Season Ticket Holders Direct Questions to Fever Execs

March 30, 2006
Kelly Krauskopf and Brian Winters addressed questions from Season Ticket Holders in a live conference call on Wednesday. Similar to a conference call conducted with Pacers Season Ticket Holders and Larry Bird earlier this year, the Fever conducted its first annual Season Ticket Holders Conference Call, presented by eGIX. Below is a transcript.
Operator: Good afternoon my name is (Carrie) and I’ll be your conference operator today. At this time I would like to welcome everyone to the Indiana Fever conference call with Kelly Krauskopf, COO and General Manager, and Brian Winters, Head Coach. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speaker’s remarks there will be a polling session. Instructions will be given at that time. Thank you. I will now turn the call over to Mr. Kevin Messenger, Director of Media Relations. You may begin, sir.
Kevin Messenger: Thank you, (Carrie). And we’d like to thank you all for joining us for our very first Indiana Fever Season Ticket Holder Conference Call presented by eGIX. I’m happy to be sitting here with our Chief Operating Officer and General Manager for the Fever, Kelly Krauskopf; also the head coach of the Fever, Brian Winters.

We hope that this conference call will address your questions and give you an exclusive perspective into our basketball operations. Because you are our season ticket holders you are obviously very important to us and we consider you to be a part of our Fever family. We hope this call provides you with an exclusive insight and a look into the direction of our team.

To begin I'd also like to invite you to participate in one more interactive opportunity with Kelly Krauskopf. Kelly will participate in an Internet chat tomorrow on the Fever’s Web site. That’s tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 pm Eastern time. This chat is open to the public, not just season ticketholders. Anybody can log onto FeverBasketball.com and follow the link to Kelly’s chat. That is tomorrow at 1:00 pm.

I’ll address each of your questions to Kelly and to Brian. I thank them for joining us today and I thank you for your participation. Let’s go ahead and get started, and Kelly, I’m actually going to pose the first question for you.

You’ve made a series of unprecedented player moves this off-season. Can you begin by shedding light on the positions you needed to fill and why so much activity was really a necessity.

Kelly Krauskopf: Okay thanks, Kevin. First of all thank you to all the Fever ticket holders. And this is, I think, a really great opportunity for our ticket holders to give them an inside look, and I really want to thank everybody for being involved. We want to give you an opportunity to get to know us a little better and see what you have to look forward to this summer.


Williams
We did have an active off-season starting with free agency. And what happened was, we knew at the end of last season, Natalie Williams announced her retirement; and Jurgita Streimikyte let me know at the end of the season she was thinking about not returning in order to train with her national team. And we knew we had an expansion draft. So we knew right off the bat we were going to lose potentially three players, and potentially three key players. Obviously with losing Natalie as a veteran center, that was a key area, as well as the potential loss of Jurgita.

And then Deanna Jackson, as you know, we lost in the expansion draft. So it was important to get out early in free agency and start filling some of those holes. I think that in all the additions that we made, we really looked at trying to upgrade in terms of speed and quickness, experience, and then versatility. And those are some areas that, you know, we feel like we’ve really filled with all the free agent moves that we made.


Kevin Messenger: Kelly, you just touched on this briefly. Here’s our first question from a season ticket holder. This is from (Jack Smith). He’s been a ticketholder from our very first season.

He asks the current status of Jurgita for the upcoming season. Does she plan to return this season? We know that answer. But what about years beyond?


Streimikyte
Kelly Krauskopf: You know, Jurgita’s 33. She does have a young boy. I give her a lot of credit because I asked her to let me know about this year by the free agent signing date, when we could first start signing free agents, which was February 1. She called me the day before and said, 'I really am going to stay here this year, train with my national team, rest, and then I will let you know about future years.' She is just a tremendous veteran professional, savvy player that really helped us a lot in terms of our locker room and professionalism of our team. We’ll miss her and would like to have her back at some point.
Kevin Messenger: Let’s go ahead and get the coach into the conversation. This question is from (Jackie Miller). She’s a full season ticketholder since 2000 as well.

