We have more late night WNBA offseason coaching news. Both Bill Laimbeer and Katie Smith will be taking on new head coaching responsibilities.
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Doug Feinberg of the AP reported Friday that Bill Laimbeer will be named head coach and general manager of the San Antonio Stars.
A source familiar with the team’s plans told The Summitt on Friday evening that Katie Smith, Laimbeer’s associate head coach for the last two seasons, is expected to be named the next head coach of the New York Liberty.
Smith and Laimbeer have coached together for each of the past four WNBA seasons. Smith wrapped up her WNBA playing career playing for Laimbeer in 2013 with the Liberty.
The tie between Smith and Laimbeer dates back much further. In 2005, the Minnesota Lynx traded Smith to the Detroit Shock. Smith, Laimbeer and the Shock went on to win WNBA titles in 2006 and 2008.
Who was Detroit’s opponent in those 2008 Finals? None other than the San Antonio Stars.
That series ended in a sweep. Dan Hughes, head coach of that Stars team, was just announced as the next head coach of the Seattle Storm following a brief retirement.
Feinberg also reported Thursday that the Stars are in the midst of negotiations to move to Las Vegas.
Laimbeer has been the head coach of the New York Liberty for the last five seasons. The Liberty were eliminated in the 2017 playoffs by the Washington Mystics. Laimbeer and the Liberty have hosted single elimination second round playoff games in each of the past two seasons. Both times, New York was upset at home by a lower seed.
Prior to his tenure in New York, Laimbeer served as head coach of the Detroit Shock. Laimbeer served in the dual head coach/GM role for part of his tenure in Detroit. He led the Shock to three WNBA championships in his time there.
The Stars and Laimbeer alike, with this move, are ready for some changes. Laimbeer will be replacing first year head coach Vickie Johnson and GM Ruth Riley.
The franchise will move once again after relocating to San Antonio from Utah in 2003. With Friday’s news, it is now clear that Laimbeer will be the one to lead the team through this transition.
The Stars finished 2017 with the WNBA’s worst record at 8-26, but the team’s play perked up as the season wore on. The team was notably affected by early injuries and late arrivals from overseas play.
Laimbeer will take over a team with good odds of landing the top pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft to add to a young core headlined by 2015 All-Star Kayla McBride, 2016 2nd overall pick Moriah Jefferson and 2017 top selection Kelsey Plum.
Meanwhile in New York, Smith would be taking over a talented bunch hungry for a deep playoff run. Smith served as the associate head coach of the Liberty for the past two seasons. She joined the Liberty coaching staff after the final season of her playing career in New York in 2013.
Smith played 15 seasons in the WNBA. At the time of her retirement in 2013, she was the leading scorer in women’s professional basketball history (7,885 points) and second leading scorer in WNBA history (6,452 points).
Smith is a seven-time WNBA All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist (2000, 2004, 2008). She also won two ABL championships as a player for the Columbus Quest. Smith was voted as one of the 15 best WNBA players of all-time at the 2011 All-Star Game in San Antonio; she was voted one of the 20 best of all-time during the WNBA’s 20th anniversary season in 2016.
The Liberty are led on the floor by perennial MVP candidate Tina Charles. Charles was a 1st Team All-WNBA and 1st Team All-Defense selection in 2017.
New York’s roster also features experience on the perimeter with Epiphanny Prince, Bria Hartley, Sugar Rodgers and Shavonte Zellous — a WNBA champion in 2012 and All-Star in 2013 as a member of the Indiana Fever. Rodgers was an All-Star in 2017 and named WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year as well. Kiah Stokes and Kia Vaughn anchored the paint alongside Charles.
In addition to the coaching change, the Liberty will look forward to the return of point guard Brittany Boyd, who suffered a torn Achilles in the second game of the 2017 season.
The Liberty will be eager to advance deep into the WNBA playoffs sooner rather than later. Tina Charles will be 29 in December, and taking aim at the Lynx and Sparks is no task to be taken lightly.
It is yet to be seen if New York will shake up its roster in any major way after two disappointing single elimination exits at home. It is possible that the Liberty will focus on internal development, namely in Stokes, Boyd, Hartley, Lindsay Allen, Amanda Zahui B, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and Rebecca Allen — all players with three or fewer years of experience.
New York and San Antonio, both looking to take marked steps forward, will be hoping Smith and Laimbeer are the ones to lead them in the right direction.