A Conversation with GM Kelly Krauskopf
Kelly Krauskopf recently took time to discuss her thoughts and philosophies about the Fever as they enter the 2005 season, the state of the WNBA and the state of women’s professional basketball overall. The Chief Operating Officer of the Fever since its inaugural season in 2000, she assumed General Manager duties in fall 2003. Krauskopf was a member of the WNBA’s administrative staff when the league was originated in 1997.
Below is part one of a two-part conversation.
Fever Website: Before discussing the team’s prospects for 2005, how would you assess the Fever’s 2004 season?
Kelly Krauskopf: “Regarding our 2004 season, we brought in two new starters, a new head coach, a new assistant coach and a few other players. And while I think our talent was much better, it takes time to come together from a chemistry standpoint. We played under a new system with Brian [Winters], defensively and offensively. That took us some time. In the games that we played really well, you could see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the games where we couldn’t seem to connect with one another, those were the times that we knew that not having that core group for a couple of years hurt us.”
FW: The 2003-04 offseason brought three new players to the Fever roster, how would you assess their seasons last year?
KK: “We definitely upgraded our overall talent which started with the trade for Kelly Miller. I am very happy about that trade. Kelly is everything and more that we thought she would be. She’s still a young player and is going to continue to get better. Ebony Hoffman made that trade complete. She is a tough, strong power forward who I believe will play a significant role next season. Deanna Jackson was only in her second year playing significant minutes in this league and Kelly Schumacher moved into a role later in the season where we relied on her for the first time. So we had several players that were in positions they hadn’t been in before and they were being counted on to deliver night in and night out. Now they know that not only does this group need to come together as a team, but they need to perform individually at the highest level on a consistent basis.”
FW: What on-the-court needs need to be assessed for the 2005 season?
KK: “We’ll continue to build from the group we’ve brought in. I still feel like our point guard position is one that can be addressed. Kelly (Miller) did a good job playing the point for us but I see her filling in more at the shooting guard next season and perhaps scoring more points. The leadership and vision that you get from an experienced point guard is what will help us be a better overall team.
“We will continue to look at free agents and also the college draft. We will also address size. The league is getting bigger every year – at every position.”
FW: How much scouting is done overseas in the women’s game?
KK: “Since we don’t have a full-time scout overseas, we evaluate players on game film, keep up with European stats and stay in touch with our own players who are over there playing. They obviously know what it takes to play in the WNBA. I talk frequently to agents who have players overseas as well. In addition, we will send one of our coaches to scout in person this year." .
FW: What about free agency? Has it worked for the league after being implemented for the first time last season?
KK: “I think free agency is working well so far. It allows teams to control their own destiny so to speak – whether by signing unsigned players or a sign-and-trade for restricted free agents. In the past, we had to rely strictly on getting better through the draft. Now we have a hard salary cap so everyone is working within the same framework. The system also allows players the opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process with respect to a sign and trade, while at the same time it allows the franchises to maintain some continuity of a core group of players with long term contracts etc… You really have to stay on top of player personnel. It is truly a full-time job."
FW: Are contract offers between teams really that different for a player to choose?
KK: “The money that is offered between teams in a lot of cases may not be that big of a difference but the playing time or depth chart may help make the decision. There are always situations where one team values a player a lot higher than another team – then the numbers might be significantly different."
FW: The Fever will add a player or two in the upcoming draft in April. I’m assuming you are happy with the Fever’s No. 2 draw in the Draft Lottery?
KK: “Fortunately, luck held with us again and we moved up a slot in the draft. This draft will be a bit different than last year in the sense that there really doesn’t seem to be a consensus overall No. 1 player like Taurasi was last year. Certainly, I would rather not be where we are because I would have liked to have had a better year in ’04. But moving up to No. 2 helps heal the wounds from the way we ended last year. I believe we will be able to draft a player who will help our team quickly."