When tears flow at a retirement news conference, usually it's the departing athlete who needs the tissues.
But there was Lindsay Whalen — the most accomplished basketball player in Minnesota history — cracking jokes and seeming completely at ease Monday as she talked about her playing career ending whenever this Lynx season is over.
The former point guard seated next to her? She couldn't have stopped her own tears if she had wanted to, nor should she have. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she knew she was going to cry, and if it wasn't obvious why at the start of the news conference it was crystal clear by the end.
As Whalen said of Reeve, there are "a lot of similarities in our personalities." They might express those personalities in different ways, but the bonds are clear.
Reeve was named Lynx head coach in December 2009, and Minnesota traded for Whalen a month later. They were just bad enough their first year together to miss the playoffs — a serendipitous moment that led the Lynx to draft Maya Moore.
Four WNBA titles and a dynasty were the result, with Reeve and Whalen helping to form the bedrock.
"I hope it worked out," Whalen deadpanned Monday, talking about the trade that brought her here. It couldn't have worked out much better for Reeve and Whalen, two women who credit each other for a great deal of their success.
Talking to a smaller group of reporters after Monday's news conference, Reeve paused to collect herself for 15 seconds and described, again through tears, her thoughts on the journey.
"Just how lucky I am to be here at this time. … Just how well it worked out for her career. … Just how special of a relationship this is," Reeve said. "I know she says she feels lucky about things, but for me it's once in a lifetime. That sort of a relationship is once in a lifetime."
Some of the emotion is perhaps the realization that this remarkably consistent group is evolving and actually losing a key player. From 2011 until now, Whalen, Moore, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson have formed a remarkably consistent core.
"I'm thankful for the time we've all had to spend together," Whalen said.
All good things must end, but there's a difference between the knowledge that something will happen and experiencing that thing.
For Reeve, though, most of the emotion seemed to be for Whalen herself.
"We all feel the same way about Lindsay," Reeve said. "She herself is magical."
Reeve said she looks forward to seeing Whalen's transition to coaching and the inevitable highs and lows that will bring. But both women were also eager to believe and remind everyone that this isn't the end. The Lynx have three regular-season games left starting Tuesday against Chicago at Target Center, plus the playoffs. They're 17-14 this season, and at many times its been an uncommon grind.
"We're not done yet," Reeve said, shifting the focus back to the season.
Added Whalen: "Never underestimate the heart of a champion in the playoffs."
Spoken like two minds thinking as one.