“Whatever role you have, you play it big”
WASHINGTON, UNCASVILLE, Conn. —Theresa Plaisance had trouble sleeping at night as the WINBA Finals shifted from Washington to Uncasville. She and the Connecticut Sun managed to split the first two games in D.C with the Mystics. The top two seeds in the regular season were tied up headed into Game 3.
“To be able to compete in a WNBA Finals, which in our sport is as high as you can get, is something that’s very special, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” the LSU alumna told High Post Hoops on the eve of Game 3. However, Plaisance admitted her excitement was nothing compared to that of her family, set to arrive the next day from Louisiana.
The WNBA has proven to be family-friendly for its players and team staff. Courtney Vandersloot runs the Chicago Sky backcourt with her wife Allie Quigley. Don Williams electrified the Connecticut Sun fan base in support of his daughter Courtney. And for two games in Connecticut, Mary “DoBee” and Scott Plaisance cheered on Theresa together.
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Throughout the five game series, I caught up with Theresa Plaisance and her biggest fan and basketball mentor Mary “DoBee” Plaisance. Or as Theresa calls her, mom.
A story that started as a recap of a mom’s overexcitement embarrassing her daughter turned into a lesson about life.
At Game 3 at Mohegan Sun Arena, DoBee could be seen with her standard mom attire: a point and shoot camera and her cell phone. In an interview with Ari Chambers ahead of Game 4, DoBee called her set-up “old school, cool school”.
The “old school” camera just happens to be bright orange, but has been around well before Theresa was traded to Connecticut in August. The family refers to the camera as “the black hole”.
“That thing has been through so much … [but] whatever goes on that camera never makes it off,” the Connecticut Sun center said after Game 5.
The old school black hole was also there to capture another key milestone for the Plaisance Family. On July 31, 2018 Theresa subbed in for the Dallas Wings with 3:24 left in the second quarter. Despite the Wings being down 49-25, the crowd erupted when Plaisance hit the floor.
After Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, Theresa joked about that moment. She recalled working hard to recover from her ACL tear, she recalled entering the game, she recalled the crowd going wild, and she also recalled the Wings broadcast panning to her mother and the black hole stealing her moment. The story came up because DoBee wasn’t sure she’d make Game 5 due to her coaching obligations. Theresa hinted, in good fun, that maybe that was for the best.
To hear Theresa originally tell it, one might think she’s nothing more than an embarrassed daughter. However, that is far from the case. She did not betray her mother for long, arguing her team would understand if she stayed for Game 5.
DoBee did not stay and return to Louisiana for Nicholls practice, study hall, and a community event on Thursday night. The same night her only daughter would compete in her first WNBA Finals.
DoBee’s emotions were great in number, she said Thursday afternoon, ahead of Game 5. However, paramount was her faith in Theresa and her team to trust the process.
“As a mom [I] certainly want to be there. But … it’s sort of been my whole life with both my children, I just have to balance [coaching and parenting]. I needed to be back here with my team,” said DoBee.
She quickly switched to a basketball mentality. The mother and coach put it this way: “It’s about the intangibles that I want Theresa to take away from this experience and what I want my players to learn about this experience. Because tonight, completely Erica, is about the process. It’s so about the process. The experience, the process, what you’ve gone through to get to this point.”
The, just as suddenly she switched to a Southern woman of faith praying over her child, “And, you know, she’s in a great place. She says, ‘Momma I’m happy and I’m ready.’ And I say, ‘Lord, God stay happy and ready and keep God on your side,'” she closed with a laugh.
Although she switches effortlessly from role to role, the truth is that DoBee brings all these pieces of her life together. She’s been coaching for over 20 years — Theresa’s entire life — and has met success at every level. First it was back-to-back high school state championships at St. Martin’s Episcopal School, then an Elite Eight berth for Loyola in the NIAW Tournament, and last year the first NCAA Tournament appearance for Nicholls.
