It doesnt take special on-court presentations put on by teams hosting the Indiana Fever across the country to convince Karima Christmas that her coach, Lin Dunn, is an instrumental figure in womens basketball history. She sees her influence every day. But it does help showcase just how beloved Dunn has become for fans and peers around the WNBA when they honor her like they did prior to the Lynx/Fever game on Sunday night at Target Center.
And it gives Dunns playersand the fansa chance to see how much the outpouring of support means to her.
Everywhere we go, were grateful that those teams can give her the praise that she deserves, Christmas said. Its always fun to see her out there. I told her that shes probably going to cry everywhere we go. So Im waiting to see how many other places shell break down.
Dunn announced her retirement at the end of the 2014 season, bringing her 44-year coaching career to an end after stops all across the collegiate and professional basketball landscape.
Sunday was her final regular season game coaching in Minnesota, so the Lynxlike other organizations around the leaguehonored Dunn with a special shout-out prior to tipoff. She came out to center court, waved and blew kisses to the crowd. The fans, in return, gave her a heartfelt standing ovation for her impact on the game.
Dunn began her head coaching career in 1970, and during her 25 seasons in the NCAA she left the Austin Peay, Miami and Purdue programs as their all-time winningest coach. She posted a .635 winning percentage and compiled 447 wins over that spanshe also coached the University of Mississippi in 1977-78.
In 2000, she became the first coach and general manager in Seattle Storm history. There she drafted Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, setting the team up for championship-caliber seasons for years to come.
In 2008, she took over the Indiana Fever organization as head coach and began a stretch of six straight postseason appearances. That includes the WNBA title they won against the Lynx in the 2012 Finals.
She and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, who have enjoyed countless on-court battles and that famous 2012 Finals showdown, have developed an incredible appreciation for one another as peers and coaching rivals. That mutual level of admiration was on display on Sunday night.
I told her I didnt want her to retire, Reeve said. And on one hand we get this relief where we dont have to against a Lin Dunn-coached team. Then at the same time, shes meant so much for our game, wed like to keep her around.
Reeve said the key to preparing for Dunns squads is preparation. If you arent sharp or prepared, shes going to chew you up and spit you out. Dunns crew gave that same effort on Sunday night, falling 83-77 to the Lynx but forcing 19 turnovers and withstanding a Lynx squad that shot 57.4 percent from the field.
Just like her other stops along the way, Dunn appreciated the competition and the well-wishes before the game.
It was really nice, Dunn said. I really appreciated the film up on the scoreboard and the fans were great. Ive always thought the Minnesota fans are great people to play in front of, and I really thank them for that.
Lynx forward Maya Moore said she as a kid growing up and as a competitor in the league today appreciates what Dunn has meant to the sport over the years. Shes a basketball personality that cant be emulated. The league will miss her, but she was grateful for Dunns contributions along the way.
For as long as Ive watched the WNBA, shes been coaching and shes been a part of that Indiana culture, Moore said. I think toughness is what I associated with those Indiana teams, and I know it starts with her.
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