Noelle Quinn made sure to end the final practice before coaching her first WNBA playoff game on a high note.
So, the Storm put the finishing touches on its Phoenix Mercury game plan at the start of Saturday’s workout and wrapped up preparations with a lighthearted shooting drill that included its 36-year-old coach.
“From time to time, I will get out there depending on how I feel and what we’re doing,” said Quinn, a former 12-year WNBA veteran who retired in 2018. “Today I felt good. … I don’t work out every day, so I’ll start huffing and puffing a little bit. But it’s hoop and I love it, so when I can, I get out there.”
The sight of Quinn bouncing around the court with players, draining jumpers, bobbing her head and clapping to Mary J. Blige’s ‘Real Love’ seemingly offset the dour announcement of Storm star Breanna Stewart officially being ruled out for Sunday’s noon second-round, single-elimination matchup between No. 4 seed Seattle and the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury at Angel of the Winds Arena.
After a week of will-she or won’t-she-play speculation, the Storm publicly acknowledged what many on the team had known for a while: Seattle will play its biggest game of the season without its MVP candidate.
“That was the biggest thing obviously not knowing her status,” Quinn said. “Two things have happened recently. One, we played without her. And two, we practiced without her. We understand and players know the roles they have to step up into. And now people are a little bit more comfortable … and understanding that you can still find success with energy and effort even though our best player is not on the floor.”
Since taking over as head coach on May 30 after Dan Hughes abruptly retired, Quinn has posted a 16-10 record, not including a 79-57 win over the Connecticut Sun for the WNBA’s inaugural Commissioner’s Cup championship.
Admittedly, Quinn is still getting acclimated to the duties of a WNBA coach, particularly the media responsibilities.
And Quinn is forthcoming about her apprehensions on facing Phoenix’s Sandy Brondello who coached 292 regular-season games and posted a 19-16 playoffs record.
“I know Sandy, I know how detailed oriented she is and I know that she’s going to have that team prepared,” said Quinn who played two seasons (2015 and ’16) with the Mercury under Brondello. “I get butterflies thinking about it. Yes, I am a first-year head coach. And yes, this is my first (WNBA) playoff game, but there’s always a first for everybody.
“The one thing I know is I have to be true to myself. And I have to be true to my team. I’ll rock with these women any day.”
And maybe that explains why Quinn was on practice court dripping in sweat and running through layup lines with the Storm a little less than 24 hours before coaching her first WNBA playoff game.