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Aces introduce former LSU coach as team president

Nikki Fargas is just starting her new job as Aces president. But she already knows what she’s going to miss about her old one.

“The players,” she said.

Fargas was formally introduced as the franchise’s new president Tuesday by owner Mark Davis at Allegiant Stadium. The 48-year-old had coached Louisiana State’s women’s basketball team since 2011 and replaces Bill Laimbeer, who had served three years as president while also coaching the Aces.

Davis also announced that up to 2,000 fans will be allowed to attend home games this season. That total essentially comprises the team’s season ticket holders, and they’ll be refunded their payments this season and welcomed to Michelob Ultra Arena free of charge. Parking at Mandalay Bay will also be free on game days, Davis said.

“We’re going to honor (season ticket holders) for their support in the past,” said Davis, who purchased the franchise in February from MGM Resorts International.

Davis said that Laimbeer communicated that he no longer wanted to juggle presidential and coaching duties and opted to focus on coaching the team this season. With that in mind, Davis sought to hire a president who could “help bring this organization into the future.”

Laimbeer connected Davis to a pair of consultants who’d worked several years in the WNBA, and they identified Fargas as a candidate for the impending presidential vacancy. Davis flew to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to meet Fargas over lunch.

“She checked all the boxes,” Davis said.

Fargas played under the legendary Pat Summit from 1990 to 1994 and began her coaching career under Summit in 1998. She was an assistant at Virginia from 1999 to 2002 before returning to Tennessee until 2008.

She was UCLA’s coach from 2008 to 2011 before departing for LSU, where she helped the Tigers reach the NCAA Tournament six times during her 10-year tenure.

Fargas said the most difficult part about leaving college coaching was parting ways with the players she invested so much in throughout the course of her coaching career. She also said working for the Aces in the WNBA provides her with a “bigger platform to do that.”

“You have some of the best players in the world playing for the Las Vegas Aces,” said Fargas, whose husband, Justin, played running back for the Raiders from 2003 to 2009. “When you’re able to create a strategic plan on how to brand them and how to tell their stories … and we’ve got some great stories to be told right here on our roster, that appealed to me.

Having Laimbeer as coach also appealed to her. “His steady leadership and steady hand, he knows how to win. And he’s done it time and time again at different programs and different organizations. I feel like he’s going to be able to to do it here.”

Fargas didn’t reveal any specifics about her plans for the franchise, but was effusive about its potential in Las Vegas.

The Aces open Saturday against the Seattle Storm.

“We want to fill that arena. Obviously, we have COVID restrictions, but once we get to that point, you’re going to see some world-class athletes on that floor playing the game at its purest level,” she said.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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