December 14, 2020 

Latricia Trammell discusses her return to the Sparks

Defensive-minded coach to remain on Derek Fisher's coaching staff

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The Los Angeles Sparks won the first skirmish of the WNBA offseason when the team renewed the contract of assistant coach Latricia Trammell. This will be the third season for Trammell on the Sparks bench since joining the team in 2019, the same year that head coach Derek Fisher came on board.

Prior to her re-signing, Trammell’s name had come up as a possible addition to Vickie Johnson’s staff with the Dallas Wings. Trammell initially began her WNBA coaching career in 2017 under Johnson with the San Antonio Stars before their move to Las Vegas.

After weighing her options, she ultimately decided to return to the Sparks, as she believed they still have some unfinished business.

“With Kristi Toliver coming back, and some of the other players too that opted out this past season, I just think that we’re going to be contenders for a championship,” Trammell told The Next. “I love working with Coach Fisher, I love working with this organization. This team is incredible, they’ve been extremely kind to me and I just feel at home here.”

During her time in the WNBA, Trammell has become highly regarded around the league as a defensive tactician. On her watch, the Sparks have finished in the top three in the league in defensive rating each season she’s been on the sideline.

During her first season with the Sparks in 2019, Nneka Ogwumike was named the All-Defensive First Team. This past season, Candace Parker won Defensive Player of the Year and Brittney Sykes was named to the All-Defensive Second Team.

Throughout the bubble in Bradenton, FL, multiple players praised Trammell for her defensive mindset and gave her a lot of credit for really helping the team develop a defensive identity. Trammell gave credit to Fisher for allowing her the freedom to implement her defensive philosophy.

“[Fisher] really is a coach that puts his ego aside and really allows his assistant coaches to have an impact and some ownership on the culture he’s wanting to develop and what we want to do with this team moving forward. And I’ve always loved the defensive end,” Trammell said. “Just the energy and the passion that I bring and just making sure these players know how important it is to not only think about the offensive end. They set individual goals for how many points they want to score or how many assists they want in a particular game, and so I just always remind them of how important it is to do the same thing on the defensive end.”

Even during the offseason, Trammell acknowledges that her job is not done. With several Sparks players currently overseas, Trammell makes sure that she keeps up with their progress, especially defensively.

She mentioned that she’s in constant contact with them, sending them text messages and giving them pointers and tips on what they’re doing well defensively and what they could improve upon. She knows that defense isn’t always a popular subject, but she makes sure she does her best to get the team to really adopt a tough, defensive mentality.

“It’s usually about how many points you score, or that flashy pass you made, something in that category. Any time we do defensive drills in practice, I get fired up. I’ll chest bump with the best of them when something happens,” Trammell said. “I think the more that you preach it, the more you celebrate their defensive success, players want to do more of it. That’s what I try to install, a pride, a sense of importance on that end and make a big deal about it.”

Trammell’s defensive philosophy began long before she set foot on a WNBA sideline. She used to be the head coach at Oklahoma City University in the NAIA, where she finished with an 85-10 record as head coach over three seasons, which included two championships in 2014 and 2015.

She was also the head coach at Western State in Colorado in NCAA Division II for five seasons and before that, she was a highly successful high school coach at both Midwest City High School and Billy Ryan High School in Texas, where she amassed a 105-45 record.

Along the way, she developed her love for defense and she carried that over to the WNBA. She believes that in order for players to want to play defense and buy into a defensive system, they need to see themselves being successful on that end of the court. One of her duties as Sparks assistant coach is to compile game film and edit it into defensive highlights of each player.

“I pride myself on positivity and even in our film sessions, I’ve shown them being successful, and I’ve shown them what we are wanting. Players need to see it, they need to see themselves being successful on the defensive end. They need to see people getting excited about it,” Trammell said. “When you put in a system that everyone finally buys into, it’s a long process. They’ve got to see themselves being successful in that system, but also getting excited about it. If we’re in practice and they’re doing a defensive drill and someone takes a charge, I better see every player running over there and getting excited about it and helping them up.”

Trammell understands that there is a particular skill in being able to score the basketball and put up points. She knows that not every player is able to do that even among the best of the best in the WNBA. But she also knows that defense is more about effort and hard work. To her, there’s no excuse for not wanting to give maximum effort on that end.

“Not everyone can shoot the basketball. Not everyone can take someone off the bounce, even at this level. But defense, there’s no excuse. That’s energy, that’s grit, that’s putting on the work gloves, that’s blue-collar worker type mentality you have to have,” Trammell said. “There’s no excuse not to bring that every day. With that said, I’m going to make sure I have no excuse, I’m going to bring that every day. Once they see that and see how excited I get, hopefully, that translates to them.”

And although Trammell decided to remain in Los Angeles, she’s supportive of her colleague Johnson in Dallas. She believes it’s a good step towards having more women head coaches in women’s basketball, and she also believes that ultimately organizations will choose the best overall fit to lead their team.

“I’m so proud of Vickie. I had a great opportunity to work with her, her first season with the San Antonio Stars. I know the type of person she is and how excited she is about being the new head coach for Dallas. I also believe they’re going to put the right person no matter what. They’re going to put the right fit and person to help move their organization forward. I know Vickie will do that.” Trammell said. “Do I think there need to be more female head coaches? Of course, I think we’re here to empower one another, I think we’re here to move our game forward in a positive way. I just wish her the best and I know she’ll do a great job.”

Written by David Yapkowitz

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