There were plenty of differences from the first time Karen Bryant stepped on the KeyArena court for a pregame ceremony to her last appearance in an official Storm capacity on Thursday.
One constant was the appreciation and warmth from those in attendance for Bryant’s part in creating a women’s professional basketball legacy in Seattle. Bryant, the Storm’s first employee when the city was granted a WNBA team in 1999, is retiring as the franchise’s CEO and president.
“I never would have found my way to the WNBA had it not been for you and (owners) Force 10 Hoops,” said fourth-year WNBA president Laurel Richie, who was spotted by Bryant while speaking at a banquet in Seattle.
Bryant addressed the crowd, ownership group and players during a pregame ceremony before Seattle faced Indiana at KeyArena. Bryant’s words conjured a range of emotions similar to the Storm’s first game in June 2000.
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And like then, Seattle mistakes led to a loss — 76-67 to Indiana before 6,179 fans.
When Bryant first introduced the Storm to Seattle in 2000, there were 10,840 fans at KeyArena. The electric night was only dampened by a 77-47 loss to Houston.
“We would have liked to get a win for this special night,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “But I don’t think anybody 10 years from now is going to think back on (Karen’s) tenure here and say we lost the last game she worked here. Her legacy is much stronger and longer and impactful than that.”
The Storm also acknowledged Lin Dunn, who’s retiring from coaching as the leader of Indiana and began her WNBA career as the coach/general manager of the Storm. Dunn is credited for drafting franchise icons Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird.
Dunn was walked to the KeyArena sideline for the final time in her career while flanked by former players Charmin Smith, Jamie Redd, Kate Starbird, and Simone Edwards. Dunn closed her storied history in the building with a win, handing Seattle its seventh consecutive loss.
“We don’t close games out,” Storm point guard Sue Bird said of what went wrong. “There have been games where we’ve had a lead and games where we come back. Whatever the case is, we can’t get it done to get wins.”
Seattle led 52-51 at the end of the third quarter. It looked to be able to close out a win after starting the final quarter on a three-pointer by forward Shekinna Stricklen.
But Fever guard Layshia Clarendon and forward Marissa Coleman worked together to keep the score close. All-star Tamika Catchings scored 14 of her 16 points after the break.
Catchings’ final two points, on a pair of free throws, moved her into third on the WNBA list of all-time scorers. Catchings (6,454 points) passed former Storm guard Katie Smith (6,452).
Stricklen led Seattle (9-20) with a season-high 20 points. She was the only Seattle player to reach double figures.