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Diana Taurasi addresses Vanessa Nygaard exit: ‘I don’t pick the coaches’

Phoenix Mercury interim head coach Nikki Blue talks with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner on June 27. (Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images)

Phoenix Mercury interim head coach Nikki Blue picked up her first win Thursday as the team snapped a six-game losing streak with an 85-63 victory over the Indiana Fever.

“Their energy level was at an all-time high,” Blue said of the players. “It was very fun basketball to watch and even more fun to coach. As much as I credit us as coaches putting it together, it was all these players. They make our jobs easy on nights like this.”

Mercury veteran Diana Taurasi had 17 points, one of her best performances of the season. Following the game, Taurasi talked about Blue’s first win as a head coach.

“We’ve all been through it together,” she told reporters after the game. “It’s been refreshing the last couple of days, of trying to reset as a group and coach has been the main factor in that. It’s been really good trying to move forward. … It’s just a credit to her hard work.”

Taurasi also spoke for the first time about the departure of Vanessa Nygaard, who was fired on June 25 after a 2-10 start to the season.

“The last few years has not been easy in a lot of ways for our franchise, for our team,” she said. “I thought Vanessa did an incredible job of always keeping her cool, always keeping the team together.

“I don’t pick the coaches here. I think people think I do a lot here but I play and the GM and management, they made decisions, what’s best for our team. And I think going forward, that’s what they were thinking. So, I have great respect for Vanessa and I’m sure she’ll find a way to get back in coaching because that is her passion and her love and I learned a lot from her.”

The Mercury have had a “renewed sense of confidence” amid the coaching change, Blue said earlier this week. While the coach did not know what to expect when she took the helm, players have “exceeded my expectations,” she said.

After her first win, she outlined her journey over the last year, which included being passed over for the Arizona State head coaching job in 2022 before she joined the Mercury.

“I’ve been through so much coaching. And it’s not about me, but a year ago, in March, I was assistant coach at ASU,” Blue said. “Charli Turner Thorne said she was retiring, wanted to hand over the program to me. … They actually found a phenomenal coach. But to be told that I checked all the boxes except one, which was head coaching experience, was difficult for me since I was so bought into that school and I wanted that job.

“For us to get this win, it just reminds me of that saying, ‘God doesn’t call on the qualified, he qualifies the called.’ … So all I needed was an opportunity and … a great team to have my back. I’m so grateful we got this win and I got my first win as a head coach, and I’m truly appreciative of that.”

Turner Thorne is joining the Mercury as an assistant on Blue’s staff, the team announced Friday.