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Mark Davis excited for future, mindful of past after Aces title

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Fifteen minutes before the start of Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, Aces owner Mark Davis wouldn’t speak about a potential championship. He didn’t want to jinx anything.

“We’re about two hours too early to talk about that,” Davis said.

Approximately two hours later, soaked in champagne and basking in the glow of the Aces’ first championship in franchise history after a 78-71 victory over the Connecticut Sun, Davis was happy to comment on the team’s achievement.

“I’m so proud of these women,” he said. “Throughout the year, they’ve gone through ups and downs and in the playoffs, it got pretty tough here. It’s not easy to win on the road. It’s also not easy to win a championship.”

Davis bought the Aces from MGM Resorts in 2021. He believes the championship is vindication for the approach he and the team’s front office have taken since joining the WNBA. He chose to be in Connecticut to potentially witness the Aces win the WNBA title instead of watching the Raiders play the Arizona Cardinals at Allegiant Stadium for their 2022 home opener.

“That’s what our goal was from the very beginning when we bought this team,” Davis said, “to win on and off the court.”

The Aces owner also heaped praise on his leadership team. He was complimentary of the work president Nikki Fargas, general manager Natalie Williams, chief business development officer Jennifer Azzi and coach Becky Hammon have done to help the franchise capture its first title.

The one thing Davis will take credit for is the team’s alumni program. While the Aces have only existed in Las Vegas since 2018, the franchise, then called the Utah Starzz, is one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, and it was important to Davis that the team recognize its entire history.

When Davis bought the team ahead of the 2021 season, he invited several former players back for games. Through the alumni initiative, he met Williams, Azzi and, eventually, Hammon, who all played for the franchise in various cities and at various times.

Davis also said this is just the beginning of his investment in the Aces. He’s been vocal about paying players the wages necessary to prevent them from having to play abroad, and he spent the money necessary to bring Hammon over from the NBA.

The Aces are also building a permanent training facility in Henderson, which is expected to be ready ahead of the 2023 season. He can’t wait to decorate the new space.

“It’s going to have a new banner in it. It’s going to say, ‘World Champion, Las Vegas Aces,’” he said.

Growth of a franchise

Davis has only been a part of the Aces franchise for the past two seasons, but the players who’ve seen the organization grow say the championship is a result of years of dedication and growth.

All-Star guard Kelsey Plum has been with the team since the franchise drafted her No. 1 overall in 2017. She remembers winning eight games early in her career while the team played in San Antonio.

“This doesn’t happen in a year,” Plum said. “This is built over time.”

Unlike Plum, 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson has never played for a franchise outside of Las Vegas. She’s always felt the Aces set the standard for what a WNBA organization should look like and appreciates the team’s trust in her, too.

“The sky is the limit for our franchise,” she said.

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

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