three, winning for the first time in the fourth game, then dropping six in a row to start 1-9. The difference was, though, the Sting didn’t respond.
The team lost 10 consecutive games from mid-July into August, an abysmal 3-22 with less than a month remaining in the season. In the end, Charlotte finished 6-28, the worst record in the WNBA that season by one game.
Tangela Smith averaged a team-high 13.6 points per game, with Sheri Sam (11.4) Tammy Sutton-Brown (9.4) and Allison Feaster (9.1) next. Sutton-Brown was the team’s top rebounder, hauling down 5.3 boards per contest, with Smith close behind at 5.2, and Dawn Staley posted 5.3 assists per night, the best on the squad. It was head coach Trudi Lacey’s third season at the helm, but after 24 games and a 3-21 record, she was fired and replaced by Muggsy Bogues, who closed the year out at 3-7.
Winningest Coach: Anne Donovan
Technically, Donovan isn’t the winningest coach in Charlotte Sting history. Her overall record from her two seasons at the helm of the team is 40-34 (4-6 in the playoffs), a .541 win percentage. Marynell Meadors, who was the organization’s first head coach and held the position from 1997-99, went 38-35 (0-3 in the playoffs), good for a .543 win percentage. However, I’m giving Donovan the nod for doing what Meadors didn’t get close to: the WNBA Finals.
Donovan was hired in 2001 after a 9-23 campaign as the Indiana Fever’s interim head coach in 2000. In her first year in charge, she led Charlotte to its most successful season. The team went 18-14 in the regular season after a massive turnaround from an ugly start, entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the East and proceeded to make a run all the way to the WNBA Finals. The Sting ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Sparks in the championship, but it was by far the best campaign in Charlotte’s roughly decade-long history.
In 2002, Donovan’s Sting finished 18-14 again, this time placing atop the Eastern Conference. But with the roles reversed, Charlotte could not return to the WNBA Finals, getting swept in the first round, 2-0, by the No. 4 seed Washington Mystics, suffering the same fate it delivered to the top-seeded Cleveland Rockers the year before.
In December 2002, Donovan was announced as the next head coach of the Seattle Storm, capping her career in Charlotte at two seasons. She ended her Sting stint with one WNBA Finals appearance and two postseason berths. The coach would be in Seattle from 2003-07, winning her first and only WNBA championship in 2004, her second and final trip to the WNBA Finals. Donovan coached the Liberty for two seasons, then dropped to the college ranks for three years before returning to the WNBA to coach the Connecticut Sun for three campaigns from 2013-15.