Coaching Transition Plan Rules Fever Day

By Tom Rietmann | May 6, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- On a day when the Indiana Fever previewed a bevy of new and unfamiliar players, two well-known and high-ranking members of the team grabbed most of the attention.

Lin Dunn, one of basketball's most prominent personalities and the head coach of the Fever since 2008, announced before Indiana's home preseason game against Washington that the 2014 season will be her last on the team bench. She will remain with the franchise in 2015 as a senior basketball adviser.

“It's been an amazing journey,” Dunn said about her 44 years of coaching basketball at levels.

The new head coach for 2015 was sitting right next to Dunn during the Fever's preseason-opening loss to Washington (80-63). Stephanie White, one of the franchise's original players in 2000 and a former star at the high school and college levels in Indiana, will ascend from her current role as associate head coach.

And that pleased Dunn more than anything.

“I don't think there will be a whole lot of hiccups as we change these leadership roles,” said Dunn, who hired White as an assistant in 2011. “It's an orderly transition that I think is a positive thing. I think Stephanie has paid her dues.”

Dunn, who will be 67 years old on May 10, is entering her 38th season as a pro or college head coach. She owns a 664-453 (.594) record in her first 37 seasons. She ranks as the winningest coach at three universities -- Austin Peay, Miami and Purdue.

Dunn, who will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on June 14, emphasized that she will be retiring from the Indiana bench but not from basketball. Besides consulting for the Fever, she plans to spend a lot of time mentoring coaches in the college and pro ranks .

“I've had some great experiences,” Dunn said. “I'm looking forward to doing as well as we can this year with this team, getting it ready for Stephanie as she steps in. And I'm just happy about the fact I can end my coaching career here with the Fever.”

Dunn talked glowingly of relationships she has built with Pacers and Fever leaders, including Fever President and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf. Dunn said she and Krauskopf have been discussing the coach's retirement for “several years.” It became clear to both of them, too, that White would be the perfect heir apparent.

When asked about the highlights of her decorated coaching career, Dunn paused to think. She talked about her early years when she had the opportunity to coach against the legendary Margaret Wade. She mentioned her time as head coach at Purdue, when the team won its first Big Ten championship and blossomed into an NCAA Final Four qualifier.

Dunn talked about leading the Fever to the 2009 WNBA Finals and then winning the league championship in 2012, after which coaches and players visited the White House and met President Barack Obama.

“How many of you all have gotten to high-five the president?” a smiling Dunn said to the media.

Also, Dunn talked about having the chance to coach Fever star Tamika Catchings, the league's Most Valuable Player in 2011 and MVP of the Finals in 2012.

“She's a once-in-a-lifetime type of player to coach. There's just not many like her,” Dunn said.

Dunn's record with the Fever is 119-85 (.583), best since the team's inception in 2000. The Fever will honor Dunn by dedicating its June 11 home game against Seattle to her.

It's safe to say White will be one of those cheering the loudest that night. White called Dunn “the heart and soul” of the Fever basketball team.

“When she came, she brought an intensity and a tenacity and a toughness to our franchise,” White said. “ … Because of the way she approaches the game, it's a culture that was created and certainly a culture that will be maintained.”

In 1995, White was named Indiana's Miss Basketball at Seeger Memorial High School. She continued as a standout at Purdue, being named national player of the year and leading the Boilermakers to the NCAA title in 1999.

For White, gaining her first head coaching job in her home state will be something special.

“I'm honored. I'm humbled,” she said. “This is where I grew up. To be able to continue my career here in such a top-class organization is truly a dream come true. I've spent the last four years under Lin learning every intricacy of this game. She's forgotten more than I'll ever know.”

White, after completing her WNBA playing career, had assistant coaching stints at Ball State, Kansas State and Toledo before four seasons as an assistant with the Chicago Sky. Krauskopf and Dunn liked everything they saw from White as she advanced through the coaching ranks.

The grooming process for White to take over the Fever began in earnest last year when she was elevated from an assistant to associate head coach. Dunn stood firmly behind it.

Said White: “There are a lot of coaches who don't want to prepare assistant coaches to become head coaches. Lin has always been very good about giving her assistant coaches responsibility and preparing them to be better coaches.

“Lin puts me in a position to think about the big picture. She helps me to step back and look at things from a broader spectrum. … This year, it's still her team, certainly. But she will challenge me and get me to prepare for next year as well.”

Fever point guard Briann January applauded the team's succession plan at head coach.

“It's going to be sad to see Lin leave because she's a great coach,” January said. “She's done a great job of making the Indiana Fever what they are right now, making them a contender in the league every year.

“They're turning it over into great hands with Stephanie White. She knows the game, in and out, and has been a very vocal part of our team. She has really helped me learn the game. She just has a way of seeing the game. She has a good, positive energy and gets the most out of the players. That's a great asset to have as a head coach.”

Rookie Howard tops Fever scorers

The loss to Washington on Tuesday saw the Fever use seven new players while five veterans from last year's club, including Catchings, were unavailable for various reasons. Natasha Howard, the team's top draft pick this year, led Fever scorers with 14 points. Marissa Coleman added 10.

Said Dunn about Howard: “I think you can see the potential she has for us. It's been a long time since we've had a player on the perimeter with that kind of speed and quickness and that kind of touch around the basket.”