Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of she got an axe with me pepper personally, I am honored to be here with women's basketball legend, Jennifer, AZ. She was a legend at Stanford in the ABL a WNBA, and is now working for the aces. Hi, Jennifer, I'm so excited to have you.
It's great to be here. Thank you.
It's such an honor to be able to talk to you. I've been looking forward to this ever since Jake and I were able to get this set up.
Oh, sweet. I like your sweatshirt.
Thank you. I wore it just for you. I was hoping you'd see it. I actually wore this hoodie for Erica McCall who I interviewed a couple of weeks ago now I think. Okay. Yes, this is like my hoodie. First day for Stanford alums?
Very good. What I like it a lot. I like your background there, too.
Thank you. I have a lot of stuff going on, but has meaning.
Very good. How did you get into all this?
Um, yeah, it's actually kind of a crazy story. And thank you for asking. Um, I, when I was 606, I did my first interview of sugar Rogers, um, I'm sure you know this word. Um, so that was just an incredible experience for me, because I always been like, somebody who was interested in sports played sports, like always. So I being able to interview somebody who was living my dream, because my dream is to play in the WNBA. That was just incredible for me that that experience kind of paved the way for me to be able to be here and continue to want to do interviews. That was that interview was it for a stretch, but then I found out that not a lot of people were watching the WNBA, which was very frustrating to me since that was, the league is very important to me. So I interviewed people have actually interviewed Andrew Rossi, which, when I found out I was like, starstruck, jaw dropped for like, a good five minutes was, yeah, among other people, I was able to do that to try to highlight my league, the league in my way. So that was awesome. And then, when I was eight, I was bullied. And I wanted to make sure it didn't happen to anybody else. So I was able to interview players from the mistakes, the Liberty and actually some from the US Women's National Soccer Team, which was amazing. Put that together that's on my Instagram. So yeah, and then during quarantine, I, it was really important to me to try to bring a smile to people's faces, because it was really tough. Very hard. Yeah. And that was just something that I was like, Wait, this is hard for me, it must be hard for other people. And what if I can talk to people and bring a smile to people's faces. So that was something that was really important to me to do. And I was able to do that. And a lot of people have seen something in me, including Jayegi, who has actually been really amazing to us. Great. Yeah. But he and in the WNBA, amongst other people, he's been always there. And whenever I needed something, so I'm just really grateful that WNBA and women's sports in general has been really amazing to me and given me so much opportunities, and they've been so supportive. So I feel very fortunate to have had that journey. And so many people who had wanted to, you know, give me a chance.
Yeah, well, that's great. I mean, you obviously do a great job. What grade are you in?
I'm in fifth grade.
Okay, so you were you like doing home zooms, schooling and everything. Last year?
Yeah. So for like the first couple of months of school or so we were on Zoom, which is, it's different. And, and for for spring semester, when I was in third grade, we were doing that in the beginning of fourth grade, then we were actually in person five days a week for pretty much my whole fourth grade school year, which was unlike a lot of kids, I know. But it was just crazy. Like everybody was masking there was like so many things were different. Like we couldn't hug each other. Like we couldn't like talk without our masks off. And it was it was definitely different. But I think all my classmates and I were just so glad to be able to be there in person because although it's amazing that we were able to figure out a way for like to be able to do stuff in school on Zoom. It's definitely not the same as being you
know, you missed the, you know, the best way someone described it to me is you can learn this way and you can interact so but it's missing soul, right? It's like you need the spirit and the soul of people and you don't get that on the screen. Right? You get that when you're in person with them. So I'm kind of glad my son really only missed a couple of months, but he's super young. So you know, he's, he's, hopefully one day he'll forget about it, you know, but anyway, you guys are resilient and that's the most important thing.
It's crazy that some babies were born in the pandemic. And all they know is people with masks. I know. Yeah. Probably think if humans don't really have faces.
Definitely. Yeah, we have a an almost two year old and she puts on our son's mask, he's almost five. And she just puts it on like, she's supposed to wear it. We've never, like made her wear one, but she wants to be like everybody else. So like, she just puts it on and says mask mask and like, Oh, God, this is crazy. You know?
