Las Vegas Aces assistant coach Natalie Nakase marked her WNBA head coaching debut with a win on Thursday night.
With Aces head coach Becky Hammon serving the last of her two-game suspension, Nakase led the team to a 94-85 victory
against the Los Angeles Sparks at the Crypto.com Arena.
Nakase, who became the team’s first assistant in February 2022, told ABC7 that she had been diligently preparing for this opportunity.
Just excited, I’ve been preparing for this moment for a while but you know, the leadership of Becky Hammon, I mean she puts us in such a great position to be successful because in practices and training camps, she gives us the board, she gives us the huddle, she allows us to be a head coach so right now, it’s just another rep in a different building.
Nakase’s family and friends witnessed the historic moment from the stands.
The 42-year-old Japanese American, who was offered a full scholarship at the University of California, Irvine, chose to pursue her dreams at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as a walk-on.
Playing as a starting point guard, she averaged 4.9 points and 3.7 assists per game during her three-year stint.
She became the first Asian American player to play in the National Women’s Basketball League (NWBL) in 2005, but a ligament injury two years later made her decide to pursue coaching
Her confidence and determination propelled her forward, eventually leading her to the NBA, where she spent 10 years working her way up to assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers’ G League affiliate team, the Agua Caliente Clippers. Nakase was already part of the Aces’ coaching staff when the team clinched the WNBA championship last year, making her the first Asian American coach to win a WNBA title.
Recently named one of A100’s most impactful Asian Pacific leaders, Nakase is aware of her influence and impact on the Asian American Pacific Islander community.
“I’m a big believer on if you can see it, it can happen and representation matters so if I can help other Asian Americans that want to be in professional sports, reach out,” she was quoted as saying. “I’ll help in any way I can.”
The Aces, which has been on a five-game winning streak since the WNBA season opener on May 19, are set to face the Atlanta Dream on Friday.