(Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Sparks interim coach Fred Williams expressed his desire to stay with the WNBA franchise, but the team will go in a different direction for its next head coach, the Sparks announced Wednesday.

Williams will depart for Auburn University, where he is set to become associate head coach of the women’s basketball team, a plan set in motion before he stepped in as the Sparks’ interim coach in June.

“The Sparks would like to thank Coach Fred for his leadership and guidance over the past four seasons as both an assistant coach and as interim head coach,” Sparks managing partner Eric Holoman said in a statement. “Fred has had an illustrious WNBA coaching career, and we know he will continue to make an impact on women’s basketball at Auburn.”

Williams took over as interim coach after the team fired head coach and general manager Derek Fisher in June.

The Sparks failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. Off the court, the team underwent a contract divorce with star center Liz Cambage after reported issues on and off the court.

Recent postgame comments about Chennedy Carter underscored the tension surrounding the team this season. Carter missed four games in a row due to a “coach’s decision,” but Williams had what he described as a change of heart ahead of the penultimate game of the season, allowing Carter to return to the floor.

Both Carter and Williams have remained mum on the reasoning behind her absence.

After the final game of the season Sunday, Williams reiterated his desire to take on the role of head coach on a permanent basis, adding that he had already had “some conversations” with Sparks management.

“I love this city, this is my hometown,” Williams said. “And I love coaching this team. I love being a part of the Sparks family and I feel a big part of this. I know that we can be better than what we’ve done this past season.”

Williams started working with the Sparks in 2019 as an assistant coach. Prior to that, he served as head coach with the Utah Starzz, Atlanta Dream and Dallas Wings/Tulsa Shock. He also served as head coach at USC from 1995-1997.

His decision to leave the Sparks for the associate head coach position at Auburn was announced in early May.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity and time that I have had with the Los Angeles Sparks,” Williams said. “A special thank you to Eric Holoman, my staff, and players who I have worked with throughout my time. Thank you also to our Sparks fans for your support and for making the atmosphere at our games so memorable.”

The Sparks will embark on the search for their next head coach, as well as the search for the team’s next general manager.