Las Vegas, NV (Dec. 17, 2021)—Las Vegas Aces President Nikki Fargas announced today that the team has hired basketball legend Jennifer Azzi as the team’s chief business development officer, and Blair Hardiek as it’s chief marketing and communications officer. The team will host a press conference after the new year to formally introduce Azzi (A-z) and Hardiek (HAR-d-eck), along with additional upcoming front office hires, to the media.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have Jennifer and Blair join the Aces’ front office staff,” said Fargas. “Jennifer has championed women’s sports her entire life. She embodies the foundation this league was built on. We believe she will carry us into a new era of revenue growth for the franchise and establishing new business development.”
“Blair has a passion for growth, and her experience with new audiences via emerging platforms will further strengthen the Aces’ brand. She will continue to promote the Aces’ distinct brand while driving revenue and engaging fans.”
“It is an honor to be joining the Las Vegas Aces organization,” said Azzi. “When I met Mark Davis and saw his commitment to the Aces, I knew I wanted to be a part of his vision. The connection with the Raiders creates a unique partnership in sports—the best in football, and the best in women’s sports.
“I am truly inspired by President Nikki Fargas. She has a proven track record of success. She is an incredible leader, and I look forward to helping her and the team build an exciting franchise in what is becoming the best sports town in the country!”
Azzi led the Stanford Cardinal to the NCAA Championship in 1990 where she was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. The Oak Ridge, Tennessee native was also named the NCAA Player of the Year as a senior, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
After a four-year career playing overseas, the 5-8 guard returned home as one of the founding members of the American Basketball League. A three-time all-star, she played for the San Jose Lasers from 1996 to 1999.
After the ABL folded in 1999, Azzi was drafted by the WNBA’s Detroit Shock in the first round (5th overall) of the 1999 WNBA draft. During her four years in the league, she played for the Shock (1999), Utah Starzz (2000-02) and the San Antonio Silver Stars (2003).
Each season, the guard led her respective teams in minutes played. In 2000, she led the league in free-throw percentage, shooting .930 from the line, and set the league all-time single season record for three-point field goal percentage, connecting on 51.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Azzi is still the WNBA’s career leader in three-point field goal percentage after making 45.8 percent of her shots from distance over her five-year career.
In 1996, Azzi helped the US Women’s National Team to the gold medal in the Atlanta Olympics, and in 2009, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
From 2010-16, Azzi served as the head coach of the University of San Francisco Women’s Basketball Team, leading the Dons to back-to-back postseason appearances in her final two years. Her 2015-16 squad went 21-12, and earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1997.
Azzi stepped down as San Francisco’s head coach in 2016 and shortly thereafter became an associate vice president of development for the university. She has also served as a spokesperson and ambassador for Jr. NBA since 2016.
Over the past several years she has also worked as a global director for the NBA Academy, and as an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area’s coverage of the Golden State Warriors.
NBA Academy is the NBA’s international elite development initiative that consists of a network of elite basketball training centers around the world to develop top international male and female prospects. NBA Academies include educational development for the prospects and mark the NBA’s most significant investment in elite player development.
In October of 2021, Azzi became a member of the USA Basketball board of directors. USAB is the national governing body for basketball in the United States, responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA national teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored international competitions, as well as for some national competitions and for the development of youth basketball.
“I am thrilled to join the Las Vegas Aces organization and build on the momentum already created by Owner Mark Davis and President Nikki Fargas,” said Hardiek “Their innovative leadership style is extraordinary, and I was immediately drawn to the people-first approach, which permeates every aspect of operations.
“I look forward to helping build a brand that sets the gold standard for success on the court and in the community. Las Vegas is an ideal sports town as evidenced by the overwhelming support for both the Raiders and the Aces. The fans have a lot to look forward to in the years to come!”
Hardiek helped launch the NBA Academy Women’s Program five years ago as global director, and then elite player pathways lead.
NBA Academy is the NBA’s international elite development initiative that consists of a network of elite basketball training centers around the world to develop top international male and female prospects. NBA Academies include educational development for the prospects and mark the NBA’s most significant investment in elite player development. From 2017-2021 Hardiek partnered with NBA leadership to open academies in Australia, China, India, Mexico and Senegal.
Since 2007, Hardiek has also served as the president and CEO of Azzi Academy providing year-round basketball programming to youth in the Bay Area with an emphasis on leadership, life skills, and success on/off the court.
From 2010-16, the University of Missouri-Columbia graduate was the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of San Francisco Women’s Basketball Team helping USF win its first WCC Championship and NCAA appearance in more than 20 years. She also served one season as the associate head coach at San Francisco State University.
As a sports analyst for the Golden State Warriors, Hardiek hosted the Warriors 30-minunte postgame show from 2019-21 for NBC Sports Bay Area.