PHOENIX MERCURY

Phoenix Mercury part ways with head coach Vanessa Nygaard

Jun 25, 2023, 10:13 AM | Updated: 10:15 am

Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard makes a point to official Roy Gulbeyan during the team's WNBA...

Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard makes a point to official Roy Gulbeyan during the team's WNBA basketball game against the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

(Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

The Phoenix Mercury announced Sunday morning the team has parted ways with Vanessa Nygaard after posting a 17-31 record in her time as head coach.

The team has named Nikki Blue as the interim head coach.

“We have chosen to make a change at head coach,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a press release.

“We thank Vanessa Nygaard for the way she endured and managed the adversity of the last year-plus. Our organization and our fans have high expectations for this team, and we have not reached those with our performance this year. We have confidence in the job Nikki Blue will do as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2023 season.”

Nygaard took over the reins from Sandy Brondello, whose contract wasn’t renewed after the team reached the WNBA Finals in 2021. And despite losing star center Brittney Griner due to her detainment in Russia, came into the season with high expectations.

The Mercury stumbled out of the gates losing eight out of their first 10 games and never fully recovered.

Phoenix would climb back in the Western Conference standings and fight for a playoff spot as a top-eight seed.

Nygaard also dealt with a midseason roster shuffle in 2022 as the Mercury and center Tina Charles went through a contract divorce after 16 games for the former MVP.

The Mercury once again got off to a slow start this year, losing 10 of their first 12 games. Additionally, the team has been dealing with injuries to Griner, Diana Taurasi as well as off-the-court relationship issues with star Skylar Diggins-Smith while she is also on maternity leave.

Nygaard had never been a head coach in the WNBA before.

She was most recently an assistant coach with the Las Vegas Aces in 2021 under coach Bill Laimbeer.

She was also previously an assistant coach with the San Antonio Stars in 2008 and the Washington Mystics in 2009.

Blue has 15 years of coaching experience in the WNBA and college ranks. She came to the Mercury as the lead assistant after spending three seasons as an assistant at ASU under coach Charlie Turner Thorne (2019-22).

Phoenix Mercury

Diana Taurasi...

Associated Press

Diana Taurasi’s return to the lineup not enough as Sun beat Mercury

Diana Taurasi's return to the lineup not enough as Sun beat Mercury behind Rachel Banham's eight 3-pointers.

1 day ago

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives past Phoenix Mercury's Celeste Taylor (12) in the sec...

Associated Press

Caitlin Clark records 5th straight double-double as Fever beat short-handed Mercury

Caitlin Clark records her fifth straight double-double as the Indiana Fever beat the short-handed Phoenix Mercury.

3 days ago

Diana Taurasi...

Arizona Sports

Phoenix Mercury to open new practice facility, name courts after Diana Taurasi

The Phoenix Mercury will honor current star Diana Taurasi with two basketball courts at its new practice facility.

3 days ago

Head coach Nate Tibbetts of the Phoenix Mercury talks with Kahleah Copper #2 during the second half...

Associated Press

Kahleah Copper scores 32 for 7th 30-point game of the season as Mercury beat Wings

Kahleah Copper scored 32 points, the seventh time she's had over 30 this season, and the Mercury beat Wings for their third straight series.

5 days ago

Kahleah Copper #2 (R) of the Phoenix Mercury celebrates with Natasha Cloud #0 after hitting the gam...

Associated Press

Cloud scores career-high 31, Copper adds 25 and 10 rebounds as Mercury beat Sparks

Natasha Cloud scored a career-high 31 points, Kahleah Copper added 25 points and 10 rebounds and the Mercury beat the Sparks on Sunday.

8 days ago

Phoenix Mercury guard Kahleah Copper after hitting a 3 against the Indiana Fever on June 30, 2024. ...

Associated Press

Kahleah Copper scores 34, including late 3-pointer, as Mercury beat Wings

Kahleah Copper scored 34 points, including a late 3-pointer, and Brittney Griner added 24 points to help the Mercury beat the Wings.

12 days ago

Phoenix Mercury part ways with head coach Vanessa Nygaard