We've seen in pro basketball time and time again that head coaches have been rehired by their former teams.
The most successful example of this In the NBA was when Phil Jackson returned to the Lakers in 2005 after a one-year absence. Mike Brown was rehired by the Cleveland Cavaliers (albeit for a one-year stint) after being let go in the conclusion of the 2009-10 season. Between those stints, Brown served as the Lakers' head coach for a bit.
And last summer, Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders named himself the head coach of the team one year after assuming his first role. Saunders served as Minnesota's head coach from 1995 to 2004, where he led the Wolves to the 2004 Western Conference Finals.
Even in the WNBA, we have seen Michael Cooper return to the Los Angeles Sparks in 2007 after leaving in 2004 to pursue and NBA coaching career.
Apparently, the New York Liberty decided to try a variation of rehiring a head coach who they parted ways with. They did so by rehiring Bill Laimbeer as their head coach, just months after firing him. The two main differences between the Liberty's situation and the other aforementioned teams are the following:
- First, there were no games played nor a trading/free agency period between the time Laimbeer left and was rehired, which almost makes it look like he was never fired to begin with.
- Second, Laimbeer was stripped of a job title, since he no longer is a general manager. Kristin Bernert, the Liberty's Senior Vice President of Business Operations has now assumed those duties, according to Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press.
I just don't get the Liberty's decision, in particular because we didn't have a chance to see what a Post-Laimbeer Liberty team would be like. I'm not mad about Laimbeer staying as the head coach, but why would the team announce the non-renewal of his previous contract, and follow up with today's news making it sound like everything's okay? Why couldn't they just hold off on the front office announcement until things are finalized, assuming that they really wanted him back?
This just doesn't add up.
Laimbeer's rehiring, when combined with his firing just months earlier shows that the Liberty couldn't find another qualified candidate. Perhaps other candidates were put off by the fact that the Libs as constructed don't have many young building blocks to build around Cappie Pondexter and Tina Charles. After all, Laimbeer mortgaged the future of the Liberty in order to get Charles during last year's WNBA Draft. Or maybe the rumored possibility of Madison Square Garden selling the Liberty is a concern for candidates who value job security.
Or maybe worse. Perhaps Madison Square Garden just doesn't care about running the Liberty as a top-notch franchise.
Either way, this won't give the Liberty fanbase much confidence going into the 2015 season, as they try to get back into the Eastern Conference picture. To be fair, New York has the talent at the top to win an Eastern Conference title, but it makes no sense to bring back Bill Laimbeer to finish the job after letting him go.