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Bill Laimbeer waited for NBA coaching opportunities before going back to the WNBA

The WNBA announced Thursday that Bill Laimbeer would take over as the new coach and general manager of the New York Liberty. Laimbeer hinted to Mechelle Voepel of espnW that he waited for a NBA opportunity that never materialized:

“I left the WNBA because I had a plan for the NBA, and for whatever reason — it’s still unclear to me — the plan didn’t work out,” Laimbeer, 55, said. “So I spent the last year here [in Florida] competing against fish and the golf course. I’m a competitive person and like the competition of basketball, so I wanted to get back into it.

“Part of what happened in the NBA will still always stick with me, just because I think I could be very successful in the NBA. But I’ve made a commitment here, and I think I can be very successful with the Liberty. … Being in basketball and keeping sharp as far as managing a game and winning games — that’s what I enjoy and what I want to do.”

Laimbeer interviewed for the Pistons head coaching job last summer before Lawrence Frank was hired and spent a couple seasons in Minnesota as an assistant to Kurt Rambis.

Laimbeer’s knowledge of the game is unparalleled. He’s one of the smartest players who ever played. Although I certainly expressed that I didn’t like the idea of him coaching the Pistons — I don’t like the idea of any downtrodden hometown team hiring a beloved former player as hiring any coach always leads to having to fire that coach — but he clearly deserves another opportunity in the NBA, at the very least as an assistant.

Politics could play a role in Laimbeer not getting that opportunity, but he’s hardly the only big name former player to have a rough go of it trying to break into NBA coaching. Patrick Ewing has been a longtime assistant and he’s yet to land the head coaching job he craves (interestingly, the Pistons also interviewed him for their head coaching vacancy last year). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Scottie Pippen have also tried to break into coaching in recent years only to find little interest in their services.


  • Oct 27, 201211:00 am
    by labatts


    I would think politics have a LOT to do with it.  I can’t speak for Pippen’s, Abdul Jabbar’s, or Ewing’s resume, but Lambieer’s record in the WNBA speaks pretty loud.  Unless, are people not giving it recognition because it is a woman’s league?  
    It seems a little surprising that he hasn’t gotten a chance here, but part of me wonders if it had more to do with the style of coach, rather than the name.  Was Dumars afraid to hire an “in your face” personality after Kuester?

    • Oct 28, 20128:06 pm
      by T Casey


      That’s a good point. Although, I’d argue that we played out best ball the past decade under the most in-your-face coach we had in Larry Brown. Also, there’s nothing wrong with an in-your-face coach so long as he commands the respect of his team. The greatest coach in the game right now, Greg Popovic (probably mis-spelled that), is also one of, if not the most, in-your-face coach(es) in the game.

      As it stands, we’ve got a bunch of guys on this squad who are still either raw skill-wise or simply don’t know how/what it takes to win consistently. I’d wager that an in-your-face coach with a winning pedigree is more likely to get them on the right track than a coach who hasn’t proven he has what it takes to win at any professional level and is more likely to coddle his players then show them the tough love they may need.

  • Oct 27, 201212:03 pm
    by Holy Crow


    I would like to congratulate the WNBA for getting their star coach back, and getting him to the big apple, no less.  I will be happy to keep track of the Liberty, which I expect be successful under Laimbeer.

  • Oct 27, 20122:05 pm
    by sebastian


    “… I don’t like the idea of any downtrodden hometown team hiring a beloved former player as hiring any coach always leads to having to fire that coach.”
    Patrick of the school of thought of better to have been hired and given the chance to succeed or fail, than to not be hired so that he may never get the opportunity to prove himself.
    Like yous say: Laimbeer’s knowledge of the game is unparalleled. He’s one of the smartest players who ever played.
    Laimbeer’s comments about “Being in basketball and keeping sharp as far as managing a game and winning games — that’s what I enjoy and what I want to do.” — should have been given the opportunity as a Piston head coach, plain and simple.
    Instead WE have Lawrence Frank as OUR Head Coach and so far this pre-season, WE have all been thrilled with his starting lineup and player rotations. WE can all trust OUR beloved Pistons in the hands of a guy, who lies to OUR faces and who has never won anything that I can remember, research, or otherwise presented as confidence that WE will have a winning record under his tenure.
    Great WE have L. Frank and the WNBA Liberty has Liaimbeer. I wonder which team will make the playoffs.

    • Oct 27, 20122:12 pm
      by sebastian


      Correction: I was meaning to type – Patrick I am of the school of thought that it is better to have been hired and given the chance to succeed or fail, than to not be hired at all so that he (Laimbeer) may never get the opportunity to prove himself, as a Pistons Head Coach.