Wow, that's cool. But also kind of, but yeah. Wow. It's crazy how the pandemic has changed things for like, almost everybody.
has that affected your job, really.
Um, you know, I just started with the ACES about three weeks ago. So I, the previously, I was working at the University of San Francisco. So I was there for 11 years. I coached for six. And then after we won the WCC championship, you know, kind of decided to shift my energies a little bit. My wife Blair, and I got hired on to help start the women's MBA international academies. And it was great work. And then I got kind of called back to the university to help in development. So then I became an associate vice president development have been doing development and have been doing that the last few years. So then came to Vegas on a, you know, just a trip where Mark Davis, who's the owner of the Raiders now owns the aces, wanted to have an alumni, sort of, you know, reunion, like they do with the Raiders, and really invest in the women that kind of paved the way because last year was the 25th anniversary of the WNBA. So then I really hit it off with, you know, with Mark with the owner. And then also with Nicki Fargas, the current president of the aces, she and I go way back, we actually went to the same high school, so small town in East Tennessee, and you know, I followed her career. And so it's it's just a real honor to be here and Bill to work with, you know, a leader like Mark who's obviously his family, his dad, he's done an incredible job with the raiders and not have been investing in the women is, you know, setting us up for, you know, some some incredible years ahead of great success both on the court and off the court.
Yeah, that's crazy that you was I suppose, Nick, I don't? Yeah. Awesome. Is that Yeah. Yeah. And also, the funny thing about Zoom is that like, it's annoying sometimes. But like, for me, it's been like a really big opportunity. Because most if not all, my interviews have basically been on Zoom like this. Yeah, it's kind of crazy.
Well, and I think too, like, this is here to stay, right. It's like this is, to me, this is the best of sort of the zoom or the virtual world where we, you and I can do this. But if you were in town, we could go to a game together, right? So you can have, you can have still have the personal interactions, but you have access to people that you might not otherwise have access to in general, not not us specifically, but just you can connect in ways that might be a lot harder. Otherwise.
Yeah. Oh, and, um, we're actually planning to head to Vegas this summer. So and definitely come out to games. So I hope to meet you in person and Nikki. So that would be awesome. Because I've had her on the podcast, too. Okay, so you both of you. Yeah.
Great. Yeah. So she's awesome. I mean, she's a, an amazing leader. She is. So she's brilliant. And but yet, she's got a great moral compass. She leads with her heart, her spirit, and, you know, so it's a pleasure to be here working with her.
Yeah. And she's had quite the journey as well, which is super cool to be able to research and talk. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I was just looking at the list of the people you have in the ACES for an office and you've got quite the staff?
Well, I'll tell you, it's, um, you know, like, attracts like, right. So like, you know, people want to be a part of this, they see good people involved that, you know, are really about the greater good, the greater good of the women's game. And then also seeing that if you have the resources, you can do a whole lot, you can do a whole lot of good and I think that's what is exciting for all of us is, you know, the future, like I said, is really bright. And I think the things that we'll be able to do here are, you know, really groundbreaking, it's new, it's different. There's no other franchise that has a partnership with an NFL team, you know, so and with a rich history like the Raiders, so it's it's different. It's fun, it's exciting.
You talk about the ACES hiring Beckingham and as head coach,
you know, hiring Becky was, I mean is incredible for the WNBA is not just for the last Vegas aces. It's it, it raises the profile of the league. And, you know, it's it's so interesting, because when she was coaching in the NBA, you know, then she's hearing Oh, you're coaching men. How's that, and then you have players like Dishon players that she's coach saying, she's just a coach, and she knows what she's doing. She's a great coach. Gender doesn't matter. And now, you know, she's in the coming to the WNBA. And then she's, you know, hey, now she's coaching women. And what's that going to be? It's like, at the end of the day, none of it matters. She's a great coach, and she is the ideal coach, to coach here and coach the aces. So hopefully as time moves on, will be less gender focused in as it relates to coaching, but it's just great to see that the best coaches are wanting to coach in the WNBA.
Yeah, I was in the press conference, when, after you the ACES hired her. And somebody asked a question about how like, what it would mean to her to be back to be back in the WNBA. And she'd be able to coach women and she was like, Well, I'm just happy to be able to coach and I think that's kind of like what you just touched on there.
