February 15, 2022 

What Tamika Catchings’ departure means for the Indiana Fever

Lin Dunn now caretaker for a rebuild

Franchise icon Tamika Catchings has stepped down as the Indiana Fever’s Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager.

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The Fever announced the change on Monday. In a lengthy statement, Catchings stated, in part: “While change is never easy, now it’s time to take a step back from my role as General Manager, take a well-earned rest, and prioritize my family, my philanthropy, our community, and my other passions.”

Catchings has been with the Fever organization since she was drafted by Indiana in 2001. She played 16 seasons with the franchise, guiding them to the WNBA Finals three times and leading them to their lone championship back in 2012. She played for the Fever in 15 of the team’s 22 WNBA seasons.

After retiring in 2016, Catchings transitioned to the front office. Her initial role was Director of Player Programs and Franchise Development, which she began doing in 2017, and it took just two and a half years for her to promote to General Manager. She wanted her on-court impact with the Fever to translate to an off-court impact as she looked to build the team back into a championship contender.

But her tenure in charge of basketball operations did not go well. Indiana has won only 40 games since Catchings retired a half-decade ago, and in her two seasons as GM, the franchise achieved just a dozen victories. She was unable to build a winner on the court — filling the shoes of former Fever General Manager Kelly Krauskopf is a tough job.

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Still, Catchings was fearless in her business, at least publicly, and hated to see the franchise fail. She was determined to get back to the postseason, even stating it as one of her goals for the Fever in the 2022 WNBA season. She was sick of losing, a feeling that she hated as a player.

“I have been committed to the challenge of finding ways to improve, ways to succeed, and ultimately ways to put my teams in winning positions” Catchings shared. “In short, basketball has been central to all I do for as long as I can remember and has driven me to become the person I am.”

It’s hard for fans to see a legend like Tamika Catchings leave the organization. Outside of the franchise’s first season in 2000, Catch has been involved in every season of Indiana’s existence either as a player or executive. She has 10 All-Star appearances, multiple franchise records, and one MVP award. She is, and may forever be, the face of Fever basketball — her uniform hangs in the rafters of Gainbridge Fieldhouse and her number is retied. Her on-court contributions may never be matched.

But all great things must come to an end. And as painful as it is for some fans to see Catchings’ name no longer connected to the Fever, the team needed a front office change.

“I will forever be grateful to Herb Simon and the Simon family, Jim Morris, Rick Fuson, Kelly Krauskopf, and to the entire [Pacers Sports and Entertainment] organization for believing in me and standing alongside of me over the last two decades,” Catchings said. “I’m excited for all that’s on the horizon, but whatever comes next I will always be a part of the Fever family.”

Added team owner Herb Simon, “As the leader of our championship franchise for two decades and one of the most recognizable players in women’s basketball history, Tamika has been instrumental in making the dream of professional sports a reality for future generations of female athletes.”

Lin Dunn, who coached the Fever for seven seasons and guided them to two WNBA finals, will take over as the interim General Manager and Senior Advisor for Fever Basketball Operations. Ironically, Catchings was a member of the Fever roster in each season Dunn coached.

Dunn, 74, re-joins the franchise with over a decade of WNBA experience dating back to the year 2000. She has coached numerous WNBA legends including Tamika Catchings, Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Katie Douglas, and more. She also holds experience with USA Basketball, and most recently, Dunn was the special assistant to the head coach at the University of Kentucky.

Dunn has the resume and relationships to guide a Fever turnaround. But it will be difficult. The last two lottery picks in Indiana — Lauren Cox and Kysre Gondrezickwere both placed on waivers after less than two seasons with the franchise, and there were numerous questionable signings made during Catching’s tenure. The buildup to the next great Fever team may be slow.

But the Dunn era, however long it may last, has a good chance to start off on the right foot. Catchings did make some smart, forward-thinking signings during the ongoing free agency period, and Indiana does have three first-round picks in the upcoming WNBA draft. Perhaps the new Fever front office will be aggressive in acquiring standout college player Rhyne Howard, who plays in the Kentucky program that Dunn was a part of.

Catchings did have her best free agency period in 2022 just before stepping away from the team. She made the right moves for a young, growing team. But she did execute a handful of rebuilding-focused transactions after stating her desire to create a postseason team for the upcoming season, which would have led to more questions about the direction of the franchise. Rebuilding moves are good for the red and blue, who have won six games in each of the past two seasons, but the actions and the messaging didn’t match, which was puzzling.

Going forward, Catchings will stay in her role as Co-Chair for the 2024 NBA All-Star Board of Directors. The 2024 NBA All-Star game will take place in Indianapolis, so the legendary player will still be around the city that knows and loves her.

The Tamika Catchings era is officially over in Indiana. From the 1,000-foot view, it’s an emotional ending to a story that spans more than two decades. From a zoomed in view that focuses only on her role as a team executive, the change was needed. Catchings will carry her passion and drive with her wherever she goes to next, and while that happens, the Lin Dunn era will begin in Indiana. The storied organization will hope that this era can be one that features more success and winning than the past half decade has provided.

Written by Tony East

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

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