Coach, now that Natalie is retired are we going to be looking at Ebony Hoffman perhaps as the starting center?


Hoffman
Brian Winters: Well I never make predictions on who’s going to be a starter. Ebony has played over in Italy and had a good summer - I should say good winter and off-season for the WNBA. And hopefully she comes back improved, in shape and ready to go. And we’ll let her compete for the position.

We also signed Olympia Scott who we know is a center and has been a veteran center. And those two will probably hold down the center positions as I sit here today. Now things could change and we’ll see where it goes. You know, I want to see both of them in practice and we’ll evaluate as we go. But right now I think sitting here today, Olympia and Ebony will probably hold down our center position and we are very comfortable in doing that.

Olympia played here a couple years ago. She had some knee surgeries for a year and did not play, but last year she was in Sacramento and played on a championship-caliber team. She’s very active, runs the floor great and, you know, we think she’s a really good veteran player who’s going to help us down the road.


Kevin Messenger: Our next three questions come from (Bob and Scott Orr), also full season ticket holders, and we’ll stay with Brian for a moment.

Coach, how have all these new acquisitions helped with our overall team speed? And our question elaborates, he says that they seem to be good pickups, especially DeForge and Whitmore. Your comments?


Scott
Brian Winters: Well let’s start with Olympia Scott. She was the first free agent we signed. Natalie Williams was a very good player for us. She was 6’1” and a very strong center, but she was not a great runner of the floor.

Olympia certainly can run the floor better than Natalie. I think she’s probably a little better defensively because she’s a little bigger and longer and taller and she’s going to give us a shot-blocking ability that we really didn’t have from the center position last year. So I think Olympia helps us with our speed right away.


Whitmore
As far as Tamika Whitmore is concerned, Tamika is a great veteran player. She played on New York’s really good teams, with the Liberty and then played in L.A. the last two years. And she’s played in over 30 playoff games. And I don’t think you can discount that playoff experience. I think she does give us some quickness. She gives us great toughness. She’s an excellent rebounder. She can score inside and out and we think that’s a great pickup for our team.

Anna DeForge, well, we traded Kelly Miller for Anna. Anna is probably as quick as Kelly but she’s a little taller. She’s probably 5’10” or 5'11” and a little better player off the dribble, and getting to the free throw line. So I think with her size - we needed to add some size to play against some of the bigger guards in the East - she was very, very good pickup for us also.

We signed a couple other free agents which will help us with our speed. But again it’s not always just about speed. You have to have quickness and you have to have versatility and you have to understand how to play. And we think all the players that we got in free agency this year do that for us.

Kevin Messenger: We’ll turn to Kelly Krauskopf. The next question is that, while I see some bulk being added to the front line we still are a little short. Any plans to address that height issue perhaps in the post area?

Kelly Krauskopf: Well it’s like Brian says, you know, with the addition of Olympia as well as Tamika Whitmore, as well as Ebony ... you know, Ebony is actually - if you want to just talk about heights for a minute - she’s actually taller - than Natalie.

Olympia’s got length. When we look at players, I think it’s important to note that we evaluate not just height, but we evaluate length. The size of the wingspan, the length of their arms. So there’s a lot of different things when you start evaluating how you’re putting your team together.


Sharp
We added length in K.B. Sharp as a point guard, even. We added length in DeForge with her size. We feel like we got a little bigger in terms of size at every position, as well as longer. I think we have to be careful to note that just because someone’s 6’5” or 6’7” doesn’t mean they necessarily makes your team any better.

You’ve got to have your team put together in a way that you want to play. And speed, size, lengths are all important factors. But it’s how we put them together on the floor. And that was something that we felt like we’ve done this year, with the signing of the free agents.

Kevin Messenger: (Bob and Scott) seem to be fans of Tully Bevilaqua. They say that she’s a deal for this city. She is a model basketball player even though she needs to work on her free throw form and accuracy! The question from (Bob and Scott) for Kelly: Are we going to re-sign Tully after this season?


