The offseason has been tumultuous for new Atlanta Dream coach and general manager Fred Williams.
His days, much like his nights, are spent dealing with contracts and personnel issues along with the regular duties that come with coaching a team. Admittedly, Williams says his new job has taken a tremendous amount of his free time.
“I’m like a 7/11 store, always open. There’s no sleep at all, and I’m working all the time,” Williams said. “My time is spent watching film or talking to players or dealing with contracts or scouting other players that may want to come play for the Dream.”
Despite having 30 years of coaching experience, Williams had never served as the general manager of a team. His last stint as a head coach ended more than a decade ago with the WNBA’s Utah Starzz, but even then, he wasn’t the primary decision-maker for personnel matters.
Williams became the Dream’s head coach and general manager Aug. 27, after serving as an assistant coach since 2008, when the team began playing in Atlanta. Williams took over for Marynell Meadors late in the season and helped guide the Dream to the playoffs, where they were bounced by Indiana.
“For me, it happened all of a sudden. I had to keep the team together and keep us on track,” Williams said of the coaching change. “We were still fighting for a playoff spot. I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page. It was a lot of pressure at the beginning, but the team helped a great deal. My staff helped a great deal as well.”
Williams staff includes Joe Ciampi and Julie Plank, who have been head coaches during their careers. Williams noted that having those two helped build his confidence.
Ciampi was on last year’s staff and has seen Williams’ growth as a leader.
“When you take over, the first thing you have to do is make decisions. Some coaches walk away from it, but Fred faces it head on,” Ciampi said. “He makes every player accountable for their actions. He confronts issues on a personal basis, face-to-face and one-on-one. That’s an attribute you need to have as a head coach to be successful.”
Williams has a great rapport with his players as well. He demands maximum effort from everyone on the team, but is considered to be fair in his criticisms. Guard Armintie Herrington considers her relationship with Williams to be like a “father-daughter relationship.” Herrington said Williams has remained consistent in his approach, despite having more power and control over the team.
“He’s a great coach, a great leader and he really builds my confidence,” Herrington said. “He wants the team to know that he feels we’re the best in the world, and he wants us to play that way. Yes, his level of power has went up, but he continues to be a great example. He hasn’t changed or gotten full of himself.
“I’ve been around coaches who’ve changed after making the jump from assistant to head coach, but coach Williams isn’t one of them.”
On the court, Williams continues to run the offense.
“He’s an offensive genius in terms of creating plays and schemes,” Ciampi said. “I like to tell him what I would do from the defensive side to stop those schemes, so whoever has the pen last usually wins the battle. We have a great rapport, and we feed off each other. We talk quite a bit about these things, and we make each other better.”
Off the court, Williams is seen as a calm presence. Dream CEO Ashley Preisinger wasn’t with the team when the coaching change was made, but said she and Williams communicate daily to ensure they are on the same page with the direction of the organization.
“Even when things happen that are high stress, he remains calm,” Preisinger said. “He’s very focused and has a sharp mind. He and I problem-solve really well together. When things come up, we’re able to sit down and calmly figure out what we want to do. When you combine that calm, levelheadedness with a passion for coaching basketball, you have a great combo.”