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 Sacramento Monarchs, but take a look at all of the criteria to get a good idea of how things work.
Years Active: 1997-2009
Prestige Score: 76.6
Prestige Rank: 6/23
If not for 2005 and 2006, Sacramento would be hovering around the middle of the pack as opposed to the top-six position it currently holds. From 1997-2004, the team amassed 337 points, its best season coming in 2001 with 101 points via its first-ever Western Conference Finals appearance and three of those campaigns ended in the negatives.
After the Monarchs reached the WNBA Finals in 2006, they fell off, tallying 51 points over their final three seasons. But it doesn’t matter. Sacramento’s back-to-back runs to The Finals were good enough to prop it up as the team earned 608 points from them, more than 60 percent of its overall raw points. Nothing is more valuable than a championship, and holding even just one is huge in our system, especially if your team only played for 13 seasons.
Unfortunately, the Monarchs died young, becoming the fourth of the first eight franchises to fold. But they had great accomplishments in their day, with the triumphs in 2005 and 2006, five Western Conference Finals showings and nine postseason berths, and that’s why they’re still to be celebrated a decade after their demise.
Sacramento Monarchs Totals
- WNBA Championships: 1 |100 points|
- WNBA Finals Appearances: 2 |120 points|
- Series Wins: 8 |240 points|
- Playoffs Wins: 24 |360 points|
- Playoffs Byes: 0 |0 points)|
- Playoffs Appearances: 9 |129 points|
- Regular Season Top Record: 0 |0 points|
- Above .500 Regular Season: 9 |36 points|
- All-WNBA Player on Roster: 9 |27 points|
- MVP on Roster: 1 |5 points|
- Coach of the Year: 1 |5 points|
- Regular Season Worst Record: 1 |-10 points|
- Below .500 Regular Season: 4 |-16 points|
Total points: |996|
Best Year: 2005
The Monarchs started the season well, capturing eight of their first 10 games to open the campaign. But it wasn’t until late July when the team really turned it on, starting a seven-game winning streak that bled into August, helping carry Sacramento to a 25-9 regular season record and top spot in the Western Conference, missing out on the best mark in the league by one game. Sacramento was pair with the No. 4 seed Los Angeles Sparks in the Western Conference Semifinals, the third-straight season the in-state foes met each other in the postseason, splitting the two previous series.
In Game 1, the Monarchs overcame 24 points from L.A.’s Chamique Holdsclaw for a slim 75-72 victory on crucial performances from Nicole Powell and Yolanda Griffith, who both scored 18 each on a combined 13-of-17 mark from the field. Sacramento closed out the series in Game 2, smacking the Sparks, 81-63, as five different Monarchs notched double-digit points.
In the Western Conference Finals, the No. 3 seed Houston Comets stood between Sacramento and its first-ever WNBA Finals appearance. Although Houston’s Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Michelle Snow all produced offensively, the Monarchs got enough via Kara Lawson and Griffith, plus an 11-point showing from DeMya Walker off the bench, equating to a 73-69 triumph and 1-0 series lead for the No. 1 seed. In Game 2, Swoopes scored 24, but Lawson, Griffith and Walker combined for 50 points in their team’s 74-65 series-clinching win that catapulted Sacramento further than ever before. The Connecticut Sun, the WNBA’s best team in the regular season, faced Sacramento in the WNBA Finals, the Sun’s second-straight showing in the league’s finale. In the opening showdown, Griffith posted 19 of her game-high 25 points in the second half as her team stole home-court advantage from Connecticut in a 69-65 victory.
In Game 2, Connecticut’s Brooke Wyckoff sank a triple to knot the game at 70 with two seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime, the Monarchs mustered nothing, that goose egg in bonus play helping the Sun even the series with a 77-70 win as Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Nykesha Sales and Katie Douglas scored 59 points together. With the series at an equilibrium, it went west to Sacramento for Game 3. At ARCO Arena, Connecticut nearly succeeded with a furious comeback in the second half to get back in the game after trailing by as many as 14. But in the game’s last few minutes, the Monarchs flew over the Sun, not allowing the visitors to score a single point in the last 3-minutes and 16-seconds of the fourth quarter as Sacramento regained the series lead, 66-55. In Game 4, with elimination on the line, Connecticut’s Aisha Jones put up 21 points off the bench and three other Sun players scored in double figures. But Griffith had 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, her second in two games, and Sacramento got fantastic performances out of Powell, Walker and Rebekkah Brunson, and the Monarchs won 62-59, clinching the first and only championship for one of the league’s original members.