Bevilaqua
Kelly Krauskopf: That’s the plan. I actually would like to have Tully retire with the Indiana Fever, whenever that will be. She’s just been such a tremendous addition to our team. I call her kind of a heart and soul because of the kind of person that she is on and off the floor.

She really is an anchor for our team. Our goal is to definitely re-sign her, and I’m actually talking with her agent already. So that’s definitely a plan to keep Tully Bevilaqua with Indiana for as long as we can.


Kevin Messenger: While we’re on the subject of Tully, Coach, we’ll direct this one to you. This one - this question is from (Sue Beerman).

While Tully’s a wonderful point guard who do you envision as her main backup with Kelly Miller now gone?


Paige
Brian Winters: Well, you know, sitting here today I’m not exactly sure. We signed K.B. Sharp who is a veteran point guard who played in New York for a few years. We think she’s capable of handling the position if we need. We also have Yolanda Paige who we drafted a year ago and we’ll see if she improved and got better. And then I also think that Anna might have that capability - we’re going to see about her versatility. I mean, there may be times where she can play some backup point guard, too. So we think we have the position covered.

We like the acquisitions we made, and if Anna can play there, you know, Kelly Miller played both one and two last year. She started as a two with Tully in the backcourt but then we moved her to the point guard position when Tully would go out. We felt that was best for our team.

It may be the same situation with Anna DeForge, but K.B. Sharp and Yolanda, they’re also to compete for the job. So we’ll go to training camp. We’ll evaluate if they got better and we’ll see where we go from there.


Kevin Messenger: Kelly, our next question is from Alan McNeer, season ticket holder for four years. Alan says he’s excited about this year’s team and his question is, are you actively planning more trades or now just focusing on the draft and free agent signings?

Kelly Krauskopf: Well, you know, honestly, when you’re looking at building your roster you’re always looking at getting better. And that obviously doesn’t shut off any opportunities to make another trade. At this point, we really like the group that we have. We feel like we’re two deep at every position before we even go into the draft. But at the same time you never turn down an opportunity to get better, to add another player, if it presents itself.

So it’s not something we’re actively doing. We’re focusing on the draft right now. But, you know, there could still be some movement and we’ll see what happens.


Kevin Messenger: Brian, our next question comes from Jeff Lancaster. He’s a season ticket holder for five years. He also calls himself the UConn guy - so obviously we’ve got a question with regard to Kelly Schumacher.

With the retirement of Natalie and the trade of Kelly, it appears that the team’s low post presence is somewhat diminished. What are your plans to address this on the court?

Brian Winters: First of all I don’t think they’re diminished. Natalie Williams is a very good center and we appreciated her efforts and her time here. But there are certain things Natalie didn’t do that maybe Olympia Scott can do or Ebony can take care of. You know, Ebony’s just as big as Natalie and as strong as Natalie. She hasn’t had the experience that Natalie had, so we expect her to be a better player this year. Olympia is 6’3” and runs the floor better than both Ebony and Natalie.

Olympia also gives us some length and quickness, and toughness and defensive abilities, that we did not have in the past. You know, she’s a good shot blocker. So I’m not disappointed in our post by any means. I think, as I said before, we have added speed, quickness and versatility with our post players. And there’s nothing to say that Tamika Whitmore can’t play some center at times. We’ll just have to evaluate as we go. We think we’ve filled our post positions. Olympia and Ebony right now sit there as our fives, and if we needed to play Tamika Whitmore there, that’s another five.

And then we’ll get to the draft and we’ll see what happens with that. But we’re optimistic and happy about who we have as post players and we think we’ve put together a better roster.


Kevin Messenger: Our next question comes from (Karin), a very loyal fan and season ticket holder from the first season. We’ll address first to Kelly. (Karin) feels that the Fever has sorely needed a presence in the paint beyond what Natalie had provided. She also is concerned that Olympia perhaps is easily moved out of position in the paint. She asks the question, whether it might be better to take the approach of taking someone out of the college ranks through the draft, even though that they might be untested, rather than another free agent.

So, Kelly, we’ll ask you if you’d like to talk about signing post players versus drafting a post player.


