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Former All-Star Adrienne Goodson loves the example the Las Vegas Aces are setting

Adrienne “Goody” Goodson moves the ball up the court with the Utah Starzz in 2001. (Otto Greule/Allsport/Getty Images)

Before there were the A’ja Wilsons and the Breanna Stewarts of the WNBA, there was Adrienne Goodson. “Goody,” as she is popularly known, was a fiery 6-foot forward whose career spanned 14 years, beginning overseas before she returned to the U.S. in 1996 for the American Basketball League’s inaugural season.

In 1999, the Bayonne, N.J. native made the jump to the recently formed WNBA and was drafted by the Utah Starzz. In her first WNBA season, Goody had an immediate impact. She finished 10th in the league in scoring while averaging 33 minutes per game. In 2002, she was named to a WNBA All-Star Game. When the Utah Starzz relocated to San Antonio ahead of the 2003 season, Goody re-signed with the newly minted San Antonio Stars, now the Las Vegas Aces.

Here, Goodson tells the story of the ABL’s inception and her decision to enter the WNBA, the Aces setting an example by honoring their alumni and what’s next for the franchise, in her own words for Just Women’s Sports.

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I’m in Jersey right now, but I’ve been traveling a lot this summer between North Carolina, Virginia and also Vegas. My trip to Vegas on Memorial Day Weekend was pretty out of the blue. It was four o’clock in the morning, and when I got this email from the president of the Las Vegas Aces (which shows how much Nikki Fargas is grinding!), and it said, “We want to honor you,” real talk, I thought, “Man, what do the Aces want with me?”

I had to re-read the email, and I still can’t believe it. It was mindblowing. The Aces were actually reaching out to former players with an invitation to a Las Vegas alumni celebration. As any diehard fan knows, the history of our team stretches far and wide. I decided to respond and heard back immediately. Before I knew it, I was flying out to Vegas to celebrate the WNBA’s 25th consecutive season at an Aces game on May 30.

As a former player, it can be hard sometimes when the league doesn’t show former players much love. But then came Mark Davis. The owner of the Las Vegas Aces franchise and the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, Mark understands the importance of acknowledging former players for their worth. The things he is doing for us are phenomenal, and I hope other teams follow suit in the years to come.

Before our trip to Vegas, Mark told me, “I’m bringing you guys out here, and I’m going to feature and showcase you all.” We watched two Aces games, we ate meals together, and everybody was able to tell their own story. I remember sitting with everyone and, let me tell you, there was not a dry eye in the room. From the players to the administration, those four days were an unforgettable experience.

This month, the Aces also honored WNBA All-Star and NBA coach Becky Hammon with a halftime jersey retirement ceremony. Although Becky never played in Las Vegas, the Aces have not forgotten what she did for the franchise in San Antonio. I was proud to see them pay tribute by retiring Becky’s No. 25. While her jersey is the first to hang in the rafters, there will soon be many more.

Players like Becky Hammon are not just pioneers of the Aces franchise — we are also pioneers of the WNBA. We paved the way for many of these young players to continue to excel. When I think back to entering the WNBA and being drafted by the Utah Starzz, it’s hard to forget the role the American Basketball League played in this story.

The ABL was really what brought me back home. When I graduated from Old Dominion in 1988, there was no professional women’s league in the United States. Playing overseas was our only option. So I packed my bags and I embarked on a professional career in Brazil. Soon enough, I was playing basketball in Rio de Janeiro, learning Portuguese, and sipping on coconuts every morning with my teammates. To leave that setting was difficult because I was in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen in the world.

In Brazil, I met Val Whiting. She was part of the Stanford crew, and since the American Basketball League was headquartered in San Jose, Val had the lock on all the information. I remember her saying, “Hey, listen, this league is getting ready to start, and you’ll get the opportunity to go back home if you want to play.” I thought, “Wow, I guess I’m going to stay home this year.”

