Christie Sides remembers exactly where she was on the morning of August 22 when Lin Dunn, Indiana Fever’s interim general manager, called for the first time. It was early in the day in Central, Louisiana, where the von Sides family lives on a farm. She was having breakfast with her mother when Dunn’s name popped up on her phone.
It was the first call of many. Dunn wanted to know if Sides was interested in becoming the Indiana Fever’s ninth head coach. “She helped me make a decision, to open my heart and embrace this process,” Sides said of the conversion, recalling that she had previously received interest in other positions as a head coach but turned it down. This time, however, she was interested. But there was still a long way to go.
Dunn spent months on the sidelines searching for the Fever’s new captain. She wanted to find the right coach for her vision, one who excelled in defence, communication and energy on the pitch. She had to find the perfect leader for her plan and the right person to hold the young, growing Fever together.
Fever’s GM had many candidates in mind, but she needed help finding the right person. A list of required qualities is a start, but finding candidates is another step. So Dunn contacted some of her mentors and advisors to further her search.
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“I spoke to Kelly Krauskopf; I’ve spoken to Mickie DeMoss, I’ve spoken to Gail Goestenkors, I’ve spoken to Carol Ross, everyone who’s been in the WNBA for a long time and is kind of our veteran leaders in women’s basketball,” Dunn shared. She said that they are all familiar with Sides and that Krauskopf in particular is important because they have worked with Indiana Fever in previous seasons. Sides was an assistant to the franchise in 2018 and 2019 when Krauskopf was general manager.
Dunn wanted to do her due diligence, even stating that she went above and beyond by doing “re-research.” So she called and found her candidates. She conducted interviews and background checks. As the process evolved, Sides stood out. She previously worked for Fever, so some people knew the 45-year-old in the building.
“‘I love Christie Sides…Coach, if you can hire her, I’m all for it,'” recalls Dunn, who Kelsey Mitchell told her during the hiring process. Mitchell played under Sides earlier in her career.
Along the way, it became clear that Sides had ticked numerous boxes for the fever. She’s been a defensive-minded assistant for Atlanta, which is what Indiana needs — they’ve finished bottom in defensive standings three straight seasons and finished 11th four seasons ago. Sides knew some of the players, including Mitchell and Victoria Vivians, and their energy and ability to host others suited the Fever franchise well. On top of that, after 22 years as an assistant, she was finally ready to become a head coach. That was enough time on the bench, including a few stints as an assistant head coach, for Dunn to feel great about the Sides experience. And those who have worked with her have had nothing but positive things to say about it.
“I got a first-hand insight into their knowledge and communication skills; As an assistant coach, she had a great leadership presence. I was a big fan from the start,” Krauskopf said of Sides. The former Fever GM told Dunn that Sides is ready for a head coaching job. “It’s just right at the right time.”
Krauskopf was Fever’s lead decision maker from 2000 to 2017, including a slight overlap with Sides on staff. She had then seen the evolving coach and knew that one day she could become a head coach. She remarked that her communication skills were at the level of a head coach when she was an assistant at Fever and admired her presence. “Part of this game is knowing how to teach and knowing how to communicate at the right time. And I noticed that with her straight away when she was one of our assistant coaches,” said Krauskopf. “She reminds me of a young Lin Dunn without all the craziness,” she added jokingly.
There was still more research to be done. Dunn approached Fever star guard Mitchell, who played under Sides early in her career. She chatted with Krauskopf and others about several candidates. Dunn considered her options and took her time, as she just wanted to make sure a coach was in place by the time the women’s college basketball season started.
But Sides always stood out – she had all the qualities the fever needed. More than two months later, while Sides was walking on the beach in Gulfport, Mississippi, she received another call from Dunn. This time it was THE call. Dunn wanted to know if Sides wanted the job.
It was morning again. 10 a.m., Sides recalls. So apparently Dunn is a morning person. But Dunn had her coach and she relocated to hire Sides.
Pages can do so many things that the fever needs. She led the Dream to fifth-best defensive rating last season, an improvement from ninth last season, and hopes to bring that growth to Indiana. The Fever have struggled at the less glamorous end of the stage in recent seasons, so they need a boost there.
“We will slip into the training camp defensively,” said Sides. “We’re going to get some people to do really crazy things to score with us.”
She also knows how to communicate with players and keep them in the right role, which Atlanta did well last season and something Krauskopf praised… For a Fever team that’s largely a blank slate, it will be valuable.
And while Sides has no prior experience as a head coach, Dunn believes her 20+ years of coaching experience is more than enough experience to make her effective on the Fever sidelines.
“She seems like a really cool person,” fever guard Destanni Henderson, who has spent some time at Indianapolis this offseason, said of her new coach. “She seems so passionate about the game, really eager to get to work.”
It’s a new Christie Sides-led era for Indiana Fever. She will make decisions about her assistant coaching staff in due course and is reviewing whether to retain any of Indiana’s past assistants. But she will be the leader in the WNBA for the first time.
This new era will also feature NaLyssa Smith, 2023 WNBA draft pick Mitchell, and other talented players. It’s a great place for a new coach like Sides, hired to lead that core from the basement of the WNBA. It took two months and a journey that stretched from Louisiana to Indiana to Mississippi, but the Indiana Fever have their new head coach. It’s time for Christie Sides.