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).

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