Shock's Flint Coaching Connection

When Detroit Shock Head Coach Bill Laimbeer announced on October 17th that the club had named Flint, Mich. natives Laurie Byrd and Pamela McGee as assistant coaches, it was another step towards the Shock’s goal of winning a WNBA championship.

“I had two goals in my search for assistants: someone that would embrace the opportunity to build support in the community for our organization, and a former professional player,” said Laimbeer, who led the Shock to a strong 8-7 finish to close out the 2002 WNBA regular season. “We were very fortunate to have found not one, but two assistants that have both qualities. The assistants will play a major role in planning our defensive strategy and player development, with Laurie being responsible for the guards, and Pamela concentrating on the posts.”

Detroit Shock assistant coaches Pamela McGee and Laurie Byrd read to children during a Read to Achieve event at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit on Feb 4 .
Allen Einstein/WNBAE/Getty Images
Byrd served as an assistant coach to Anne Rexford with the University of Detroit Titans women’s basketball team for the past three seasons. Byrd’s appointment as an assistant coach at Detroit followed a stellar professional playing career in the American Basketball League, European Basketball League, and the Women’s Basketball League. A four-year letter winner at Eastern Michigan University, Byrd still holds numerous school records, and in 1993 was inducted into EMU’s Hall of Fame. Byrd shined as a prep athlete at Flint Hamady High School, scoring a single-game school record 41 points, as well as establishing herself as the school’s all-time leading scorer.

“I look forward to helping develop a team of talented players that will infuse this community with energy and enthusiasm for the game of basketball,” said Byrd, who in February 2000, was inducted into the Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame. “Michigan is known for basketball and the Detroit Shock are not only going to add to that reputation, but improve it.”

McGee most recently served as an assistant coach to Cheryl Littlejohn with the Chicago State University women’s basketball team. McGee played professionally in the WNBA for the Sacramento Monarchs and the Los Angeles Sparks. The former NCAA Kodak All-American also won championships in the Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian professional leagues. McGee led USC to two NCAA women’s basketball national championships (1983-1984), and is a former Olympic Gold Medallist (1984).

“I am excited to be with the Shock. The ‘Big D’ is a special town,” said McGee, who led Flint Northern High School to two MHSAA state titles and a 75-0 record her junior and senior years. “This is a great opportunity to work with one of the true ‘Bad Boys’ of basketball. I look forward to helping Bill Laimbeer make this team a championship contender.”

Q & A with LAURIE BYRD and PAMELA McGEE

How excited were you when Coach Laimbeer told you he was hiring you as a Shock assistant coach?
Laurie: “A numb feeling came through my body. I felt honored and blessed to be coaching at the professional level. I was truly excited and overwhelmed.”
Pamela: “I was extremely excited because I watched Bill Laimbeer as a ‘Bad Boy’ and he knows how to win. He called me and said that is what he is bringing to the Shock, a winning mentality and a championship. Like Bill, I don’t get involved with something unless I’m going to go all out. In this case, going all out means winning the championship.”

What will your primary responsibilities be as a Shock assistant coach?
Laurie: “Help implementing different defensive strategies, scouting different teams, and working with guards on skill development, as well as helping the Shock reach out into the community.”
Pamela: “Scouting, post-development, and helping to establish stronger community support.”

If you had to highlight one characteristic about you that will help Head Coach Bill Laimbeer and the Detroit Shock be successful in 2003, what would it be?
Laurie: “Conditioning and working hard in practice. I believe success always starts in practice and carries over to the game. Hard work day in and day out.”
Pamela: “Motivation and creating an environment to develop champions, by treating female athletes as professionals.”

You both came to the Shock after working with excellent head coaches at the collegiate level—Laurie, at the University of Detroit under Anne Rexford, and Pamela, at Chicago State University under Cheryl Littlejohn…What did you each take away from your college coaching experiences that will help you with the Shock?
Laurie: “Preparing players in each aspect of the game, offensively and defensively. The teaching of X’s and O’s from a game aspect, and remembering that the players are people first.”
Pamela: “I learned discipline and focus in achieving a goal, as well as resiliency.”

What were your impressions of the 2002 WNBA Detroit Shock team?
Laurie: “As a rookie, I thought Swin Cash brought tremendous excitement to the team. I thought the Shock lacked a strong post-presence. They seemed to gain a lot of confidence under Bill during the second half of the season, and that showed as they won some big games against eventual WNBA playoff teams.”
Pamela: “I felt that Bill was the missing element to change the mentality and desire of this young team to win. I thought last year they were just one or two players away from contending for the eastern conference championship.”

