WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury hires high school coach to lead franchise

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One of California’s best girls high school basketball coaches is making the jump to the professional ranks.

The WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury announced Monday that it is hiring Windward High School’s Vanessa Nygaard as its next head coach. Nygaard won two state championships and five sectional titles during her stint at Windward.

A professional team plucking a high school head coach to lead the way might seem like a bit of a reach, but Nygaard isn’t the average high school head coach. Nygaard starred at Stanford and helped the Cardinal reach three Final Fours. She also spent six years playing in the WNBA and has worked as an assistant coach at the college level, in the WNBA and with USA Basketball since her playing days ended.

Nygaard started her high school head coaching at Windward with a 32-1 record in 2012-13 and won 20 or more games in seven of her first eight seasons. The Wildcats won consecutive state championships under Nygaard’s watch in 2017 and 2018.

Nygaard will now step into one of the most attractive jobs in the WNBA. Phoenix reached the finals last season and has a roster littered with star power from Diana Taurasi to Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

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