It’s all lining up for Bill Laimbeer, and the irony is delicious.
Laimbeer, the now ex-coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock, resigned the other day, saying he wanted to pursue a job in the NBA. Preferrably, roaming the sidelines, shouting instructions, as a head coach someday.
It’s not a pie-in-the-sky thought.
Laimbeer has the chops, for sure, to be a successful NBA coach. They say he might have trouble getting along with today’s players. But he didn’t always get along so well with his Shock ladies, and they won three championships together and nearly a fourth.
And it shouldn’t need to be drudged up again that he wasn’t always kind to his own teammates, and that didn’t stop rings from being attained, either.
Now, the irony.
Folks with some assemblance of knowledge of the NBA say that Laimbeer resigned his post–three games into the WNBA season–because he had his eye on something else, about to materialize.
Bill said at the press conference that he didn’t have another job, and he might simply have been parsing words.
No, he doesn’t have another job. Not yet.
Doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a bead on one, though.
The irony is that the one job that Laimbeer might have had his good eye on, the one that now is suddenly and conveniently vacant, is the one in Minnesota, with the Timberwolves.
The seat that had just been warmed by Kevin McHale.
Once, Laimbeer and McHale were two of the biggest rivals in the game. There was no secret of the disdain McHale, of the Celtics, had for the Piston Bill Laimbeer. The disdain was displayed with words, with body language, and with the occasional fist.
The Pistons and the Celtics provided marvelous theater in the late-1980s. The rivalry grew, steadily but surely, like an expanding foil package of Jiffy Pop popcorn.
Then it would explode. Laimbeer would duke it out with Larry Bird. Robert Parish would slap Laimbeer across his pouting mug. And McHale laid a doozy of a punch against Laimbeer’s face, too, one night in the playoffs.
Now Laimbeer might be the one to replace McHale as T-Wolves coach.
It could happen.
It could happen that Laimbeer leapfrogs the usual first step–that of serving time as an apprentice for another head coach–and takes the reins as No. 1 man.
And it could happen that it occurs in Minnesota.
The T-Wolves are bad. And young. They are nowhere near championship contention.
The perfect place for a rookie coach, but one who is no rookie to the NBA.
Laimbeer, as an NBA coach, and the T-Wolves, as a young team, could grow together.
And Laimbeer could have his way with them, as he molds them into something worth seeing.
It’s possible that the timing of Laimbeer’s resignation and McHale’s “agreement” to no longer coach the T-Wolves are mere coincidences.
I know–I can’t keep a straight face either, and I wrote the words.
Laimbeer is also a businessman. It’s how he padded his already fat bank account after he retired as a player. He wasn’t one of those ex-players who tried to make it on autograph shows or wearing a headset, gabbing into a microphone.
Laimbeer started a packaging business and made some good dough while he bided his time.
Then, in 2002, the Shock came calling, their team 0-10 and in desperate need of an ass-kicking.
Laimbeer was all too happy to ease himself away from his business, roll up his sleeves, and get the Shock into gear.
The next season, the Shock won the first of their three championships. Worst to first.
But Laimbeer doesn’t have anything left to prove in the WNBA. It’s time now for his true love, the NBA.
And funny, but I don’t see him as an assistant.
Laimbeer was never an assistant anything. He’s been used to, all his basketball life, being in the spotlight. Either as a co-captain or as a head coach.
If he’s going into the NBA, me thinks, it’s going to be as a head coach. Period.
“I made the mistake of starting the season,” Laimbeer said at his press conference, referring to bailing on the Shock after three games. “I shouldn’t have done that. I stayed longer than I thought I would.”
Not sure if that last line refers to this season, or his tenure with the Shock in general.
In either case, he’s right.
It’s time to move on.
Replacing Kevin McHale?