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'The pros is where I belong': Carlos Knox on joining Indiana Fever coaching staff
He's in the IUPUI Athletics Hall of Fame, has built a strong relationship with players from the area and is reunited with Tamika Catchings.
Carlos Knox was ready to return home. Back to the professional game, after four seasons away, and to Indianapolis — what he calls his second home.
He’s a native of nearby Dayton, Ohio, but it’s in Indy where he starred at IUPUI, raised his family, worked in player development and with many players you’re familiar with like George Hill and Tamika Catchings.
The Indiana Fever hired Knox as an assistant coach. His first day back with the Fever franchise was on Dec. 1.
Knox joins Marianne Stanley’s staff, which also includes Vicki Hall and Jhared Simpson. He replaces Steve Smith.
“His track record in helping players develop their skills to maximize their full potential will be a great benefit to our team,” Stanley said.
Like Simpson, Knox has put in the work previously with the franchise. This is his second stint. For three seasons (2014-16), he served as the player development coach before leaving to go to the college ranks.
He was an assistant coach for the University of North Texas women’s basketball team from 2017-2020 and then returned to his home state of Ohio for a similar role with the University of Cincinnati women’s team.
Knox talked with Fieldhouse Files earlier this week after he reached an agreement to return to the Fever, reuniting him with Catchings — the Hall of Famer who is the VP of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the franchise.
“During my time in the professional game, there was several standout players. Most came from big-time programs so it was fairly easy for them to transition to the professional level.
“Over the last few years, I realized one thing for sure: The pros is where I belong. That’s something that I really truly put all my blood, sweat and tears into as a player and as a coach so I’m really ecstatic to be back with the Fever.”
There were countless 7 a.m. workouts — and I know because I helped with them back in the day. They’ve talked basketball for hundreds of hours. Even when Knox went back to coach college basketball, he said they still talked or text almost every other day.
“Tamika means the world to me because she’s one of those people that has always had my back, I’ve always had hers. From her playing days, one of the things that we connected on was the love for the game, the understanding of the game, the respect for the game. Catch is a class act, she always did everything at 100 percent. She always looked for the right answer if she did not have the right answer, and that’s where I came in a lot of times.
“I was able to play for a long time in college and after. She was just very interested in getting knowledge from every single person she could obtain knowledge from. … Our friendship is more like family.”
After going undrafted in 1998, Knox was briefly with the Pacers. He has strong ties to many professional players in both the men’s and women’s game, and is in the IUPUI Athletics Hall of Fame.
He launched the Knox Indy Pro Am, which gave players at the collegiate and professional levels to play competitive games in the offseason. He started it in 2009, ran it for seven years and it was sanctioned by both the NCAA and NBA.
It included pros like Hill, JaJuan Johnson, Eric Gordon, Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson, Miles Plumlee, Donald Sloan — along with many players from local colleges like Indiana and Purdue University.
Previously, Knox was granted permission to be at Pacers training camp and practices to watch and soak in what he could. About a decade ago, before there were multiple player development coaches and five basketball interns, a player might call Knox to train at night.
“I always had a great relationship with (Pacers president) Kevin Pritchard and whoever was the head coach at the time,” he said. “From Jim O’Brien to Frank Vogel to Nate McMillan to Brian Shaw, I just had a great relationship with everyone that was a part of our organization. It’s one big family.”
Since Knox last worked for the team in 2016, Gainbridge Fieldhouse underwent two (of three) stages of renovations. That includes an upgraded practice court, brand new locker room, coaches area and weight room. The facilities are among the best in the 12-team WNBA.
“I got a chance to come back and go through it,” he said. “It’s actually incredible.”
The Fever plan to play much of the 2022 season nearby at Indiana Farmers Coliseum until renovations are complete, but their practice facility ranks among the best.
Catchings retired in 2016 and the franchise hasn’t been the same since. It’s not easy to replace a Hall of Fame player and person.
Over the last five seasons, the Fever went 40-116. They’ve posted double-digit wins in a season just once and haven’t been back to the playoffs after 12 consecutive visits, including three WNBA Finals appearances.
“One of the things that me and Catch shared is for years is just the passion, the desire and focus to win,” said Knox. “We spent countless hours in the gym but more than anything, she’s just a great, hard worker. We match in that area.
“When she called, I listened. And when I talked to her, we always get down into the meat and potatoes of what’s really going on and one of the things she needed was a person who could come in and be on her team; and not only be on her team, but also have a good eye for the game, a good sense of the team and what the team needed.
“Just talking with her about Marianne, that was something that was very intriguing to me being I love Marianne as a head coach, I’ve seen her do some phenomenal things on the pro level, so I definitely wanted to be a part of that as well.”
After the Fever missed out on the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, they’re hoping to finally get what they’re due. Later this month, on Dec. 19, the Fever will get clarity on its draft position after going 12-42 over the last two seasons, the worst record in the league.
They have a 44.2 percent chance of the top overall pick for the first time in franchise history and are guaranteed a top three pick for the fourth time in five seasons. They picked fourth in the 2021 draft.
It’s time for the franchise to turn the tide and become relevant again, and Knox welcomes the challenge.
“It was really a good way for me to come back in and be comfortable enough to where we can move this franchise back in the right direction,” he said.