The celebratory confetti has been swept up. The memories have not.
By no means does it seem that six months have passed since the Indiana Fever capped their 13th season with the franchise’s first WNBA title.
Six months it’s been.
Enough time for Finals Most Valuable Player Tamika Catchings, the smiling face of a franchise if not the entire WNBA, to tend to her multitude of charities, speaking engagements, friends and family members. Enough time for Katie Douglas’ injured left ankle, the one forcing the Indianapolis native to miss the WNBA Finals, to fully heal.
The Fever made hundreds, if not thousands, of new fans in 2012.
History likely wasn’t one of them.
Los Angeles is the most recent WNBA franchise to hoist back-to-back championship trophies, and that was more than a decade ago. Moreover, six different cities have thrown victory parades for their conquering heroes in the past eight years.
Indiana, having finally scaled Mount WNBA, finds itself knee-deep in unfamiliar waters.
Fever players are now the chasees rather than the chasers. The ones with the rings — even though, interestingly, their rings have yet to arrive.
“They are being made as we speak. I’ve been told by the manufacturer sometime in the middle of May,” Fever president Kelly Krauskopf said. “But I’ll tell you, the biggest thrill for me will be watching that banner go up.”
The rafters inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse gets its new occupant during pregame ceremonies of the May 31 home-opener against Atlanta. The goal now is to get it a companion. Or two.
Krauskopf has overseen the difficult task of making the Fever younger as its most vital components approach their mid-30s. On April 15, Indiana used the
No. 9 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft to pluck charismatic 5-foot-9 guard Layshia Clarendon, who only eight days earlier had been running Cal’s offense in the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
Clarendon’s rookie season coincides with the debut of some WNBA rule changes. Most apparent is the league extending the 3-point stripe from 20 feet, 6¼ inches to 22 feet, 1¾ inches.
That’s a lot of stepping back for 12 franchises desiring to step it up.
Earlier this week, Daily Journal sportswriter Mike Beas sat down with Krauskopf to see what type of impact winning a championship has had on the Fever brand.
First things first, what’s your offseason been like?
It really hasn’t been an offseason. It’s been an on-season with re-signing our players, our increase in ticket sales and corporate sponsorship. It’s been a terrific five or six months. When you have success, there is a lot of pride in the city.
Now that you’ve been presented the opportunity to rest on your laurels, how difficult is it to not do that?
You don’t rest, and that’s the key. Going into the 2013 season is another huge opportunity for us. The key is you’re only as good as your last game. We can be better, and I think that’s the exciting part. Last year our players showed they can perform at the highest level. Now it’s about trying to be better than you were in 2012. There’s always room for improvement.
Katie Douglas turns 34 on Tuesday. Tamika Catchings does so in July. Have these two players given you a timetable for how much longer they would like to play?
No. But to me, they didn’t show any sign of slowing down last season. I love the mix of players we have right now. This group has a special chemistry and people are going to be coming after them. Bri, Zellous, Layshia, Erin, Erlana, Jessica ... this is the next generation.
MB: What can Fever fans expect from your top draft pick, former Cal guard Layshia Clarendon? All we know now is the blonde mohawk.
KK: She’s extremely bright. On and off the court, just a terrific personality. What we noticed is that she has one of the best mid-game games and is a very good defender. We think Layshia is long, she’s athletic and she’s very smart. Very smart. Her basketball IQ is very high. A real normal kid. I like to say she’s bringing the West back to the Midwest.
MB: How is the franchise faring in terms of ticket sales after finally winning a WNBA championship?
KK: Oh, wow. We’ve already surpassed our goal with an increase in season ticket sales between 20 and 25 percent from this time last year. Everything about the franchise is trending upward right now.
MB: Is there a player you are expecting to have a breakout season?
KK: (Pauses) With our core group coming back I think you’ll see Jessica Davenport play more. And you might see Clarendon playing.
MB: Tamika spreads herself so thin with her community involvement. Has there been discussion of making her part of the franchise’s management once she retires from playing?
KK: We don’t talk about the end of her career. Whatever Tamika wants to do, I’m sure she’ll be great at it. Like most smart athletes, she’s very forward-thinking.
MB: Does your second-round selection, 6-foot-2 former University of Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell, have a chance to contribute this season?
KK: We were happy to be able to select her. She certainly could fit in as a backup post player. But it is difficult for any second-round pick to make a WNBA roster.
MB: You presently have two players on the roster who are Indianapolis natives in Katie Douglas and Shyra Ely-Gash. Moving forward, how important is it to always have local representation on the Fever roster?
KK: In this age in sports, we know people respond to winning teams. It’s always a bonus to have a local tie or two, but going into our 14th season it’s more about having 11 players who can play and help you win a title. It’s not something we focus on.
MB: Care to predict who the 2013 WNBA champion will be?
KK: (Laughing) Predict? There hasn’t been a repeat champion since Los Angeles (2001-02). It’s parity. No. No predictions from me.
MB: Can it be the Fever?
KK: The thing about the 2012 team is that it played with a sense of urgency. I think you have to decide as a group of players, ‘We’re going to be better than we were in 2012.’