After a three absence, Bill Laimbeer is back as a head coach in the WNBA.
The city of Detroit owns three NBA championships and three WNBA championships. Laimbeer played an instrumental role in achieving five of those.
If current New York Liberty star (then a member of the Phoenix Mercury) Cappie Pondexter does not score a game-high 26 points and hits a crucial shot in the final seconds of the 2007 WNBA Finals Game 4, perhaps the Detroit Shock goes on to win that game. They never have to endure a dominating loss on their home court in Game 5. Laimbeer would own four rings as a professional basketball coach and two as a player.
The New York Liberty, on the other hand, are a team desperate for their first championship.
As one of WNBA's original teams, they have been to the finals four times, including the league's first championship game in 1997.
Three times former New York stars like Rebecca Lobo and Teresa Witherspoon came close to leading their teammates and coaches to championship glory, but each time they had to suffer through another Sheryl Swoopes-led Houston Comets (WNBA original and now defunct franchise) victory.
New York's last appearance in the WNBA Finals came in 2002, a loss to Los Angeles Sparks (another WNBA original).
Things have not necessarily been bad in the land of liberty. They have clinched a playoff berth in seven of the past 10 seasons, and advanced to WNBA Eastern Conference Finals three times.
Laimbeer's résumé says he is the absolute right guy to get New York that long-awaited championship.
He inherits a talented roster that includes Cappie Pondexter, Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn to get the job done. He is also reunited with Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton, who helped Laimbeer win two of those previously mentioned championships in Detroit.
Laimbeer's first real task will be figuring out how to win in a conference that features the Connecticut Sun, Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream. In addition, the Chicago Sky are becoming a better team.
The Liberty own the fifth pick in next year's WNBA draft. What happens in the draft will be determined by Laimbeer's offseason moves.
It seems highly likely that New York may be headed for roster remodeling.
Former Detroit Shock stars Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan are free agents.
They could even perhaps work out trades for any combination of Swin Cash, Katie Smith or Alexis Hornbuckle—all of whom played for Laimbeer at some point in their respective careers.
Turning things around in New York will be a challenge, but one Laimbeer without a doubt can and should conqueror. After all, this may be his biggest shot to impress and finally land an NBA head coach job or at least a head coaching job on the collegiate level.
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