History was made last weekend when two former WNBA players, now head coaches, faced each other in a two-game series. Noelle Quinn joined Dallas’ Vickie Johnson as the league’s only Black female head coaches when Seattle promoted her on May 30.
Seattle veteran guard Sue Bird told reporters including the MSR during a May 31 introductory Zoom press conference that Quinn, who previously was the Storm associate head coach, is “beyond ready” to lead the squad after former HC Dan Hughes retired the day before.
We first met Quinn, a Los Angeles native, when Minnesota made her their first pick in 2007, fourth overall, as the only local media in attendance on draft day in Cleveland. She played two of her 12 WNBA seasons in Minnesota (2007-08) and later twice with Seattle (2013-14; 2016-18).
She won a league championship in 2018, her final season before retiring in 2019. The Storm hired her as an assistant coach.
Quinn, who graduated from UCLA, is Seattle’s first Black head coach and the second Black player chosen by Minnesota (with Teresa Edwards) to later become a WNBA head coach. She is the 19th Black woman to be a league head coach.
Her historic feats weren’t lost on the soft-spoken Quinn as she spoke to reporters. “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?
“They crawled so I can walk. I sit on those shoulders,” Quinn pointed out proudly.
When asked, Quinn told the MSR how much she learned during her Lynx years, especially from former Minnesota assistant coach Ed Prohofsky, a Minnesota high school hall-of-famer. “Ed Prohofsky is my guy—he is a living legend in Minnesota,” declared the Storm HC. “I talk to Eddie, call or text him on a day-to-day basis or game-to-game basis. He’s always sending me texts. He is always encouraging me.”
Quinn listed many other supporters and influencers in her life, beginning with her mother. “The first call [after her promotion] was to my mom. She is superwoman, and she expressed how proud she was of me.”
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert last week told the MSR that Quinn and Johnson, who were hired by Dallas earlier this year, epitomize the diversity pipeline she often refers to. “We gave some incentives [to teams] if you added a coach on the bench who was a former WNBA player, but [also] front office, back office.
“We want all of those positions ultimately to reflect diversity in our league,” she stressed. “Vickie and Noelle are going to be great representatives of that diversity initiative.”
“Being the first is something I don’t wake up every day to strive to be,” Quinn admitted, “just the best version of myself. My Minnesota days helped cultivate who I am. Being able to play for the coaches in the league is again an honor.
“It’s important that I’m not 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 experiences in that, it sharpens me,” said Quinn.
“To watch the league and then be a part of it as a player, and now as a coach, it’s a full circle.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.