Walker was Sacramento’s top scorer, her 14.1 points per game the team’s best. Following her were Griffith (13.8), Powell (10.7) and Lawson (8.0). Griffith led the team in rebounding with 6.6 boards per contest, and Ticha Penicheiro was its premier passer, averaging 4.4 assists each outing. It was John Whisenant’s second full season as Sacramento’s head coach after earning the job midway through the 2003 season. This was his first and only WNBA title. Griffith was recognized for her outstanding season as she was named to the All-WNBA First Team, and Whisenant claimed another major award for Sacramento, winning Coach of the Year honors for the 2005 campaign.
Worst Year: 2009
The Monarchs started the season with a couple defeats, then won their first game in the third matchup of the campaign. The team proceeded to drop six straight, then in July, it replicated those same results, losing another six in a row for a 3-14 mark midway through the year.
Sacramento went 9-8 from then on, but it wasn’t enough to escape the bottom of the WNBA barrel as the team finished last in the league by one game with a 12-22 final record. Not only was this the worst season in Sacramento’s history on the court, it was the team’s final campaign in existence. The organization folded in November 2009, concluding 13 years in the WNBA. The league tried to find new owners to relocate the franchise to the Bay Area but failed, and the organization officially ended in December.
“We enjoyed our time with the WNBA and the Monarchs,” Joe Maloof, co-owner of the Monarchs and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, said in a statement. “We are extremely proud of an amazing run that included six straight playoff appearances and the 2005 WNBA Championship. All of our resources are now dedicated to bringing the Sacramento Kings back to championship caliber form.”
Nicole Powell was the leading scorer with 16.7 points per game, with Rebekkah Brunson (12.3), Hamchetou Maiga-Ba (8.9) and Kara Lawson (8.8) next. Brunson led the effort on the glass, nabbing 7.0 rebounds per night, and Ticha Penicheiro was the top distributor, dishing 5.2 dimes per contest. It was Jenny Boucek’s third season as head coach, but she was fired in the middle of the season when the team was 3-10. John Whisenant filled in for her to complete the season and had his team 9-12 under him.
Winningest Coach: John Wisenant
Sacramento relieved head coach Maura McHugh of her head coaching duties in the middle of the 2003 season 18 games into the season. The team hired John Whisenant, who had already been with the organization as the general manager, as her replacement. He went 12-4 in his 16 games the rest of the regular season, turning a below-.500 mark under McHugh into a 19-15 finish and a playoff berth as the West’s No. 3 seed. Whisenant’s team advanced to the Western Conference Finals before bowing out to Los Angeles. In the following season, his first full campaign as head coach, Whisenant led the Monarchs to another postseason with a 18-16 record, this time as the No. 4 seed.
In a rematch of the 2003 Western Conference Finals, Sacramento met top-seeded L.A. in the first round, exacting revenge for the previous defeat in a major upset, 2-1. But the Monarchs slipped one series before The Finals for the second-straight season, losing to the No. 2 seed Seattle Storm in three games, 2-1. The coach took the team to heights never previously seen in 2005, with a fantastic regular season, followed by Sacramento’s first WNBA Finals appearance, let alone championship. His performance that season earned him WNBA Coach of the Year honors. Whisenant had the team back in The Finals again in 2006, but the Detroit Shock ended Sacramento’s dreams of a repeat with a 3-2 victory.
Whisenant resigned from his position as head coach following the 2006 season to focus solely on his general managing responsibilities for the team. But he would see Sacramento’s sideline again a few years later when his replacement, Jenny Boucek, was fired during the 2009 campaign. Whisenant stepped in to finish out the season, going 9-12 in his 21 games. In his 168 total games spread across five different seasons, Whisenant held an overall record of 104-64 (19-10 in the playoffs) with one championship, two WNBA Finals and four postseason showings.
After the team dissolved in 2009, Whisenant became the head coach and general manager of the New York Liberty in 2010. He was with the Liberty until 2012.