The Los Angeles Sparks have parted ways with head coach and general manager Derek Fisher, per multiple sources. The team later confirmed the news in a press release.
A league source confirms to @TheNextHoops that, indeed, Derek Fisher is out as head coach of @LASparks. Story TK #WNBA https://t.co/OrwAcyniB5— Howard Megdal (@howardmegdal) June 7, 2022
Fisher has been the team’s head coach since the 2019 WNBA season. After the firing of Penny Toler in October 2019, Fisher assumed front office duties as well. He was officially appointed as the team GM in December 2020.
Assistant coach Fred Williams, who has been with the team since Fisher arrived in 2019, will take on interim head coaching duties for the remainder of the 2022 season. Williams has previously been a head coach in the WNBA, as recently as 2018 with the Dallas Wings, a team notably led by current Sparks center Liz Cambage. Williams has already accepted a job as associated head coach for the Auburn Tigers for the 2022-23 season, so it is unlikely that he will continue with the Sparks beyond this year.
The team will also be in need of a new general manager, as Fisher held both roles. Assistant general manager Michael Fischer, who had been in Los Angeles for nine seasons, stepped away after the 2021 campaign.
The Sparks went 55-50 in the regular season and playoffs during Fisher’s tenure, including missing the postseason in 2021, the first time the franchise didn’t make the playoffs in 10 years.
Fisher’s tenure in Los Angeles has been tenuous since the start. Toler famously proclaimed she had a “list of one” when hiring Fisher to replace Brian Agler, despite the fact that Fisher only had a year and chance of coaching experience with the New York Knicks, and no real success to speak of.
Nevertheless, Fisher helmed the Sparks to a 22-12 record in his first season and the no. 3 seed in the WNBA playoffs. L.A. won its second-round matchup against Seattle convincingly, but the team was swept in the semifinals by Connecticut, a series that ended with Candace Parker being benched. Many pointed fingers at Fisher for failing to adjust against the Sun (and former Sparks assistant Curt Miller), with his choice to sit Parker a last-ditch effort to make something happen in Game 3.
Nevertheless, Parker, Fisher, and the Sparks brass were reportedly on the same page heading into the 2020 season, and the team reloaded in free agency, adding Seimone Augustus and bringing back former champion Kristi Toliver, though Toliver ended up sitting out of the bubble. L.A. once again finished with the third-best record in the league. Parker even earned defensive player of the year honors. However, L.A. once again lost to the Connecticut in the playoffs, this time in single elimination as Nneka Ogwumike missed the contest with a concussion.
After the season, Parker and fellow All-Star Chelsea Gray both left in free agency, along with Riquna Williams, leaving the roster gutted. Fisher, now the general manager, attempted to re-tool with mid-tier veterans including Erica Wheeler and Amanda Zahui B., but a series of injuries — including to Ogwumike and Toliver — derailed the season before it even started. The Sparks finished one game out of the postseason, ending a decade-long streak of advancing to the playoffs.
L.A. once again made a big offseason splash in 2022, necessary after a 12-20 record the year before. Free agency and trades brought in Liz Cambage, Chennedy Carter, Katie Lou Samuelson, and Jordin Canada. The team had a road-heavy schedule to start, with half of their road games coming in the first third of the season, but a 5-7 record doesn’t appear to have been enough to keep Fisher in charge. The team’s latest loss came to the Phoenix Mercury, who were on a seven-game losing streak and whose only wins this season had been against a Breanna Stewart-less Storm team.
This is a massive upheaval for the Sparks, considering the dual roles Fisher occupied. They have a lot of work to do to rebuild their front office during the offseason, but first comes the task of returning to the postseason. The team currently sits in eighth place in the WNBA standings.