Becky Hayman retired from the WNBA in 2014 as a player after a distinguished career of 16 years. Returning to the league as head coach on Friday, she praised the passion of her players in the 106-88 victory over Phoenix, Las Vegas.
“The thing that made it really great for me was that I could feel their energy for me. I can feel how much they wanted it for me,” Hamman said of the Aces’ season opener as the 26th season of the WNBA began on Friday. “So that was probably the most special thing about it. They know there’s a spotlight and finally, I want to get out of it and they have to get into it. It’s about them. They’re stopped and the buckets are out. I’m just there to help them.” “
Indeed, Hammon’s return to the WNBA after eight years as an NBA assistant in San Antonio has brought her into the spotlight. And against a Mercury team that didn’t have four players – including center Britney Greener, who has been in Russia since February – the Aces took full advantage of Hamman’s debut.
Las Vegas shot 58.2 percent off the field, with 21 of the 11 (52.4 percent) bows behind, with Kelsey Plum making five 3-pointers. Derica Hamby led with 24 points, while Aja Wilson had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Last season, it was the league’s second-best record under Aces coach Bill Lambier, but lost to Phoenix in the semifinals. Now Hamon is leading the Aces and the second first head coach, Vanessa Niagard, is leading Mercury.
“Planned, defensive, I say we’ve done it 80 percent of the time,” said Hayman, who gave the B-grade to Aces’ overall performance. “I’m a trainer, I want 100 percent of the time. I’ll stick to them. They all know, I’ve told them I’m going to train them hard to the end of the floor. No need to fancy; they can flat-out the ball. I give them a lot of confidence in that aspect. “
Hamby, who was 11 of 14 from the field, said Hamman’s offensive instruction suited Aces’ talent.
“Since Becky’s first day here, her focus has been on speed and space,” Hamby said. “For me, that’s how I play. We’re always a good transition team. But I think with this open floor, there are a lot more opportunities in transition. And defensively, we’re scraping. Play against what people don’t like.”
Wilson, who is WNBA’s MVP in 2020, said: “Of course we took care of the business. This is just the beginning. We still have a lot to learn from each other. But it’s really big. The Aces have a home opener on Sunday, as they face Seattle