WNBA announces new rules for Coach’s Challenge and timeouts

The WNBA Board of Governors approved new Coach’s Challenge and timeout rules for the 2024 season, designed to “improve the flow of the game and provide increased flexibility to coaches looking to use a Challenge.” The rules were endorsed by the WNBA Competition Committee and ratified by the WNBA Board of Governors.

The amendments to the league’s rules are below.

Coach’s Challenge

Teams will now be awarded a second Coach’s Challenge – to be used during regulation play or in overtime – if their first Challenge is successful. A team must continue to use a team timeout to trigger a Challenge, which means a team will not be able to use its first or second Challenge unless it still has a team timeout available. In addition, a team may continue to retain the timeout used to initiate its first Challenge if that Challenge is successful.

For the purpose of game flow and length of game, a team will not retain the timeout used to initiate its second Challenge regardless of whether it is successful.

Key features of the Coach’s Challenge rules:

  • A team can use its Challenge to trigger an instant replay review of three specific events: a called foul on its 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. A Coach’s Challenge is the only mechanism to trigger a replay review of an out-of-bounds violation at any point in the game.
  • To initiate a Challenge, a team must immediately call a team timeout and the head coach will provide the visual signal for a Challenge by twirling an index finger toward the referees and verbally indicating 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 original 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.

Timeout Format

Most recently, each team was allotted four (4) full team timeouts and two 20-second timeouts. Beginning with the 2024 season, the following timeout format will be in place:

  • During regulation play, each team will now be allocated five (5) team timeouts plus one “Reset” timeout.
  • Each team is limited to two (2) team timeouts after the later of (i) the three-minute mark of the fourth period or (ii) the conclusion of the second mandatory timeout of the fourth period.
  • Mandatory timeouts will be 2:45 in length and non-mandatory timeouts will be 1:15 in length.
  • 20-second timeouts are eliminated.
  • In overtime periods, each team will be allowed two (2) team timeouts and one (1) Reset timeout. There is no restriction as to when a team must call its team timeouts during any overtime period.

A Reset timeout is a stoppage of play requested by a team that allows it to advance the ball and make substitutions but not huddle. Each team is entitled to one Reset in the final two minutes of the fourth period and one in the final two minutes of any overtime period.

Key features of the Reset timeout:

  • To request a Reset, the head coach or player must call a timeout and then immediately signal (arms crossed in an “X”) and verbalize “Reset.”
  • If either team huddles or prevents the ball from immediately being put back in play, a delay of game will be issued to that team. A Reset may not be used due to a stoppage for an injured player, or other delay, unless a team does not have any team timeouts remaining.
  • If a team requests a Reset timeout during live play and a mandatory timeout is due, only the mandatory will be charged, and the Reset timeout will be returned.
  • If a team requests a Reset and has already used it (or the game is not in the last two minutes of the fourth period or last two minutes of an overtime period), that team will be charged with a team timeout.
  • If a team requests a Reset and has already used it (or the game is not in the last two minutes of the fourth period or last two minutes of an overtime period) and has no team timeouts remaining, that team will be charged an excessive timeout.
  • The shot clock will remain as it was when play was stopped for the Reset.
  • Unused Resets will not carry over to the next period.
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