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Becky Hammon earned his first win as a WNBA coach on his debut with the Las Vegas Ice

Becky Hammon earned his first win as a WNBA coach on his debut with the Las Vegas Ice

Becky Hammon retired from the WNBA as a player in 2014 after a 16-year career. In her return to the league as head coach Friday, she appreciated the passion of her players in Las Vegas’ 106-88 win over Phoenix.

“What made it so great for me was that I felt their energy for me. I felt how badly they wanted it for me,” Hammon said of the Aces’ season opener as season 26 kicked off for the WNBA on Friday. “So that was probably the most special thing about it. They know there’s a spotlight and eventually, I have to get out of it and they have to move on. It’s about them. It’s the people that have stopped and there are buckets in there. I’m just there to help them.”

In fact, Hammon’s WNBA return after eight years as an assistant in the NBA in San Antonio has her in the spotlight. And against a Mercury team that was without four players – including the middle Britney Greinerwhich have been held in Russia since February – Aces took full advantage of Hamon’s debut.

Las Vegas fired 58.2 percent from the field, including 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) from behind the arc, with Kelsey Bloom Make five triple pointers. Derica Hampi He led the way with 24 points while Aja Wilson He got 15 points and 11 rebounds.

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Last season, the Aces holders set a second-best league record under coach Bill Laimbere, but lost to Phoenix in the semifinals. Now Hammon leads the Aces and another coach for the first time, Vanessa Nygaarddrives Mercury.

“Tactically and defensively, I said we did it right about 80 percent of the time,” said Hamon, who gave the Aces’ overall performance a B. “I’m a coach, I want it 100 percent of the time. I’ll stay with them. They all know, I’ve I told them I would coach them hard at this end. I know that sometimes their skills will just take over. There is no need to fantasize; they can score the ball consistently. And I give them great confidence in that aspect.”

Hamby, who was aged 11 out of 14 from the field, said Hamon’s offensive instructions fit the Aces’ talent well.

“From the first day Becky was here, her focus has been speed and space,” Hamby said. “For me, that’s how I play. We’ve always been a good transition team. But I think with this open ground, it creates a lot of chances in the transition. And in defense, we’re throwing away. People don’t like to play against that.”

Wilson, who was the WNBA Player of the Year in 2020, said, “We’ve definitely taken the business. This is just the beginning. We still have a lot to learn from each other. But it’s actually huge, just to get Becky first to win.” The Aces home opening is Sunday, as they face Seattle (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET.)