November 30, 2022 

How the Indiana Fever decided Christie Sides was the right fit to be their head coach

After a search that lasted more than two months — the Indiana Fever chose Christie Sides to be the next head coach of the franchise

Christie Sides still remembers exactly where she was on the morning of Aug. 22 when Indiana Fever interim General Manager Lin Dunn called for the first time. It was early in the day in Central, Louisiana, where Sides’ family lives on a farm. She was eating breakfast with her mom when Dunn’s name appeared on her phone.

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It was the first call of many. Dunn wanted to know if Sides had interest in becoming the ninth head coach of the Indiana Fever. “She helped me make a decision to open up my heart and embrace this process,” Sides said of the conversion, recalling that she had received interest in other head coaching openings before but turned them down. This time, though, she was interested. But there was still a long way to go.

Dunn spent months on the search for the Fever’s new captain on the sidelines. She wanted to find the right coach for her vision, one that features defense, communication and energy on the court. She needed to find the perfect leader for her plan and the right person to glue the young, growing Fever together.

The Fever’s GM had many candidates in mind, but she needed help finding the right person. A list of required traits is a start, but finding candidates is another step. So Dunn contacted some of her mentors and advisors to push her search forward.

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“I talked to Kelly Krauskopf; I talked to Mickie DeMoss, I talked to Gail Goestenkors, I talked to Carol Ross, all who have had significant time in the WNBA and are kind of our veteran leaders in women’s basketball,” Dunn shared. She said that they were all familiar with Sides and that Krauskopf, in particular was important because they worked together with the Indiana Fever in past seasons. Sides was an assistant with the franchise in 2018 and 2019 when Krauskopf was the General Manager.

Dunn wanted to do her due diligence and even specified that she went beyond research by doing “re-research.” So she made calls and found her candidates. She performed interviews and background checks. As the process evolved, Sides stood out. She worked for the Fever before, so some people were familiar with the 45-year-old in the building.

“‘I love Christie Sides… Coach, if you can hire her, I’m all in’,” Dunn recalls Kelsey Mitchell telling her during the hiring process. Mitchell played under Sides earlier in her career.

Indiana Fever combo guard Kelsey Mitchell holds the ball with both hands while her legs are pulled up in midair, as two Washington Mystics defenders stand watching behind her
Indiana combo guard Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers on Tuesday with 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Along the way, it became clear that Sides checked numerous boxes for the Fever. She was a defensive-minded assistant for Atlanta, which is something Indiana needs — they have finished last in defensive rating in three straight seasons and ranked 11th four seasons ago. Sides knew some of the players, including Mitchell and Victoria Vivians and her energy and ability to align others fit in well with the Fever franchise. On top of all that, she was finally ready to be a head coach after 22 years as an assistant. That was enough time on the bench, including a few stints as an associate head coach, for Dunn to feel great about Sides’ experience. And those who worked with her only had positive things to say.

“I got a first-hand look at her knowledge, her communication skill; she had great leadership presence as an assistant coach. I was a big fan from the beginning,” Krauskopf said of Sides. The former Fever GM told Dunn that Sides is ready for a head coaching job. “She’s just the right fit at the right time.”

Krauskopf was the Fever’s lead decision maker from 2000-2017, including a slight overlap with Sides on staff. She had seen the developing coach at the time and knew she could be a head coach one day. She noticed that her communication skills were at a head coach’s level when she was an assistant with the Fever and admired her presence. “Part of this game is knowing how to teach and how to communicate at the right times. And I noticed that right off the bat with her when she was one of our assistant coaches,” Krauskopf said. “She reminds me of a young Lin Dunn without all the craziness,” she added jokingly.

There was more research to do. Dunn reached out to Mitchell, the Fever’s star guard who played under Sides early in her career. She chatted with Krauskopf and others about multiple candidates. Dunn mulled her options and took her time, only wanting to ensure a coach in place by the beginning of the women’s college basketball season.

But Sides kept standing out — she had all the qualities that the Fever needed. So more than two months later, when Sides was running on the beach in Gulfport, Mississippi, she got another call from Dunn. This time, it was THE call. Dunn wanted to know if Sides wanted the job.

It was in the morning again. 10 am, Sides remembers. So apparently, Dunn is a morning person. But Dunn had her coach and she moved to hire Sides.

Sides can do so many of the things that the Fever need. She guided the Dream to the fifth-best defensive rating this past season, an improvement from ninth the season prior and hopes to bring that growth to Indiana. The Fever have struggled on the less glamorous end of the floor in recent seasons, so they need a boost there.

“We’re going to be defensive sliding into training camp,” Sides said. “We’re going to make some people really have to do crazy things to score on us.”

She also understands how to communicate with players and keep them in the right role, something that Atlanta did well last season and something that Krauskopf praised… For a Fever team that is largely a blank slate, that will be valuable.

And while Sides doesn’t have prior head coaching experience, Dunn thinks that her 20+ years of coaching is more than enough experience to make her effective on the Fever sideline.

“She seems like a really cool person,” Fever guard Destanni Henderson, who has spent some time in Indianapolis this offseason, said of her new coach. “She seems so passionate about the game, really eager to get to work.”

It’s a new, Christie Sides-led era for the Indiana Fever. She will make decisions on her assistant coaching staff in due time and she is reviewing if she will keep any of Indiana’s past assistants. But she will be the leader for the first time in the WNBA.

That new era will also feature NaLyssa Smith, Mitchell, the number one overall pick in the 2023 WNBA draft and more talented players. It’s a great spot for a new coach like Sides, who has been hired to lead that core out of the WNBA’s basement. It took two months and a journey that spanned from Louisiana to Indiana to Mississippi, but the Indiana Fever have their new head coach. It’s Christie Sides’s time.

Written by Tony East

Indiana Fever reporter based in Indianapolis. Enjoy a good statistical-based argument.

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