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September 12, 2018

Mike Thibault

Seattle, Washington

Storm - 98, Mystics - 82

MIKE THIBAULT: First of all, the very most important thing is to congratulate Seattle on an unbelievable season. They clearly were the best team from start to finish, in my opinion. Their experience showed in this playoff series. Their time together showed.

Obviously tonight their front line was dominant in 19 points between Stewart and Howard, and it seemed like every time we would get a stop, they would get an offensive rebound. The turnovers were low for both teams, but our turnovers were live ball turnovers that they turned into 18 points, which that's a big difference between 18 and 5 points.

Congratulations to Dan Hughes and his staff. They were well prepared.

And then the last thing is regardless of the game, I posted on the board for my team in training camp one of the preseason predictions that was put out there, I don't know if it was putting us seventh or eighth, I can't remember, and our team took a look at that and said, hell, no.

You know, it's been a great season for our organization, for our players, and we had a lot of growth. We'd like to have taken that one last step, but the window for us is open right now. We have a relatively young team. We have only played together with this core group basically for two years, and we have some reinforcements coming next year. And so we're poised to get better.

Now, the whole league is good, and it's not easy to get back here, but that's the goal for our team now. They've seen what this is like. Last year we got swept in the semifinals, didn't like the experience, learned from it, and got here and just didn't play well enough, didn't shoot the ball well enough. My hats off to Seattle for being better than us.

Q. You've spoken about how this was in many ways you being here a year ahead of schedule. I'm wondering, given Elena's limitations in this series how hard it was to take out of this what you need to do to take that final step next year.
MIKE THIBAULT: I don't think so. I think we know a lot about ourselves. You know, we've got to be in a position -- I think one of the things that Seattle has better than everybody else in the league right now is that they can always have a lineup on the floor with five scorers that put the fear of God in you. We have to get to that point, too.

The league has gotten to the point with great scorers. I think that's part of it. We have a chance to add Emma Meesseman back in next year, we have another draft pick, I don't know where free agency will be or anything like that, but our players see -- we spent a lot of our time this year relying on a rookie player to be our third scorer, and what she did this year was ahead of schedule for us. And so that's -- you're talking about the different optimisms, I see a whole bunch of things that we can do, but we've got to get a rhythm playing together, and it took us a lot of experimenting together throughout the year to really find our best groove, and we didn't really get it until the All-Star break and it carried over into the Playoffs. The one thing we can do a little better is to be better earlier in the season. Hopefully for us in our new building we'll have normal dates that we can control and not be on the road for a month and all those things.

But I don't think we can use Elena's injury as an excuse. It also, I think, for our team points out how fragile you can be as a team if you can't kind of take care of those things in place of her when she's hurt. I think every team is in that vulnerable position if one of their best players gets hurt, but that's not why we lost the series.

Q. Sanders went down early in the second when you guys were fighting back. What does that do to the team, and just how do you feel like you responded?
MIKE THIBAULT: I mean, you know, you're taking a starter out of the lineup who was playing pretty well, had a good start to the second half. She turned her ankle pretty good stepping off the edge of the floor going for the loose ball. I thought Myisha Hines-Allen did a pretty good job as another rookie coming in in a playoff Finals. But there's a difference in the experience between the two.

It certainly didn't help us, but those things happen. I don't dwell on that right now. You know, I'm already on -- to be honest with you, I walked into our locker room, and we already talked about the things that we should be proud of and the things we can do to get better, and the rest of that stuff is just stuff that happened, and it's already now in the past, and we're already on to the next thing.

Q. What made Breanna Stewart and Natasha Howard so hard to deal with in this game?
MIKE THIBAULT: They're really good players. I mean, I don't have any better answer than that. I think Natasha Howard is the biggest difference between their team last year and this year on the court, and I think Dan Hughes made a big difference off the court. I thought he did a terrific coaching job. Defensively they had a better identity this year. But I think Natasha is just so active. She was the perfect complement to Breanna Stewart. The two of them learned how to play off each other. They're both active and mobile, and Natasha Howard has a will about her to get on the boards and to move and cut. I got a chance to see her kind of up close in college when my daughter was working at Florida State, and you could just see how athletic she could be, it was just how long it was going to take her to figure out her role in the pro game, and she's figured it out really well right now.

Q. I don't know if you've had any time in the locker room with the players after the loss was just a few minutes ago, but if you have talked to them --

Q. What did you tell them?
MIKE THIBAULT: That's what I was just saying one minute ago. I talked to them about how proud I was of them and the things that we could do -- briefly that we could do to get better, and where we were picked and where we ended up they should be excited about, and they should be excited about the future. We'll have a team meeting tomorrow and talk about a few more things, but over the next couple months I'll meet with our players individually. We aren't going to do a lot of exit interviews right away when it's all this fresh. We'll do it with the young players, but I'm just so excited for where they got. I'm sorry for our fans that they didn't get to witness one more final game here, but for those fans who have waited 20 something years, they should be excited about what they have going forward with this team.

You know, when I took this job six years ago, you always think something is easier than it is, and we walked in and you said, well, this team was 5-29, can't be all that bad. It was all. We don't have very many people left from that first year. And all these players have bought in. They're trying to do the right things, and we've come a long way.

Q. With Jewell and Stewie being 24, Natasha 27, obviously Sue's 37, but do you see this as a team even beyond this series that everyone needs to shoot for --
MIKE THIBAULT: Yeah, A, they're the defending champs now, they're young, they're really talented, they're smart, and they know how to play with each other. Teams are going to have to figure out some ways to match up and have as much fire power as they do because even on the nights that you play pretty good defense, they still -- they just have so many weapons to put the ball in the basket. They have so many unsung -- everybody talks about Stewie, everybody talks about Sue, but when you look at the series that Natasha and Alysha Clark and the game that Jewell had the one game, you have so many weapons, and then they bring somebody like Sami Whitcomb off the bench, and she had an impact on the game today.

Q. You talked a lot this year about how you saw key role players grow, people like Tianna and Natasha. Does that fortify your sense of the team's attitude and how they feel about the future, how much they're looking forward to growing?
MIKE THIBAULT: Yeah, I think so. Obviously they're very disappointed in the locker room, but I think they know that what they did this year was special. It's hard to say that sometimes when everybody talks about who the champion is, but again, from where we came at the start of the year to where we are now, they have to turn around and look and say, boy, we did so many good things. And the other part of it is, but there's the champ, and it's a motivation or a carrot in front of them to say, hey, we've got to work this much harder, we've got to improve in these areas if we're going to compete with them and try to win a championship.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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