August 16, 2022
For the Indiana Fever, everything changed during 2022 — even their home stadium
Indiana did not win a game for the remainder of the season as changes and inconsistency caught up with them
INDIANAPOLIS – The 2022 Indiana Fever season is over. If anyone missed even small portions of it, they likely missed something critical. It was full of change, growth and struggles — the latter two both present in front of a backdrop painted by the many shifts that took place.
The roster is different. Way different even compared to six months ago. The Fever turned over 25% of the team during the campaign as Bria Hartley, Alanna Smith and Alaina Coates were waived and replaced by Emma Cannon, Rennia Davis and Khayla Pointer. Indiana rostered five other rookies beyond Pointer and Davis, who were drafted just over four months ago, and had former Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield running the second unit early in the season. The makeup of the team was new from day one and it kept evolving.
It will likely keep evolving. Five players (Tiffany Mitchell, Victoria Vivians, Cannon, Pointer and Davis) are set to enter some kind of free agency this offseason, while the Fever have two top-seven draft picks. So more turnover will be coming.
The head coach is different, too, as is the leadership staff. Marianne Stanley was fired after nine games with the Fever sitting at 2-7. Assistant coach Carlos Knox was promoted to fill her spot on an interim basis and guided the team to a win in his first game as head coach.
“I love [Carlos],” rookie forward NaLyssa Smith said when Knox was promoted. “I feel like there is no one more deserving than him. When he got called on to get that position, it just amps you up. When genuine people get things that they deserve, it just makes you feel better. I’m glad he’s our coach.”
The team hired Gary Kloppenburg as an assistant coach a few days later. The staff was changed to reflect the team’s priorities: defensive growth and player development.
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The new coaching staff, chosen by interim General Manager Lin Dunn, who was hired six months ago, started off 3-6 in their first nine games — exceeding the record that Stanley led the Fever to in equal time. Indiana did not win a game for the remainder of the season as changes, fatigue, talent and inconsistency caught up with them. Such is life for a wildly new roster, coaching staff and front office forging a new direction.
“Experience is vital in this league,” veteran guard Tiffany Mitchell said after the team’s final game, their 18th loss in a row. “[The rookies] had to grow up quick, so of course, we’re going to have struggles along the way. Although our record was not great at all, I think they learned a lot.”
Even the home stadium is different. Or, rather, was different. The Indiana Fever started off the season playing in Gainbridge Fieldhouse, their normal home arena. But, in 2023, the Fever are currently slated to play every game in the downtown Indianapolis-based gym, where they have played for decades. It’s where much of the Fever’s facilities are located and it’s perfect for hoops.
Ongoing construction pushed Indiana to play elsewhere at times this year. As a result, they spent much of the campaign playing in Indiana Farmers Coliseum, which can only be described as the most “Indiana” venue for a sporting event.
The Crossroads of America ranks in the top-10 of agriculture-producing states, per the USDA. A stadium with “Farmers” in the name is fitting.
The Coliseum is located inside Indiana’s State Fairgrounds. Across the road from the Fever’s temporary home this season is a hut referred to as the “dairy barn” by locals — it’s a barn-colored structure with a cow print awning.
Similarly close to IFC is the Harvest Pavilion as well as the Agriculture and Horticulture building. The fairgrounds are very Indiana, in the best way. The West Pavilion, a neighboring building that sat between where Fever staff would park and the Coliseum itself, hosted a Bourbon Expo right around the All-Star break. The Indiana State fair began in late July, so a merry-go-round and Skyride casually appeared less than 100 feet from the stadium entrance mid-season. None of this has anything to do with how the Fever played on the court. It’s all a footnote in the story of their 2022 campaign. But the changes, the little things and moving from one home to another, isn’t nothing. It matters.
After nine games in IFC, just when Indiana was getting settled, the State Fair opened and pushed them out. They played their final four games inside Hinkle Fieldhouse, home of the NCAA’s Butler Bulldogs. It felt more like a basketball arena than the Coliseum in terms of lighting, feel and location. It didn’t feel like the Fever’s house, though, because the court still had the Butler and Big East logos on it.
Still, it was a welcome move for a young team with many rookies who were less than half-a-year removed from NCAA play. They liked the feeling of playing in Hinkle — a college venue.
“I like it. Compared to Farmers Coliseum, I feel like this gym gives you more of a basketball feeling,” Smith said of Hinkle Fieldhouse. “The bright lights, the stands. I like being over here.”
“For me personally, it makes me feel a bit bouncier,” rookie guard Destanni Henderson added with a smile.
Where a team plays does not dramatically impact results. The Fever know that. But it also matters, especially in this sense when it’s emblematic of the many changes that took place during a difficult season. Being permanently placed in Gainbridge Fieldhouse next season will help team identity and stability.
After a season filled with changes — some predictable, others not — identity and stability will be key for the Indiana Fever as they head into their first Tamika Catchings-less offseason in decades. It’s a pivotal winter after losing 31 games. The many changes played a role in the loss total. A few subtle changes combined with general constancy will help the team improve after a chaotic 2022, where every little thing was constantly different.
Other Indiana Fever end-of-season notes
– After returning from an overseas commitment just a few days before the season began, Vivians came off the bench in the Fever’s first three games. She was a starter from then on, being announced in the opening five 30 consecutive times for Indiana this season.
That streak ended in the Fever’s final two games. Lexie Hull and Tiffany Mitchell started those games at the two and three spots. While starting Hull, a young player who needed more minutes to develop, made sense without reason — head coach Carlos Knox shared that Vivians moved to the bench partly due to a foot injury. She played in both of the team’s final two games, suggesting that it will not be a long-term issue.
– Two rookies finished the season particularly strong: Hull and Henderson. Hull averaged over 10 points per game in Indiana’s final five outings, and her ability to get to the free throw line shined in those contests. The sixth-overall pick’s defense remained strong throughout the season, but her offensive impact ballooned down the stretch.
Henderson, meanwhile, found her groove as a distributor and dished out four assists per game in the team’s last five outings. In addition, she scored 16 points on two different occasions down the stretch and showed an ability to run with starting units that should prove valuable in future seasons.
– Carlos Knox is still the head coach on an interim basis, and as of last Friday, he had not had any conversations about extending his time guiding the team beyond this campaign.
“I have not [had those conversations]. We just kind of take it game by game,” he said. Knox noted just after being hired that he would like to hold the job beyond this season. More will be determined from Dunn and the team in due time on that front.
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The Indiana Fever face a pivotal offseason after their third consecutive poor campaign. It will all be covered here. While some major changes have occurred in recent seasons, with more to come, some stability and time to work on specific skills will make it easy for the franchise to take a step forward next season. Those steps begin now.