October 25, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Fever and their fans didn't let a little rain ruin their celebration of the WNBA championship.
The team and several thousand fans moved their party indoors to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday as morning rain scrapped plans for a parade. The Fever wrapped up the title Sunday night, beating the Minnesota Lynx three games to one.
Kelly Krauskopf watched the celebration swirling all around her. For 13 seasons after leaving her position as the WNBA's first director of basketball operations, Krauskopf built this team literally from scratch as the Fever’s general manager and chief operating officer.
Krauskopf remembered picking her first six players in the 2000 expansion draft. Her team won just nine of 32 games in the first season, not great, but providing a foundation.
The franchise gained legitimacy when Krauskopf took a chance in the 2001 draft and chose Tennessee standout Tamika Catchings, who sat out her entire senior season with an injury. On Tuesday, Krauskopf smiled and exhaled an audible sigh of relief.
“I feel I can breathe for the first time in 13 years,” she said. “You’re always busy. Every offseason, it’s ‘What do we need to do? What do we need to do? What do we need to do?’”
Krauskopf and her staff kept building and on Sunday, the title was finally theirs — over the defending champion Lynx, no less.
“This is a tribute to those who helped get this organization started,” Krauskopf said during the ceremony.
The crowd reserved its loudest cheers for Catchings, who earned playoff MVP honors to go with her WNBA championship, a NCAA title at Tennessee and three Olympic gold medals.
“This is a journey like no other,” Catchings said, a huge smile lighting her face. “It’s awesome. Amazing. It’s such an honor to be with such a great group of ladies.”
Krauskopf said this was the idea, from the very start.
“It’s a long building process,” she explained. “The first couple of years, you have to pay your dues. But you don’t go into this without thinking about it and dreaming about it.”
The dream took a beating when the Fever fell to Phoenix in five games in their first finals appearance in 2009.
“I really felt we had to get back to the finals,” Krauskopf said. “I felt if we got to the finals again, we could close it out this time, and we did.”