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Adubato has Liberty eyeing WNBA finals again

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Aug. 16
When you think of great coaches, you immediately think of Phil Jackson, who has won nine NBA championships as a head coach. Mike Krzyzewski of Duke quickly comes to mind, too. There are so many great ones in all sports.

Richie Adubato
Liberty head coach Richie Adubato was an assistant coach under Dick Vitale with the Pistons and later coached the Mavericks.
I want to focus on a great basketball coach I've known for many years. This man can communicate with his athletes, enjoying a great rapport with his players, and has brilliant knowledge of the X's and O's, especially on the defensive end. He understands how to manage the game on the sidelines. Unfortunately, in the NBA he never had the type of personnel that guys like Jackson have had (that's not to take away from what Jackson has accomplished, blending talent and egos).

Who am I talking about? Richie Adubato, head coach of the WNBA's New York Liberty. I have watched him since he was the coach at Our Lady of the Valley in Orange, N.J. I saw him at Upsala College in New Jersey, and later he served as my assistant with the Detroit Pistons. He took over as Pistons coach, but he didn't have talent there. He went on to prove he could win with the Dallas Mavericks, with a club that included Rolando Blackman and Sam Perkins. They won 50-plus games. He later got the shaft with the Orlando Magic.

These days, Adubato is doing a magnificent job with the Liberty. New York has won the Eastern Conference title three times in four years under his leadership. He has led them to the WNBA finals twice, in 1999 and 2000.

Adubato knows how to win, even with limited offensive firepower. The Liberty are led by 6-foot-1 Tari Phillips, Crystal Robinson (who can score on the perimeter) and Teresa Weatherspoon (the anchor of their defense).

Adubato gets excited at this time of the season. The Liberty can contend for another Eastern Conference title. It won't be easy, as Charlotte (with Andrea Stinson) and Washington (with Chamique Holdsclaw) will be tough challengers. Out West, Houston (led by Sheryl Swoopes) has won the WNBA championship four times and is competing for another title. Los Angeles won last year, led by center Lisa Leslie, the WNBA's version of Shaq (a dominating center always helps, baby).

One thing I know for sure: The Liberty will be fighting, scrapping and clawing. My man, Adubato, will prove why he is one of the brilliant minds in basketball. He can flat-out coach, motivate, teach and communicate. He never had the chance to make it big in the NBA because he didn't have the players.

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