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Fever coach wanted decision to be ‘old news’ by opener

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Lin Dunn understands the gift-giving routine when it comes to retiring basketball coaches.

Particularly those who, like Dunn, have spent in excess of four decades pouring time and perspiration into helping grow a sport from its most humble origins.

On June 11, three days before the seventh-year Indiana Fever coach is inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee, Dunn leads her ballclub in a home game against the Seattle Storm.

A portion of the evening is expected to be dedicated to celebrating the coach’s immense impact on women’s basketball.

Dunn, 67, last week qualified herself for amusing geriatric parting gifts such as rocking chairs by announcing her intent to step down from coaching following the 2014 Fever season.

If given her druthers the coach with the good-time bend to her Tennessee accent would prefer to focus on what she does best — diagramming plays, motivating players, working the officials and winning.

Still, one can’t blame the Fever for the timing.

“One of the reasons we announced (retirement) early was to get it over with. It’s old news before we even start the season. I just want to reinforce to everybody just because I’m retiring after this season does not mean I am not fully engaged in everything I can do to make this the best team possible and for us to challenge for a championship,” Dunn said.

“I’m not half in, half out. I’m all in. When the season’s over it will be time to step away.”

The plan is for assistant coach Stephanie White, a Fever player from 2000-04 and Indiana’s Miss Basketball in 1995, to coach the team beginning in 2015.

The time, Dunn said, is right.

“I’ve been thinking about this for the past two or three years. Once I was eligible for Medicare and Social Security, then I started thinking ahead,” said Dunn, whose seventh Fever squad opens its regular season Friday night at Chicago.

“In talking with (general manager) Kelly (Krauskopf), we decided, ‘Let’s get Stephanie ready,’ so we had a plan in place. I feel like the experiences Stephanie’s had not only as a player, but as an assistant coach in college and now in our system, I could see her getting more ready because I’ve been delegating more and more responsibility to her. I just knew by the end of last season she was ready.”

White sliding one seat over on the Fever bench remains no less than 34 games away. More than that should Indiana manage another deep postseason run in August.

Dunn feels this is possible as the organization made a concerted effort to surround perennial All-Star forward Tamika Catchings with a young and talented supporting cast.

How young? Five-year WNBA veterans Shavonte Zellous, Briann January and Marissa Coleman are considered the Fever blue-hairs after Catchings.

With hometown fan favorite Katie Douglas playing for Connecticut and gritty guard Erin Phillips now a member of the Phoenix Mercury, the Fever promise to offer a slightly different look than in recent seasons.

Getting the ball inside is a priority when nine roster players stand 6-foot or taller.

Dunn is recharged and ready to embrace the challenges of her final season leading a youthful club. Once retired, she plans to continue making a difference in women’s basketball in other ways.

“I’m ready to do something different. When I get on a plane to travel, I’m going to Paris, France. I’m not going to a back-to-back. I’m also looking forward into moving over into a consulting role. I’ve had a lot of college coaches that need help. That want to reach out and have somebody confidentially help them,” Dunn said.

“I’m kind of calling my consulting thing, ‘Coaching Coaches’. I already mentor two or three guys who coach women’s basketball. One of the things I’ve learned is the guys tend to ask for help more than the women. That’s kind of surprising because with guys’ egos, but you know what, they don’t care. They want to get better. Let’s say I get 10 calls a year, seven of them are from guys, and I find that kind of interesting.”

Women’s basketball when Dunn first became involved is the elderly ancestor to today’s fast-paced game.

The fact she’s been front and center all these years to watch it progress and improve through the 1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s and into the 21st century remains one of her greatest sources of pride.

“The first thing that comes to my mind would be coaching before Title IX. There’s not many people left in our game actively coaching that actually coached before Title IX was even passed in 1972. And then it took four years of debate for it to come along,” she said.

“I coached back in a time where we had absolutely nothing. We couldn’t use the gym. We didn’t have the budget. Coaching in that era is really special to me. Coaching against (former Delta State coach) Margaret Wade, the first woman inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, is huge for me.”

Bringing Indianapolis a second WNBA title in three years is what currently matters most.

After that, the woman who counts meeting and high-fiving president Barack Obama at the White House last June as one of her biggest thrills, has a more political purpose.

“Going to the White House, that’s big for me because I’m a huge Obama supporter,” Dunn said. “And that’s another thing. While I’m consulting I’m going to get Hillary Clinton elected president. I’m going to have my hand in there making sure we have a woman president before I die.”

Lin Dunn is laughing. And serious.

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