NEW YORK, Sept. 17, 2015 – New York Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer, whose team finished a league-best 23-11 to complete the most successful regular season in franchise history, is the recipient of the 2015 WNBA Coach of the Year Award, the WNBA announced today. This marks the second such honor for Laimbeer, who also won in 2003 with the Detroit Shock, and it is the first time any Liberty head coach has received the honor in the franchise’s 19-year history.
Laimbeer received 23 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters. First-year Indiana Fever Head Coach Stephanie White finished second with seven votes and Fred Williams of the Tulsa Shock was third with six. One vote each went to 2010 Coach of the Year Brian Agler of the Los Angeles Sparks, 2014 winner Sandy Brondello of the Phoenix Mercury, and Pokey Chatman of the Chicago Sky.
In Laimbeer’s third season at the helm, the Liberty secured the No. 1 overall seed in the WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile for the first time in team history. New York opens the postseason against the Washington Mystics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday, Sept. 18 (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
Under Laimbeer’s tutelage, a revamped Liberty roster improved on last year’s 15-19 record to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2002. With offseason acquisitions such as Epiphanny Prince, Brittany Boyd, Kiah Stokes, Tanisha Wright, and Carolyn Swords joining former league MVP Tina Charles, New York led the WNBA in defensive field goal percentage (.393) and points allowed (71.1 ppg).
Behind a stingy defense and standout seasons from Charles (who was third in voting for the 2015 WNBA Most Valuable Player Award presented by Samsung) and Prince (eighth in MVP voting), New York posted a league-best 11-6 road record and produced its first five-game winning streak since 2010. In addition, the Liberty swept the two-game season series with the Mercury for the first time since 2012, took both games from the Sparks for the first time since 2010, and went 2-0 against the Minnesota Lynx for the first time since 2007
Laimbeer’s other WNBA Coach of the Year honor came in his first full season guiding the Shock, which went a league-best 25-9 in 2003 after finishing 9-23 the previous season. He spent parts of eight seasons as the Shock’s head coach and general manager, lifting Detroit to a 137-93 (.596) record and winning WNBA championships in 2003, 2006, and 2008. He then worked for two seasons as an NBA assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves (2009-2011) before returning to the WNBA with the Liberty in 2013
Laimbeer played 14 NBA seasons and won back-to-back titles with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990. The four-time NBA All-Star finished his career with 13,790 points and 10,400 rebounds, retiring in 1993 as one of 19 players in league history to eclipse 10,000 in both categories. Detroit retired his No. 40 jersey in 1995.