The Athletic’s 40 Under 40: Rising stars in women’s basketball

The Atlanta Dream placed four on The Athletic’s list of 40 Under 40 in women’s basketball, with Dream Co-Owner and Vice President Renee Montgomery, General Manager Dan Padover, center Elizabeth Williams and Head Coach Tanisha Wright all landing on the list. The Dream organization was recognized with the most honorees on the list of any WNBA franchise or organization.

Check out the full list on The Athletic’s site here ($).

17. Renee Montgomery, Atlanta Dream owner, businesswoman | Age: 34

Montgomery won an NCAA championship with UConn and two WNBA championships with Minnesota before she retired from playing basketball in 2020 and moved into basketball ownership in 2021. Alongside Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair, she bought the Dream from former owner Kelly Loeffler, who was pressured heavily by players to sell following her opposition to the league’s social justice efforts. Montgomery could very well represent a new era of the WNBA, especially as the league eyes expansion, of former players who become owners and front-office decision makers. In addition to her ownership responsibilities, Montgomery also works as a studio analyst for Fox Sports Southeast and ESPN as well as a co-host on Crooked Media’s podcast “Takeline.”

24. Dan Padover, Atlanta Dream GM | Age: 33

There aren’t many people who have grown up in the WNBA like Padover. He got his start in the WNBA 11 years ago as a video coordinator for the Liberty and climbed the ranks, ultimately becoming the Las Vegas Aces GM in 2018. He was named the league’s executive of the year in both 2020 and 2021, leaving Las Vegas this past offseason to take the role as the Dream’s GM as the franchise enters a true rebuilding period. With new ownership, a new coach, a new president/COO, and Padover as the new GM (as well as nearly a full roster of free agents), Padover said the move was an opportunity he couldn’t let pass as he helps build a WNBA franchise from the ground up. Padover will have the chance to help mold a franchise that has never won a championship and has only finished the season with a winning record in six of its 14 seasons.

38. Elizabeth Williams, Atlanta Dream center, activist | Age: 28

The Duke grad was the leader of an Atlanta team that rallied behind Raphael Warnock, effectively flipping control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. The effort was even more noteworthy as Warnock’s opponent was then-Dream owner Loeffler, who had opposed some of the social justice efforts made by players going into the 2020 WNBA season. Coming into the 2021 season, Williams — a member of the WNBPA’s Social Justice Council — was a key part in the WNBA’s partnership with the Black Women’s Health Imperative’s “Take The Shot for the WIN” campaign to improve vaccine access and education among women of color and their families.

40. Tanisha Wright, Atlanta Dream head coach | Age: 37

Wright is one of four former WNBA players currently leading a WNBA team. At 37, Wright has had a quick ascent. Her first assistant job came in 2017 for Charlotte, while her 15-year WNBA playing career was coming to a close. She retired from the WNBA after the 2019 season and became a full-time assistant with the Aces in 2020. After two seasons on the sideline with Bill Laimbeer in Las Vegas, the Dream hired Wright to invigorate the struggling franchise. “Tanisha is a rare blend of strategic thinker, servant leader and fearless competitor all wrapped into one,” Dream GM Dan Padover said. “She is known as one of the top young coaches in professional basketball right now, but I think pretty soon we will just be saying one of the top coaches, period.”