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The Sparks’ latest coaching hires underscore double standard for women in sports

Los Angeles announced on Tuesday that former Dallas Wings head coach Fred Williams and former NAIA head coach Latricia Trammell have been hired to assistant coaching positions. Including head coach Derek Fisher, Trammell is the only winning coach on the staff.

New York Knicks v Miami Heat
Los Angeles Sparks head coach Derek Fisher coached the NBA’s New York Knicks to a losing record in 2016.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Sparks have added to their coaching staff. Executive Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler announced the hiring of Latricia Trammell, whose 24-year coaching experience included a stint with the San Antonio Stars in 2017, and Fred Williams, who coached the Dallas Wings until his firing toward the end of the 2018 WNBA season.

Trammell and Williams join head coach Derek Fisher on the coaching staff, whose appointment was announced in December following the November resignation of Brian Agler.

Williams’ record

Williams is considered a “players’ coach,” but his unproven track record in the WNBA makes him a hire very much in Derek Fisher’s own image.

Williams’ most recent head coaching position ended on an utterly sour note toward the end of the 2018 regular season courtesy of a nine-game losing streak that led Dallas Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb to fire him after heated locker room exchange following one of those losses.

Williams does bring 35 years of coaching experience to his job with the Sparks, but his resume does not reflect a lot of winning and the WNBA teams he has led have made very few postseason appearances. For starters, the Wings finished the 2018 WNBA season with 15-19 record. Although Dallas made the playoffs with a win over the Las Vegas Aces under Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who was serving in an interim head coaching role after Williams’ firing, the Wings were bounced from the playoffs by the Phoenix Mercury in the first round.

The rest of Williams’ time with the Dallas Wings/Tulsa Shock organization is even more unimpressive:

2017: Wings went 16-18 for the season and were bounced in first round of the playoffs by the Washington Mystics.

2016: Wings finished with an 11-23 record and did not make the playoffs.

2015: Tulsa Shock finished with an 18-16 record — making it to the Western Conference Semifinals where they were swept by the Mercury, 2-0.

2014: Tulsa Shock finished with a 12-22 record and did not make playoffs.

In 2013, Williams was head coach in Atlanta when the Dream finished 17-17 and made it to the WNBA Finals — where they were swept by the Minnesota Lynx, 3-0.

Williams may have something left in his coaching tank and the Sparks obviously saw something in him that he can add to the the staff, with Fisher stating: “I’m excited to add Fred to the Sparks family ... [he] knows the WNBA as well as anyone in the business and has incredible experience, including guiding a team to the WNBA Finals. He will be a great addition to what we’re building in Los Angeles.”

But is Williams the best available coach out there?

Sure, Williams guided the Dream to the Finals, but the majority of his seasons have finished at or below .500 and, more times than not, his teams were bounced from the playoffs in the first round (if they were lucky enough to make it to the postseason in the first place).

Trammell’s record

By contrast, Latricia Trammell joins the Sparks’ organization with a proven track record of winning. Of the new addition to his staff, Fisher said, “I’m thrilled to have Latricia join the Sparks family ... [she] has a proven track record of developing players and winning titles at several levels of women’s basketball. Her expertise will be instrumental to the Sparks.”

Part of Trammell’s 24-year coaching experience includes serving as an assistant coach to the San Antonio Sparks in 2017. But while Williams was struggling to keep the Shock above .500 in the WNBA in 2014 and 2015, Trammell was leading Oklahoma City University to back-to-back NAIA Division I championships. According to the Sparks, in Trammell’s “three seasons with [OCU], she compiled a record of 85-10.”


What it means

Although this comparison focuses only on Williams’ and Trammell’s most recent experiences over the last several years — and compares NAIA women’s basketball with the WNBA — the fact cannot be overlooked that the Sparks’ coaching staff is made up of two men with losing track records as head coaches and one woman with a winning record.

Female coaches with marginal resumes do not get many coaching opportunities. If hired, they are let go very quickly if they do not win enough games as quickly as the organization would like (see Amber Stocks, former head coach of the Chicago Sky, for a case in point). Men, however, have a lot of room to roam. As this relates to the Sparks, Fisher was hand-picked for the head coaching position despite a losing record as a head coach in the NBA and Williams was hired as an assistant coach with decades of experience but zero championships to show for his time.

We do not see women with those records in these positions.