I can’t say enough great things about the American Basketball League. I really feel like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” when I think of those years. And I feel the same way about Brazil — I left my heart there, too! Those two places were just absolutely phenomenal and opened the door for myself and so many other players. I don’t think the ABL ever gets enough glory.

Shortly after the ABL was formed, the NBA began creating the WNBA. During those years, what I remember most is the crazy media attention surrounding the WNBA. The WNBA commercials! There were so many dang commercials. And that was really because something new had arrived in women’s basketball: competition.

I was hesitant to leave the ABL because it was a very family-oriented league. The passion of our fan base was something I’ve never experienced before. But when the league folded in 1998, I decided it was time to move over to the WNBA.

I felt like Utah was a special place because, first of all, when I found out I was going there, I dropped to my knees and I started screaming something along the lines of: “Lord, you got jokes! Are you kidding me? Salt Lake? What’s even in Utah?”

After I went through that moment, Fred Williams called me and said, “Listen, I don’t know how the hell you dropped to the third round.” And to be honest, I was furious, too. I had heard from many different teams before the draft so I thought I might be going fifth or sixth overall. But then there’s always the politics that goes on behind the scenes. I really got hit with it. I feel like I was one of those players that always had to “kick in the door.”

With that being said, I get out to Utah and I decide that I’m just going to get to work. I became top three on the team in scoring that year, third in rebounding and second in assists, and I continued to consistently finish in the league’s top 10 in scoring. But more importantly, we all grinded up there. For three hard years, we accomplished more than anyone thought we could. We took that team to a new level and we brought the fans with us.

Looking back on our legacy, it can feel bittersweet at times. But from Natalie Williams to Margo Dydek, Debbie Black, Korie Hlede and myself, we laid the foundation for that team. That was our blood, sweat and tears.

I know we prayed so much in Utah and in San Antonio for our team, and you know what? God never let us fold! And maybe it was for all of this, so that we could build something so special with the Las Vegas Aces. So that nothing could ever tear us down.

Adrienne Goodson (“Goody”) is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She played 14 years of professional basketball, including seven in the WNBA. A three-time All-Star in the pros and an NCAA champion, she was inducted into the Old Dominion Hall of Fame in 1999. She is the host of the podcast “A WNBA State of Mind with Adrienne Goodson.” Follow her on Twitter @agoody15_wnba.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

KC Current GM Camille Ashton Resigns

KC Current GM Camille Ashton
Former KC Current GM Camille Ashton left the undefeated organization early this week. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Kansas City Current general manager Camille Ashton has resigned, the club announced Wednesday.

The staffing shakeup comes as somewhat of a surprise after the Current started off the season undefeated under new head coach Vlatko Andonovski, sitting second in the NWSL standings through 10 games.

No further details were given about her departure, other than that the club "wishes her the best in her future endeavors."

"I am thankful for my time in Kansas City," Ashton said in a team statement. "It was important to me to dedicate my time and efforts to ensure a successful 2024 season by building the championship-caliber roster that's currently near the top of the table. I am proud of what we have accomplished here. I look forward to the next step in my personal and professional journey."

Ashton, who played in the league from 2014-17, helped rebuild the Current roster, including picking up then-free agent Debinha in 2023 — the biggest free agency signing of that offseason. This past offseason, she brought in international players Temwa Chawinga and Bia Zaneratto

But the club has also encountered some rough patches throughout Ashton's tenure. Following her daughter's dismissal from the Current last year, mother of 2023 draft pick Mykiaa Minniss also accused the club of mistreatment during the preseason. While both the league and NWSL Players Association looked into the comments, no formal reprimand or consequences were publicly issued.

Players like Lynn Williams, Alex Loera, and Cece Kizer voiced concerns over what they described as unexpected trades, with Kizer adding that there was "no conversation this could happen." Williams, meanwhile, was informed of her trade moments prior to its execution while she was in New Zealand with the USWNT.

"There could be a lot of debate about that on its own, but at the end of the day, that’s the mechanism that we work with right now in the league," Ashton told reporters earlier this year when quested about the Current's player trade procedures.

