Amidst a shaky start to the season, the Phoenix Mercury shook up the coaching staff on Friday, naming two former Sun Devils to lead the team. Nikki Blue was promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach and Charli Turner Thorne’s coaching career will continue as an assistant to the team.
A standout guard while at UCLA, Blue was chosen in the second round of the 2006 WNBA draft by the Washington Mystics following her senior year. Blue had a four year career in the WNBA before playing two years internationally then entering into the coaching realm.
Blue was an assistant coach at UNLV for six years (2008-14), an assistant at Cal State Bakersfield for three (2014-17) and an assistant at GCU for two (2017-19) before arriving at Arizona State.
While at Arizona State from 2019 to 2022, Blue took over many of the recruiting duties for the program and was seen as a mentor to the young student-athletes, especially being a former WNBA player. In late March of 2022, Blue was hired as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Mercury.
As for Turner Thorne, the legendary coach picks up her fifth gig in the coaching world as Arizona State’s winningest women’s basketball coach in program history adds another stop in her coaching resume — this time at the professional level.
An Arizona Women’s Basketball icon is taking a seat on our bench.— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) June 30, 2023
Legendary @SunDevilWBB Coach Charli Turner Thorne joins the Phoenix Mercury as an Assistant Coach on Nikki Blue’s staff! pic.twitter.com/QOxBqqZYrI
After playing for four years at Stanford, Turner Thorne graduated and became a graduate assistant coach for the University of Washington from 1988 to 1990. Upon graduating with a Master’s in education from UW, Turner Thorne took the assistant coach job for Santa Clara for two years before landing her first head coaching job at Northern Arizona University.
During her time at NAU, Turner Thorne turned around a struggling program tremendously, producing back to back winning seasons in 1994-95 and 1995-96 for the Lumberjacks, the first time this had been done in school history.
ASU took notice and hired Turner Thorne in 1996 where the Sun Devil legend began the most successful 25 season stretch in ASU women’s basketball program history.
Turner Thorne’s 488 career wins are the most by an ASU women’s basketball coach in program history and second all-time in the conference. Turner Thorne is a two-time winner of the Pac-10/12 Conference Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2016.
The Sun Devils qualified for the NCAA tournament 14 times under Turner Thorne, including seven out of the last eight years excluding 2020. ASU won three Pac-12 titles and appeared in the elite eight twice during Turner Thorne’s tenure.
Turner Thorne also won two gold medals, one in 2007 while being an assistant coach and another in 2009 as head coach for USA Basketball.
The two phenomenal coaches were reunited once again in the valley, hoping to turn around the Phoenix Mercury season.