Mark Davis, Mercury owner Mat Ishbia show different respect for WNBA

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When Mark Davis purchased the Las Vegas Aces three years ago, he had specific goals in mind. One of those goals was to create a community for former players of the franchise, similar to what his NFL team, the Raiders, have done. Davis wanted players who had previously played in Utah and San Antonio to still feel connected to the team, regardless of its location.

Another goal was to provide the Aces with a state-of-the-art practice facility, giving them a permanent space instead of constantly moving around. Lastly, Davis wanted to generate excitement among fans in Las Vegas.

To achieve these goals, Davis hired a group of capable women to lead the Aces. He praises Aces president Nikki Fargas, general manager Natalie Williams, and coach Becky Hammon for their skills and contributions to the team’s success.

According to Davis, his strategy is simple: hire great people and let them do their jobs. This formula has proven successful as the Aces will celebrate their second consecutive title on Monday. Despite facing challenges such as injuries to key players, the Aces have managed to become the first team since 2002 to win back-to-back WNBA championships.

While the Aces are not without their flaws, Davis recognizes the importance of trusting his team and allowing them to make decisions. In contrast, the Phoenix Mercury’s recent hiring of Nate Tibbetts as head coach has sparked criticism. Tibbetts lacks experience in coaching women’s basketball, and his lack of understanding of the WNBA has raised concerns.

Owner Mat Ishbia and general manager Nick U’Ren seem to view the Mercury coaching position as a learning opportunity, which has angered many. This move reflects a sense of unwarranted confidence and disregards the level of expertise required to lead a WNBA team.

It is crucial to acknowledge that this is not a debate about whether men can coach women’s teams. Many men have successfully coached in the WNBA. However, the Mercury’s decision to hire someone with no experience in women’s basketball raises questions about their commitment to the league’s professionalism and the value placed on the players.

The WNBA should be viewed as the pinnacle of women’s basketball, not a training ground for those with no understanding or passion for the women’s game. Comparisons to women like Becky Hammon and Dawn Staley being considered for NBA head-coaching positions are invalid, as they have earned their positions through years of hard work and proven success.

Furthermore, Tibbetts reportedly will be the highest-paid coach in the WNBA, surpassing Hammon’s salary. This only adds to the concerns about the Mercury’s decision-making.

It is essential for Mercury leadership to recognize the value of their team and prioritize their success. The hiring of Tibbetts and the emphasis on his role as a “Girl Dad” do not instill confidence in their commitment to women’s basketball.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on social media @nrarmour.


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