This week, Jayda Evans speaks with second-year Tulsa coach Fred Williams, whose team is second in the Western Conference standings after finishing last season at 12-22.
Editor’s note:Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with second-year Tulsa coach Fred Williams, whose team is second in the Western Conference standings after finishing last season at 12-22. The Shock had an early eight-game win streak, losing three when All-Star Skylar Diggins tore her ACL. The team has won its past two with guard Odyssey Sims returning after missing 10 games due to a knee injury. Tulsa is the second WNBA team Williams has helped turn around, leading Atlanta to an Eastern Conference championship in 2013.
Q: Keep this pace up with the Shock and you can release a book on building WNBA success.
A: The media around here looks back at my history and says, “Seems like everything you touch turns to gold or silver.” My thing has always been to make each individual player better. As you do that, it makes the team better. We’ve got people excited here in Tulsa and around the league, our style of play is pretty exciting to watch. Tulsa is the only team that hasn’t had its ticket punched for the dance. I feel this year, with the chemistry of players, we’re in the hunt.
Q: Your depth at the guard position is key after Skylar underwent season-ending knee surgery last week in South Bend, Ind. How is her recovery going?
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A: It was the first major surgery for her but she hasn’t stopped working. She’s sent pictures and videos of her working her upper body, her arms and leg curls with her other leg. She doesn’t stop. I call her the Bionic Woman because she’s a player who likes to defy the odds. I don’t want to take away her work-ethic and what she likes to do. She is trying to let her body rest a little bit through the process, but she wants to make sure she doesn’t get too far out of shape.
Q: Skylar’s family is in South Bend, will she rejoin the Shock this season?
A: They (doctors) don’t want her to travel, yet. We’ll see her this week when we play at Indiana (Wednesday). She’ll probably return to Tulsa either a little bit before or after the All-Star break.
Q: You’re injured, too?
A: At the Minnesota game (June 21), my foot kept getting stuck on one of those sticky pads the players use for their shoes. I kept pulling (my foot) up and pulling it up. After the game, my back, I couldn’t move! I pinched a nerve in my fourth vertebrae. (Monday) was the first day I could kind of run.
Q: Are you going to send the doctor bills to the Lynx?
A: Nah! I finally got smart by the fourth quarter and lifted up the pad and put it at half-court so I didn’t have to step on it all the time. I couldn’t figure that out for three quarters. I’m a trooper. Sometimes in the huddle you’ll see the players trying to lift me up off the bench. It’s hard to get in that seat and get up sometimes. I laugh at myself.
Q: You coached Lisa Leslie at Southern California and saw her at your win at Atlanta last week. What’s it like to have coached a player headed into the Naismith Hall of Fame in September?
A: We still talk and text off and on. She was determined to be one of the best in the world and worked hard for it. But from Day One when I saw her in high school, I thought this was a player who was going to develop into a Hall of Famer. I was there when she scored 101 points in a half and the other team didn’t come back on the court. They wouldn’t come out of the locker room! And 30 years earlier, I watched Cheryl Miller score 100 in a game. I’m probably the only coach to have watched two females do that.