Congratulations to New York Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb, who was voted 2023 WNBA Basketball Executive of the Year by his fellow general managers.
Kolb received six first-place votes and appeared on eight of 12 ballots, earning him 20 points. Dallas Wings’ President and CEO Greg Bibb finished second with 15 points, appearing on eight ballots and receiving two first-place votes. Connecticut Sun General Manager Darius Taylor, who also received two first-place votes, was third.
How Kolb turned the Liberty into a title contender
While Kolb, who has served as GM of the Liberty for five seasons, technically is being honored for his moves and machinations during the 2023 offseason and season, the work Kolb did in offseasons prior made his successes in 2023 possible.
Kolb planned with foresight, ensuring the Liberty had the asset optionality and financial flexibility to take big swings in 2023. He also hired Sandy Brondello, a proven, title-winning head coach, during the 2022 offseason.
On top of this foundation, Kolb built a superteam edifice. First, he traded for former MVP Jonquel Jones, with an ultimate glue gal, Kayla Thornton, also arriving in Brooklyn as part of the multi-team transaction. Then, he convinced another former MVP, Breanna Stewart, not only to sign with the Liberty as an unrestricted free agent, but also to take less than her maximum allowable salary in order for the team to add Hall of Fame-caliber point guard Courtney Vandersloot. It was quite the coup.
Kolb’s construction continued into the 2023 season, when he signed Thornton, Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney to multi-year contract extensions.
Credit, of course, also goes to Brondello and the players, who realized Kolb’s vision by compiling a 32-8 record, the second-best mark in 2023. They also captured the Commissioner’s Cup Championship.
Can Kolb and company win the ultimate honor?
Yet, it seems safe to assume that Kolb would trade his Executive of the Year Award for the first title in franchise history.
In the seven seasons in which the WNBA has named an Executive of the Year, no winner also has seen their franchise win a WNBA championship. After finishing the regular season by winning eight of their final 10 games, the Liberty are well-positioned to break this pattern and raise a banner in Barclays.