Los Angeles Sparks coach Derek Fisher named GM, hopes to keep Candace Parker

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Updated: December 22, 2020



1:07 PM ET

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com

CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

The Los Angeles Sparks announced Tuesday they are renewing the contract of head coach Derek Fisher and appointing him general manager as part of a reorganization of the WNBA franchise’s basketball operations. Fisher said one of his priorities as GM will be re-signing free agent Candace Parker.

Parker, the 2008 No. 1 draft pick who turns 35 in April, has spent her career with the Sparks and was 2020 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. The WNBA free agency period begins Jan. 1, as qualifying offers can be made between then and Jan. 14. Negotiations can take place between Jan. 15-31, and signings can begin on Feb. 1.

“We have every intention of making every effort possible to re-sign Candace Parker and make sure she finishes her career in L.A.,” Fisher said. “There’s no hesitation around that. Our intentions are to make sure Candace never plays a game for any other team.”

Fisher, who played and coached in the NBA, has gone 37-19 in his two seasons as Sparks coach, making the playoffs both times. Teams of his deal were not announced.

Some WNBA teams split the coach/GM role, while others combine it. Fisher said he believes becoming GM gives him an opportunity to be involved with all aspects of decision-making for the organization. There are multiple free-agency decisions to make, plus choices in April’s WNBA draft.

“I believe it will allow me to have a more hands-on approach,” Fisher said. “To help us in not just winning on the court, but also our organizational vision. How we want to work with each other on a daily basis. Instead of doing that from a distance, so to speak, where you’re involved in certain conversations.”

During this past season in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida, Fisher became interested in taking on more responsibility with the franchise. The Sparks have been without a general manager since longtime GM Penny Toler was fired in October 2019 following a locker room speech in which she used a racial epithet and profanity.

Toler then filed a discrimination lawsuit against the organization, claiming she was fired in retaliation for reporting workplace issues, including an alleged affair between two of the Sparks’ front-office personnel. The Sparks organization has denied Toler’s allegations.

In September, a judge sent the lawsuit to be decided in arbitration, rather than by a jury, and a decision is pending.

Along with Fisher’s move to GM, Michael Fischer, who had been serving as assistant GM since 2018, now moves into the role of vice president of player personnel. Eric Holomon, who had been the Sparks’ managing partner and governor, now becomes chief executive officer and governor.

The Sparks still need to fill the job of president and chief operating officer to oversee business operations; that is now being done on an interim basis by senior vice president Natalie White. That position opened when Danita Johnson left the Sparks this week; it has been reported by multiple outlets, including the Washington Post, that she will take over as president of business operations for D.C. United, making her the first Black president of an MLS franchise.



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