Mercury GM on firing Vanessa Nygaard: ‘The final straw was that we are 2-10’
Jun 26, 2023, 3:30 PM | Updated: 3:38 pm
(Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Phoenix Mercury looked to shake up their season on Sunday as they fired head coach Vanessa Nygaard after a 2-10 start to the year.
Nygaard posted a 17-33 record (0-2 in playoffs) in her two seasons at the helm after taking over for a team that had made the WNBA Finals a season prior.
The team named Nikki Blue as the interim head coach.
“The final straw was that we are 2-10 and that is just not good enough,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman told reporters on Monday.
“Our organization and our fans expect a lot from the Phoenix Mercury. … She (Nygaard) managed through a lot of adversity the last year and a half, but at the end of the day professional sports are a results-oriented business and we are 2-10. It was time to make a move.”
A major piece of the adversity during Nygaard’s first year was she was missing MVP-caliber player Brittney Griner due to her detainment in Russia, which left her out for the entire season. Additionally, center Tina Charles left the team in a contract divorce halfway through the season.
Phoenix finished the regular season 15-21 and was swept in two games by the Las Vegas Aces and outscored by 43 points in those games.
New Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia has now fired two head coaches across the two organizations since he took over in February.
Griner has since returned and been a leader on the court for the team this season, adding 19.1 points per game on 61.8% shooting (highest percentage of her career), 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.7 assists in nine games.
She was named a starter to the All-Star team this year, her ninth All-Star game appearance in 11 seasons played in the league. Despite the down year for the team, Griner said she feels grateful to even have the opportunity to represent Phoenix at the festivities.
“I did not even think I would be in this seat a while ago,” Griner told reporters on Monday.
“I am honored to be an All-Star and go to Vegas and make it a good one.”
Griner mentioned that the team is hopeful that Blue can come in and bring in some different looks and overall simplify the game because a new set of eyes and personality will be good for the team.
There are 28 games left remaining in the season and the Mercury currently sit 3.5 games back of the No. 8 seed.
Despite Griner’s positive impact, Diana Taurasi has been plagued by hamstring injuries, forcing her out of three games but has since returned in Saturday’s loss to Seattle.
Guard Skylar Diggins-Smith remains away from the team while she is on maternity leave and has yet to play this year. There are reports that her and Taurasi do not get along, but the team will not comment on it and is respecting Diggins-Smith’s privacy.
She left in the final week of the regular season last year and has yet to return.
“We are in a tough position and we are pretty banged up with a couple of different circumstances going on,” Blue told reporters.
“It is going to take patience, play by play, minute by minute, game by game. We are going to come out and give it everything we got.”