Alright, so just tell me about your time playing at Stanford playing for Tara VanDerveer, winning that national championship?
Oh, wow. Um, it was amazing. And And what was great about it, you know, it's a little bit like being here right now, being a part of something special. That's building that is attracting the right people. And you know, when I was at Stanford, I was part of tarz first recruiting class. And I think the year before we got there, you know, the team had single digit wins. And then, you know, three years later, we won a national championship because we had the right people joining, and we were on a mission to win a national championship. And we knew the work that it would take, and we lived in the gym. People always say, Well, what, you know, what did you give up? What did you sacrifice? I'm like, I didn't sacrifice anything. Because I wanted to be in the gym. I wanted to win a national championship. And then, you know, having, I think the most intelligent, brilliant coach in the game coaching us, you know, it was like, it was like the perfect storm, the perfect fit to win a national championship.
Yeah, and you really paved the way for the Stanford we know, now that we're all watching, possibly repeat this season?
That would be great. I mean, you know, there was a little drought there between, what, 30 years between national championships, but I think what people miss in that is that, you know, Tara has been successful. She's been, you know, you probably have the stats better than I do. But you know, she's been at more Final Fours than not. And, you know, she's been in the top 25, I think the entire time that she's been at Stanford, and that's just remarkable. There isn't a coach out there that really has that same track record.
Yeah. So I know a lot about the WNBA, but not so much about the ABL. So I wanted to get your thoughts on playing for the San Jose lasers and the legacy of the ABL.
Well, you know, the ABL was the, you know, in my opinion, when it started, it was the right way to do it. It was you know, the season was during the traditional basketball season. And, you know, the salaries were high enough so that we didn't have to go overseas and play. So it was very much a partnership between the players. And the owners. In fact, the one of the major owners was Joe Laker, who now is the Warriors owner. So he had a big investment in the women's game. And I think the ABL really helped kind of push the WNBA. And so once you know, the ABL folded, which was, you know, I think difficult for a lot of us. The beauty of it is that then we were all together in the WNBA. So then you had all the talent in one place. And you know, here we are 25 years later, in an incredible League, with all the best talent. Now, I wish the players still didn't have to go overseas. I wish that, you know, this was a year round kind of thing. And hopefully with owners like Mark Davis, here in Las Vegas, and you know, other other owners, other franchises, kind of feeling that, you know, we'd like to create opportunities that keep the best athletes here all year.
Yeah, I will look forward to that very day. Hopefully, I'll either be playing in the league or covering it at that time. But that would be incredible to see that happen, then I'm 10. So I wonder if you can explain to me what exactly do as a Chief Business Development Officer.
Well, I think what's fun about being here in particular, and working with a president like Nicky, Matt Delson, our CTO, CFO and wonderful, brilliant minds, and creative people, and it's, you know, you kind of you play to your strengths. So I think, you know, one of my strengths is relationship building, so I'm able to then go, you know, to go out and leverage relationships I've either built through my career, or that I'm, you know, going to be building in the future, all for the benefit of the aces. And so, you know, in terms of business development, you know, it plays a part in that we, you know, are getting very involved in the community, that's a part of our of our development and, you know, helping to create partnerships, both, you know, on the corporate side in the community. But again, it's a great organization, because we all get to work towards our strengths. And then, you know, if you don't know something, you can look around and go, Oh, that person's done that before I can go ask them for help or, you know, it's very, you know, leave your ego at the door. It's very team oriented. And I'm just, you know, three, four weeks in and I'm, I love it, you know, and Mark is that way to Mark Davis and Larry Delson, both with the Raiders, you know, they are very family oriented. And so that creates a really great environment where people are free to create, but people really trust one another. And I think, you know, also working with and for a leader like, Mark, you know, it's it's people first it's people first position second, right? You can you can hire anybody to be a CEO or CEO or president what but if, but fundamentally, this is a people business, and so you have to have like minded people together in order to be successful. Well, our, our offices are kind of under construction right now. So we're actually gearing up within the next year to be in brand new 80,000 square foot training facility offices. Yeah. So it's, it's a lot of great stuff happening in Las Vegas.
That's awesome. You
are excited, very excited.
