Those who know Noelle Quinn will tell you all about the soft-spoken former UCLA basketball star who garnered a reputation for her meticulous preparation during her 12-year professional playing career.
So it’s not surprising Monday during an introductory news conference as Storm coach, Quinn was “more than ready” to quote Sue Bird, when asked about what it means to become the 19th Black woman to coach in the WNBA.
“You talk about Pokey Chatman, Teresa Edwards, Jennifer Gillom, Carolyn Jenkins, Vickie Johnson, Trudi Lacey, Cynthia Cooper, Cheryl Miller, Carolyn Peck, Julie Rousseau, Amber Stocks, Karleen Thompson, Shell Dailey, Jessie Kenlaw, Cathy Parson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Denise Taylor and Penny Toler,” Quinn said. “They crawled, so I can walk. I sit on those shoulders.
“For me, it’s important that I’m not just a woman. I’m a Black woman. I sit with that every day. Sometimes that can be a negative. A double negative for me, to be a woman and to be Black. But I’m empowered in that. There’s value in that. My experience is in that. It shapes me. It has molded me. And that is who I am. I am super honored to hold this.
“I didn’t even realize this. I’m still getting my mind around the process because it’s been expedited in a way. I don’t do things for a title. I don’t do things for clout. I just do things to help others. I do things to have impact. For me to be the first of something, that’s amazing and that touches me.
“But I’m not moved by a title. I’m not moved by money. I’m not moved by championships. I love to win. But what moves me is my impact and I know that I have impacted somebody. I hold that dear to my heart. Everyday I will move in a way that honors that and honors these ladies’ legacy that have paved the way for me to be here.”
After Dan Hughes’ sudden and surprising resignation Sunday, the Storm hired Quinn, who became the franchise’s seventh coach and its first Black coach.
The historic achievement nearly moved Quinn to tears during the Zoom call Monday when the 36-year-old rattled off a long list of supporters from her childhood in Los Angeles to a journeyman’s career in the WNBA that included stints with five different teams.
“I go back to my first little league coaches, Jerry Chambers – he was a NBA player – and Robert Ambers was my first coach,” Quinn said. “Going into my high school years (it was) Lisa Cooper. My principal Miss (Rosemary) Libbon, she gave me the opportunity to come back and coach at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance (Calif.). I could go to UCLA (where) Ann Meyers always empowering me (and) my coach Pam Walker.
“I played for Don Zierden. I played for Michael Cooper. I played for Sandi Brondello. I played for Jennifer Gillom. I played for Brian Agler. I played for Trudi Lacey. … I played for Pokey Chatman. I played for all of these wonderful coaches. I played with and alongside Tina Thompson. One of my good friends today, I played alongside Lisa Leslie. I played alongside Lauren Jackson. The list goes on. Diana Taurasi. Everybody at every stop has impacted me in a way.”
Quinn thanked the Storm’s ownership group comprised of Ginny Gilder, Dawn Truedeau and Lisa Brummel. She also expressed gratitude toward Storm CEO Alisha Valavanis and general manager Talisa Rhea.
“This happened very quickly,” Quinn said. “Just super honored and appreciative that I have the support from the team and from the organization. They see something within me. I’m entrusted to lead this team. It doesn’t go unseen that they are instilling this confidence within me.”
And Quinn gave a special, heartfelt shout-out to a special superhero, her mother Golden Quinn.
“The first call was to my mom,” Quinn said. “My mom was a superwoman to me. She just expressed how proud she was of me as well.”
Admittedly, Quinn is surprised at her rapid and seemingly uncanny ascent from Storm assistant in 2019 to associate head coach in 2020 to head coach in 2021.
“Today was interesting,” she said. “There was this moment and it was very surreal to me where I’m like ‘Is this happening?’ Sometimes it’s like, ‘Am I dreaming and is this real?’ And that’s just because I don’t really set out to be a head coach of a team. It’s very much what people see within me. I’m super proud.”
In many ways, Quinn stumbled upon a winning lottery ticket considering she’s inherited a WNBA defending championship team that returns three All-Star starters. The Storm leads the league at 5-1 heading into the 7:30 p.m. home game Tuesday against Indiana (1-7).
“No pressure at all,” Quinn said, smiling.
Still, the rookie head coach will need to navigate through a potential land mine of internal conflicts that threaten to blow up the Storm’s bid for a second consecutive title.
Last week, seven-time All-Star Candice Dupree expressed discontent with a limited role coming off the bench.
Quinn will need to re-integrate newcomer Katie Lou Samuelson into a crowded front-line rotation. Samuelson started the first two games of the season before missing the past four contests while earning a 3×3 Olympic qualifying berth with Team USA.
