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Last-place Mercury part ways with head coach Nygaard

Vanessa Nygaard Vanessa Nygaard - Getty Images

PHOENIX (AP) — The last-place Phoenix Mercury fired coach Vanessa Nygaard and replaced her with assistant Nikki Blue for the remainder of the season, the team announced Sunday.

The Mercury have gotten off to a rough start, dropping 10 of their first 12 games, including a 97-74 loss in Seattle on Saturday night.

Nygaard took over the team last season and went 17-31. It wasn't an easy year-and-a-half for Nygaard, with star center Brittney Griner missing all of last season while she was detained in Russia.

“We have chosen to make a change at head coach,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a statement. “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.”

Griner returned to the court Saturday after missing the previous three games with a hip injury.

“What’s happening isn’t going to cut it,” Griner said following the team’s fifth straight loss. “It’s the first time I’ve ever had a record like this. It’s really frustrating. I don’t know. I guess tear it down and rebuild it back up. I really don’t get it. It’s not going the way we want it to go. It’s not the Phoenix Mercury basketball we all know.”

Blue joined the Mercury coaching staff last season and has 15 years of coaching experience in the WNBA and college.