      • Oct 27, 20122:49 pm
        by jerrific


        I think Patricks sentiment is that he would rather see Laimbeer suceed elsewhere as an NBA coach than come to the Pistons and have his reputation tarnished in the long run. Whether he could be a good coach for us or not, the lifespan of NBA head coaches are generally pretty short, especially for the Pistons. It would only be a matter of time before the relationship ended poorly. Dumars has shown a tendancy to blame his coaching over his players for on the floor failures or drama off the floor.

        • Oct 27, 20128:08 pm
          by Max


          Just wondering…….what drama off the floor? 

          • Oct 27, 20129:37 pm
            by jerrific

            Players and coaches butting heads during practices and such seemed to be an issue with this team during the Curry and Kuester eras. 

          • Oct 28, 201212:46 pm
            by City of Klompton

            This must be sarcasm.

  • Oct 27, 20123:38 pm
    by Vic


    Give him a couple years to win a chip with the Liberty and somebody in the nba will take their blindfolds fold off. I just hope it’s the Pistons. There’s no reason he can’t be an institution like Popovich or Phil Jackson. He’s obviously got it, but the politics run so thick in the NBA unfortunately. If we can’t get to the Finals in 3 max 4 years with the Moose and the Brahma Bull posting double double doubles, we definitely should bring him over.

  • Oct 27, 20125:07 pm
    by ryank


    Obviously no one takes the WNBA seriously…that is why his track record there means nothing to an NBA GM.  

  • Oct 27, 20125:41 pm
    by frankie d


    gm’s are probably afraid to hire someone who is probably smarter and is not very good at hiding the fact that he knows it.
    no boss wants to hire someone they could easily imagine taking their job. very few nba gm’s have the guts to make that kind of move.
    i’m sure having a guy like laimbeer – despite the fact that most folks could see him being successful – would give most gm’s heartburn.  he’d probably be an aggressive version of phil jackson.  ( i’m betting  that  the only thing that makes jackson halfway tolerable to an organization is his weird passive/aggressive way of handling matters, which is at least not outwardly insubordinate.)
    it’s easy to imagine laimbeer essentially telling his bosses to just shove it and doing what he wanted to do, very openly and aggressively.
    the fact that he’d simply say what he’s already said about the situation is pretty unusual.  most guys in his position, no matter how long they wait, simply suffer in silence.
    i could see jabbar causing the same types of concerns, even though it would be easy to imagine that he’d be successful.  not convinced that either pippen or ewing would be very good at coaching, but you never know.

    • Oct 27, 20128:22 pm
      by Max


      I think you are on to something with the Kareem comparison and I would add Rick Barry most prominently to the list as it’s pretty obvious he would have been (and who knows, maybe still could be) a great NBA coach.  One things this trio has in common though is that they all managed to rub a lot of NBA people the wrong way during their playing days and possibly burned too many bridges with people in power.

      • Oct 27, 20129:21 pm
        by ryank


        Right on the head.  

  • Oct 27, 20129:12 pm
    by Holy Crow


    Knock, knock,
    Who’s there?
    Bill Laimbeer
    Bill Laimbeer who?   
    Bill Laimbeer, the most hated player in the L

  • Oct 27, 201211:57 pm
    by frankie d


    imho, barry would be a great coach.  too bad he’ll probably never get his shot.

  • Oct 28, 201212:07 am
    by Reaction


    Off topic but since Thunder traded Harden to Houston… Pistons should try to work out a deal for the first rounders that the Thunder have now.. THINK of the FUTURE

  • Oct 28, 20122:13 am
    by frankie d


    okc is not stupid.
    they made out like bandits.  i’m sure they will either keep the picks and parlay those picks into useful talent, or they will package them and trade them for useful talent.  detroit really doesn’t have a lot that okc would want.
    other than monroe and drummond.
    i like harden, but basically he is just a wing scorer.  
    those guys are a dime a dozen in the nba.
    now, don’t get me wrong…he is one, if not the best, of that type of player.
    but his kind of player – an elite wing scorer – is probably the easiest kind of elite player to replace.
    k-martin is certainly not in his league, but he can pick up some of the slack.
    and jeremy lamb, just might be good enough to replace him, all by himself.
    on top of that, 2 first rounders.
    what a joke.   a great trade for okc. 

