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Aces coach, executive named finalists for Basketball Hall of Fame

Aces coach Becky Hammon and chief business development officer Jennifer Azzi were named finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2023 on Friday.

Also among the 12 Hall of Fame finalists are NBA greats Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol and coach Gregg Popovich. The inductees will be announced April 1 during the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in Houston.

Hammon, an undrafted guard out of Colorado State, played 16 seasons in the WNBA. She spent the first eight seasons of her career with the New York Liberty before finishing her career with the San Antonio Stars, the predecessor of the Aces.

Hammon was a six-time All-Star and a two-time first-team all-WNBA selection. Her No. 25 jersey was retired by the Stars and hangs in the rafters at Michelob Ultra Arena.

During her first season as the Aces’ coach, Hammon guided the team to its first WNBA championship, becoming the first coach in league history to win the title in her debut campaign.

Azzi, who was hired by the Aces in December 2021, was a standout point guard at Stanford. She led the Cardinal to the 1990 NCAA title, the first in program history and the first for legendary coach Tara VanDerveer. Azzi was named the most outstanding player of the tournament. She also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Azzi played in the American Basketball League from 1996-99 until it collapsed. She was then drafted into the WNBA by the Detroit Shock, who traded Azzi to the Utah Starzz in 2000, where she was teammates with Aces general manager Natalie Williams.

Azzi is still the WNBA’s 3-point field goal percentage leader, shooting 45.8 percent for her career.

Rounding out the finalists are Gene Bess, believed to be the all-time collegiate coaching wins leader with 1,300 to his credit; two-time Division III national champion David Hixon; seven-time Big Ten coach of the year Gene Keady; and longtime women’s college coaches Gary Blair and Marian Washington.

The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 12 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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