As I have tried to tell anybody that has been willing to listen over the last two or three days, I am genuinely excited and passionate about this opportunity. This is an amazing opportunity as a basketball coach, as a person, and I’m looking forward to it. This city has been amazing, this city loves this team, I love this team, and I’m looking forward to being the new head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.
For me, this opportunity is not a step down, sideways, backwards, somehow different than the men’s game. Basketball is for everyone. It’s for everybody. That’s what makes it such a beautiful game. And so this opportunity to coach basketball, to work with some of the greatest athletes that play the game in the world, is not something that I’m taking lightly.
I’m going to do the best job that I can possibly do, to help us win a championship as soon as possible. I know from talking to (Candace Parker), that’s what her plan is. And it’s now my responsibility to help her figure that out. That’s my number one job as the head coach – is to help our players accomplish and objectives that they have, and obviously do that in a team setting.
On how bouncing back after coaching with the New York Knicks:
After being fired in New York, as a competitor, of course, you want to get back out there and show everybody that you can do what they think you can’t do. And it took a while for me to connect to that. And I think the idea that I was overly fixated on what other people thought about my experience in New York as opposed to what I felt about my experience in New York. So yes, I was hungry to get back to competing again, but every opportunity isn’t the right opportunity. Over the last couple years, I’ve had multiple conversations with teams at the collegiate level, with professional teams on the men’s side, and timing, opportunity, what their needs were, what my needs were, they didn’t align at the time, and this did. And so I’m excited to be here for those reasons.
On vision for the team:
We obviously have players that have won championships, and expect to win more championships. Candace made that mandate as we’ve been sitting here. So that has to be our vision. And we obviously want to do that as soon as possible, so of course, that’s our destination. That’s where we want to go. But also our vision has to include not just the destination or the endpoint, but what are the small details and nuances in ways of doing things on a daily basis and habits that we need to build, and the continuous improvement on the daily basis that lead to the destination.
A couple things that jump out – I think obviously pace-wise we have to improve because we’re capable of it. Not just to throw that out there because it’s a popular thing to say. I believe that there’s a pace that we can play as that fits our personnel – that isn’t too fast, but (it will) also allow us to be more effective offensively and create high percentage shots for our players by doing things a little better. We have to rebound the ball better, and that’s a big part. The team has been good defensively historically in the last few years, but finishing more possessions with rebounds to then allow people like Candace and Nneka (Ogwumike) and Chelsea (Gray) to get out and do what they do well – making plays for themselves and others.
On goals for the upcoming season:
My goals are related to the team. It’s not about me individually necessarily having goals, that’s for me and my family and personal stuff. Professionally speaking, my goals are to help Candace accomplish what she says she wants to accomplish, and anybody else on our roster. So my goals are tied to theirs and those should be the conversations we’ll be having in the coming weeks. It’s one thing for me to want something or have a vision or see things a certain way. But I have to be connected to the way Candace sees it. I have to be connected to the way Nneka sees it. And how Chelsea sees it. Because that’s what is important.
Penny Toler – Sparks’ Executive Vice President & General Manager
On her thought process when hiring a new head coach:
Our organization is a championship organization. We wanted to hire championship experience. Somebody that can add to our excellence, and the first person that came to mind was Derek Fisher – someone with strong leadership and championship experience, and great communication skills. We wanted to hire someone that would be happy and honored to represent the Los Angeles Sparks and the community as well.
On Fisher and his dedication to the Sparks and the WNBA:
What a lot of people don’t know is Derek has been a part of the LA Sparks since day one. When we were struggling, trying to win our championships, to when we won our championships. This guy has been a part of that. He would leave his practice and fly out and watch us play. When the Lakers were winning their 3-peat, unfortunately we lost our own in Detroit, and who was sitting on the floor? Derek Fisher. Derek has been a huge supporter of the Sparks, but even more importantly, he has been a huge supporter of the WNBA. He has been a huge support of the Sparks, WNBA, and women in general.
On her conversations with the players about hiring Fisher:
It wasn’t just about my decision. I took in what I thought our players needed. Even when I was thinking about Derek, Candace won’t say this, but I asked her ‘How do you feel about Derek Fisher?’ I feel that our players have been through trials and tribulations, and I think they have a stake in this and an opinion on who they want as a coach. I think it’s important that they feel comfortable and feel they have the best quality. When I asked Candace (about Fisher), she was very happy.
Candace Parker – Sparks’ forward/center
On welcoming new head coach:
Obviously when Penny told us the news, it was just excitement and looking forward to the season. I met Derek when I was eight years old. … So I’m really excited just because of the opportunity to work with him on a level of just respect and communication, I mean we’ve always had that. But also just he’s won championships. And until I won a championship with LA, I didn’t really understand how much it matters to have the experience and the expertise and the knowledge going into a season, and how much that really pushes you through. So I’m excited. I wore my ring today. I want more, had to get that out there because I don’t want just one.
On relationship with Fisher and what he will bring to the team:
First of all I want to say, this idea that great players don’t want to be coached – that’s false. I think that great players really, really want to be coached. So for me, I don’t think that the relationship is going to come between that. I think that he knows basketball, obviously, and he’s great with relationships. Our team is a solid group, we have some veterans and some newcomers and we’ve been together for quite some time. We have chemistry, we know each other and we willing hang out with each other and it is a huge part in what we do. And he seems like he’s extremely