Special Photo Atlanta Dream head coach and general manager Fred Williams
Fred Williams, 55, was hired officially as head coach and general manager of the Atlanta Dream this week.
Williams, a Duluth resident for the past four years and Atlanta Dream coach since the organization's inception, took over those duties on an interim basis late last season. The WNBA team was 12-12 when he took over, then went 7-3 in its final 10 games to reach the playoffs.
An All-Big Sky Conference point guard for Boise State, Williams played briefly in the NBA and has a long coaching career that includes a stint as the head coach of the WNBA's Utah Starzz from 1999-2001. His longest stay was 10 years at USC, where he coached standouts like Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper.
In this edition of "Getting to Know ... ," the Inglewood, Calif., native talks with sports editor Will Hammock about his "Fast Freddie" nickname, his musical talents and the former NBC sitcom, "Suddenly Susan."
WH: How long have you lived here in Gwinnett?
FW: I've been out here four years and in Atlanta for five years. My first year here I stayed in town and then I moved out here where I can have a little more breathing room.
WH: How do you like Gwinnett?
FW: It's a very nice place. It's a good family environment and it's not too far away from the city. It's not too far away from going out of state if you need to go South Carolina or the Charlotte area.
WH: How excited are you being hired full-time as the Dream's head coach and GM?
FW: I'm excited. I've been in the trenches here since the Dream has been here. We set our foundation after a tough first year. I've been through that whole process. I'm really excited. It's a good day for me and for my family.
WH: Can people expect any differences or will things be pretty much the same?
FW: A lot of things will be in place as far as a running, fast-breaking basketball team. Having a great product on the court with high-profile players from around the world, not just our country, that won't change. There will still be a high level of play, energetic and a family-fun atmosphere.
WH: Do you see any major changes personnel-wise?
FW: It will be pretty much the same core of players on the team. I don't want to make too many changes. I really like the look we have right now. We're in contract talks with a few players that may come up first of the year. But my main thing is to get on board, look at everybody's contracts and then we'll look at what we want to do as a staff.
WH: Atlanta doesn't have a lot championships over the years. How nice would it be to win one with the Dream?
FW: We've been close the last couple of years. It would be great to get there again. Our thing is to continue to work hard and bring a championship to Atlanta. We want it not only for our team but also for the city.
WH: Are you comfortable here? What's it like for a California guy in the South? You spent most of your life out there.
FW: Most of my years were on the West Coast. Here in the South, it's just down-home people. It's just really good people here. You come to find out living here in the South there are lot of people from somewhere else. People from California. People from New York.
WH: So you grew up in California?
FW: I grew up in Inglewood, Calif. I went to Boise State and played for a half of a year for the Jazz as a free agent in early 80s.
WH: How good was the hoops in Inglewood back then?
FW: It was really good back then. This was way before the Paul Pierce time. We kind of started the trend back in 1975. I played with a guy named Reggie Theus. We were backcourt mates. We go way back. He played in the NBA and played here with the Atlanta Hawks.
WH: Reggie had that sweet hair with the long curls.
FW: He won't loan me any hair. I've got to stay bald.
WH: What kind of player were you?FW: I was fast, a quick player. I played up-tempo ball, a lot of pressure. I'd say I was a Tim Hardaway back in the day. Even back then, I was looking at getting into coaching. That was my mindset.
WH: So they called you "Fast Freddie?"
FW: Yeah, because of the quickness and I'm still quick at my age. Back in the day, I was very quick and I had great jumping ability. And I just liked to get things done quickly. I'm straight forward. I don't like to beat around the bush. I got that nickname in college.
WH: You coached Cheryl Miller at USC?
FW: I coached Cheryl Miller. I coached Cynthia Cooper. I was there for 10 years. I also had the opportunity to recruit and coach Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson.
WH: How would Cheryl fare against today's top players?
FW: That would be very interesting. Cheryl would fare very well. She was a mix between, kind of a Candace Parker and Lindsay Whalen type of player. She could handle the ball, pass the ball. She could do it all. And she was a tremendous, tremendous competitor.
WH: What do you do in your spare time for fun?
FW: I like to produce my own music. I create tracks. I play several different instruments by ear. I have a mini-recording studio where I record and write tracks, mainly for young people trying to get their music out. Other than that, I'm at home with the family.
WH: How did you get into music?
FW: I got into music in 1987. One of my godsisters bought me a keyboard and I started playing it by ear. Then I bought a guitar, then another guitar, and all of sudden I've got seven guitars. I got a drum kit. I just started playing all of them by ear. I taught myself and just fell in love with it.
WH: You can find a lot of fun stuff online in people's bios. I saw you were on an episode of (the NBC sitcom) "Suddenly Susan."
FW: I taught Brooke Shields how to play basketball for one of her episodes. Her and I became good friends. Also Kathy Griffin on that show. We had a great time. One of the producers Frank Pace at Warner Bros. had me do some other things with other people. It was fun.
WH: Was it hard to teach Brooke Shields basketball?
FW: She got the hang of it pretty good after the third day. It was tough for her to commit to a dribble for a while. They had a ladder up for her dunk scene. If you go back in archives, you'll probably see me as the referee in the show.
WH: How long do you see yourself in Atlanta and with the Dream?
FW: I see myself here for the long term. I love Atlanta. I love living in our area in Gwinnett. The fans have been really good to us, the team and the organization. We just want to continue to strive and work toward being a championship team.