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Storm beats Indiana in Noelle Quinn’s first game as WNBA coach

UPDATED: Tue., June 1, 2021

Noelle Quinn, the new coach of the Seattle Storm, gestures during the team's WNBA basketball game against the Indiana Fever on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Everett, Wash.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
Noelle Quinn, the new coach of the Seattle Storm, gestures during the team's WNBA basketball game against the Indiana Fever on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Everett, Wash. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

EVERETT – Before her Storm coaching debut, Noelle Quinn tried to stick to the same pregame routine she has followed the past three years since retiring as a WNBA player.

On the drive from Seattle to Everett, Quinn called her mom, Golden, like she normally does and tried to downplay the historical significance of the game, which turned into an 88-73 victory over Indiana on Tuesday night .

“Obviously this has been an eventful few days,” said Quinn, who was named coach Sunday after Dan Hughes abruptly retired. “I haven’t really checked my phone, but I’ve talked to some very important people in my life that have encouraged me and supported me.

“Today, I tried to keep it as normal as possible routine-wise.”

The smattering of fans sprinkled throughout the Angel of the Winds Arena showered Quinn with a standing ovation as she stepped on the court for the first time as a WNBA coach, which was another reminder this was not a normal game for the Storm even if the outcome – a fifth straight victory – has become routine lately.

Breanna Stewart finished with a game-high 28 points, six rebounds and three assists to lead the Storm (6-1), which ran away from Indiana in the fourth quarter.

The Fever (1-8) trimmed a 12-point deficit in the second quarter to 43-38 at halftime. Indiana trailed 50-44 when Seattle scored nine straight points to go up 59-44.

The Storm had a 12-point advantage (64-52) early in the fourth quarter and needed one last push after the Fever closed to 64-57 with 7:43 left.

That’s when Jewell Loyd (18 points) buried a three-pointer and Sue Bird (12 points and eight assists) canned a midrange jumper to finish the game on a 24-16 run.

In her first game against her former team, Storm newcomer Candice Dupree finished with eight points on 4-for-8 shooting.

But this game was mostly about Quinn, the Storm’s seventh head coach and first Black head coach.

“I try to compartmentalize in a way that it’s not about me today,” Quinn said during a pregame Zoom interview. “But still I have an opportunity and an obligation to do my job and lead the team. In the back of my mind it is there, but there are bigger things and bigger goals. I say that in a humble way because I understand the magnitude of this. But also, we have some games to be played so that’s going to be my focus.”

For most of the game, the soft-spoken Quinn sat motionless between assistants Gary Kloppenburg and Ryan Webb. Quinn shuffled the lineups and relied on backup point guard Epiphanny Prince at the end.

The Storm responded with one of its best defensive performances of the season while holding the Fever to 39.2% shooting from the field and 4 of 17 from long range.

Seattle sank 11 of 20 three-pointers and outrebounded Indiana 36-35.

“At the end of the day, the ball is the same,” said Quinn, who walked off the court with her arm around Jordin Canada. “It bounces the same. The preparation is the same. I’m just sitting in a different seat. I have the same support with our staff and with our players. Now it’s time to step up and step into a role and lead this team. And I’ll just stand firm in that. I’m just ready for that.”

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