Lindsay Whalen and her husband, Ben Greve, were the first ones off the bus. So they were the first ones to walk through the door at Paisley Park late in the evening last Oct. 14.
“I walked in, and I walked right by him,’’ Whalen said. “I walked right by him on the keyboard, singing. … and I was like, ‘Damn, we just walked right by Prince.’ ’’
Six months after celebrating their third WNBA title in five years with an hours-long concert and party hosted by Prince at his Chanhassen studio and home, the Lynx opened their training camp Sunday. After it was over, some of those who were a part of the celebration back in October talked about the impact of Prince’s death.
“I’m from Minnesota, so it’s like we have a big sense of pride that he’s from here,’’ Whalen said. “That he stayed here, he lived here. … We got to have an unbelievable experience that night he brought us out there. We’ll always thank him for that time.’’
The Lynx had just beaten Indiana 69-52 in the fifth game of the finals. The players were celebrating in the locker room when Executive Vice President Roger Griffith walked in and gave them the news. Prince, who had attended the game, had invited the team out to his place for a concert.
“I couldn’t have imagined having that much excitement in one day,’’ Maya Moore said. “The fact that he supported us, was a fan of us, and was generous of his time to help us celebrate in an unforgettable way? It really sticks with me.’’
Being a native Minnesotan, Whalen understood what Prince meant to the state.
“Every time you drove out on Highway 5 you knew that was Prince’s house,’’ she said. “As a kid you knew he lived there. You had a sense of pride. Between him, and Jimmy Jam and [Kevin Garnett], it was cool. We had a lot of people doing a lot of really great things. That gave us, as kids, a lot to look up to.’’
Coach Cheryl Reeve remembers walking into the concert hearing “Purple Rain.’’
“And I thought they were just piping it in there to set the mood,’’ Reeve said. “But he was already playing. We walk in and the stage is 10 feet away and Prince is playing. It was like, we got serious in a hurry. It was, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ ”
Whalen, who sprained an ankle early in Game 5, was limited in the dancing department; Moore remembers sitting next to Whalen watching the concert and watching teammate Renee Montgomery dancing like crazy on the stage near Prince.
“She was probably as sore from that as she was from the game,” Whalen said. “But it was cool. He played all his songs, he incorporated the Lynx into his songs. It was a special night.’’
Reeve said that nothing had been decided upon but that there would be some sort of tribute to Prince when the season starts.
She remembered getting a text from Whalen when the news broke of Prince’s death. This can’t be real, it said.
“It was a shock for all of us,” Reeve said. “Our players, even if they’re not from Minnesota, understood his allegiance to Minnesota sports. Just really sad.’’
On the front page of the team’s website Sunday was a picture of Prince, a Lynx logo and the words, “When the doves cry, Lynx cry.’’