Karen Bryant officially retired Thursday as the Storm’s longtime executive. She was the organization’s first employee hired in 1999 and ushered the 15-year-old franchise through four ownership changes, two WNBA championships and one break from the NBA.
For Bryant’s service, the current owners, Force 10 Hoops, presented her with season tickets to the next 15 years of Storm basketball. Bryant was also given a No. 15 jersey, commemorating her retirement during the historic season, not Lauren Jackson.
The Storm lost to Indiana on the celebratory night. Basketball legends Bill Russell and Tina Thompson were among the 6,179 in attendance at KeyArena.
Bryant was given an opportunity to address the crowd during a pregame ceremony that pushed the tip back 14 minutes, the Storm also acknowledging the retirement of Fever coach Lin Dunn, who was Seattle’s first coach and general manager. She was presented with a golden bobblehead doll of herself and walked onto the court by former players Jamie Redd, Simone Edwards, Charmin Smith, and Kate Starbird.
Here’s what Bryant said to the crowd:
This has been a bittersweet journey these past several months, culminating with this last week on the job. I’ve been consistently reminded how amazing it has really been and the opportunity I’ve had to meet, connect with so many special people. I made a few remarks and thank-yous upstairs at a smaller reception, my comments now are really focused on what happens between these lines.
I want to thank all of the basketball staff members who are here, past and present, particularly our coaches — Shaq Williams, one of our newest coaches. Jenny (Boucek), our friendship has continued to blossom and will continue to blossom long after today. We have two (championship) rings together that will always be really special, you’re one of the brightest minds in the game. More than that, you’re just a beautiful person and I feel really privileged to have gotten to know you. (applause)
Brian (Agler), our seven years together have been…we have shared a lot of challenges, adversities, triumphs, family changes. Through it our friendship has not only endured, it’s grown. As I stand with you here today, I just want you to know how much respect I have for you as a coach, as a leader, as an ambassador of the game and, most importantly, as a man. You are a true friend. (applause)
To all of the players from the ABL, Seattle Reign, former Storm players, current Storm players, Indiana Fever players, many of you here to tonight. As I said to the team earlier today, thank-you for allowing me to be a part of your life and a part of your journey as a professional athlete. You are the reason we do what we do. You inspire us everyday and I’ve just been so blessed to have so many amazing women come through this organization and I really appreciate how much you open your hearts and your arms and invited me to develop a friendship and relationship with you.
In particular, Camille (Little), not only was it the best player personnel decision Brian ever made in his tenure (applause), but our friendship, our banter our laughter; your heart and soul has touched me. And I can’t wait to come to North Carolina and have you cook me dinner. (applause)
Tanisha (Wright), the last several years our friendship has grown and I’ve just had admired getting to know you. I obviously have so much respect for you as a player and what you’ve meant so much beyond the court but in the locker room and what you’ve meant to the culture of this organization and the impact you’ve had on every single player that’s come through here. (applause) Who you are as a person, how you carry yourself, how you take care of your loved ones, your friends, your family and your dreams for yourself; I can’t wait to see you realize them.
Sue (Bird), I can’t put in to words, I said some of it earlier today, but you’re really, really special to me. We have a different kind of friendship, we don’t spend a lot of time together. But you and I both know what we have. You have meant so much to this franchise. You’ve been part of most of my years here. (applause) All of the attention and accolades and messages around my transition, you embody what this is all about more so than anybody here. This organization…more than any other athlete that’s come through here. And, as I love to say, you never said, “No,” and you never complained. I just want to personally thank you for everything you’ve done for this organization. (applause)
The three of you — I know, I’ve got to keep it short — thank you for believing in me, for letting me be me, I know sometimes that’s challenging. I’ve grown so much with you, together and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished and I’m so excited to see the next 15 under your leadership. You have been innovative and so important to the WNBA. (applause) It’s been a real privilege to be partners with you. And I also want to thank you for allowing tonight and the transition and the way it happened, and the way you’ve honored me and let me be me. For that, I will always love you and be grateful.
To my family, you have been there through thick and thin and there are many others of you here tonight. My Mom, Dad and siblings have been so supportive. You also know when to knock me on my butt, and sometimes I need that, too. But you have loved me unconditionally and jumped in to whatever it is that I’m doing and I love you for that. I’m excited to see what we all decide to do next because I know whatever it is, it will be together. So, thank you very much. I love you all. (applause)
I also want to thank my lovely wife Merrily and our daughter Lindsay. Merrily, the Storm pre-dated you. You had to fit in to this big life and this big job and you’ve just been so supportive and so graceful and I love you dearly for how much you have supported me and been my biggest champion through thick and thin. And Lindsay, we’ve got season tickets! We’re gonna be fine. (applause) You’re good?
So, last but not least, to the Storm Crazies. (applause) You are my journey, you really are. The fandom that we’ve shared and celebrated with each other has been so inspirational to me. And I am proud to now be among you as a Storm Crazies. Thank you! (applause) Thank you for all of your support and love, hugs, hi-fives, sharing stories, sometimes tears, mostly cheers, you are the best fans and you’ve also been just an amazing group of people to share this amazing ride for the last 15, some 18 years. From the bottom of my heart, to all of you who have supported us throughout this whole journey, thank you so much. (applause)