As previously recommended by the WNBA’s Competition Committee and approved by the league’s Board of Governors for the 2023 season, the WNBA will for the first time implement a Coach’s Challenge.

The league also will put into effect modified rules for out-of-bounds call reviews, transition take fouls, resumption of play procedures, and bench conduct.

“The Coach’s Challenge will provide head coaches an opportunity to challenge an event that they believe was incorrectly called and introduces a strategic element to the WNBA game,” said WNBA Head of League Operations Bethany Donaphin. “We will look at the rule on a trial basis and monitor the data around its use throughout the season.”

Coach’s Challenge

Key features of the Coach’s Challenge:

• The Coach’s Challenge rule will allow a team one challenge per game (including overtime), regardless of whether the challenge is successful.
• A team can use its challenge to trigger an instant replay review of three specific events: a called foul on their own team, a called out-of-bounds violation, or a called goaltending or basket interference violation. Replay for a called goaltending or basket interference violation will only be triggered by the on-court officials during the last two minutes of the fourth period or last two minutes of any overtime period replay. A Coach’s Challenge is now the only mechanism to trigger a replay review of an out-of-bounds violation at any point in the game. (Under the previous rule, referees could trigger reviews for out-of-bounds reviews in last two minutes of the fourth quarter and last two minutes of any overtime period).
• To initiate a challenge, a team must immediately call a legal full timeout and the head coach will provide the visual signal for a challenge by twirling an index finger toward the referees and verbally indicate the call being challenged.
• If a team attempts to challenge an event with no remaining timeouts, the team is charged an excessive timeout, for which the penalty is a technical foul, and no challenge will take place.
• If a team calls a timeout to challenge an event that may not be reviewed, the team will be charged a timeout but will retain its challenge.
• As with other replay reviews, in order to overturn the event as called on the floor, there must be clear and conclusive visual evidence that the call was incorrect.
• Each challengeable event will have a unique set of reviewable matters for consideration. One example is that during a review for a called foul, the officials can rule on the matter of continuation.

Transition Take Foul

Beginning in 2023 a heightened penalty will be imposed when a defensive player commits a “transition take foul.”

“The modified rules regarding transition take fouls will lead to improved game flow and increased fast break scoring opportunities while still allowing strategic ‘take fouls’ in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and last two minutes of all overtime periods,” said Donaphin.

Key elements regarding the “transition take foul”:

• The offensive team will be awarded one free throw, which may be attempted by any player on the floor at the time the foul is committed.
• The offensive team will retain possession of the ball and the defensive player who commits the foul will be assessed a common personal foul.
• The primary factor to determine if a foul constitutes a “take foul” is whether the defender made a legitimate play on the ball. Other relevant factors include whether (i) the defender gives up on the play (i.e. a defender wraps up or grabs an opponent in a non-basketball manner), or (ii) the defender is out of position and unable to make a legal play on the ball or offensive player.

Resumption of Play Procedures

The resumption of play rules have been modified such that, if applicable in connection with a Coach’s Challenge, or any call treated as an inadvertent whistle (e.g. a shot clock violation overturned via replay review initiated by the on-court officials during the last two minutes of the game), possession will be awarded to the team that clearly and conclusively would have gained possession at the time of the whistle. If this standard is not met, play will be resumed via a jump ball.

Two factors are relevant to determine whether a team clearly and conclusively would have imminently gained possession of the ball at the time of the whistle:
• The proximity of opposing player(s) to the ball (or lack thereof); and
• The actual outcome of the play in the natural and immediate aftermath of the whistle (e.g. a player secured the ball).

Bench Conduct

New rules are 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).

(info courtesy of WNBA)

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