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Mercury announce Vanessa Nygaard as head coach

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The Phoenix Mercury will announce Vanessa Nygaard, who most recently worked with the Las Vegas Aces, as their head coach on Monday, The Athletic's Chantel Jennings reported.

Phoenix teased a "major basketball announcement" at a news conference set for Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Footprint Center. It will take place before the NBA's Phoenix Suns host the Utah Jazz. The Mercury and Suns organizations are both owned by Robert Sarver and share the arena.

Ahead of the event, the Mercury confirmed the news in a release on Monday afternoon.

"We were looking for a teacher of the game, a master tactician, and someone with the temperament to lead a roster that mixes veteran experience with youthful potential, that has championship aspirations every season," Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman said in a release. "We found that coach in Vanessa, whose enthusiasm for building relationships and holding players to the highest standards separated her in this process.

"Beyond that, she is committed to growing the women’s game on and off the floor in Phoenix and wants to be a part of the Valley basketball community year-round. We are excited to welcome her and her family back to Arizona and to the Mercury family.”

Free agency is underway and teams can begin signing players on Feb. 1. The WNBA season tips off on May 6.

Mercury take time hiring new coach

The Mercury reportedly interviewed more than a dozen candidates for the head coaching job after a "mutual" parting of ways with Sandy Brondello in early December. Brondello had led the team since 2014, winning that year's title and taking the No. 6-seeded Mercury to the WNBA Finals last season. She took over the New York Liberty coaching job this month.

The club has its big three of Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner locked into contracts for the 2022 season. It needs to build around the trio as it looks to win the franchise's fourth title, which would tie the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx for most all time.

Via The Athletic:

The Mercury were impressed with Nygaard’s ability to break down X’s and O’s for Phoenix, a star-studded team led by Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner that lost in the WNBA Finals last season. Nygaard has already spoken with multiple players on the current roster, sources say.

Free agency officially opened last weekend with players now able to talk with teams. They can officially sign contracts beginning Feb. 1. The Mercury have most of their salary cap allotted to the big three and Bria Hartley. The organization will again need to be creative in signing the rest of its roster.

Vanessa Nygaard's coaching resume

Vanessa Nygaard is expected to be the Phoenix Mercury's next head coach.
Vanessa Nygaard is expected to be the Phoenix Mercury's next head coach. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Nygaard is a former player and Scottsdale, Arizona, native who worked as an assistant last season in Las Vegas. The Aces also changed head coaches, hiring San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon to take over for Bill Laimbeer.

She played in three Final Fours for Tara VanDerveer and Stanford in the late 1990s and was drafted into the WNBA in 1998, the league's second-ever draft. She played five seasons for four different franchises.

Nygaard's coaching career began at Long Beach State and Pepperdine before joining Dan Hughes' San Antonio Stars staff in 2008. She moved to the Washington Mystics in 2009 as an assistant before leaving to coach Windward High School in Los Angeles. After winning two state titles, she took a leave of absence in April 2021 to join the Aces staff. Last season's WNBA season overlapped with the girls basketball season.