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October 10, 2019

Curt Miller

Washington, D.C.

Washington - 89, Connecticut - 78

CURT MILLER: It stings right now. Proud of that locker room. You sit in that locker room when the team had started out with a mission and a bold tagline front office campaign that we were going to burn it down and take the next step as an organization and as a team. From the moment training camp started we never shied from that and handled the pressure, and for a coach like myself that's always prided the teams that I've always coached on never too high and never too low, man, sitting in this hotel room here in Washington and looking at that Ferris wheel outside of our hotel windows and knowing that this season included some highs, and looking at that Ferris wheel and knowing there's times when you're low. They fought through those moments the entire season and put themselves in an unbelievable position to win their first championship.

I think when the sting goes away, if we would tell them that we'd get to check it up with 10 minutes to go with a two-point lead in Game 5, a winner-take-all game, I think we would play that 10 minutes over and over and over again.

In the game, we're up 70-67 I'm guessing. You guys can fact-check me. But my mind tells me that they have done an unbelievable job one-on-one in the post all game. We've defended the arc really well. But they're pulling at you because they've been so successful with points in the paint and they've been successful playing one-on-one in the low post that we get caught on a little bit of an in-between dig and they kick it out and [Natasha] Cloud makes a three, and all of a sudden it's 70-70.

I think at that stretch they go on a 13-2 run. I stopped counting after that, but that 13-2 run when we had a three-point lead was the deciding run in the game.

We only made five field goals in the fourth quarter. I thought they got really physical with us. I thought our spacing shrunk with some of the physicality and we didn't execute, and when it was all said and done, they played a better 10 minutes in that fourth quarter and deserved the championship.

Q. I was hoping you would just speak to the legacy you think this team will leave. I know obviously the front office campaign and your players felt that you were disrespected all season long. You were able to play really -- bring it to the last 10 minutes of the season to fight for a championship. What do you think this group has meant for the franchise and for the WNBA as a whole?
CURT MILLER: Yeah, you know, we told them in the locker room after the game, and I used this, we have an introductory song with your introductory highlight video, as you play right before you announce the starting lineups, and in that, it talks about being legendary, and I told them that they became household names in this series. Everyone is going to know their name now. And where we were considered a team without a mega-superstar, we were forced to trade a No. 1 overall draft pick weeks before the start of the season, and that locker room bonded together and said, nothing can derail us. So, they became legendary. They became household names.

They were not considered megastars. Well, that locker room is filled with a bunch of megastars, and they proved that and everyone is going to know who they are for the rest of their careers.

So I'm really excited. I think the energy -- the fan base is reenergized. We took the next step after a couple disappointing playoffs, and we all know it's not an easy market always. We're trying to fight for the small market franchise in pro sports, and so proud of our fan base and so proud of where the organization and franchise is again.

Q. That fourth quarter was so reminiscent of the other night - tight game, came down to the last couple minutes, plays made. It seemed that tonight their defense stepped up when it needed to win the game. Is that kind of how you see it?
CURT MILLER: Yeah, I thought their physicality defensively made better plays in the fourth quarter. It's funny, if you would have told me that, Crystal Ball Curt, what do you think Washington makes four threes tonight, how do you think the outcome is going to be? And I would have told you, wow, we're in good shape.

All series long we won the points-in-the-paint battle, and tonight they won clearly the points in the paint, and they just played very, very good one-on-one basketball. And they put you in dilemma; do you double down and give up open threes, or do you play and challenge us to get stops one-on-one? And they were good in the low post, and just when you may try to counter and look at some doubles, then they hit a big three to start their run.

They were just better down the stretch, and defensively it wasn't anything more than they were really physical, and I thought that they were the physical team when they needed it most down the stretch in a close game.

Q. With Jonquel Jones specifically and the fact that she was so aggressive, so present early on, I'm hoping you'll take me through both your decision making to have her play through two and then three fouls late in that first half, and generally what you think we've learned about Jonquel Jones in this series as a whole.
CURT MILLER: Well, first off, we all know she's a superstar. She's one of the premier rebounding players in the world. The versatility is only going to continue to get better. She can score the ball in the outside. She can score with her back to the basket, and is only getting better and better that way. She's an unselfish, quiet superstar that just has a huge game.

