As reported by John Klein of the Tulsa World on Monday, the Tulsa Shock's goal after improving in 2013 is to finally make the playoffs after four seasons in Oklahoma.
The first step was to hire a coach, which they have now done in introducing Fred Williams as their new head coach to succeed Gary Kloppenburg today.
Certainly one thing that newly-hired coach Fred Williams brings the Tulsa Shock that some of the other popular choices might not have was experience guiding a team to the WNBA Finals as a head coach.
For the Atlanta Dream, his previous employer, that wasn't enough for reasons that might have been understandable; for the Tulsa Shock, a franchise that has struggled to find direction or build a vision, Williams' experience as a combo coach and general manager for a contender might be exactly what they need to achieve that playoff goal. Having been an assistant with the Dream from 2009 until taking over top decision-making duties during the 2012 season, Williams is familiar with the process of building a team from the ground up to championship contender.
And with the Shock having added a coach with experience in walking the path they need to take, the next step - as described at length in Klein's article, is to narrow down possibilities for who they'll add to the roster in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
That leaves the door open for a variety of players when Tulsa picks second in the WNBA draft this spring...And, the Shock doesn't expect to narrow its list until it hires a new coach...The Shock has options because it has two picks in the top 13 of the next draft. Tulsa got the No. 13 pick in the draft from Connecticut in exchange for forward Kayla Pedersen last season...Tulsa has tried to go the free agent route but has been much more successful finding all-star caliber players through the draft.
The importance of this draft for the Shock is underscored by Klein's point via team president Steve Swetoha that they're a struggling franchise in a small market - they have to maximize those top 15 picks with chances of improving through free agency seeming slim.
Interview with Fred Williams on coaching, drafting
James Bowman had the opportunity to interview Fred Williams last offseason as he prepared for his first year as head coach and general manager of the Atlanta Dream.
Tulsa has done relatively well in the draft in recent years despite lacking a number one pick after struggling to string together wins: 2013 WNBA All-Star Glory Johnson and 2013 Sixth Woman of the Year Riquna Williams were excellent selections at fourth and 17th, respectively, in the 2012 draft. The jury is still out on last year's selection of college superstar Skylar Diggins, but third round selection Angel Goodrich was something of a steal given that she ended up starting games for the team during the 2013 season.
And Williams might add some valuable insight to the talent-evaluation process as well, if what he did for the Dream last season is any indication: in his first year as Atlanta Dream general manager, he managed to get 2013 WNBA All-Rookie first team selection Alex Bentley with the 13th pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.
Williams might not have been the splashiest choice that Tulsa could have mad to lead their team on the floor, but he was one of the few options available who has the experience in building a team - it should be clear from Klein's article that the Shock wanted a partner in this building process and it's not too hard to see how Williams fits.
For more on the team's offseason, check out our 2013-14 Tulsa Shock offseason storystream.
- Joe Lacob says that he is still interested in the Los Angeles Sparks in a radio interview
- Tulsa World: Fred Williams to be new Shock head coach
- Sparks Watch Day 22: Which five players make up your All-Time Sparks team?
- All-Star Game goes to Phoenix in 2014
- Meighan Simmons stood out in Tennessee's loss to Notre Dame