Stephanie White tasked players with scouting report ahead of Fever win over Sparks

Stephanie White is in her second season as Fever head coach.

Stephanie White is in her second season as Fever head coach.

Stephanie White is known for being innovative and ahead of the curve.

Like in her first season as head coach last year, she started to record a pregame video to send out over social media with keys to the game and then provide a quote at halftime to update fans.

Or how in one calendar year she was the Fever coach, an analyst on FOX Sports Indiana, ESPN, and the Big Ten Network. Or how she is currently the head coach of the Fever AND of Vanderbilt women’s basketball team.

[VIDEOS: White discusses the Vanderbilt job and why it’s the right move]

In an effort to get her team to lock in on the scouting report and the game plan ahead of playing the league-leading Los Angeles Sparks Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, coach assigned them those duties usually handled by her assistants.

“I wanted to challenge our team to look beyond just the obvious and see the little intricacies that go into the ball game,” White said after the Fever handed the Sparks just their third loss of the season, 92-82.

The Sparks sprinted to a league-tying 20-1 record, but have now lost consecutive games. More importantly, the Fever continues to pile up wins. This was their fourth over the last five games.

Glenn Robinson III of the Pacers was courtside for the Fever win.

Glenn Robinson III of the Pacers was courtside for the Fever win.

When this Indiana (11-12) team sets the tone defensively and boosts their intensity level, it leads to all-around quality play. They were active, engaged, and were in attack-mode for most of this double-digit win.

“I felt like everything we did was fueled from our defense,” coach White continued. “I’m just really proud of how we played for the 40-minute ball game. … Definitely the most consistent game that we’ve played all year.”

They shot 56 percent, made 19 of 20 free throws, assisted on 22 of 33 field goals and turned it over just 12 times. Meanwhile, they forced 20 turnovers from a quality offensive team and better yet, converted those into 25 points.

Tallying 92 points, the Fever improved to 6-0 this season when scoring 90 points or more.

“We just have to continue to play like this,” said Tamika Catchings, who scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. “I know I continue to talk about the same things but, when we play like this there is very few teams that can beat us when we’re playing at our best.”

OK, back to the preparation where time was on their side. That’s what allowed for White to try this, something that is unheard of to me.

So, following their win last Friday over Atlanta, the team came in on Saturday, an off day, and got to work. With Briann January and Erlana Larkins in charge, every player was assigned a player on the Sparks to write up an individual report — Catchings had Alana Beard, for example — and then they got into groups.

Marissa Coleman and Devereaux Peters focused on L.A.’s offense; Catchings, January, Shenise Johnson, and Tiffany Mitchell on the defense; others viewed film and studied out-of-bounds plays, etc.

“We all did stuff. We were in it for almost two hours,” Larkins, the veteran forward, shared. “We don’t want to be coaches. But it was fun.”

“It served its purpose,” said January, who — with 12 points and nine dishes — finished one assist shy of her second career double-double. “She really wanted us to have a greater awareness of our opponent and in doing the scouting report, we have to do our homework a little more and we put a time into it.”

The Fever led wire-to-wire and by as many 16 points in front of a nationally televised audience and 7,269 more at The Fieldhouse. They had five players in double figures with Lynetta Kizer and Erica Wheeler contributing 14 points each.

“I thought it was really, really good,” White said, grading her team’s prep work high. “Maybe we should make them do the scouting report all of the time because they played at a higher energy level and they paid attention to details.”

The coaching staff has stressed in recent weeks to stay focused and not get caught up in thinking about the Olympic break, where they hit pause on the WNBA season for a month.

“We need our momentum to keep going, and more so than wins and losses, the way that we’re playing. That’s the momentum that I’m talking about,” White added.

Some in the locker room enjoyed the process to prepare for a game. Others, well, not so much.

“What I did figure out after all of this: It confirmed that I do not want to coach. At all,” Catchings, who is retiring at the end of the season, said with a grin.

January: “It was awesome seeing some of our strategy being put out there and working. There’s a couple people in the locker room, including myself, who want to coach, so it was an awesome opportunity for us. I’m just really proud of my team and how we came together, put it together, and executed well.”

White wasn’t sure if it was a strategy that she would utilize again. Having four days between games was beneficial and she saw how the message resonated with her team Tuesday.

“They took credit for it, said it was the scouting report, but they aren’t in a hurry to do it again,” she said.

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