With the Shock holding two lottery selections, and possibly the first overall pick, do you feel the team can significantly improve through the 2003 WNBA Draft?
Laurie: “Yes. Two draft lottery picks will give us an opportunity to bring in impact players that can help this already young and talented team win immediately.”
Pamela: “With two lottery picks, those drafted players will be able to compliment Swin Cash, giving her more scoring opportunities as opponents will not be able to double-team her as much. Additional talent will also allow us to be a stronger defensive-oriented team.”

You are both “Flintstones” as natives of Flint, Michigan. Describe the pride that comes from growing up in Flint, a blue-collar, hard-working city.
Laurie: “Growing up in Flint is like this: working hard day in and day out—that pride of no matter where you go you want to put the city of Flint on the map. Through hard work and the love of the game, Flint is known as the basketball capital of the world.”
Pamela: “Laurie and I, and a friend of ours Leteia Hughley, have the longest three-on- three Gus Macker winning streak in Macker history. Growing up in Flint, we know how to win. We HAVE to win with the Shock because we can’t go back to Flint and have them talk about us—in the barber shop, at the grocery store, at the park, and at the rec. center! We have a reputation to uphold. We have a certain pride as a ‘Flintstone’.”

Athletic Shock guard Deanna Nolan is also a Flint product. Did you ever see her play in high school or college? What were your impressions of Deanna’s game?
Laurie: “I was an assistant coach at Flint Northern under Leteia Hughley, and Deanna was on the team (her junior year). Even then she was an outstanding athlete, very explosive in the open court. She had great range, and was a great slasher. I knew she was going to be an impact player in college, and I had no doubt she would reach this level.”
Pamela: “I didn’t see Deanna play as a prep athlete, or at Georgia. But I know her family and I know what she can do. She will be a key player towards our success next season.”

Who do you feel is currently the best WNBA player in the game?
Laurie: “Sheryl Swoopes. She does so many different things for that team. She can play several positions, one through four. She is a complete player, including the fact that she can defend.”
Pamela: “Marie Ferdinand. She reminds me of a young Cynthia Cooper. She is an extremely athletic and talented basketball player. Her career is off to a great start, but she has yet to fully expose what she is capable of doing.”

Who is the best female basketball player you ever had to defend at any level?
Laurie: “Shannon Johnson. Lightning quick, great passer, and can pull up off the dribble and shoot—which is a rare commodity these days at all levels.”
Pamela: “Janice Lawrence from Louisiana Tech. Janice was a complete player that worked extremely hard and always came at you. She could do it all, rebound, score and defend.”

If you could play any male and female basketball player one-on-one, who would it be and why?
Laurie: “Jason Kidd of the NBA New Jersey Nets. He is so fundamentally sound, has great court awareness, and is so fun to watch. Dawn Staley of the Charlotte Sting, for the same reasons as Jason.”
Pamela: “Rasheed Wallace of the NBA Portland Trailblazers and Lucile Harris from Louisiana Tech. Rasheed can do it all when he wants to, and Lucile was my first role-model as a female basketball player. She won a national championship, as well as the fact that she was on one of the first Olympic women’s basketball teams.”

When you’re not hard at work with the Shock, how do you spend your free time?
Laurie: “Working out and conditioning with box-aerobics at my dad’s gym. Working out gives me a sense of inner-peace and it relaxes me.”
Pamela: “Spending time with my son Javale, who is a 6-5 freshman on his way to seven feet tall! He is eating me out of house and home, evidenced by his size 17 shoe! I enjoy watching him play basketball at Detroit Country Day High School and helping him with his homework.”

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would that word be?
Laurie: “Energetic.”
Pamela: “Goddess (because I am a product of God and his blessings).”

What types of grassroots efforts will you make off-the-court to help increase community awareness and boost Shock attendance?
Laurie: “Reaching out into the inner-city programs (PAL, Big Brother, Big Sister) and letting them know about the Shock’s development. I want to share that the Shock is going to be hard working, fun to watch, and that we look forward to winning the eastern conference championship.”
Pamela: “My motto is building a community of champions. I believe in order for us (Shock) to be successful, we need the community to buy in. It is a trickle down effect, if we are winning, people will want to buy in at all levels. My commitment is to the churches, high schools, and kids in the inner-city— bringing people who love the game of basketball inside The Palace.”

The million dollar question: What are your expectations for the 2003 Detroit Shock?
Laurie: “A whole new outlook for the Shock, on and off the court. With the help of the draft, we’re looking to compete and contend for the eastern conference championship.”
Pamela: “The only reason I took the job was because Bill Laimbeer told me he wants to win the eastern conference championship. I believe if you can perceive it, you can achieve it.”
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