Windward’s Vanessa Nygaard named Phoenix Mercury head coach

Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard is moving to the WNBA as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury.
(Nick Koza)

Windward School always knew it had the best girls’ basketball coach in Vanessa Nygaard. The only question was how long would the Wildcats be able to keep her.

The WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury announced Monday that Nygaard has been selected as its new head coach.

Nygaard coached her final game for Windward on Saturday. Assistant Ronald Cass will take over coaching Windward for the rest of the season on an interim basis. Another Windward coach, Ebony Hoffman, who took over the team last season while Nygaard was coaching in the WNBA, will be coaching with the Seattle Storm as an assistant. The Windward job will be opened up and should be one of the most sought-after positions in girls’ basketball.

Nygaard served as an assistant with the Las Vegas Aces last season when she took a year off from high school coaching. She was head coach at Windward for 10 seasons. She guided the Wildcats to two state titles and has coached such top players as Jordin Canada, Charisma Osborne and Juju Watkins. She starred at Stanford, played six years in the WNBA and was a college assistant before settling in at Windward, where she has been a teacher and coach.


“We knew at some point it was going to happen,” athletic director Tyrone Powell said of losing Nygaard.

Nygaard grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz., and will be moving to the Phoenix area.

Windward is 14-6 this season and is scheduled to play Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Feb. 2. It would have been a much-anticipated matchup because Nygaard coached Watkins, who transferred to Sierra Canyon.