Fred Williams hooks up two speakers to an iPad and turns on some hip hop music. He starts getting a little dance move on. Players are bumpin' with the music on Saturday as practice begins. Williams, in his first year as the head man in Tulsa, is bringing a different mindset to a franchise that hasn't seen a winning season in over five years.
"I like the pace of Tulsa," said Williams. "In Atlanta you can get caught up in the numbers. In Tulsa, you get caught up in family and supporting the team."
The Tulsa Shock, are fresh off an impressive 69-67 win over the Los Angeles Sparks and the team is coming out for stretching before practice.
"Getting a player's lounge and building a family atmosphere here is where it starts. These players need to feel comfortable here first. All the old photos of players on the walls, showing them past success. That helps," said Williams.
Coming to Tulsa, though, with all the negative history of the last four seasons, some thought Williams had his work cut out for him. What he's done is instill confidence in his players and his staff - they look at him as a coach that could bring this team into the playoffs. It's a resurgence of what Shock basketball used to be. His players are seeing it and following his lead. Paris and Diggins rave about Williams, calling him a player's coach - someone who's just straight forward.
"He knows how to work with us. He puts us in situations to be successful," said Courtney Paris. "If you listen to what he tells you, and do what he says, you will do great things."
Williams was the head coach and general manager last season for the Atlanta Dream. He was let go and was kept on as a consultant to the team. He was 24-20 as the head coach for the Dream and led them to the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx.
From drafting Angel McCoughtry and seeing what success is like, he's trying to bring that to Tulsa.
Paris was a player for Williams during her short time in Atlanta. The two met over the summer, and Williams preached his plan and wanted to make Paris a part of what could be a revolution in Shock basketball. Paris bought in. She got into shape and Williams went back to the drawing board on Paris, finding ways to utilize her better than other teams had previously.
"I went back to her college tapes and saw how they used her at Oklahoma," said Williams."
Now she's blowing up this season.
After just grabbing 95 rebounds and scoring 88 points through 23 games last season, she's topped those totals through eight games. She currently has 101 rebounds, which puts her at 11.2 rebounds per game, best in the WNBA. She's also shooting 66.7 percent, a career high and currently WNBA's best.
"This is the Courtney I've seen from college and from high school, too. I saw her play many times then," Fred Williams said. "She's doing a great job for us."
Building upon his experience with McCoughtry, the league's leading scorer in the WNBA the past two seasons, Williams is trying to develop Paris and Skylar Diggins. Diggins had an abysmal rookie season, leading to doubts whether or not she could make it in the association. However, with Williams' help, she's becoming a dark horse for the league's Most Valuable Player award.
"Like putting a puzzle together." said Williams. "Some pieces fall out, some pieces stay together."
Williams is so animated throughout the game with loud hand gestures, and they just get more loud as the game goes on. He said he likes to feel the game out, like a boxer. He's not afraid to show his emotion in coaching. He's just honest with his players, but he instills the idea of this team can win now.
"We understand we are the youngest team in the league," said Diggins. "But he [coach Williams] is expediting that process. We want to win now."
Williams works out with the post players before stepping aside to handle media, he goes through a methodical process and explains in excruciating detail about what he wants from his players. Every player, staring at Williams, ears perked, soaking in all his information.
He steps out of coach mode for a second, as Jay-Z's Holy Grail comes on the iPad.
"Now, THIS is my jam," said Williams, who immediately went back to teaching the defense of the pick-n-roll.
"He's a player's coach," said Paris. "He knows what it takes to win, he's gotten to WNBA Finals."
While the league just saw an 0-5 team, Williams continued to stand behind his ladies, knowing that the losses would eventually turn into wins. That has finally happened. We're watching a team that hadn't won four straight games in almost five years, do that now.
"Early in the season when we weren't getting those wins and it so close," said Paris. "He stayed with us. The environment was just so good. We were just getting better and better. We've been getting better since Day 1. He's a large reason why."
It's the first time since the relocation that this Shock team actually has glimmers of hope for a post season. Tulsa currently sits in the final spot for the Western Conference Playoffs. Although the players are the reason they win the games most of the time, it'll be coach Williams who will be the one who put the Shock in the right places to win the games.
"We're going to be a force to be reckoned with in the league, I believe in this team," said Williams.