Vanessa Nygaard named Phoenix Mercury head coach

Vanessa Nygaard is introduced as the Phoenix Mercury’s new head coach with general manager Jim Pittman. Phoenix Mercury photo.

The Phoenix Mercury introduced Vanessa Nygaard as their new head coach in a press conference today. She is the tenth coach in the franchise’s 25-year history, and most recently has coached at the high school and pro levels.

“I’ve always wanted to be a coach in the WNBA, and the opportunity to coach one of the most storied franchises and to coach the greatest player of all time and other outstanding players is something I couldn’t even dream of.” “This morning when I woke up, I couldn’t even believe it. I woke up and looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘You’re the coach of the Phoenix Mercury,’ and then I said, ‘Get to work.'”

Nygaard has coached at the Windward School in Los Angeles since 2012, and became one of the best high school coaches in the nation, guiding the Wildcats  to back-to-back California state titles in 2017 and 2018. While at Windward, Nygaard coached Jordin Canada, now with the Seattle Storm, and UCLA standout Charisma Osborne, among others. Nygaard also spent time as an assistant coach at Long Beach State, Pepperdine, and in the WNBA with San Antonio Silver Stars. Last summer she was an assistant coach for the Las Vegas Aces.

The Mercury knocked the Aces out in the WNBA Conference Finals, and Nygaard had a front-row seat. Phoenix is in win-now mode, and Nygaard said the team culture would be one of work.

” The culture of the team will be one of work. We have to be dedicated to daily improvement and accountability. That’s how you have success on any team and organization and mix in a little fun too.”

Nygaard will have plenty of veteran leadership in All-Stars Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and Skylar Diggins-Smith. She said her her first order of business would be to contact everyone on the roster, no matter where they were playing or living.

“First order of business is to connect with all players, find out what’s important to them and what they need.”

Before she started her coaching career, Nygaard played in the WNBA for five years, suiting up for the Cleveland Rockers, the Portland Fire, the Miami Sol and the Los Angeles Sparks. In college, she played at Stanford under Hall of Famer Tara VanDerveer. Nygaard had nothing but great things to say about the longtime coach.

” I love Tara, Tara helped me so much in myskylar diggins-smith, life, and she taught me important things. Which is you have to show up every day and be the best version of yourself no matter how you feel. She taught me you have to have a great attitude and great effort in everything you do.”