EVERETT, Wash. – Noelle Quinn officially is undefeated as a head coach.
Breanna Stewart scored 28 points, and the Seattle Storm broke open the game with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter on the way to beating the Indian Fever on Tuesday night, 88-73, and handing Quinn a victory in her debut as the team’s bench boss.
Quinn, who had served as the associate head coach on Dan Hughes’ staff, was elevated to the head job on Sunday when the 66-year-old Hughes announced he was retiring to spend more time with his family.
Jewell Loyd added 18 points, and Sue Bird chipped in 12, along with eight assists, as the Storm (6-1) won its fifth game in a row.
The 36-year-old Quinn is the only person to have won a WNBA title both as a player (2018) and as a coach (2020), both with the Storm. She was actually at the helm for last Tuesday’s 90-87 overtime victory against Connecticut while Hughes was back in Ohio at his son’s graduation.
But Tuesday’s game inside Angel of the Winds Arena against the struggling Fever (1-8) was far from comfortable for her, even though Seattle led the rest of the way after snapping a 13-13 tie with a 12-3 run to close out the first quarter.
Five times, the Storm built a double-digit lead – and five times, Indiana got it back down to single digits.
Up 64-57 with 7:43 left in the game, Seattle finally took command for good. Bird and Stewart both returned to the court after a timeout, and Bird immediately passed across the court to Loyd for a 3-pointer from the left of the lane and a 67-57 lead.
Next possession, Bird buried a 15-footer from the left corner, make it 69-57. Jessica Breland scored on a driving lay-in for the Fever, but Epiphanny Prince answered with a driving scoop shot that banked in off the backboard. Breland countered with another driving lay-in, leaving the score at 71-61 with 5:10 to go.
With the shot clock winding down to one second, Bird flung one toward the hoop from the right of the foul line. She was fouled by Kelsey Mitchell, and hit both free throws. Loyd converted a technical foul free throw, and Mercedes Russell scored on a putback for a 76-61 advantage and just 4:09 remaining.
NOTES ABOUT NOELLE
— Including assistant Gary Kloppenburg as head coach last year, Storm coaches are now 4-3 in their first games at the helm.
— When Sue Bird (age 40) and Candice Dupree (age 36 years, 289 days) took the floor for Quinn (age 36 years, 149 days), it marked the first time since 2007 that two teammates were both older than their coach. In 2007, former Storm coach Jenny Boucek, who then was in charge of Sacramento, was 33, and Monarchs star Yolanda Griffith was 37.