The WNBA continues to evolve, as the legends of yesteryear retire and move into roles as executives, entrepreneurs and coaches who will help shape the future of basketball as passionately and impactfully as they contributed to sustaining the league as pioneering players.
On Monday, Pacers Sports & Entertainment announced that the greatest player in Indiana Fever history, a 16-year beast and four-time Olympic gold medalist has been named Vice President of its WNBA Basketball Operations. It could be the first step in Catchings eventually becoming the first woman to be an NBA general manager.
Catchings will work directly under former Western Governors University Chancellor Allison Barber, who was named president and chief operating officer.
Rick Fuson, president and COO of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, calls both Barber and Catchings “dynamic and qualified” leaders who will build on the Fever’s legacy.
“Allison’s proven experience includes remarkable success in marketing and communications at the highest levels… When combined with Tamika’s professional leadership, strong work ethic and incredible basketball mind, the future is bright for the Indiana Fever.”
Never limited to being an elite WNBA player, Catchings has been positioning herself for a prominent executive role for years. She was the recipient of the first ESPN Humanitarian Award in 2015 and she’s been doing community service with her “Catch The Stars Foundation” for over a decade. She’s a leader in exemplary work off the court.
Legend Leaving A Legacy
Superstar faces with super lit game are needed when a pro league is in its infancy stage. A few of those stars must transcend the game and develop an emotional and physical connection with the community that helps sustain the sport. There have been notable WNBA players who have elevated to the role of world ambassador for women’s hoops. Catchings is a member of that select group.
Catchings’ life is still an inspiration to many, even if you take away the accolades from her 16-year career: Five-time Defensive Player of the Year, 2011 MVP, 2012 Finals MVP and president of the WNBA Players Association from 2004 until 2016, just to name a few.
Catchings was born with a hearing loss, but that didn’t stop her from being a talented basketball bulldog. As a young child, she wore hearing aids, and the kids teased her, so she ditched her hearing aids and kept it moving.
However, when she got to the University of Tennessee under legendary head coach Pat Summit, Summit convinced Catchings to put them back in and the rest is National Championship history.
The Chosen One
Catchings’ track record of civil duty and community enhancement endeavors is too extensive to cover, as is all of her off the court achievements.
Over time, the girl from Texas evolved into a leading voice for women in sports and will continue to help shape the future of women’s hoops and society at large.
Catchings became the first female recipient of the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award in Memphis, alongside Spencer Haywood and Jalen Rose. In 2013, she served on a mentoring panel at the White House to honor Women’s History Month.
She was named by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to serve on the U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sport, which included traveling all over the world (Bangkok, Thailand and Abu Dhabi, U.A.E). She’s also been a spokesman for issues such as cancer and diabetes prevention and appeared with First Lady Michelle Obama in Des Moines, Iowa, as part of Obama’s “Let’s Move Tour,” geared toward solving the problem of childhood obesity.
Catchings has been involved with Pacers Sports & Entertainment since 2001, when she was drafted by Indiana.
She most recently served in the role of Director of Player Programs and Franchise Development, working with the Pacers, the Fever and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants — Indiana’s G League team. In her new role, Catchings “will be responsible for the coordination of day-to-day basketball operations.”
If she became an NBA general manager right now, she’d probably be more qualified than at least half of the men currently holding that position. San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon is on the cusp of becoming the first woman to be a head coach in the NBA. Her rise up Gregg Popovich’s coaching tree’s been swift and lauded by players.
Both women are being groomed for groundbreaking things.
Tasked with rebuilding a team that had the worst record in the WNBA in 2018, Catchings’ skills as a talent evaluator and executive will be put to the test right away.