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USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

Embarking on a new journey, Caitlin Clark is about to make her WNBA debut with the Indiana Fever next month. She has been a hot topic of conversation for the better part of the season. However, it is now time to explore the engine that runs the Indiana Fever, head coach Christie Sides. She has been the most refreshing addition as head coach in the Fever’s history. However, she brings with her, a seasoned 22-year experience in how to pose an effective defense while the opponent is raiding on the offensive.

Before stepping into this year’s smashing season ahead, let’s learn a bit about her story and her coaching journey.

Meet Christie Sides, Indiana Fever’s dynamic head coach

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Dynamic, the term holds for briefing Sides’ area of expertise, given she has a diverse resume of coaching on all levels including, high school, college, overseas, and the women’s big league, i.e. the WNBA. Moreover, this isn’t her first coaching endeavor with the Indianapolis team, as she was an assistant coach for the Fever from 2017 to 2019. However, this time she is guiding the team with a higher level of leadership.

The Baton Rouge native’s journey started at the Central Private High School, where she accumulated 3,375 career points by the time she completed her academics. Her remarkable performance in high school rewarded her with the Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year honors. She then obtained her collegiate education at Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech. During her time as a senior at the latter program, she carried the Lady Techsters to the Final Four berth of the 1999 NCAA championship tournament.

Starting small leads to big things, the same was the case with Sides. She began her coaching career in the position of an assistant coach training the varsity team. She then coached the Junior Varsity team as their head coach for 2 seasons. Boosting her career to the next level she turned back to her alma mater, Louisiana Tech, and worked as an assistant from 2002 to 2004.

Keeping things in her hometown, she served as an assistant at last season’s NCAA champions, LSU for three years and became an essential part of the team’s three Final Four runs. She then ventured off to assist the overseas team, Spartak Moscow Region for 5 seasons. There she helped former Indiana Fever’s head coach Pokey Chatman lead the team to 2 consecutive FIBA EuroLeague Championships in 2008 and 2009.

This venture extended when she assisted the Slovakian Women’s National Team coaching staff at the same time. She played a crucial role in helping the team reach three European Championships in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

While this was going on she stepped into the big league with an assistant coach position for the WNBA team, the Chicago Sky for six seasons, with Pokey Chatman as the head coach. The duo led the Sky to their first Eastern Conference Championship in 2014, along with an appearance in the WNBA Finals that season. Appreciating Sides’ knowledge of executing strategies with the team, Chatman said, “Christie’s a veteran coach with a wealth of WNBA experience. Her ability to effectively communicate, and develop players with enthusiasm, is simply unmatched. Having previously worked together in college, abroad and in the WNBA, I am confident she will positively impact our team and organization.”

After this successful feat with the Chicago Sky, Sides headed back to Northwestern University as an assistant coach for the 2016-17 season. Then in 2017, she was promoted to the position of assistant head coach for the team. “She brings a great energy level every day to our program and cares deeply about our student-athletes. Her coaching experience, both in the WNBA and at the college level, is a great asset to our program. She has earned the respect of everyone associated with Wildcat basketball and Northwestern,” said Northwestern’s head coach Joe McKeown after making the announcement.

Delighted with the news, Sides expressed her enthusiasm, “I am honored and excited to be named associate head coach at Northwestern. I want to thank Coach McKeown for this great opportunity to take the next step in my coaching career. It is such a privilege to work at this highly respected institution with an incredible group of student-athletes.”

Sides’ relentless efforts helped in developing the No. 5 overall WNBA draft pick Nia Coffey and the all-time leader in steals in the Big Ten, Ashley Deary. However, she resigned before the 2017-18 season took off to work as an assistant for the Indiana Fever alongside Chatman.

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Then, she again bounced back to college basketball and joined the Louisiana-Monroe staff at the assistant head coach’s position in 2019 and stayed there till 2022.  Tedious by the looks of it, Sides moving back and forth exposed her to the knowledge of different playing styles and players who were impacting the game at both collegiate and professional levels.

Simply put, Sides had become a powerhouse of incredible knowledge of what’s happening everywhere. This information came in handy as she could calculate which player to recruit and carve into a good fit.

Present-day analysis with Caitlin Clark on the roster

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Now that Caitlin Clark is a part of the Fever’s roster, Sides would want to funnel in her insights on posing strong defense as she puts it, “From day one, that’s what we’ve preached. That’s how you win championships, to me. The offense will come. And that takes time, chemistry with your players. But defense is just heart. And that’s something that I have a lot of.” She can align these insights with Clark’s court vision and on-court efficiency, while Clark gets used to her new hooping environment.

Enriching the roster, Clark followed the previous year’s No.1 draft pick, Aaliyah Boston, gearing up for a smashing season ahead. So, it’s a given that with a head coach like Sides, it’s going to be nothing short of awesome.