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Mykal McEldowney, Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Fever assistant coach Karima Christmas-Kelly didn’t give her eventual husband — Connecticut Sun assistant coach Austin Kelly — the time of day when they first met at Duke in 2007.
First, Christmas-Kelly wanted to focus on getting her bearings on the East Coast.
“I’m coming from Houston, and I’m just trying to like, get acquainted to campus and the course load and everything,” Christmas-Kelly said. “So, I really wasn’t trying to make friends, I was just trying to get adjusted.”
But Kelly, who played football at Duke in the same years Christmas-Kelly was on the women’s basketball team, was persistent. They shared a study hall together the summer ahead of their freshman year, and he made every effort to connect with her.
“A couple of times, I tried to talk to her and she kind of just brushed me off,” Kelly said. “You know, so as the summer went on, she started to get more comfortable, and started to talk a little bit more.”
Eventually, Kelly’s persistence paid off. Christmas-Kelly and Kelly started dating late in the summer before their freshman seasons, and they’ve been together ever since.
“We just got to a point where we jelled, and I just figured out, like, that was my person,” Christmas-Kelly said.
Now, the pair have been together for 16 years — married for six. They’ll soon have a son, as Christmas-Kelly is pregnant and expecting to give birth in July. But, as assistant coaches for different teams halfway across the country, they’re preparing for their impending addition to the family nearly 1,000 miles away from each other.
No strangers to distance
Kelly and Christmas-Kelly are used to having a long-distance relationship. After they graduated from Duke, Christmas-Kelly was drafted by the Washington Mystics while Kelly took a postgrad year to play Division II basketball at Georgia Southwestern.
After his one year of collegiate basketball, Kelly started coaching. First at the high school level at Kell and South Cobb high schools in Georgia, then up to college basketball as an assistant women’s basketball coach at UT-Arlington.
Christmas-Kelly played for multiple WNBA teams during that time, including the Mystics, Dallas Wings, Minnesota Lynx, Fever, and Tulsa Shock.
While she was playing and he was coaching, their schedules somewhat coordinated.
During the summers off from his high school coaching job, Kelly would come to whichever city Christmas-Kelly was playing in at the time. He would hang out around the team and help with what he could — including becoming a practice player for the Fever for a couple years.
“It was great to have him there,” Christmas-Kelly said of Kelly’s practice…
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