Vanessa Nygaard named Phoenix Mercury head coach

2021 WNBA Semifinals - Las Vegas Aces v Phoenix Mercury
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The WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury announced on Monday that Vanessa Nygaard (pronounced NYE-guard) will be the next head coach of the franchise, filling the spot previously filled by Sandy Brondello.

Following her collegiate career at Stanford – where she played under legendary coach Tara VanDerveer – Nygaard was drafted into the WNBA in 1998. Originally selected by the New York Liberty as the 39th overall pick, Nygaard went on to play six seasons in the WNBA with the Cleveland Rockers (1999), Portland Fire (2000-01), Miami Sol (2002) and Los Angeles Sparks (2003).

Vanessa Nygaard playing for the Los Angeles Sparks in 2003
Vanessa Nygaard playing for the Los Angeles Sparks on July 30, 2003 (Photo by: Andrew D. Bernstein/WNBAE via Getty Images)

Nygaard started her coaching career during her final year in the WNBA, serving as an assistant for Long Beach State University in 2003. She got her first WNBA coaching position in 2008 as an assistant for the San Antonio Silver Stars and she most recently served as an assistant for the Las Vegas Aces under coach Bill Laimbeer during the 2021 season. Since 2012, Nygaard has also served as the head coach at the Windward School in Los Angeles.

Thanks to Monday’s announcement, five of the WNBA’s 12 head coaches are former players. Nygaard joins Tanisha Wright (Atlanta Dream), Vickie Johnson (Dallas Wings), Becky Hammon (Las Vegas Aces) and Noelle Quinn (Seattle Storm). All five former players were hired in the last 13 months, starting with Johnson in December 2020.

The WNBA also now has eight women serving as head coaches, the above list plus Marianne Stanley (Indiana Fever), Sandy Brondello (New York Liberty), and Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx).

That’s a major step up from just one year ago. At the start of the 2021 WNBA season, only four WNBA teams were led by women (including just one former player).

This story will continue to be updated. 

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