It must be worth it. Having your office little, little messy for a year, but it'll, it'll be awesome. And maybe I can interview you, or at least see you at some point with your new office, that would be awesome.
I think it would be great. I think you have to come and do a story on the whole new facility. It's going to be amazing.
I would love to do that. That's super exciting. And if you have time, I know we've been chatting for a little bit before, but I also have some questions as to ask you after all right? Yeah, let's go. Alright, so, um, I, it's sometimes it's hard for me to like, slow down the game. Because I'm thinking a lot about a lot of things while I'm playing. So do you have any advice for that?
Um, to just kind of calm your mind. Yeah. You know, I always, I think what got me to more of a calm place where I wasn't worried about the past I just made or, you know, the other team, I know, whose whatever, who's in the building what, who's in the stands, you know, and you can get all these really random thoughts, right? What my coach thinks. If I focused on the moment, just being in the present moment, all that stuff went away. So it's, you know, just focusing on your breathing on running on doing the things that you can control, you can always control your when I coached it's attitude, effort, energy, that's all you can control. And if you focus on what you can control, the mind chatter, it just kind of goes away. And I think it helps you to focus like when we were in the WCC championship, when I was at USF, I heard one of my players interviewed after the championship, and she said, Everything mattered, every loose ball, every rebound, every steel, every defensive possession, everything in that she said it was, it was the most present that she's ever been. And I said, Well, if you can take that mindset, and that, that way of thinking into practice, and take that way of thinking into even playing open gym, playing somebody one on one, if you can be that present, then you're going to win multiple championships, because most people don't do that. So really, so much of success in sports, even someone like Michael Jordan, it was he always talked about being in the present moment. And then if he made a mistake, just moving on, and not being in the past, right, just just staying in the present moment, I think that gets rid of just gets rid of all that stuff. You know, cuz it, I don't know if you've noticed your age, but the negative thoughts come a lot easier than the positive ones. You know, so you have to find a way to just eliminate that and just, you know, continue moving.
The interesting thing is that if you hit it 10 Like, it tends to work out that if you are focusing on your mistakes, and you make more mistakes, because you're not paying attention, you don't know where you are and stuff. So if you just like actually focus in on what you're doing, it becomes a lot easier.
It does. Yeah, it takes practice. I mean, you know, that's where I think just playing a lot of basketball helps just simply like going to the playground, play two on two, three on three, one on one, and just practice playing that way, then that just becomes a part of the way you do things.
It's interesting how, like you hear about the importance of practicing, like your game and your craft. But it's also important to practice your mindset too. So thank you for that advice. Yeah, I also still get a little nervous during games, and I often don't feel comfortable dribbling, my handles pretty good set, like my coach will put me at point guard. But how do I get over that fear?
Well, two ways. One is practice. So feeling like you're 100% prepared. And if you have practiced, then you just go out and do your thing, right? And then you're gonna make mistakes. So no matter how much I mean, Steph Curry still makes mistakes, right? And he practices more than anyone. So the mistakes are going to happen. But as as long as you're prepared, that that's what gives you the confidence. The confidence generally takes away, you know, it takes away that fear. And then another thing too, I think when you're a little bit nervous as you're worried about what people think. So it might be, I don't know, who might make you nervous, Let's hypothetically say it's your mom, or it's your coach, or it's your friends or it's, you know, there's a college Scout watching, you know, who knows what it is. But I think you really have to, to get out of that mindset. And don't worry about what anyone thinks and just have fun. Having fun is is really key, have fun and enjoy playing. And that because the other thing again, it goes back to controlling what you can attitude, effort, energy. That's it. Right. So if you if you can do those things, then I think it takes those nerves away.
Thank you, this is really great advice. I really appreciate it. Well, that's, I believe all the time we have for today. So thank you so much for joining me. And big shout out to the aces and you for finding time in the busy schedule. I know you have to join me today. I want to let everybody know again, you can find me on Instagram at pepper personally and on Twitter at Team personally. But yeah, that's all for today. So thank you so much. All right. And I'm just really grateful for all of your time and the impact you've had on the game that I love the game that it's my dream to have my have a career in so thank you for all you've done for women's basketball.
Great, good luck. I'm sure you're gonna get there.