Dunn savoring WNBA farewell tour
Lin Dunn probably would have preferred another win.
She's used to getting them at Allstate Arena.
But the Indiana Fever head coach still got to leave town with a pretty good consolation prize Tuesday night after her team fell to the Chicago Sky, 60-57 in a WNBA Eastern Conference battle.
A sweet gift basket that was loaded with all kinds of Chicago-themed goodies, such as a deep-dish pizza gift card, was presented to Dunn at half-court by Sky management before the game. She also got a framed picture of herself coaching against the Sky, a team that she has beaten 24 times in 30 tries over the last seven years.
Gift receiving has been par for the course for the 67-year-old Dunn this season, who is retiring at the end of the summer after more than four decades of coaching basketball. Teams across the WNBA are doing their best to send her out in style when she visits for the final time.
"It's been nice to say farewell, really neat actually," Dunn said after what was Indiana's last regular season game in Chicago this season. "Forty-four years is a long time of going up and down the sidelines and chasing the referees.
"I had been thinking about retirement for the last three years. I've had a wonderful career and a great opportunity to work for Pacers Sports and Entertainment, but I'm ready to do something else. I'm looking forward to the next chapter."
Dunn says that will include basketball consulting at the college level.
Flip backwards for a while and Dunn's basketball story begins long before Title IX, as a frustrated girl growing up in Alabama. She liked sports, and was pretty good. But there was no place for her to play. She went to college at Tennessee-Martin, but it didn't have a women's basketball team in the late 1960s.
In 1970, she finally found a team. But she wouldn't be playing basketball, she'd be coaching it. She was the head coach at Austin Peay for the next six years before making stops at Mississippi, Miami and then Purdue, where she built the Boilermakers into a national power from 1987 to 1996. Dunn guided Purdue to the Women's Final Four in 1993.
"Austin Peay was one of those situations before Title IX that you don't even want to think about. It was really, really rough," Dunn said. "We didn't have much. There were no scholarships. We didn't even spend the night in a hotel when we would travel. We'd drive there in my car, play and come back late that night.
"It wasn't anything like it is now. But it was also kind of fun because the players played because they really loved the game. I treasure those memories because I know how hard it was for those players, but they just loved to play."
Since leaving Purdue, Dunn has been coaching pro basketball, first with the Portland Power of the now-defunct American Basketball League, and then with the Seattle Storm and the Fever. She's been on the sidelines in Indianapolis since 2004.
"One of the things I've loved about the pros is that I've had more time to study the game," Dunn said. "In college, you're recruiting, there's academics and the parents to think about. You just don't have time to really study the game.
"Ever since I've been in the pros, I've really had time to grow my knowledge of the game, and that's what I really love. I love the chess match of the game and just learning and watching and going to clinics and camps and going to NBA training camps, and college practices. I'm a better coach now because I understand the game better."
With her new consulting business, Dunn wants to coach up coaches.
She will be a consultant with the Fever next summer, then she plans to work with a coach in each of the major college conferences each winter.
"The (college) men have been doing it for years," Dunn said of the consulting business for coaches. "Maybe they want a different perspective, or someone to bounce ideas off of, or someone to teach them about a very specific part of the game. You're there to help these coaches be better coaches.
"And for me, it keeps me around the game."
Dunn will get plenty of down time, too. She's looking forward to changing up the scenery every now and then.
"I'm also going to travel a lot. There are a lot of places in the United States that I still haven't seen," Dunn said. "I've got three or four trips planned where I'm just going to drive down the East Coast, drive down the West Coast. I haven't been to the Grand Canyon, I haven't been to Mount Rushmore.
"I'm thinking about all the places I want to see. There's still a lot I want to do."
Patricia Babcock McGraw has been covering the Chicago Sky since its inaugural season in 2006. She also is a sideline reporter for Sky television broadcasts. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw