Hours before the Indiana Fever could earn their first No. 1 overall WNBA draft pick in franchise history, new Fever coach Christie Sides expressed "the sky's the limit" for an Indiana squad riddled with young talent.
"The talent that is here, this young talent, and they're going to keep growing," Sides said in her introductory news conference Friday after being announced as head coach last week. "They're going to have some structure. We're going to coach their butts off and just to see the potential with the group of people that are here, but also what's being built around here, is amazing. That's just going to draw so many people that are going to want to come to Indiana."
The Fever won the WNBA draft lottery, earning the No. 1 spot after having the best odds (44.2%) to do so. The Minnesota Lynx -- the four-time WNBA champions who missed the playoffs in 2022 for the first time since 2010 -- earned the No. 2 pick, followed by the Atlanta Dream at No. 3 and the Washington Mystics at No. 4.
The Fever fired coach Marianne Stanley during the 2021 season and made Carlos Knox the team's interim coach. Sides is now tasked with getting a storied Indiana franchise back on track after missing the postseason each year since the retirement of legend Tamika Catchings in 2016. The Fever went 5-31 last season, concluding the 2021 campaign on an 18-game losing streak.
Prior to their recent rough stretch, Indiana advanced to the postseason each season from 2005 to 2016, winning the WNBA title in 2012 and last advancing to the Finals in 2015.
Sides has been an assistant at the professional, collegiate and international level for over 20 years. She most recently served on the staff of Tanisha Wright in Atlanta in 2021 and spent two seasons as an assistant in Indiana under Pokey Chatman (2018-19).
Aside from their shared background as "two Southern ladies, country girls at that," Sides joked, interim general manager Lin Dunn said she was drawn to Sides because of how much she values relationships with players -- something Dunn anticipates will help draw players to Indiana in free agency -- as well as Sides' energy and love of defense.
"I just knew I wanted somebody that valued defense and the very first time that I talked to her, one of the things she said was 'Well, if y'all had defended a little bit better you would've won five more games,'" Dunn said. "I said, 'OK, you're my coach.'
"She is the perfect fit for our young, talented team. I'm confident she will rebuild this franchise."
Indiana drafted five rookies in 2021 who are still on its roster: NaLyssa Smith, Emily Engstler, Lexie Hull, Queen Egbo -- all first-round picks -- and Destanni Henderson. Aside from Danielle Robinson and Tiffany Mitchell, everyone else on the team has five years of experience or fewer.
And that's not including whomever the Fever ultimately draft come April. Aliyah Boston, the reigning national player of the year out of South Carolina, is expected to go No. 1 overall and could be a franchise-changing player.