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.