New York Liberty Promotes Katie Smith To Head Coach
Smith had been an assistant with New York since retiring from the WNBA in 2013.
Katie Smith has been promoted to a job she was built for.
Smith will take over the New York Liberty, the team announced Monday. She’s been an assistant with New York since retiring from the WNBA in 2013 and was promoted to associated head coach in 2016. She takes over for Bill Laimbeer, who served as the Liberty’s coach from 2013-17.
The Liberty’s head-coaching vacancy is a result of Laimbeer’s reportedly moving to Las Vegas to take over there as coach and general manager when the San Antonio Stars franchise is sold.
“I’m really, really excited about having an opportunity,” Smith said in a phone interview. “Having the opportunity in New York, that’s only place I’ve coached. All of us understood for the last few years, we’d be heading this way at some point. When it was, was always the question. Bill has earned every right to choose where and when deservedly so.”
“Bill’s always said, ‘I think you’re ready.’ It doesn’t mean it was my time. It was always up to him, whether I’d be under him again or him leave,” Smith said. Team president “Isiah (Thomas) and I have had conversations over the year. This is how we like to go forward. We’d like to build our pieces from the inside.
Smith inherits a veteran Liberty squad that didn’t live up to expectations last season. The last three playoff meltdowns, still haunt many Liberty fans.
In 2015, the Liberty had the best regular-season record in the WNBA, 23-11, but lost to Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals. In 2016 and this year, they finished third in the WNBA. Under the new playoff format with single-elimination games in the first two rounds, they lost second-round games to Phoenix (2016) and Washington (2017) at home.
“We’ve had a couple of solid years, but we know and I think we’re hungry to get past that,” Smith said.
The remainder of the Liberty coaching staff has yet to be determined, but Smith confirmed that fellow assistants Teresa Weatherspoon and Herb Williams will continue to be part of the organization.
“You know I haven’t really (thought about the coaching staff yet),” Smith said. “All I know is that Spoon and Herb will continue to be apart of the Liberty, and they have been a huge part of what we have done here over the years. But I haven’t totally looked at that yet, however those guys will totally be along for this ride as well, and be heavily relied upon to continue to do great work and provide expertise in a lot of different areas.”
Katie Smith was very instrumental in establishing a winning culture for the Liberty. Her DNA will be all over the pulse of the Liberty next season.