Editor's note: Indiana's Lin Dunn is in her 44th and final season of coaching. Throughout her career, Dunn has fought for equality and change. Denied the opportunity to play college basketball because a women's program didn't exist when she was at Tennessee-Martin in the late 1960s, Dunn began coaching at Austin Peay in 1970, prior to Title IX legislation. Dunn coached Purdue to the 1994 Final Four, has coached in the Olympics and world championships and won a WNBA title with the Fever in 2012. One of the most accomplished women's basketball coaches in history and a pioneer for women in sports, Dunn reflects on her career for espnW.com as she enters the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Part 1 was published Thursday.
When Purdue opted not to renew my one-year-at-a-time-contract, it was difficult for me to find employment in the college game. Fortunately, the ABL professional league reached out to me and I began a love affair coaching in the pros!
YES! I love coaching professional basketball -- studying and learning the strategies and X's and O's at the next level. I had the time to attend NBA training camps; and attend top men's and women's college practices. No more chasing 14- and 15-year-old kids and their parents, and their coaches and AAU coaches and their agents! I'm thankful that I have had the opportunity to learn from KC Jones, Richie Adubato, Ron Rothstein, Michael Cooper, Bill Laimbeer, Mike Thibault and Cheryl Reeve. And the time to study Pat Riley's Lakers, Phil Jackson's Bulls and Lakers and Gregg Popovich's Spurs, Tom Thibodeau's Bulls and Erik Spoelstra's Heat.
When we took the ABL's Portland Power from worst to first in 1998, it was a true grassroots endeavor and a wonderful experience. Thank you, Linda Weston, for your support!
In 1999, after the ABL folded and I took over as GM and coach in Seattle, building the Storm from no name, no logo and no players into a championship team was fantastic! There were so many different, challenging experiences and such enormous hard work with endless speaking engagements all over the Seattle area. There were big groups (5,000) and small groups (five) as we connected with the community and found ways to get people to our games. We made smart decisions draft-wise, including the selections of Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird!
Again, I had great assistants: Missy Bequette, Gary Kloppenburg and Carrie Graf.
I wasn't on the sidelines when Seattle won the championship in 2004, however, I know all the hard work we did those first three years laid the foundation for that moment.
In 2003, I returned to Tennessee to be the primary caretaker for my mother, LaRue, knowing that would become my No. 1 priority. I stayed involved in the game serving as a scout for the Fever and head coach Nell Fortner; Indianapolis was only a six-hour drive away. I was fortunate to work as an assistant coach for the Fever from 2004-08 for Brian Winters, another former NBA player.
The face of the Fever is Tamika Catchings! She is my kind of player, relentless in her pursuit of excellence. Determined and dedicated, she defends and rebounds with a passion unequaled. And, off the court, she gives back to her fans and her community more than any athlete I have ever coached.
When I became the Fever head coach in 2008, I was afforded the opportunity to work for Pacers Sports and Entertainment's Kelly Krauskopf, Herb Simon, David Morway, Rick Fuson and Jim Morris. I know what it is like to work for a first-class organization! They are people who really care about their team, people who always make me feel valued.
They always make me feel that my hard work is truly appreciated. I'm grateful that I could be a part of giving Tamika and those people who lead and work for Pacers Sports and Entertainment a championship. They are so deserving.
I also was happy to be able to work alongside a longtime coaching friend in Mickie DeMoss, whom I have known for 40 years. It was very satisfying to me that she could share in our championship!
I'm often asked three questions:
1. What are the top three or four greatest moments in your coaching career? That's tough -- it has been 44 years!
The Fever's trip to The White House to meet President Obama has to be right up at the there. I'm a yellow dog democrat, and giving the President a "high five" sure was fun!
The win in 1978 at Delta State to beat Margaret Wade's three-time AIAW national champs is certainly another. I am fond of the 1994 upset at Stanford, which sent Purdue to its first Final Four. A big moment recently was the buzzer-beating jumper by the Fever's Shavonte Zellous after Briann January dove out of bounds to save the ball in Game 2 of the East Finals against Connecticut -- that win ignited our 2012 WNBA championship run. And I loved Game 2 of the 2012 Finals when Cheryl Reeve threw her jacket. Awesome! I wish I'd thrown mine!
Have there ever been two better WNBA Finals than the Fever versus the Mercury in 2009, and Fever-Lynx in 2012? Both were fantastic experiences, even though we missed winning the title in a five-game series with Phoenix.
I don't remember all the scores -- or all the wins or losses. But I do remember the people -- especially all the women who played without resources and scholarships. Those were players who found a way to compete and graduate without tutors or summer school. They were players who slept in sleeping bags on the gym floor after the games were over.
2. What do you know now that you wish you'd known "back in the day?"
• First, every season is a journey, and that road is always under construction.
• Second, I don't believe that adversity builds character -- it reveals it!
• Third, you really can't change the spots on a leopard.
• Patience is bitter ... but the fruit is sweet!
• Laughter is a tranquilizer ... with no side effects.
• Always hold yourself accountable first. "When you screw up, fess up! Never try to cover up!"
• When you're through learning ... you're through!
3. How do you want to be remembered? I'd like to be remembered as a fighter; as someone who was demanding, relentless and smart. I want to be remembered as a good daughter who cared for her mother. I believe that, win or lose, my players always got better; and I'd like to be regarded as someone who made a positive difference on and off the court.
As I coach my last season, I'm really looking forward to my next chapter. I'm leaving the sidelines and I'm sure there are some referees who are grateful for that decision! But I'm not leaving the game. I love the game, the strategies, the ultimate chess match with living pieces. I will be mentoring and consulting college coaches.
I know I won't be bored. I have other projects and causes I am passionate about -- Equal Pay for Equal Work; stopping violence against women; the Anti-Bullying Campaign; LGBT rights. And of course I look forward to doing whatever I can to elect a female president in 2016!