- Nancy Lieberman, Basketball analyst / Writer
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Though nearly seven years have passed since Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor won his last WNBA title, he has had an impact on every champion since.
Chancellor, who resigned Wednesday after 10 years with the Comets, and his Houston teams raised the standard in women's professional basketball. He swept the first four WNBA crowns, won more games in WNBA history (211) than any of his peers and was the only coach to lead his team to the playoffs in each of the league's first seven seasons.
But for as impressive as the numbers are, how Chancellor succeeded is perhaps his biggest legacy and contribution to the league. He didn't just raise the standard -- Chancellor created a formula for success, one that everyone tried to emulate.
All the other coaches and general managers across the league would look at their own roster and try to get it to match up with the Comets, from the type of personnel he had to how his teams played defense. Chancellor's Comets became the prototype by which other teams would draft. Even when the Los Angeles Sparks unseated the Comets in 2001, Michael Cooper's back-to-back championship teams were modeled after Houston, which won the WNBA title from 1997 to 2000.
The WNBA's early success and popularity were very vital to the league's longevity. That's not to say the WNBA wouldn't have celebrated its 10th anniversary this past season had it not been for Houston's dynasty, but Chancellor's teams really taught people what the pro level was all about. From the very start, the bar was set very high.
Another integral part of Chancellor's success was his unique way of handling his star power. He got to coach four of the best players in WNBA history in Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Janeth Arcain. That could have been a lot of ego, but he made it work and handled them all so well. This league will miss him. In addition to being a fantastic, proven coach -- at the college, pro and Olympic levels -- Chancellor has been an incredible ambassador who has served our game so well on so many levels.
Before resigning Wednesday, Chancellor was the only remaining head coach in the WNBA to have been with his original team since the league's inception in 1997. He cited a desire to spend more time with his family.
"I won four championships with this organization," Chancellor said, "and I walk away with memories that will last me a lifetime."
And thanks to Chancellor, so do we.
Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.
16dBonnie D. Ford