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|Bill Laimbeer won three titles with the Detroit Shock. Now he will coach the New York Liberty.|
Some critics may say that I was not the most popular guy in the league during my time in the NBA. Perhaps I was an antagonist, but they can’t argue with one thing: I sure did get people going.
When I went to the WNBA’s (then Detroit) Shock in 2002, I wanted to do the same thing -- get the people going. We went from a group that won five games in 2002 to a WNBA championship squad that set a franchise record for wins in a season (25) in 2003. I added Rick Mahorn and now-Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve to the staff and won the championship two more times (2006 and 2008).
In 2009, I took a hiatus from the WNBA to focus on my family and pursue a coaching opportunity with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Then after a 14-season playing career and seven-plus years coaching, I decided to take a break from my first love. I hadn’t even been on a basketball court in a year and a half until recently. My wife, Chris, and I renewed our other passions -- golfing and fishing in beautiful Southwest Florida and hunting in Northern Michigan.
Despite stepping away from basketball, I have stayed close friends with former teammates, coaches, and colleagues -- including Reeve. I got to watch her win the 2011 WNBA Finals with the Lynx, and I could not have been prouder.
While it has been a mostly relaxing vacation from the game, my wife was ready for a change. Having me around all the time must not have been as great as I thought it was! We agreed that it was time for me to do something aside from hanging out every day.
All jokes aside, we are very excited about my new job with the New York Liberty in the Big Apple. Chris has been very supportive of the change.
From my perspective, both on the inside and out, it is easy to see how the WNBA and women’s basketball as a whole have grown over the past decade. The caliber of play has greatly increased, the individual players are more talented, and more women are playing. It makes me that much more excited to be back -- especially with innately gifted players like Cappie Pondexter leading the charge in New York.
Joining a team coming off a losing record and turning a program around is not easy. However, I did it in Detroit, and I am confident that we can do it again in New York. But it’s not an overnight change. You come into a situation with existing personnel and have to retrain them to perform how you want while also making changes to mold the identity of the ballclub.
I took pride as a player and take pride as a coach in a team that competes in every single minute of every single play in every single game; I call it heightened competition. We are going to play hard-nosed, physical basketball and work to bring this team to the big stage.
Get ready, New York. Kourtney and Kim had their turn, but now it’s time for Bill and the Liberty to take New York!