The New York Liberty announced Monday that Katie Smith will be their new Head Coach, becoming New York’s seventh head coach in franchise history. Smith replaces Bill Laimbeer, who took the Liberty to three playoff appearances in five seasons in the Big Apple.
Smith broke into coaching as an assistant on Laimbeer’s staff since 2014, but the former WNBA stand-out player did not believe her career path was necessarily destined to be as a head coach.
“The turning point was probably when Bill brought me to New York [in a trade with Seattle in 2013], and wanted me to play a year, and then move over to the coaching side,” Smith said Monday on an introductory media conference call. “In my first year of coaching, by the end of it, I finally said, ‘Let’s see what I can do. Let’s do it.'”
Smith and Laimbeer had a history dating back to when she was traded from Minnesota to Detroit in 2005. When asked what she respects about her former coach said, “We had a really easy dialogue. I appreciated his directness, and how you always knew where you stood with him.”
Getting into coaching after her playing career wasn’t always in the plans for Smith, though.
“Honestly, I will flat out tell you, I have always said that I never wanted to be a coach,” Smith said. “I have said it many times, that I don’t want to do it, I don’t want the same life, but now here we are, and I absolutely love it.”
Smith takes over a Liberty team that finished third in the regular season with a 22-12 record. For the second time in as many season though, New York was eliminated from the postseason in the WNBA’s new one-game, single elimination format.
Three consecutive playoff appearances is nice, however the goal is to get over the hump next season, and really make a name for themselves among the league’s elite teams. When asked what it will take to compete with the teams like Minnesota and Los Angeles, Smith pointed out that it is the little things that matter most.
“They are extremely talented, please believe that. But I think it is how consistent they are, and how hard they work everyday,” she said. “[The players] have great communication with each other, which can be tough at times. Sometimes you may see something from the sideline, but it will be too late to bring up, so the fact that they have such great communication is key.
“But overall it is the consistency, and the discipline to always do what you need to do, like box out every possession, that is going to give you a chance to win a lot of ball games. Minnesota and L.A. are the best at doing that in the league.”
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.”
Signs have pointed upward in New York over the past few seasons, and Smith has been a major factor in adopting the new culture. Liberty fans will hope that the former WNBA standout has what it takes to deliver the team’s first league title.