Hoffman
Kelly Krauskopf: You know, we feel like we have the power player, honestly, in Ebony Hoffman. She’s as strong and as powerful as anybody you’ll see. You know, she’s been sort of an understudy, if you will, to Natalie Williams and has learned a lot from Natalie every day in practice. So from that standpoint her presence in the paint is very well taken care of. We will look to draft the best players. We’re’re going to really take our pick and try to get the best player we can get because we feel like we have a lot of depth.

We’ve got presence in the paint with Tamika Whitmore, Ebony Hoffman and Olympia Scott and have a lot of confidence in those three players. Don’t forget that our leading rebounder and presence in the paint was Tamika Catchings. We also have Charlotte Smith. So we feel like we’re going to get up and down the floor a little bit. And the paint’s going to be taken care of. We have a lot of rebounders and a lot of players that are very quick, strong, powerful and do a lot of different things.

We’re going to look at the draft and probably try to take the best player, and the best athlete, we can take.

Kevin Messenger: (Karin) continues and she’s got a couple of questions. We’ll direct these to Brian. (Karen) thought that Jurgita might have been a bit tentative last season knowing that it was her first year back, but thinks that she’s a great complement to Tamika.

So, Brian, the question: how much does it hurt not having Jurgita back in the lineup this year?

Brian Winters: Jurgita was a very good player for us and she had a very good year for us and we were happy with her. But it was her decision not to come back, you know. In mid-September, the World Championships will be played and she wanted to stay home and train with her national team. And we can’t blame her for that. She loves her country and she wants to participate.


Smith
As far as replacing her, Charlotte Smith is a very good player and she’s been a good player for a long time. She’s a veteran. She actually can make 3s at a much higher level than Jurgita. Jurgita was kind of a medium-range shooter and her range was about 15-to-16 feet and she was very good at it. Charlotte has the ability to make 3s, and I think we’re going to be able to space the court and stretch the court. And I think Charlotte is going to bring some of the very things that Jurgita brought to our team -- that shooting, that smartness, that good passing ability and just generally good play.

So I think we’ve replaced Jurgita with Charlotte Smith and we’ll do just fine with her. Tamika Whitmore is also a little more of a power forward than Jurgita, and Linda Frohich will do many of the same things, also.

Kevin Messenger: (Karin) continues. She says that, 'I know it’s a short season and some players don’t always play overseas during our off-season.' Brian, are you ever concerned about the players’ fitness during the WNBA season?


Moore
Brian Winters: Well, you know, fitness is always a concern no matter whether you’re playing in the NBA, or the WNBA, or college, or wherever. We employ a strength and conditioning coach named Greg Moore who does a great job with all our ladies.

And even though they play all season, sometimes they don’t come back exactly where they need to be strength-wise. So as soon as they’re back, Greg is highly involved each and every day. We do weight workouts, and stretching workouts, and agility workouts, and whatever Greg wants to do. We sit down and we talk about all of those things and we let Greg use his expertise to get our team into the best physical condition they can be, and with the most strength.

And so as I said, we think we've got a great guy in Greg Moore, our strength coach, and he does a wonderful job and he’ll continue to do that.


Kevin Messenger: Let’s go ahead and move off the playing court for a bit. Kelly, we’ll address this question to you from Kimberly Williams, another full season ticket holder since Day 1.

She asks the question, 'What is being done to gain more fan and community support. There are a lot of - are there a lot of more opportunities to partner with corporate sponsors to fill seats? I think it’s nice that a lot of the lower-level seats have been purchased and sold. However, it would be nice and more of a home court advantage if some of those seats were actually filled all the time.'

Kelly Krauskopf: Absolutely. Kimberly, you've been with us since Day 1, so you know - anything you can do to keep spreading the word obviously helps. You know, we feel like we have a very solid game plan, if you will.

The league is in its tenth year anniversary this season. They’ve lended a lot of support in terms of new marketing and promotional opportunities for teams to execute in the local markets. We have a lot of specific game promotions planned this year that will reach out to very targeted demographics and targeted fan demos. And in our corporate sponsorship area, we’re going really well.