Therefore, missing practice, even with the WNBA Finals as the excuse, was never an option. Theresa understood her mother’s decision and didn’t express any hurt feelings. In fact, Theresa made a point to lift coach Plaisance up.
"“She’s a really special woman. Being coaching a small school, she doesn’t really get the credit that she deserves. But if you look at her track record, every single program that she’s [coached] has turned to gold. She completely flipped it around with scholarships, without scholarships, wherever she goes, she really makes an impact … she has a really big heart and I’m really happy for all of her success … because she works so hard for it, and she deserves every ounce of it.”"
The Plaisance family is full of basketball professionals. Theresa in the WNBA and overseas, DoBee as the head coach at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, and Scott Jr. who played at the University of New Orleans like his mother. Supporting one another, keeping the most pressure-filled moments light, and focusing on the proper perspective is what they do. Bringing love, joy and perseverance to the game is their unique gift.That is what truly guided Theresa’s ACL injury and triumphant comeback.
When asked Thursday night to once again reflect on her return from the ACL injury, Theresa took time to consider what that moment must have meant to her family, especially her mother.
"”My brother and I are my mom’s number one priority. My whole life, my mom has always put us first, both my parents sacrifice so much to get me and my brother in the positions we are in today.When I tore my ACL, probably the only person more hurt than I was was my mom. For her to see me go through that process every single day. And, you know, she physically took care of me. Got me in and out of the shower, brought me food, gave me my medicine … [she saw] the process. I think that moment for her was just as big, if not bigger than it was for me. It was really special moment.”"
Theresa got most of it right. DoBee was definitely proud of how her daughter handled the process.
“Theresa had never been injured in her life, to that magnitude I guess you should say. And, she had just been named the Euro player of the Week out in Poland and everything seemed to be going well and then here’s this, what seemed to be a huge setback,” said DoBee.
It wasn’t a setback, instead it was a stepping stone to Theresa’s comeback, according her mother. It was a time for her daughter to trust her body and to trust her process. The process was on DoBee’s mind as she held up her two cameras, fighting back tears. But soon, she realized she was witnessing a moment much bigger than basketball.
DoBee is always reminding her children to be good people. To be happy people. To be God-fearing people. When she saw her daughter get a standing ovation in Dallas, she realized her daughter was a good person, that she was happy and making other people happy. To this day, that is what makes her emotional, thinking about that game last July.
"“When she got on that court for the first time, she got a standing ovation. As a mom [through tears] it wasn’t so much, ‘Oh, Theresa’s back.’ It’s like, ‘wow, what a difference she’s made to these people.’ In that moment, they cheered … they cheered through the first media. They would not stop cheering.”"
Before leaving Theresa to return to a quiet and hurting Connecticut Sun locker room after Game 5’s loss, I told her what her mother said. As she took it in, she got emotional for the first time.
“Yeah, it means the world to me, you know, when your mom approves of something, and when your parents approve something. It means a lot,” Theresa said as her voice cracked.
She described how her profession takes her away from her family and how hard she works to be a good player and teammate. But in that moment, Theresa felt seen by one of the people that matters the most.
Plaisance only saw 29 seconds in the entire WNBA Finals. Her role for the Sun is as of yet defined in her short time in Uncasville. Ahead of Game 3 at the Her Time to Play clinic, Plaisance was still struggling to fully attach herself to the Connecticut Sun.
“These are really hard working ladies with great team chemistry. And they’ve been working for years to come to this moment. And luckily, I got thrown into it mid season, and I’m able to be a part of it and I feel extremely blessed. But you know, they really put in the work and I feel like they need to get a lot more credit than then they’re getting right now,” she said with humility.
By Game 5, despite losing to Connecticut 89-78, Plaisance was more comfortable saying we.
“There’s so much upside and potential with this team … we’re going to be in the hunt to be in this position next year, and years to come. And it’s an exciting feeling right now. It really hurts and I think we’re going to take this feeling and carry on. Hopefully that’ll motivate us next season.”
Even after a loss, Theresa is leaning on the process. Just like her momma coached her to do.
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