In terms of tonight, you know, we rolled the dice a little bit playing her and extending her after her third foul, and then got nervous that they could isolate her and maybe pick up that fourth, so we had to sit her down.

But it's a winner-take-all game. You've got to let these guys play through some of their fouls. But with the dedication on their part schematically to throw the ball inside, you know, it's hard. They have counters. They're good one-on-one players and they can put you in foul trouble. So we had to pick our places. I didn't want to take AT [Alyssa Thomas] out but needed just to have her take a seat and take a deep breath with those two fouls in the first quarter.

So with all that said, with all the foul trouble, we weathered it and just -- we got outplayed in the fourth quarter, and that's a credit to Washington.

Q. Speaking of Jonquel, with everything that happened with her home country at the beginning of September, how do you think she weathered all of that through the playoffs and then tonight?
CURT MILLER: Yeah, amazing. Obviously her home country of the Bahamas means so much to her. She's an icon in the Bahamas. For her to take on -- her and Buddy [Hield] taking on that leadership role to raise funds and raise an opportunity to provide relief to so many says a lot about her, and knowing that she was doing that in the midst of such a difficult schedule that we all undertake in the WNBA, she just -- that's the kind of person she is. She's just truly remarkable when you get to know her, has this unbelievable personality, laid-back but can really turn that switch when she's on the court and be a beast around the rim.

Q. You get it to nine points, J.J. picks up her fourth foul, goes to the bench. Did you get a sense at that point the rest of the way that the momentum or you guys were starting to get put on your heels a little bit there?
CURT MILLER: Yeah, again, you know, it's a two-point game to start the fourth quarter, and we could execute better offensively, but we were playing our guts out, and they made more plays, and in that 13-2 run when it was 70-67 was the difference.

We had to play stretches without J.J. at times, and in that stretch they went at Bri[onna] Jones and were able to accumulate some fouls to get to the foul line. We went with Morgan [Tuck], and they did a good job with Emma [Meesseman] in those stretches.

But ultimately it came back to the one run in the fourth quarter that we just couldn't sustain.

Q. I was here last year when Washington lost, and they seemed to seethe on that for a long time. Is this something that you seethe on? Are you already thinking ahead? What is that like?
CURT MILLER: Yeah, you know, I think you see they were motivated. They talked about "running it back," right, was their campaign, and disappointed that they got swept last year. This is going to sting for a long time for our players, but it will also motivate that core group that's back, that they know they can play championship-level basketball.

Again, I'm so proud that they have made themselves household names around the country, and everybody knows who they are now, and they know what they're about. I'll go to war with that core group, with that team any day because I know they lay it on the line and they love each other, they care for each other. They want it for each other. There's a bond in that locker room that is pretty special, and I think you need that in team sports in order to win.

Q. Could you just talk a little bit about Emma Meesseman's performance, not just tonight but the entire series, and how difficult it was to prevent her from going crazy like she did down the stretch?
CURT MILLER: Yeah, it's a chess match. Everybody -- there's so many great players in this series. You know, AT, I think you can see that she's one of the premier players in the world, and she's a tough match-up at our end. Emma is a tough match-up, EDD [Elena Delle Donne] is a tough match-up. There's so many outstanding players.

What I give credit to Emma was is that she had stretches in the series differently. In the fourth quarter in Game 3, it was pick-and-pop. Tonight it was one-on-one isolations. And so that's what's special about Emma is she has a versatility to her game.

But man, it's fun. You can pick out all 10 starters in this series and talk about how special they are and the special stretches that they had in this series. It wasn't one person for either team, and every game different people stepped up for both teams. I think it was good for the league. It may not have been a buzzer beater. We didn't have that kind of finish in any of the five games, but man, it was good offensive basketball, and it was laying it on the line defensively.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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