We have some very good corporate partners that are committed to helping us in terms of being involved in the community and continue to extend our brand out into the community. But I’ll tell you that we really rely on our season ticket holders. And you guys that have been with us - and it’s no different than any other WNBA city.

Our biggest champions [of our cause] and our best sellers are our fans and our season ticket holders, and the people that are on this call. You are very, very important to the growth of the WNBA, and very important to the continued marketing, from a word-of-mouth standpoint, about the WNBA. So we rely a lot on our local fans. We really do appreciate your support.


Kevin Messenger: Next question is from (Lori Kurtz). She’s only a second-year season ticket holder but she’s been to almost every game since the franchise began. And her question is about TV coverage, or in her words, the lack thereof.

She says the Pacers seem to get every game on TV. She listens to the Fever games on radio or sometimes online, but the signal can often fade towards the end of the game. She says it would be nice to see our games on TV. Fans could schedule some get-togethers around the games. Surely there must be some kind of a deal that could be made, at least for the away games. She also says thanks for keeping me informed. Kelly, your thoughts on any additional TV coverage?

Kelly Krauskopf: You know, we would echo your sentiment. We'd love to have all our games on television! We obviously know, though, that there are costs that go into producing games on the road. We have talked a lot as a league about sharing feeds so that, for instance, if we’re playing at New York and the game is produced by New York, we can somehow shoot it back here to Indianapolis so that you guys can see it.

So there are some talks in the league going on about sharing feeds so that we can get our product out there more. You know, what would be helpful is if you guys wrote letters to WB4 and to Fox Sports Midwest. Because anytime our partners hear from you, the fans, in terms of realizing a demand, it just helps us with our cause.

It helps us with continued negotiations, because there are eyeballs and there are people out there demanding to see the product. But it’s something that we’re working towards and we certainly agree with you, and hope to get more exposures.


Kevin Messenger: Let’s go ahead and talk briefly about the draft which will take place one week from today. Indiana this year has four picks in the draft. We’re at No. 9 in the first round. That of course comes from a trade, when we moved up three spots in the trade with Kelly Schumacher and New York. We’ll also draft No. 26, No. 38 and No. 40, picking up an additional pick in last year’s trade with Kristen Rasmussen to Houston. This question from Maggie Jorge, a full season ticket holder and also a member of the new Fever Force Fan Club. We’ll direct this one for the coach.

Look ahead into the crystal ball one week. Who do the Fever select at No. 9?

Brian Winters: Well I’m not going to give out any names obviously. I don’t want to give anything away to the opposition! But as Kelly said earlier, you know, we’re going to take the best player. It may be a big person. It may be a small forward, a two-guard, somebody with quickness, strength or scoring ability.

We’ve evaluated all year. We’ve watched the college game very closely all year long and we know who we want to target. And we’ll just have to see what goes in front of us. There are eight picks in front of us. If somebody happens to slide down to us at nine, that we weren’t expecting to be there, you know, we’ll be ready for that too.

But we’re going to take the best player. You know, you can always use good athletes, good quickness, people who can score - whether they’re a big person or a little person. And as I said, we’re going to take the best player and I think we’ll make a good choice.


Kevin Messenger: We’ve got two final questions from our season ticket holders. Both are good ones. We’ll let Kelly address them. They come from Dianne Hornbeak.

The first question is in regard to Home Court Gift Shop merchandise. Is there any way that we can get more of a selection of Fever apparel, specifically fitted ball caps and jerseys perhaps, in both home and away colors?

Kelly Krauskopf: Good suggestion. We sit down every year with the director of the merchandising shop and talk through merchandise and I appreciate your input. I know there are going to be some new items. We have actually tied in some merchandise with our ad campaign this year, that you’ll see that I think a lot of our fans will really enjoy. I think they do a really good job.

I know that he’s always looking for new ideas every year, so we’re going to be working through those and offering more options in terms of merchandise. I think we'll add more options that fit our demographic, which is really a lot of female shoppers. So stay on the lookout for that because we’ll have some stuff for you.

