After 12 WNBA seasons, Noelle Quinn is in her first season as an assistant coach with Seattle, the last of the five teams she’s played for. She was one of the last to recognize her own coaching talent.
“It’s been pretty seamless being on the same team,” Quinn told us after the Storm played Minnesota last month. This response is typical of the soft-spoken young woman from UCLA who I first met on the day she was drafted by Minnesota in 2007 as the fourth overall pick.
During her two seasons with the Lynx, Quinn set several records, some still intact today, such as most assists (14) in a home game. She finished seventh in the league in assists and led Minnesota in assists (148) her rookie year — only Lindsay Whalen has more. Quinn currently is second in career assist average in Lynx history.
A Los Angeles native, Quinn became a dependable WNBA player for five clubs, including two separate stints in Seattle. Her career concluded when the Storm won the 2018 W title.
She recalled, “To be able to play12 years and not really know how long my career would last, but having longevity to be here and win a championship is the ultimate goal, and I did it. It is something I will always remember.”
As her playing days were winding down, Quinn started preparing for her post-playing days. She returned to her high school and was hired as an assistant athletic director and co-head girls’ basketball coach. Seattle also approached her about thinking of coaching there after she retired.
“She as a player was a natural leader on the floor,” Storm Assistant Coach Gary Kloppenburg said of Quinn. “She is a good communicator and good with the players.”
“I think coaching high school ball for the last three years helped me find a place where I can be most effective,” the first-year Seattle assistant said. “I thought it would be tough coaching essentially my [former] teammates. I played with them, so I know they value my input and what I say. It’s been a great adjustment and a great change, but again seamless because I played here and I know the system.”
Did she see herself as a coach before others pointed out her potential? “No, I didn’t,” she said. “My high school principal actually saw it in me. Same as this position — [Storm] management sees it in me. They see it in me, so then I have to go with that.”
Opportunity favors preparation
Charmin Smith this week starts her new job as Cal-Berkeley head women’s basketball coach. She was hired last month to replace Lindsay Gottlieb, who was hired as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
Smith, who played at Stanford (1993-97) and earned two degrees there as well, played on three WNBA teams, including Minnesota’s 1999 inaugural WNBA team. She later began coaching in 2003 at Boston College (2003-04), her alma mater (2004-07), and at Cal first as an assistant (2007-12) and then as associate head coach (2012-19).
“I really haven’t been one of those coaches out there hunting for head coaching jobs,” Smith admitted. “But I know I was preparing for something.”
Katie Smith, a former Lynx teammate, hired Charmin as a New York assistant coach this spring. “We will miss her… I’m hoping she will do real well,” said the second-year Liberty head coach.
“I learned a lot from Katie,” Charmin noted. But the chance to be a head coach was too good to pass up: “This is one of those opportunities you can’t turn down,” she stressed.
“I’m glad I was prepared, but it was not something I was expecting,” Smith said. “I am glad I am ready for it.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.