Tamika Catchings: Unrelenting

The Hall of Famer and newly promoted general manager continues to push herself beyond her dreams to add to an already exceptional legacy.

It’s not noticeable, but Tamika Catchings is a bit weary.

It’s Friday, February 22 at 9:23 a.m. She just walked into her office, fresh off the plane after calling No. 9 Mississippi State’s 92-85 overtime win at Auburn on SEC Network the previous night. A game that ended after 11:00 p.m. ET.

She’s running on three hours of sleep.

“If you add the hour and half I got on the plane, it’s about five,” Catchings notes.

This isn’t the norm. She tries to get at least seven hours each night, but she couldn’t miss her flight back to Indianapolis.

It’s a glimpse into her life, which has been a sort of organized chaos the past several months.

Catchings was promoted to general manager of the Indiana Fever in November, after she and Fever President Dr. Allison Barber hired Marianne Stanley as head coach.

And although she’s not involved in the day-to-day operations, Catchings owns a local café, “Tea’s Me Indy,” and she’s the founder of “Catch The Stars,” a non-profit focused on empowering youth in the Indianapolis area.

“Balancing comes with trust,” Catchings said. “Being able to delegate, not be in the weeds, and we have incredible people handling the day-to-day [at the café and foundation].

“Right now, free agency is most important. What we’re trying to do and how we want to build our team.

“So, even though I commentate, and even though I have the tea shop and foundation, the most important thing is this team.”

Catchings had been involved in the front office since she retired from playing in 2016. First, as the Director of Player Programs and Franchise Development, and last year as the Vice President of Basketball Operations.

However, becoming GM adds significantly more responsibility, especially in the offseason.

“I only have a certain mental capacity, and so I have to be able to focus on what’s most important.”

There are always free agency moves to be considered, scouting to be done, and in addition to the weekly games on SEC Network, it’s a schedule that could wear someone down.

Not Tamika Catchings. She makes it seem normal.

“I genuinely love what I do,” Tamika said.

“I’m also motivated and inspired by knowing I have an opportunity and responsibility to impact people. So even when I’m walking through the airport, and how many times do we see people at 5:00 a.m. who aren’t smiling? I choose to put a smile on my face, so when people look at me, they smile too.”

She’s also learned how to say no.

“I used to try to make time for everything, but being able to take back that time instead of committing myself to stuff that’s not as important has been [critical].”

Catchings’ post-playing career may be even busier than her 15-year WNBA career. This is also the first year the 4x Olympic Gold Medalist, WNBA Champion and MVP is eligible for the hall of fame, and the calls are rolling in.

Earlier this month, Catchings was selected to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (WBHOF) Class of 2020.

“When I think about the WBHOF, I think about Pat [Summitt],” Catchings said. “She believed in me. Sometimes when you struggle through your highs and lows, you need someone who pushes you out there and lets you fall, but also catches you. That was Pat.”

She was also named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“That just goes back to my whole life, and the dreams I had,” Catchings said. “I never even dreamed of the [Naismith Hall of Fame], but when I was at the press conference on [Valentine’s Day], I realized how many of those guys played with my dad, so it’s just really cool to be a part of something that my dad was in a sense.”

Catchings is one of the greatest basketball players ever, but she’s intent on making her post-playing career even more memorable.

“My dream is to win championships here in Indiana, but ultimately I think it’s just to leave a legacy,” Catchings said. “I want to help as many young men and women as possible. Being able to share my knowledge and skill sets with the next generation.

“I talk a lot about dreaming big and believing in yourself. Realizing you can make an impact wherever you are and always trying to achieve greatness, whatever that looks like for you. You can do whatever it is you want to do, but it’s going to take hard work.”

It’s after 9:50 a.m. now, and Catchings has a 10 o’clock meeting. She may be weary, but it’s not noticeable.

She smiles, and she’s ready for whatever’s next.