Coach Fred Williams Brings Optimism to Shock
By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
FUTURE STAR: Odyssey Sims displays her new Tulsa Shock jersey during a recent press conference at the BOK Center. At left is Shock President Steve Swetoha and to the right is new Shock Head Coach Fred Williams. The Shock selected Sims, who attended Baylor, as the number two choice in this year’s WNBA draft.
GTR Newspapers photos
Another coach. Another season. Another chance for the Tulsa Shock to finally break out of a four-season funk.
Fred Williams enters the picture as the fourth head coach in the short history of the franchise, which calls the Center home. Inheriting a team with a 29-107 record since arriving from Detroit in 2010, Williams is quietly optimistic about a turnaround in the near future.
“I’ve accomplished a lot by helping players in the past reach their individual goals,’’ says Williams, who spent the last six seasons on the Atlanta Dream’s staff, aiding three Eastern Conference title teams. “My track record includes (Hall of Famers) Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson and Cynthia Cooper.
“My ultimate goal is to win a championship and I’ve been in championship games in Atlanta. Every coach dreams of winning a championship and someday being in the (Basketball) Hall of Fame. It doesn’t happen over night (turning Tulsa around). It might take all season. We just want to play hard and have an opportunity for a playoff spot.’’
The Shock finished 11-23 a year ago, its best record since arriving in Tulsa, and plans a different style under Williams. The former women’s head coach enjoys rushing the ball up court and playing at a faster pace than his predecessor, Gary Kloppenberg.
“Looking at film from last year and trying to compare, I like to run sets that won’t allow opposition defenses to get set,’’ says Williams, who has spent four seasons as a head coach. “I’ve tried to find players who guard people and play quickly, players who fit my style. We want to play good, solid defense, take high percentage shots and rebound well.’’
Williams says he’s relying heavily on rookies Odyssey Sims, Jordan Hooper and Theresa Plaisance. New faces have become even more important with the departure of 6-8 Elizabeth Cambage, who led the team with 16.3 points a game last year.
“All three have looked good in practice,’’ he says of his rookies. “Plaisance adds a lot of outside shooting, and we need all of their energy. They all can put up numbers and play solid defense.’’
The Shock displayed its new offensive prowess in 82-59 and 76-75 preseason victories over San Antonio. Playing without veterans Glory Johnson and Riquna Williams, who had yet to report, Tulsa won with Skyler Diggins scoring 27.5 points in the two games. Sims added 13 and Roneeka Hodges 11 while Johnson scored 15.6 and Williams 15.0 per game last season.
“We showed we are a good shooting team and we had 82 possessions a game,’’ Williams said of the victories over San Antionio. “We have players with size who can run the floor and we can create off the dribble and make plays happen. I’m pleased with that and we build character on this team with every game we play.’’
Following the pair of preseason games, Williams said he’s still concerned about rebounding and first-half turnovers. He says the problems must be overcome to compete in the rugged West Conference.
“There are some familiar names in those games,’’ Williams says. “Minnesota has got three or four Olympians, and Phoenix has size and one of the best players in the world.
“We have people who share the basketball well with each other, and they can pass. We have chemistry and that’s want you want in building a team. When we get Johnson and Williams back in the next few days, they will add extra punch for us.’’
And extra punch for the Shock means added respect for women’s professional basketball as a whole.
“We’re getting more corporate sponsors and a lot more revenue,’’ he says. “Our girls are performing well for audiences. We have peaks and valleys trying to get there and to keep rolling along. It’s not a sprint, it’s a cross country race.’’
For the Shock, the race resumed when the 2014 season opened in May. Williams is simply hoping his team will soon start gaining ground on the leaders.