Considered one of the best basketball players to come out of Elgin High School, Bryan Agler has made a career of making his alma mater proud. A Prospect native with family still in the area, Agler is currently the head coach of the Dallas Wings, part of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
After graduating from Elgin, Agler attended Wittenberg University. While there, he played basketball, using his point guard talents to help the Tigers will the 1977 Division III NCAA championship. He continued his college career at Pittsburg State, earning a Master’s degree in education in 1985.
People are often advised to find something that they love to do so their careers never feel like work. Agler perfected this notion. He became the head coach of the Kansas State University women’s basketball team and served from 1993-1996. He then made the jump into the fledgling world of professional women’s basketball as the head coach of the brand new Columbus Quest, part of the American Basketball League. He served two years with the Quest, during which he was named the ABL Coach of the Year in 1997 and led the team to two ABL championships, with a combined record of 82-22.
After the ABL collapsed in late 1998, Agler made the shift to the WNBA. He became the first head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, piloting them to a 48-67 record from 1999-2002. From there he went on to successfully coach a string of professional women’s teams in the WNBA, including the Seattle Storm, Los Angeles Sparks, and the Dallas Wings.
In 2008, he was named the general manager and head coach of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and was honored as Coach of the Year in 2010 after winning the WNBA Championship that year. He would spend seven seasons with the Storm.
In January 2015, Agler became the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks and guided them to a 14-20 record and 4th place finish in the WNBA’s Western Conference. In late 2016, Agler guided the Sparks to their third WNBA championship, defeating the Lynx, 77–76, in the decisive Game 5 of the WMBA Finals, thereby winning the league championship series, 3–2. He became the first head coach to win WNBA titles with two teams.
Agler, 60, joined the Dallas Wings in December of 2018 with more victories than any other coach in U.S. women’s professional basketball history. The Dallas organization announced they were thrilled to bring on a coach of Agler’s “caliber and pedigree.” At this point in his career, he has 30 years of coaching experience, including 12 years as a WNBA head coach. In his four years with the Los Angeles Sparks, he compiled an 85-51 overall record, four playoff appearances, and the 2016 WNBA Championship. Agler’s stint in LA also included back-to-back 28-6 seasons in 2016 and 2017 and a second appearance in the WNBA Finals following the 2017 campaign. While with the Sparks, Agler coached 2016 MVP Nneka Ogwumike, 2016 Finals MVP Candace Parker, and two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Alana Beard.
“I think that it doesn’t matter if it’s pro or college — if there’s a pecking order of what’s the most important to have success, you have to have great talent that knows how to play together,” said Agler, describing what he considers to be the keys to success. “And then you have to create a great culture to bring out the best in everybody — not just the players, but the coaching staff and front office, too.
“The players at the professional level are very smart and know the game, so they’ve got to be able to trust and believe in what you’re doing. You have to be strong enough, because there are a lot of strong personalities. So there’s a balance there you have to have. And then there’s the support you get from the front office and ownership. Those are the four things that have to be in place.”
Agler was recently honored during the 2019 Celebrate Marion Gala in the category of “People of our Present.” Gala honorees are selected based on having contributed positively to the culture of Marion County. The Agler family remains well known in the Prospect community and last year created the Bill Agler Walking Path at Prospect Community Park in honor of Brian’s father.