Seattle Storm head coach says WNBA game in Edmonton ‘gives a dreamer something tangible’

Noelle Quinn can’t wait to bring the WNBA to Western Canada.

Quinn is the head coach of the Seattle Storm, who will face the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday at Edmonton’s Rogers Place, the second WNBA exhibition game to come to Canada in as many years.

Quinn, who will be the lead assistant coach for Canada’s women’s team at the upcoming Paris Olympics, said the pre-season matchup is an opportunity for young people to be inspired.

“For the fans to be able to see an actual game live, it gives a dreamer something tangible,” said Quinn on Monday in a video conference call with reporters. “To be able to see Jewell Loyd and see Nneka (Ogwumike) and Skylar (Diggins-Smith) doing their thing, but also knowing that there are opportunities that can arise from basketball.”

Quinn recalled her own childhood in L.A., going to see Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie lead the Sparks.

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“There’s just something about being in the seat and imagining that you yourself are on the court that makes that dream a little bit more tangible,” said Quinn. “It made me want to go home and work harder on my game, or go home and watch more basketball because of that.

“I think we’re growing the sport as it relates to fans, but I also think we’re growing the minds and hearts of individuals who really, really strive to be at our level.”

Click to play video: 'Female Firsts: The pioneers that rewrote sports history'
Female Firsts: The pioneers that rewrote sports history

Quinn also acknowledged the history of women’s basketball in Edmonton, specifically the Grads, an amateur team that maintained an astonishing 95 per cent winning percentage from 1915 to 1940.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Quinn. “I talk about this all the time, we are presently reaping the benefits of the seeds that were planted by the ones that came before us.”

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There will be a lot for dedicated WNBA fans to take in at the game, too. Hamilton’s Kia Nurse was traded from Seattle to Los Angeles on Jan. 31. Diggins-Smith, a four-time all-star, signed with the Storm the next day, effectively replacing Nurse as Seattle’s point guard.

“The natural collaboration or connectedness or synergy between (Diggins-Smith and Loyd) is strictly based off talent,” said Quinn, noting that the Storm had just started training camp. “It’s just watching hoopers hoop, so it’s good to see that but also, I’m very encouraged where we can be.

“I’m so encouraged where we could get to as a team because of (Diggins-Smith) being on the floor.”

Nurse averaged 5.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 40 games for the Storm last season. Diggins-Smith averaged 19.7 points, 5.5 assists, four rebounds and 1.6 assists in 2022 for the Phoenix Mercury. She was on maternity leave in 2023.

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