June 7, 2022 

Los Angeles Sparks fire head coach/GM Derek Fisher

Fred Williams to serve as interim head coach

The Los Angeles Sparks announced Tuesday afternoon that they had relieved General Manager and Head Coach Derek Fisher. Fisher had served as head coach since 2019 and was named general manager in 2020.

Fisher described the decision to part ways as mutual and amicable. “It has been an amazing ride and I wish the entire L.A. Sparks organization great success moving forward,” he said.

Sparks Assistant Fred Williams has been promoted to interim head coach for the remainder of the season, per Howard Megdal of The Next, ahead of the Sparks’ formal announcement. Williams will join Auburn University’s women’s basketball team as associate head coach at the season’s end.

Bobbi Mullis initially broke the news of Fisher’s departure for HoopSocial, which comes in the wake of a major shift in LA front office personnel, national press reports regarding Sparks star center Liz Cambage’s tumultuous exit from the Australian national team. And a sub-par start to the season. In addition, Vanessa Shay was named President of the Sparks organization on May 16, just three weeks ahead of Fisher’s firing.

Notably, Shay has been outspoken about bringing the Sparks back into LA’s sports consciousness. “I think L.A. has forgotten about the Sparks,” Shay said to the media on opening night for the Sparks. “The team has been in this market for 25 years. It’s time to bring the Sparks up to remind everybody we’re here.”

Feeling the loss of All-stars Candace Parker to Chicago and Chelsea Gray to Las Vegas, the Sparks would miss the playoffs for the first time in 2021. Coming into 2022, LA’s top priorities were soul searching and reconstructing their roster. They brought in Cambage, Chennedy Carter, Katie Lou Samuelson and Lexie Brown, all players looking for the fresh start that a near-gutted Sparks roster could bring and took a chance on four rookies out of the draft.

Yet, the Sparks have had a less than desirable start to the 2022 season. Sitting at a record of 5–7, the Sparks have handed out wins to the teams currently filling out the bottom of the rankings, including Monday’s grueling loss to a desperate Phoenix Mercury. In addition, game attendance has hardly begun to rebound from the 2020 season, with average attendance for Sparks games sitting at less than half of what it was in 2019. They are the only team in the league below that threshold.

Difference in game attendance from 2019 to 2022. LA ranks last in the league, having lost an average of 6,782 attendees (data from Across the Timeline)

Williams has previously coached four other WNBA teams, including a stint with the Tulsa Shock (now Dallas Wings) from 2014–18, including Cambage’s return to the WNBA. Williams and Cambage have had a strong coaching relationship ever since. “The whole organization [Dallas] really pitched in to get her here, and she just found her heart to get back to this and to give me her trust,” Williams said to The Ringer at the time of Cambage’s return to Dallas.

Now, as Williams takes the helm in Los Angeles, he’ll have to find a groove with Cambage and LA’s stars in Nneka Ogwumike and Jordin Canada. Discovering an identity for a fractured and scrambling team will be key if the Sparks are to save their 2022 season.

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Next from upstate New York who regularly covers 3x3 and the state of women's basketball in the U.S. and internationally. She also writes The Morning Post-Up, The Next's twice weekly newsletter and covers women's sports for The Daily Princetonian, the independent student newspaper of Princeton University.

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