Two days before she returns to Connecticut as a member of the Minnesota Lynx, Lindsay Whalen sat down for a teleconference with the Connecticut media Tuesday. For those who never had the chance to have a few laughs with Whalen while she was busy setting the Sun's assists record and earning MVP runner-up honors during her six seasons here, you missed one of the funniest personalities in Sun history.
That was already on display Tuesday.
"I’m looking forward to it," Whalen said of her return, "seeing everybody, the arena, the casino — everything."
The casino, really?, a reporter asked.
"Yeah, because that’s where they play," Whalen said with wit as dry as a summer day in Scottsdale. "They play at the arena in there."
Whalen is also scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Twins-Yankees game tonight.
"I’m gonna go with the heat," she said. "Forty miles per hour."
In 197 games (196 starts) with the Sun, Whalen established herself as one of the league's top all-around point guards, becoming the only player in WNBA history to average at least 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season (2008) and earning All-Star honors twice. She also led the Sun to back-to-back Eastern Conference championships in 2004 and 2005.
But in their quest to trade for the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft — then owned by Minnesota — the Sun entered talks with the Lynx knowing Whalen, a Minnesota native and Golden Gophers legend, would be what Minnesota coveted. In February, the teams completed the trade, sending Renee Montgomery and the No. 1 pick to the Sun, who used it to draft Tina Charles, for Whalen and the No. 2 pick, of which the Lynx drafted Monica Wright with.
Whalen said leaving Connecticut included some "sad parts" but a part of her always hoped she'd return home to play.
"(But) this offseason was probably the first time that I thought about it," Whalen said. "Of course this is my home and my family’s here. But before I think I was into what we were doing in Connecticut. You can’t be, ‘I wish I was there.’ You have to play and that’s what you were expected (to do) as a professional.
"When Coach T (Mike Thibault) drafted me, you kind of get comfortable in a situation and get to know everybody," she continued. "The year I had my surgery out there, I was part of Coach’s family. I think when you’re in the season and everything, you feel like that’s where you’re going to be for your career. But I thought maybe some day I would be able to come home to play and it worked out this year. I guess things just kind of fell into place this offseason for a reason. I have nothing but good memories. I feel under Coach T, I improved as a player and I learned how to be a pro and learn how to be a point guard in the league. I owe what I know and everything to Coach T."
What tops Whalen's list of things she misses about Connecticut? The people foremost, but there are others.
"I definitely miss the seafood and the clam chowder," she said. "I miss (Interstate) 395. I miss 95. I miss the Long Island Sound. I miss a lot of things about Connecticut. And I miss Abbott’s."
But there are benefits of being home, largely the chance to see her tight-knit family.
"Me and my family kind of had a falling out so that’s been unfortunate," Whalen said.
(She was just joking, of course.)
"No, it’s been great. My sister is like five minutes away. It was my brother's birthday (Monday), Tom, he turned 16. I can’t believe it. So I got to go home and we went out for dinner and had birthday cake. Tonight, my dad and Tom are coming to the Twins-Yankees game.
"My mom, she made lasagna, chili, sloppy joe’s last night. It’s all in my freezer now so I’m very spoiled. (laughs) And my favorite little sandwiches. These little tuna sandwiches. You put them in the freezer and then you microwave them and heat them up. So I've been eating healthy. But for me, I just have lean cuisine and all that other stuff is for (husband) Ben (Greve)."
Look for more in Wednesday's Bulletin.