The Los Angeles Sparks announced on Wednesday that interim head coach Fred Williams will not return to the team next season. Williams will depart for Auburn University, where he will assume the role of associate head coach for the Tigers.
“The Sparks would like to thank Coach Fred for his leadership and guidance over the past four seasons as both an assistant coach and as Interim Head Coach,” Sparks managing partner Eric Holoman said. “Fred has had an illustrious WNBA coaching career, and we know he will continue to make an impact on women’s basketball at Auburn.”
“I am very grateful for the opportunity and time that I have had with the Los Angeles Sparks,” Williams said. “A special thank you to Eric Holoman, my staff, and players who I have worked with throughout my time. Thank you also to our Sparks fans for your support and for making the atmosphere at our games so memorable.”
After a busy winter that saw them acquire Liz Cambage, Chennedy Carter, Jordin Canada and Katie Lou Samuelson, the Sparks got off to a disappointing start and head coach and general manager Derek Fisher was fired on June 7. Williams was installed as interim head coach at that point.
Williams went 5-4 in his first nine games in charge to get the team into a tie for sixth place. That ultimately proved to be a false dawn, however, as the Sparks fell apart over the final five weeks of the season. Cambage abruptly left in late July, and the Sparks went 3-12 down the stretch to finish in 11th place at 13-23 and miss out on the playoffs for the second consecutive season. This is just the second time the Sparks have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, and the first time since 1997-98 — the first two seasons in league history.
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In addition to searching for a new head coach and GM, the Sparks will have plenty of work to do with the roster this winter. Carter and Samuelson are the only players owed guaranteed money next season, and former MVP Nneka Ogwumike will be a free agent along with her sister, Chiney.
One thing the Sparks will not have to worry about this winter is the Draft Lottery. Fisher traded their 2023 first-round pick to the Atlanta Dream for Chennedy Carter, who played just 24 games and averaged 8.9 points. While Carter, a 2020 lottery pick, still has potential, those kind of shortsighted moves are a big reason why the Sparks are in their current predicament.
The ownership group must make the correct hires for GM and head coach, or the Sparks could be staring down the worst era in franchise history.