The Aces are in the process of updating their record book, and will post these updates on LasVegasAces.com throughout the offseason.
Today, we take a look at the franchise’s top head coaches though the lens of former Starzz/Silver Stars Head Coach Candi Harvey.
The Las Vegas Aces trace their lineage through San Antonio and Utah, all the way back to the WNBA’s inaugural season of 1997. During that time, 10 head coaches have taken the helm, and the most successful, at least by winning percentage, is current head coach Bill Laimbeer.
In fact, he is one of just two head coaches in franchise history to boast a winning record. It was Laimbeer’s 18-4 (.818) mark in 2020 that allowed him to wrest the top spot on the Aces’ winning percentage charts from Candi Harvey.
Harvey coached for parts of five seasons with the franchise, joining the Utah Starzz as an assistant during the 1999 campaign. Fred Williams had recently been promoted to head coach following Frank Layden’s resignation just four games into the year.
Expectations in Utah were high prior to the season following the drafting of 1998 ABL Most Valuable Player Natalie Williams, two-time ABL All-Star Adrienne Goodson, and 1997 ABL Defensive Player of the Year Debbie Black.
The Starzz split their first four games prior to Layden’s resignation, and finished with a 15-17 overall mark in Harvey’s first season as an assistant. In 2000, Williams and Harvey led Utah to its first-ever winning record at 18-14, but the team’s playoff drought extended to four years as they finished fifth in a tightly contested Western Conference.
In 2001, the team stumbled out of the gate to a 5-8 mark, and Williams stepped down. Harvey took over the reins and immediately turned the Starzz around, closing with a 14-5 flourish, and reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The Sacramento Monarchs swept Utah in their Western Conference Semifinals meeting, but the future looked bright for the Starzz.
In her first full season as head coach, Harvey led Utah to a team-record 20-12 mark, this time advancing to the Western Conference Finals before falling to the eventual champion Los Angeles Sparks.
Following the most successful season in franchise history, the Starzz were sold to Spurs Sports & Entertainment, which also owned the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Harvey was hired as the newly-named San Antonio Silver Stars head coach, but was unable to recapture the magic of the previous two seasons.
The biggest change in 2003 was the absence of Natalie Williams, traded to the Indiana Fever just prior to the start of training camp. In addition, Jen Azzi and Adrienne Goodson began to show their age, and the team’s bench was relatively non-existent.
All of this led to an offensive collapse, which saw the team’s field goal percentage drop from 44.1% in 2002 to 38.3% in 2003. The drop was equally as pronounced from three-point range (36.0% to 29.5%).
On July 26, 2003, with the Silver Stars floundering at 6-16, San Antonio fired Harvey.
Her final record as head coach of the team was 40-33. Those 40 wins are still the third most in franchise history, and her .548 winning percentage is the 18th best in WNBA history.
The Silver Stars would not return to the playoffs until 2007, three head coaches later.
Harvey would never coach in the WNBA again. After one season as an assistant coach with the Dallas Fury of the NWBL, she returned to her high school roots with successful stints at Mansfield Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas, and John B Connally High School in Austin.