Iowa women’s basketball takes advice from Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird in Elite Eight shootaround visit

The four-time WNBA champion visited the Hawkeyes at Climate Pledge Arena ahead of their Elite Eight game on Sunday.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

The Iowa team holds up the Seattle Regional 4 trophy after a victory over No.5 Louisville at the 2023 NCAA Elite Eight women’s basketball game at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA on Sunday, March 26, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cardinals, 97-83.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Iowa women’s basketball hosted a special guest before its Elite Eight game against Louisville on Sunday night — Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird.

Bird, who played all 21 of her WNBA seasons with the Seattle Storm before retiring in 2022, surprised the Hawkeyes in Climate Pledge Arena during their Sunday morning shootaround.

She entered Climate Pledge Arena, her home court, to gasps from the Hawkeyes.

“I was starstruck, honestly, I didn’t know what to say,” senior forward McKenna Warnock said. “I know Caitlin [Clark] had talked with her earlier, so it was it was pretty cool for her as well. But I mean, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to have that support and for them to come and talk to us and take the time out of their day.”

And Clark, who finished the Hawkeyes’ Elite Eight victory over Louisville with the NCAA Tournament’s first-ever 40-point triple-double, has talked with Bird before.

Last season, Bird and fellow WNBA star, the Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi, debuted the Bird-Taurasi show as an alternate cast of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four. Their guests included Clark, as well as the Las Vegas Aces’ Kelsey Plum.

And Bird has high praise for Clark’s game — both with her logo shots and passing ability.

“The relationship between her passing and her scoring is what will take her a long way,” Bird told ESPN. “You obviously can’t leave her open. So the closer you are to her gives her more opportunity to create for herself and use that space to create for others. Because she can be such a good passer, it’s actually going to make it easier for her to score as well. The relationship between those two things is really probably going to be one of the best attributes of her game.”

Although Clark has met Bird before, she was still amazed by the four-time WNBA champ.

“I get to play in the arena that Sue Bird gets to play in — or played in,” Clark said on March 23. “I think that’s pretty cool.”

After the Hawkeyes’ initial shock wore off, Bird joined the team for their daily circle at midcourt, giving them advice for what would what would be most of the team’s first Elite Eight game.

Bird won two national championships with her alma mater, UConn, between 1998-2002. She also spent time with the Huskies, who were in the Seattle 3 region, before their Sweet 16 game on Saturday.

“She basically just talked about how this game is the hardest,” Warnock said. “It’s always kind of a grind getting to that final Four position because once you’re there … it’s what everyone kind of works for. So, it was definitely a grind, and the game was gonna be hard, it was gonna be up and down. It’s gonna be tough and I think that really helped us in that first time out.”

The Hawkeyes took Bird’s advice to heart when they started the game down, 8-0, to the Cardinals. After a timeout from head coach Lisa Bluder just two minutes into the game, Iowa went on a 7-0 run to put itself back into the contest.

From there, the rest is history.

“What she preached is things are going to be hard in this game,” Clark said. “There’s always hard moments. Not everything’s going to go your way. And we started the game with a really hard moment. We were down 8-0, but we’re lucky enough that we have a group that is old enough to understand it’s not going to bother us. We came out and changed our defense and really from there I thought we played really, really good basketball.”