While the club made an NWSL championship appearance in 2022 — the year Ashton came on as general manager — the 2023 season kicked off with the team firing head coach Matt Potter just three games into the season and hours before a road game. 

At the time, the club cited "issues around his leadership and employment responsibilities" as the reasoning, though players were reportedly confused with the decision making.

Last October, the Current hired former UWSNT coach Vlatko Andonovski as head coach, in addition to giving him the title of "sporting director." Whether or not that role overlapped with Ashton’s responsibilities as general manager was cause for some speculation.

NWSL Honors UWSNT Great Lauren Holiday With Impact Award

Lauren Holiday at nwsl impact award event
USWNT legend Lauren Holiday has long been involved with social activism off the pitch. (NWSL)

The NWSL announced today that the annual civically focused Nationwide Community Impact Award would now be known as the Lauren Holiday Award in honor of the National Soccer Hall of Famer.

Since 2021, the award has recognized one NWSL player each season for their character and contributions to community service off the pitch, according to a league release. The winner of the newly retitled award receives $30,000 toward a charitable organization of their choice.

"The NWSL is proud to honor Lauren Holiday as the namesake of this award recognizing exemplary athletes and their commitment to service and activism," said NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman. "Lauren’s influential work in the community and her outstanding character both on and off the field epitomize the values we look to uphold and celebrate in the NWSL every day. 

"I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition than Lauren and look forward to seeing the continued positive impact this program has on our clubs and communities with her example guiding our efforts."

In a statement, Holiday said that throughout her career she has always "believed in the power of giving back and creating positive change." A two-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup winner, and former NWSL MVP, Holiday founded the Jrue & Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund alongside husband and fellow professional athlete JRue Holiday.

The fund contributes to programs that combat systemic racism and socioeconomic inequality. Holiday has also long been an advocate for legislation to help close the racial inequality gap in maternal health.

"This award is a testament to the important work that athletes are doing to strengthen and uplift their communities every day and I am deeply humbled to take on its namesake," Holiday said. "I hope it inspires others to continue their efforts in making a lasting impact on the lives of those around them."

Waylaid Seattle Rookie Nika Mühl Makes WNBA Debut

seattle storm's nika muhl guarding indiana fever's caitlin clark
Mühl spent her first few pro minutes repeating her college assignment: guarding Caitlin Clark.(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle rookie Nika Mühl made her long awaited WNBA debut in last night’s 85-83 win over Indiana after missing the first four games of the season due to visa issues. 

A Croatian national, Mühl had been waiting on P-1 visa approval in order to work legally in the US. While the paperwork came through Friday, she had to travel to Canada in order to get her status changed.

The former UConn star poked fun at the delay ahead of the game, walking into Climate Pledge Arena wearing a t-shirt displaying her approved visa.

Mühl checked into the game on Monday in the third period to a standing ovation, immediately diving over the baseline to save a loose ball. She spent her first few minutes of the game the same way she completed her career at UConn: guarding Caitlin Clark

Mühl, who had two rebounds in two and a half minutes, held Clark to five points, a rebound, and a turnover when the two were matched up. 

"I threw her in the fire," Storm coach Noelle Quinn said with a smile after the game. "It’s tough to come into the game at that rate and think that you’re going to stop the player, but I like… her physicality, her poise, her confidence. She took an open shot and I thought that was a great look for her. We’ll continue to put her in the mix in practice, and she’ll have opportunities to show what she can do on the defensive end to start."

An instant fan favorite, the UConn star donned the No. 1 jersey — in part because her usual No. 10 was retired by Seattle after Sue Bird, who wore it for her entire WNBA career, retired last year. Mühl's new number was chosen by none other than Bird herself. 

"I actually FaceTimed Sue and asked her what number I should wear. She took a day to think about it and came back to me with an answer of No. 1," Muhl said in a WNBA video posted to social media. "When I asked her why No. 1, she basically said 'This is a new beginning, but you’re not starting from scratch.' I loved that whole analogy and story, so Sue actually picked it and I love it."

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