New York Liberty head coach Katie Smith’s contract will not be renewed, the team announced Wednesday. In two seasons at the helm in New York, the Liberty accrued a 17-51 record.
“On behalf of the entire Liberty organization, we want to thank Katie for her time with our franchise,” said general manager Jonathan Kolb. “These decisions are never easy to make, but we felt it necessary to move our organization forward in a new direction. We wish her all the best.”
Smith began her coaching career as an assistant coach, and then an associate head coach, for the Liberty under Bill Laimbeer. She was hired after ending her playing career with the team in 2013. Smith was promoted to head coach in October 2017, when Laimbeer left to coach the Las Vegas Aces.
With all of the front office changes taking place in New York in 2019, including new owner Joseph Tsai and new GM Kolb, a coaching change may have been the next logical move. But some fans may still believe that Smith should have been given another season. One reason is that in both of Smith’s seasons, the Liberty’s home was Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York, a small arena that can take an hour or more to reach from New York City. This move clearly hurt the team, as attendance plummeted to league-low marks in 2018 and 2019.
But a three-game improvement from one season to the next was evidently not enough to justify keeping Smith. The Liberty have the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2020, and with all that newness sweeping over the team, perhaps the franchise sees a clean slate as the best way to keep rebuilding.
Smith was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September of 2018 after a playing career that spanned 15 WNBA seasons and included two WNBA championships and three Olympic gold medals. She retired as the top all-time scorer in women’s professional basketball history.
As a coach, though, it seems like a different team could be a better fit.
Might the Liberty have a new home to go with their new head coach in 2020? That much remains to be seen.