The Las Vegas Aces have a unique front office structure after owner Mark Davis hired Nikki Williams and Nikki Fargas as his general manager of basketball operations and president of business operations, respectively.
Having two Black female executives in a single front office is a rarity even in the WNBA. Fargas is responsible for “grounding the organization in a time of flux,” while Williams is making sure the Aces maintain a stable and promising on-court future.
“When you have two Black women in executive roles, you always talk about, they will be what they see,” Fargas said per Andscape. “When you think about this game being heavily populated by Black and brown faces, but then there’s not the representation of what the League looks like, and there’s not that representation outside of you just being a player.
“We have to change that narrative.”
two Black women lead the front office of the next WNBA champion – Aces are the only team in the W with that level of representation. a deep dive from @seanahurd for @andscape: https://t.co/37mF7PyWOD
— Jesse Washington (@jessewashington) September 15, 2022
Williams is the second-consecutive Black general manager to lead a WNBA Finals after James Wade, head coach and GM of the Chicago Sky. Over the League’s 26 Finals series, there have only been four instances where consecutive Finals featured at least one team with a Black GM. WNBA legend Penny Toler became the first black GM to win a title after leading the Sparks to three consecutive appearances from 2001-2003, winning back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.
Fred Williams oversaw the Atlanta Dreams’ Finals appearance in 2013 as head coach and GM, with former coach and GM Pokey Chatman following up by leading the Sky to a Finals appearance. Toler made two more consecutive appearances in 2016-2017 with the Sparks. In total, 10 teams made a Finals appearance while being led by a Black general manager.
Cheryl Smith was the pioneer, leading the Phoenix Mercury to the ’98 Finals as head coach and GM. Toler has the most Finals appearances for any Black GM, winning a title three times out of her five Finals appearances. Should the Aces finish their sweep of the Connecticut Sun on Thursday, it’ll be the first time in WNBA history that two different black GMs won championships in consecutive years.
Williams is the only Black female general manager in the 12-team WNBA.
Fargas is the only Black executive to hold the title of team president in the WNBA. The only other Black woman in a similar or higher front office role is Keia Clarke, the CEO of the New York Liberty, and Natalie White, the senior VP of the San Jose Sharks. Fargas is well aware of the lack of diversity in front offices around the WNBA and intends to challenge the status quo around the League.
“You are aware of that,” said Fargas, the only Black head coach in any sport while at LSU. “We kind of have to succeed.”
While Fargas is a champion of diversity from her presidential role, she also believes that the mentality must be adopted around the League, starting with ownership. Fargas gave Davis his flowers for hiring and entrusting her with many of the personnel decisions for the organization.
“I think there are so many qualified people out there that may not look like you or just come from a different background,” Fargas said. “You can find them; it’s just, are you looking for them? I’m always looking, but I also believe that we should have diversity within our organization, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Last fall, the Aces leaned on Fargas to balance the franchise after former coach Bill Laimbeer stepped down and former GM Dan Padover left for a similar position with the Atlanta Dream. Her solution was to hire Hammon as the team’s new head coach and then hire Williams as the Aces’ GM in April. She also hired franchise legend Jennifer Azzi, as a chief business development officer.
Fargas also signed Theresa Plaisance, re-signed Riquna Williams and Kiah Stokes, and re-signed 2022 MVP A’ja Wilson to a two-year contract. Williams then reached an extension deal with Jackie Young, the 2022 Most Improved Player, in May, extended Chelsea Gray, negotiated an extension with Dearica Hambyin June, and re-signed Plum in July.
“We wanted them all coming back. They’re incredible young ladies and amazing athletes,” said Williams, who will soon shift her focus to the 2022 WNBA MVP. “This next year, I’ve got to get A’ja Wilson re-signed.”
The Aces are set to potentially conclude the WNBA Finals with a sweep to clinch their first title in franchise history on Tuesday.