The Sparks’ season was a disaster. From Derek Fisher leaving early to the Liz Cambage contract divorce to the team missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, 2022 is a season Los Angeles would love to forget. But while forgetting would be good, the mess of 2022 has to be fixed to set up 2023. So, what do the Sparks have to address before another WNBA game is played?
The Sparks began making changes by confirming that Interim head coach Fred Williams would not be returning. Now a search for a new head coach has already started. However, Derek Fisher’s role was a bit larger than that. He was the head coach and general manager. So, will the Sparks hire two people for these two jobs or combine them again? How they answer that question will decide who they should hire and what the position actually is. It’s encouraging that they worded this as a “national search” because when they hired Derek Fisher, they claimed they had a “search of one.” Not only did that not lead to team success, but it never seemed wise not to have any search/due diligence for the head coaching position. It seems they are taking a better approach this time around.
According to Her Hoop Stats, the Sparks only have five players signed on the roster for 2023, and two were rookies in 2022. So, the Sparks will likely look very different next season with so many free agents, and they’ll have to decide which players to make offers to. One of those players is Nneka Ogwumike, the All-WNBA Second Team finisher who has been a cornerstone of this franchise for her entire career and can leave this season if she so chooses. Luckily for Sparks fans, it doesn’t seem like she is interested in leaving for greener pastures. When asked in her exit interview if she ever thought about leaving the Sparks after seeing others like Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray leave and find success, she answered with an emphatic, “No.” And when asked a follow-up on why she seemed so sure next year would be any different here with this Sparks organization she revealed her thought process on this. “I would describe this season as living in a house you didn’t build,” she said. “So next year we can build our house. I know the floor plan next year.”
So, it seems she’s committed to returning next year and being the leader once again. Still, it’s WNBA free agency, where anything can happen. It’s in the Sparks’ best interest to sign Ogwumike as quickly as possible. She probably needs a good head coach/general manager in place for her to do that, so that should be priority one.
Once you have a coach and a vision, making decisions on the rest of the roster will be easier. The Sparks were not short on talent. The pieces just didn’t fit together. Knowing how you want to play will help you decide whether to bring back a sharpshooter like Lexie Brown or an All-Defensive Second Team player like Brittney Sykes. The sooner the Sparks get their coaching situation resolved, the better. These players are free agents, and action will happen quickly once teams can talk to players. The Sparks need to have their ducks in a row to hit the ground running once free agency begins.
Decisions on the head coach and general manager and a vision for an organization all fall in the hands of the president. For the Sparks, that’s Vanessa Shay. Having just finished her first WNBA season on the job, she has an enormous task: to turn this franchise around quickly and bring it back to contention and relevancy. The Sparks are an iconic WNBA brand. Three titles, only franchise with over 500 wins and go to a Sparks game and you’ll often see NBA stars and celebrities popping up. Despite the past few seasons, this franchise still has a legacy.
If the Sparks want to compete for a WNBA title again, they have just a few months to turn things around and make this a competent franchise once again. Not just for the fans but for potential head coaches, general managers and free agents.