Ex-Ace Laimbeer: ‘Not ever going to coach again’
4: 03 PM ET
- Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
Although Bill Laimbeer won’t entirely rule out a role in basketball in the future, the former Las Vegas Aces coach said Saturday that he is sure about one thing.
“I’m not ever going to coach again,” Laimbeer said in a video call with media from Las Vegas before the Aces hosted Phoenix. “I don’t have that level of energy. I lack the willpower. It is a very exhausting thing.
“Whether I participate in basketball going forward, I don’t know. It’s too soon to say. I was only off for six months. I have never spent a summer on my Michigan farm. So that’s what I’m looking forward too. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m having fun. I’m relaxed. “
Laimbeer, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Thursday, played in the NBA from 1980-81 to 1993-94, spending all but his first two seasons with the Detroit Pistons. In 2002, he took over as head coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock during the season, and led the team to the first of three WNBA titles in 2003; the Shock also won the championship in 2006 and 2008.
He stayed with the Shock until leaving early in the 2009 season and taking an assistant’s job with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. He returned to the WNBA as a head coach with the New York Liberty from 2012 to 2017.
When the San Antonio franchise relocated to Las Vegas starting in the 2018 season, Laimbeer took over the team — newly named the Aces — as coach and led them the past four seasons. That included a trip to the 2020 WNBA Finals.
The Aces had the second-best record in the WNBA last season but lost in the semifinals to Phoenix. Laimbeer said he was ready then to leave coaching but thought he would need to come back for 2022.
“It was an easy decision, but it was hard to implement,” Laimbeer said. “Last year it was obvious to me — and I think some players — that my energy was low. I had just completed my coaching course. “
Still, he told the Aces players in their exit interviews after last season that he would return. He encouraged Nikki Fargas, the new team president, to find his replacement. Laimbeer was optimistic when Becky Hammon, a former WNBA player, was mentioned.
” I told [Fargas], that our franchise is very well-known and we’re still at the infancy stage…. Get somebody with high-profile basketball credibility. “She mentioned Becky’s name to me and I replied, “Absolutely, that’d be a wonderful thing to do for this franchise, and it would allow me to march off to another land and not worry about this basketball team anymore.” It happened, even though I didn’t believe it would. “
Laimbeer said he was pleased to be able to exit the way he did.
“Most of the time when coaches go away, they’re fired because they suck or because they leave a bad team,” he said. “I was lucky to pass the [torch] on to a young, quality coach with a very talented basketball team. She’s now set up for success. “
The Aces are now a WNBA-best 6-1 after their 100-80 win over Phoenix, as Hammon – who spent eight years as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs – is off to a strong start.
“I’m just sitting here right now watching the good things that are happening to this franchise,” Laimbeer said. “I like the way they play. “
Laimbeer worked as a general manager along with coaching when he was in Detroit and New York. When asked what he was proudest about his time in WNBA, Laimbeer replied that he was proud of the WNBA’s ability to influence play style, free agency, and rule changes. He also thinks that Las Vegas helped elevate the WNBA All-Star Game in hosting it in 2019 and 2021.
“Nothing changes dramatically in one-fell swoop,” Laimbeer said. It’s about talking to the league all day and pushing them. Being part of the team that got [this league] where it is today. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.