Lin Dunn Q&A part 1
After three straight seasons with matching 21-13 records, the Indiana Fever took a new head coach and seven new players into its 2008 season. Indiana qualified for its fourth consecutive playoff berth, but its 17-17 record and fourth-place Eastern Conference finish fell below its preseason expectations.
Were those expectations too high? What were the effects of new coach Lin Dunn? And what was the impact of a blockbuster trade bringing Indianapolis native Katie Douglas into the Fever lineup?
Dunn, herself, answers those questions and more in a two-part Q&A that looks back on the ’08 season, and ahead to the Fever’s 10th season in 2009. Part I is below.
FeverBasketball.com: Let’s start with the hard question first … how do you answer the critics who say the Fever “underachieved?”
Lin Dunn: We expect to challenge for the Eastern Conference championship every season. If we are not playing for the championship I am disappointed! It is very hard to clearly evaluate what we achieved this season. We had no idea going into the 2008 season how Catch's injury and recovery from Achilles surgery would affect us. We were not sure how the trade and having nine new players would impact us. We did not know Douglas would finish the season with a knee injury or how the Olympic break would impact us, in particular Tully leaving early and missing the last four games before the break. We won 17 games, won the series against all our East opponents except Detroit, made the playoffs and took Detroit (the eventual World Champion) to three games. We have much to be proud of and much to build on for the 2009 season!
FB: Were the expectations for the 2008 season set to high?
LD: We ALWAYS set expectations high for the Fever. As I said before, we expect to play for championships.
FB: You never had the benefit of a consistent lineup. What is the prognosis for injury situations with Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas?
LD: We also never had the benefit of consistent time to practice together, in particular with nine new players and a new system we were trying to implement. I believe we had a total of five practices the entire season where all five starters were available the entire practice. We do expect both Katie and Catch to be fully recovered from their injuries for 2009 and we are looking forward to everyone being healthy and not having an Olympic break.
FB: One month removed from the season and knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
LD: I would have found a way to heal Catchings quicker and figured out a way for Tully not to leave for the Olympic break early! I also would not have let Douglas hurt her knee in the Phoenix game before the Olympic break. I would have had at least one starter in training camp.
FB: This was your first head coaching venture since your time with Seattle from 2000-02. What was different for you?
LD: The main challenge is adjusting back to being in charge, making the decisions versus giving suggestions as you do as an assistant. A big difference here in Indiana is that we have much more talent now than we did when we were building an expansion team from nothing in 2000. There is no greater challenge in any sport than building an expansion team.
FB: What are key areas that you think Indiana needs to improve for 2009?
LD: We must continue to improve our rebounding; we must improve our scoring. We need to average 78-80 points a game and improved shooting, both from the floor and the free throw line, will help--as will continuing to "push" the ball. We need to continue to implement the style and system offensively and defensively that we would like to play. And we must improve our overall team defense. I thought our defense slipped in 2008 and I know having nine new players was a factor. However, defense will always be our foundation.
FB: What are a couple of things that you thought the Fever did well in 2008?
LD: I thought we started the season extremely well--we had to over-achieve early without Catch being available. Several of our players improved their overall play, particularly Ebony Hoffman. Catchings' shooting percentage from 3-pt line improved dramatically, and she finished third overall in the league. Tan White was in double figures 13 of the 15 times she started. We faced a lot of adversity, injuries etc., yet we finished the season winning six of our last nine games and won the series over all of our east opponents except Detroit.
FB: Which is more significant for Fever success in 2009 – trade/free agency, or the college draft?
LD: I think they all are very important. We need to keep our core and build our system. We had a great deal of change in 08. We need stability now and we need to add a key player from the draft. We should be able to do that with the seventh pick. I also think, perhaps, one trade may also help us. I don't anticipate many changes in 2009.
FB: Can you identify two specific needs to be addressed via either trade, free agency or the draft?
LD: I will recommend to Kelly Krauskopf that we evaluate our point guard position and our plan for the future at that spot. I will also recommend we improve our depth in the post. Those would be my two areas to address first.
FB: How will the dynamics of the team be changed from last season?
LD: I don't think there will be any major dynamic changes. We will continue to grow our system and get more comfortable with our new group, players as well as staff. And we will build on what we accomplished in 2008.
FB: What is a benchmark for success in 2009?
LD: We expect to play for championships! We will always set our goals and expectations very high. We expect to improve in all areas from 2008!
FB: Does the Fever need to become more physical to compete with the likes of East rival Detroit?
LD: I think the Eastern conference is more physical than the west and yes, I think we need to be more physical, tougher. We have some finesse players, but we also have players that can match other teams physicalness. I would like to have a few more.