Fever GM plans for 2011
By Tom Rietmann | October 13, 2010
Season ticket sales and corporate sponsorships continue on an upward trend for the Indiana Fever. Kelly Krauskopf, chief architect of the Fever, wants to assure the basketball team follows a similar path and rewards its supporters with another trip to the WNBA Finals.
Preparation for next season has already begun at the Fever offices in Conseco Fieldhouse. Krauskopf, the team's chief operating officer and general manager, has met with her coaching staff and sketched a blueprint that they hope will lead to improvements on the recently completed season's 21-13 record and first-round exit from the playoffs.
To repeat 2009's run to the league finals, which heightened awareness of the team and stirred emotions for Indianapolis fans, Krauskopf and the coaches are looking to upgrade in three key areas. Two involve players – finding one more consistent scorer and one more strong rebounder. The other area requires re-discovering the mental toughness and resilience that catapulted the Fever in 2009.
Another scoring presence would help out Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, who led the 2010 Fever with averages of 18.2 and 13.7 points respectively. Indiana had no other player with a double-digit average.
“If you have three weapons that you can count on night in and night out, that usually yields good results,” Krauskopf said in an interview this week.
Perhaps that scorer is already on the team, or perhaps she arrives via free agency or the draft. A free agent will have to fit within the framework of the Fever's salary cap. Finding that player in the April college draft isn't unthinkable, but a draft position like Indiana's (No. 9 in the first round) doesn't typically yield someone who records big numbers as a rookie.
Coach Lin Dunn, in an interview last week, pointed to the team's need for a strong rebounder. She, like Krauskopf, hopes to find someone who can average close to double-digit boards and take some rebounding pressure off of Catchings.
Stated Dunn: “If somebody said you could have a do-over in those 13 games (the Fever lost), what would it be? I'd say we'd figure out a way to rebound better. It sticks out.”
The resilience factor, too, was mentioned by both Dunn and Krauskopf. Defensive stops at key times weren't always there like in 2009. Also, an intensity letdown or the rebounding deficiency was often a culprit as opponents outscored the Fever in second-chance points in seven of the 13 losses.
“Lin and I agree that the feel of the team was a little different this year,” Krauskopf said. “That resiliency we had in 2009 ... I think there were some games we let get away this year.”
For Krauskopf, the way the Fever bench performed in 2010 was a pleasant surprise. Youthful and athletic players are becoming a fixture for top WNBA teams, and the Fever's group averaged 25 points a game off the bench and provided a lift for the team's veteran starting unit.
“When our young players came into the game, there was just an energy about them,” Krauskopf said.
Krauskopf, Dunn and assistant coach Gary Koppenburg will continue managing the club’s college scouting this winter. Dunn will have input into the team's roster makeup, but Krauskopf, as the general manager, is charged with making the final decisions.
Guard Tully Bevilaqua and forward Ebony Hoffman are unrestricted free agents for 2011. Bevilaqua has talked about retirement, and Krauskopf said the team will confer further with her. Hoffman's plans are uncertain but, Krauskopf said, “if she wants to come back, we'd like to have her back.”
Backup center Jessica Davenport is a restricted free agent, but Krauskopf said she is “confident” the team can sign her again. Everybody else from the 2010 Fever roster is under contract for next season.
Center Tammy Sutton-Brown and backup forward Jessica Moore, who recently underwent knee surgery, are planning to rest in the offseason and not play overseas. Catchings and Briann January, the Fever's likely starting point guard for 2011, won't go overseas until after Christmas, if at all. The other Indiana players will likely play in foreign leagues, but overseas schedules won't creep perilously close to the WNBA schedule like in 2010. The WNBA regular season will return to a June start next year.
Off the court, the Fever is still benefiting from its WNBA Finals appearance of a year ago. Already, only a month after the 2010 season ended, 65 percent of the team's season ticket holders have renewed for next year, according to Krauskopf. The Fever's attendance has risen each of the past four seasons, reaching an average of 8,265 a game in 2010. Corporate sponsorships are up 20 percent.
“The 2009 success propelled our ticket sales and corporate sponsor sales,” Krauskopf said. “Now we'll continue to build off of that. We raised our profile in the city and that helps on the business side. We are on people's radar.”