Story by Cassandra Cousineau and Alan Snel/Photos by J. Tyge O’Donnell
The Las Vegas Aces took to the floor in Mandalay Bay on Sunday for their first home game of 2022 with owner Mark Davis completely overhauling the business side of operations.
High-profile coach Becky Hammon began her era as Aces leader with a decisive win in Phoenix two days ago, while new Aces general manager Natalie Williams saw the team she reunited to play their first match of 2022 at the Michelob Ultra. Arena on the Strip.
The Aces beat a very competitive Seattle team, 85-74, in the team’s home opener. Seattle led by one point early in the fourth quarter, but the Aces’ paced style took its toll on the Storm and Las Vegas picked up its second victory to open the new season with an 11-point win in front of a loud and rowdy crowd.
Davis began revamping the company with the hiring of Nikki Fargas as team president. Fargas, in turn, recruited Hammon to replace former coach Bill Laimbeer.
Under Fargas, the Aces beefed up their marketing staff. The Aces signed former University of San Francisco women’s basketball coach Jennifer Azzi as director of business development and Blair Hardiek as director of marketing and communications.
LVSportsBiz.com interviewed Davis before the game about the Aces’ trade signings.
Davis said it was a “women’s league,” but women were hired on the business side because they were the best for the job.
We select the best people and the results will speak for themselves – Mark Davis, owner of the Las Vegas Aces
Hiring Hammon also has business implications, as she has massive appeal to female and male fans due to her reputation as a coach in the NBA.
Prior to the game, Davis was joined by former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren, who spearheaded MGM Resorts’ purchase of the WNBA team in San Antonio and moved the franchise to Las Vegas where it was renamed Aces in 2018.
Murren told LVSportsBiz.com that Davis “raised (Aces) to another level.”
In turn, Davis said Murren and MGM Resorts have created “a great foundation to build on” for the franchise.
Davis sat next to Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Aces CEO Larry Delsen, who is a close friend of Davis and a CPA who has advised the Davis family on accounting matters. Delsen’s son is now working on the accounting for the Aces. And Sisolak’s daughter is also on staff. Looked.
Fargas said she learned even more about the commercialization of the WNBA from ESPN when she was a commentator on ESPN’s coverage of the women’s college basketball tournament.
Fargas, now in his second year with Las Vegas, spoke with LVSportsBiz.com about his optimism for the new season.
“We are delighted with our draft picks. We feel we have a strong core coming back, and we’ve added a few pieces to the puzzle to get us back into the championship picture,” said Fargas.
She added: “Our Managing Director, Natalie Williams, has done a phenomenal job in a short time.”
The Aces took the fewest 3-point shots and had the second-to-last shot from beyond the arc of any WNBA team last season.
With the departure of former Aces center Liz Cambage, Hammon let go of the Aces guards while making the three-pointers part of the game plan.
To do that, Las Vegas went after more shooters, and four of the Aces’ five draft picks were intended to bolster Hammon’s vision.
Fargas commented on how much she liked the versatility of the project. However, Mya Hollingshed, Khayla Pointer, as well as undrafted rookie free agent Nancy Mulkey have since been waived.
With former center Liz Cambage no longer on the Aces, the WNBA team is looking to play faster with a faster style under Hammon.
The Aces have former league MVP A’ja Wilson as their foundation with former sixth-of-the-year winner Dearica Hamby and Kelsey Plum playing larger roles on the team, the Las Vegas team collected 106 points in his season opener defeating Phoenix. You may recall that the Mercury ended the Aces’ title hopes last season in the WNBA Semifinals.