    • Oct 28, 201211:23 am
      by tarsier


      In a vacuum, not a terrible trade. I still think Houston wins, but it’s not bad. However, the Thunder are contenders NOW. Martin can’t replicate what Harden did. And Lamb is a long shot to. But even if he does, it will be in a couple years. Rookie Harden was not the great player today’s Harden is.

      They should have just paid Harden. They can afford some luxury tax. They’ve been making money hand over fist with their core on rookie deals the past couple seasons. If Harden’s contract would really be too burdensome on top of everything else, they could amnesty or trade Perkins.

      But let’s say they really didn’t think he was worth a max deal. Then they should have played him this season, tried to win a title with him, let someone sign him to a max deal, match, and then trade him for a comparable package. Yeah, it probably wouldn’t have been quite as good as what they got. But they could have gotten every bit as much present value with just a bit less future value. When you are a contender now, the present is the priority over the future. 

      However, if I were Presti, I’d now get on the phone with the Magic and try to trade Lamb for Afflalo. The good thing about getting a rookie and draft picks for a contender is if they use them to upgrade present talent. 

      • Oct 28, 201212:40 pm
        by frankie d


        i basically agree with just about everything you said, with a couple of exceptions.
        i think OKC ultimately gets the better deal if they are able to parlay the draft choices and possibly lamb into an elite player or quality players.  considering their track record, i’d say that was pretty likely to happen.
        also, lamb’s a rookie, but i loved what i saw of him in summer league.  he has the look of a guy who could very possibly be an even better player than harden down the line.  he may never be the same type of  explosive scorer, but his all-around skills, especially his defense, may make him a more valuable player.
        harden does one thing, even though he does it better than just about anyone in the league:  he scores points in bunches when he gets hot.  he’s a taller vinnie johnson with more range.
        i also would not, unless absolutely necessary for other reasons, get rid of perkins.  imho, it is not a coincidence that okc went from being a first round loser to a conference finalist and then a league finalist team once they got perkins.  he provides a certain physical presence that is absolutely essential for that team, if it wants to compete at the higher levels in the league.  
        sure, the team often looks better when they swing ibaka to the 5 spot and move durant to the 4, leaving perkins on the bench, but without the ability to bring perkins into the game at certain times, and without his presence, okc is just the dallas team from the middle of the last decade.
        i am always amazed when teams undervalue guys like perkins – like detroit did with rick mahorn after they won their first title – and it always comes back to bite them in the butt.  it is no coincidence that boston has been trying to fill his hole since he left.  is he overpaid?   probably.  but i’d rather overpay a guy like perkins than a scorer.
        but i agree that the real solution to the harden controversy should have been to just pay the guy. they are trying to win now, and you don’t have that kind of window open for very long.
        but this trade reminds me of the gasol to the lakers trade.  (it’s a bit different because guys like pau are very unique also, much more difficult to find than scorers.)  at the time it happened, almost everyone overlooked pau’s little brother.  who would you rather have right now: pau or marc?
        i think observers will look at this trade somewhat similarly.
        in 4 years, the interesting question will be: who is a better player, harden or lamb?  (and that doesn’t even factor in the first round choices.  one of those picks is toronto’s and even though it is apparently lottery-protected, you have to imagine that such a pick is going to provide a chance at a decent player somewhere along the line.  or that it will have decent trade value.)
        so, bottom line, you are right, they should have just paid the guy his money, but i think we’ll only be able to evaluate the real impact of the trade 4-5 years down the line.

  • Oct 28, 201211:45 am
    by Vic


    If there ever was a win/win situation, this was it.
    Okc traded a non starting star for a starter and another star. J Lamb is going to be just as goof as J Harden, and a better defender. They both can fill Hardend role.
    Plus they got two first round draft picks. Thats quite a haul.

    Houston was too young and really had no identity.
    Now they have a bonafide star and a leader who has been from the bottom of the league to the finals. All their young talent has something to grow into. They have a pg, an SG, the best backup pg in the league Machado, a solid center, and stable of super talented SFs and PFs to choose from.  They are better off than most teams in the league.

  • Oct 28, 20121:02 pm
    by City of Klompton


    In regards to the Harden deal… Typically, rule of thumb is the team mentioned in the headline got the better end of the deal.  All headlines mention Houston, so my initial thought is Houston wins this trade.  However, when I think about the situation Harden was in I have to wonder how good of a deal this was for OKC.  It will be interesting to see what Harden is capable of doing w/o two other elite scorers on his team.

    Harden is a talent.  This cannot be denied, but let’s see what happens when he is expected to carry the load night in and night out without the help of two other “All-World” 1st teamers.

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