Kevin Messenger: Second question from Dianne. Can there be any events for season ticket holders that are catered to "older" women, specifically? She says, 'I know at one time there was a fitness clinic for older women. Any thoughts of those returning?'

Kelly Krauskopf: Since I’m getting closer to the "older" women category, maybe I’ll need to run a fitness clinic, myself! But there are some things that we’re going to be doing this year that our marketing staff is working on, that is going to touch a little bit on what we call touch points for some of our core fans.

And I know that they’re working on those as we speak, and we’ll get some information out to you guys in order for you to have opportunities to come down to practices, perhaps. Or do what we call a kind of a fantasy camp that we've been talking through, and try to find the right time to do that so we can have some players involved.

But yeah, the more things that we do that involves our fans, we think the better it is and the better the connection is, because our fan base really understands tthat connection point to our team. And that’s what makes the WNBA so great, is that these players and everything about this league is very touchable and very approachable, and we want to keep that open to you.


Kevin Messenger: Kelly and Brian, our season ticket holders have shared their thoughts. And before I ask for any of your final comments, I’ll remind our listeners once more that they can participate in a live chat with Kelly again. That is tomorrow at 1:00 pm Eastern. Just log on to feverbasketball.com, the Fever’s new website. You can click the link for Kelly’s chat. That’ll take you there at 1:00 pm tomorrow afternoon.

Kelly, any final thoughts or remarks?

Kelly Krauskopf: We’re excited about the season! We've had a really good off-season, free agency and, you know, I think the key is how they come together as players on the floor. We’ve got tremendous experience and tremendous talent. So I think the fun part for the coaching staff is putting it all together now.

And I think we have one of the best coaching staffs in the WNBA. Everybody’s been involved in this process and we’re really ready to get after it and get started. We have an opportunity on May 11, of course, our preseason game here at home against L.A. And then we tip it off May 20. From that point - hang on to your seats because it’s a fast and furious season. We’ve got a 24-second shot clock and, we look to return to the Eastern Conference Finals and taking another step further.


Kevin Messenger: Coach, your draft is one week from today. Your training camp opens in three weeks. Are you ready?

Brian Winters: Well I’m not ready right this moment but, you know, we’re pretty much ready for the draft and we’ll get that accomplished first. I’ve been meeting with my assistant coaches, Lin Dunn and Julie Plank. And we’ve been planning on how we’re going to use the new ability and new talent we have.

We’re very excited about our team. You know, we set about this winter to at least maintain the level we were at last year, if not compete for a championship. And that’s always been our goal from Day 1 here, and we think we’ve added the right pieces to have us do that.

We’ve added speed, quickness and versatility along with experience. Tamika Whitmore has over 30 playoff games of experience. That’s invaluable. Charlotte Smith also has innumerable playoff experience.

So, we’ve added players who have been in WNBA, know what it’s like, know how competitive it is and have the experience on winning teams. And that’s extremely important, especially to me as the coach. We’ve kept Tully Bevilaqua, Tamika Catchings, Ebony Hoffman and Tan White. They were pretty much our core of who we kept and we’ve added around it. And we think we’ve added some very good players.

We’ve also added Linda Frohlich as another big player on our team and we think she’s going to be good help for us. So we’re excited about our team. We’re excited about where it’s going. We’re going to be a little different looking team. I think we’ll be faster, quicker and a little more versatile. And that’s always a good thing. When you have speed and quickness it makes the game a lot easier.

And we think we’ve added outside shooting to go with it. So, you know, we’re going to be a little different team, but we think we’re going to be a very good team. And I know I’m personally looking very much forward to it.

Kevin Messenger: In closing we would like to once again thank all of you for participating in the very first Fever Season Ticket Holder Conference Call presented by eGIX.

As an organization, of course, it’s important that we keep our season ticket holders well informed about all aspects of our business. You are an integral part of the Fever family and a key to our success. We hope that you feel this has been a great opportunity for you to gather essential information from our top management. We will continue to implement ways to enhance and improve your experience. And as we’ve indicated, your thoughts about our team are extremely important to us.