Despite the Liberty likely heading to the postseason again, there are questions if Bill Laimbeer should remain in New York.
With just a handful of weeks remaining the the 2017 WNBA season, this is usually the point where some franchises begin to think about the future. For the San Antonio Stars and Chicago Sky, both are in full rebuild mode with their eyes firmly on the 2018 WNBA Draft. For others, like the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, the postseason lies ahead and head coaches have to balance resting starters with seeding.
Then there are teams that are somewhere in between, where the playoffs are a possibility but the season has not gone according to plan and questions have been raised. Who will stay and go? Is a rebuild coming? Or do we go all in and make a big playoff push?
For the New York Liberty, all of the above apply and probably more.
The Liberty currently sit at 12-11 and in sixth place in the playoff seeding. Unless the team completely goes off the rails, they should make their third postseason appearance in a row. It is quite an accomplishment but isn’t shocking for a franchise that has missed the playoffs just five times in their history.
It almost makes up for the fact the Liberty have never won a championship despite going to the WNBA Finals four times.
And if fans are being honest with themselves, this isn’t the season that statistic is going to change.
Yes, Tina Charles has been having a monster, MVP-worthy season, averaging 20.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. She was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for a record 10th time in her career and is the biggest reason the Liberty turned around their season, going 5-4 in July and are in a position to make the playoffs.
Despite that, it is almost certain that the Liberty will suffer another early exit from the postseason. The team has played incredibly well one game only to fall flat the next, including a 93-81 loss to the lowly Stars last Tuesday. As a result, you can probably bet money that the Liberty will not be playing in the Finals this year.
So what does New York have to do to change that? Do they go out and pay for a bunch of free agents and try to win now? Or do they step back, look at what’s working and what isn’t and maybe retool and rebuild?
If management decides on the latter, then it should include the possibility of moving on from head coach Bill Laimbeer.
Laimbeer is 82-89 since becoming head coach of the Liberty in 2013, which is squally average. He has not been able to replicate the success he had leading the Detroit Shock to three championships while in New York and he has already been let go once, only to be rehired a few months later.
Now, if the Liberty are willing to spend a ton of money on free agents and surround Charles with the kind of talent that can win, maybe Laimbeer can make an honest playoff push. The Liberty should get Tanisha Wright back next season and there is always the chance Shoni Schimmel could return.
But if New York is thinking long term and not just winning one Finals but several, it may be time to make some changes at Madison Square Garden.
A new head coach could bring some new energy, a better scheme and a new way of dealing with the players on the roster, which under Laimbeer has been strained at times.
Of course, what will happen to the Liberty will have to wait until their season comes to an end. And unless it includes a championship parade in New York, tough decisions might need to be made, including saying goodbye to Bill Laimbeer.