There was a time when Bill Laimbeer wanted nothing more than to be a head coach in the NBA.
“It was a burning desire,” said the former bruising center for the Detroit Pistons during the Bad Boys era of the 1980s and early 1990s.
But dozens of coaching vacancies in the league have come and gone over the years and Laimbeer has yet to land that first gig. Not that he’s sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.
Laimbeer, who grew up in west suburban Clarendon Hills before playing his college ball at Notre Dame, is too busy these days being a head coach in the WNBA, a job that could in some ways be seen as an addition by subtraction.
Laimbeer, the head coach of the New York Liberty, which hosts the Chicago Sky at 2 p.m. on Sunday (WCIU), doesn’t grapple with some of the common headaches that come with coaching in the NBA. There is no such thing in the WNBA as overpaid players, and probably very few cases, if any, of players who believe they have more power and influence than the head coach.
And, after four years of college ball, most female players come to the WNBA strong on the fundamentals. Meanwhile, some young NBA players, only a year or two out of high school, need frequent tutorials, which just adds to the already lengthy to-do lists of their coaches.
“The women play a much more fundamental basketball game. They can’t play above the rim so they can’t make up for their mistakes with their athleticism. They have to play fundamentally sound 5-on-5 basketball,” Laimbeer said. “I also think the women want to be coached more than the guys do. They appreciate the coaching and they want to learn. They listen much better than the guys do.”
Laimbeer is speaking from quite a bit of experience.
He first got a close-up look at women’s basketball when his daughter Keri was playing at an elite level in high school. She eventually went on to play Division I ball at Syracuse.
Around the same time, Laimbeer was named the head coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock, which is now defunct. His tenure lasted from 2002-09 and included three WNBA championships.
“Early on, I realized that the ladies compete very hard,” Laimbeer said. “It’s just a joy to coach them. It’s also a great outlet for me to compete.”
If the right NBA job came up, it sounds like Laimbeer would be ready to compete for that, too. But his appreciation for the WNBA gives him a contentment that seems to keep him at peace in the meantime.
“I don’t know about the NBA anymore. I don’t go solicit every job like most people do. I only target certain things and it hasn’t worked out, and I’m getting older,” Laimbeer said. “Right now, I’m having fun doing what I’m doing.
“Somewhere down the road if (an NBA job) comes around, OK, great. But right now, I have a job and I’m focused on what I’m doing.”
Vote for EDD:
As of Tuesday, Sky rookie forward Elena Delle Donne led all WNBA players with 16,761 all-star votes, which are submitted by fans.
If Delle Donne remains the leader at the conclusion of balloting at 11 p.m. (CDT) on July 14, she would be the first ever rookie to earn the most votes for the All-Star Game.
Former Naperville Central star Candace Parker, a forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, ranks second with 15,623 votes.
Other top vote-getters in the East are: former Stevenson star and Indiana forward Tamika Catchings (13,399), Chicago native and New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter (8,670), Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry (8,660), Sky guard Epiphanny Prince (6,898), Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles (8,066) and Sky center Sylvia Fowles (6,633).
To vote for your favorite players for the July 27 game, which will be hosted by the Connecticut Sun, visit wnba.com
No official word yet from the Sky as to whether or not center Sylvia Fowles will be back in the lineup for Sunday’s game in New York. She sprained her right ankle in a win over the Los Angeles Sparks last week.
With Fowles sitting out, the Sky lost Tuesday’s home game against a depleted Seattle team. Fowles said before tip-off that she was sitting out as a precaution and was confident she would be back for the New York game.
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