And perhaps most importantly, Quinn will need to repair a fractured Storm defense that ranks 10th in the 12-team league in points allowed.
“The spirit of what we need to get back to is enjoying what we’re doing and having fun within that,” Quinn said. “I think that’s first and foremost for us. Basketball is what we do, it’s not who we are. Our joy comes from within honestly and nobody can take that away from us. We are at our best when we’re having fun. Those who know me, I’m quiet. But at the same time when I have something to say, it’s important that people listen.
“My leadership isn’t going to be loud and boisterous. It’s going to be sharp. It’s going to be dominant. And it’s going to be necessary. I will be a servant leader. I played in this league for a long time. I played for great coaches. I played alongside some great players and I understand what type of coaches players like. I’m here to serve. I’ll get out of the way.”
Quinn is the WNBA’s second current Black female head coach joining Dallas’ Vicki Johnson. There are also two Black male head coaches.
“It’s a step that’s been needed and a step that will probably open more doors for more women, for more former players and for people of color,” Bird said. “Noey embodies all of that. What she also embodies is a player who had a long successful career who by nature of experience just has a ton of knowledge under her belt. … The things that Noey has and a lot of former players have, you just can’t teach.”
Quinn also becomes just the third former WNBA player who is currently coaching in the league. Bird said she believes more players will fill coaching jobs in the future.
“What we’re starting to see now is the WNBA was almost too young 15 years ago to have these players with these long successful careers where they played in the WNBA, they played for multiple coaches, they played overseas and maybe they had national team experiences,” Bird said. “With that is a ball of knowledge and a wealth of experience. Now we’re finally starting to see those players become assistant coaches and become head coaches. That’s the path that we’ve all been waiting for and for someone to forge that path.
“And now we’re starting to see it. And Noey is just another example of that. I think it’s amazing. I think we’ll see more of it and I have zero doubt about that.”
Noelle Quinn file
Hometown: Los Angeles
Born: Jan. 3, 1985 (age 36)
College: UCLA (2003-07)
WNBA draft: Selected No. 4 overall in 2007 by Minnesota
WNBA career: 12 seasons. Minnesota (2007-08), Los Angeles (2009-11), Washington (2012), Seattle (2013-14), Phoenix (2015-16), Seattle (2016-18). Started 154 of 382 games. Retired February 2019.
WNBA career averages: 4.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
WNBA coaching career: Hired as Storm assistant in 2019. Promoted to associate head coach in 2020. After Dan Hughes retirement, named head coach Sunday.
Overseas: From 2008-16, Quinn played professionally in Lithuania, Russia, Turkey, France, the Czech Republic and Italy.
Did you know: Quinn became a naturalized Bulgarian citizen in 2007 and played with the Bulgarian women’s national basketball team.
Fun fact: In 2016, Quinn took over the head-coaching duties of the girls’ basketball team at her alma mater Bishop Montgomery High and won a state championship in her first season.
Trivia: Quinn was the first UCLA men’s or women’s basketball player to total 1,700 points, 700 rebounds and 400 assists in her career.
Noelle Quinn becomes the first Black coach to lead the Storm. She also joins a club of 19 Black women to coach in the WNBA. There have been 86 coaches in league history. Here’s a look.
Name Years W-L
Pokey Chatman 2011-16, 2016-19 134-172
Cheryl Miller 1997-20 70-52
Carolyn Peck 1999-01 44-52
Trudi Lacey 2003-05, 2011-12 48-112
Karleen Thompson 2004, 2007-08 41-41
Jennifer Gillom 2009-11 31-47
Vickie Johnson 2017, 2021-present 9-30
Amber Stocks 2017-18 25-43
Cynthia Cooper 2001-02 19-23
Julie Rousseau 1997-98 17-20
Denise Taylor 1997-98 13-34
Shell Dailey 2003, ’04 9-11
Penny Toler 2014 6-6
Teresa Edwards 2011 2-21
Jessie Kenlaw 2008 2-10
Carolyn Jenkins 2006 2-9
Cathy Parson 1998 1-11
Taj McWilliams-Franklin 2018 1-2
Next in line
Here’s a look at the Storm’s head coaches through the years.
Name Years Record Pct. Record
Linn Dunn 2000-02 33.63 .343 0-2
Anne Donovan 2003-07 93-77 .547 8-8*
Brian Agler 2008-14 136-102 .571 11-10*
Jenny Boucek 2015-17 36-58 .383 0-1
Gary Kloppenburg 2017, ’20 23-7 .767 6-1*
Dan Hughes 2018-21 49-25 .662 7-3*
Noelle Quinn 2021-pres 0-0 — —
*Won a WNBA championship