When Bill Laimbeer was a charter member of the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys era, he was one of the most hated players in the NBA. While he has found success as a coach in the WNBA, he has never been able to breakthrough on the NBA circuit, besides a short two-year stint as an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The reason he has yet to find additional work in the NBA, especially as a head coach? He is still hated by those around him.
The featured story at espnW is on the former Piston is entitled ‘The Feminization of Bill Laimbeer.’ It is a quite fascinating piece. It takes a deep look into how Laimbeer’s ways have brought him great success as a coach of the New York Liberty and formerly of the Detroit Shock, where he won three league championships. But those same ways have kept him out of the NBA. It also gives good reason as to why the Detroit Pistons never hired him, or even really considered him to be a replacement with their ever revolving door at the bench.
Players in the WNBA are begging for work, unlike the NBA. So he can get away with being the dominating ego. That won’t work in the NBA. Nobody wants him in the NBA:
“He’s lazy.” “He’s a buffoon.” “Guys just won’t play for him.” All words used to describe Laimbeer’s brief two-year stint as an assistant coach in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The laziness that is indicated is when it comes to dealing with the players, not when it comes to preparing for a game. Laimbeer doesn’t want to coddle anyone. Back when he played, the NBA was in the midst of a transition. The Pistons played a style of basketball that probably was more suited for the 70s, when nobody cared about it. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson ushered in intrigue and excitement. People outside of Detroit, didn’t care for the bruising Pistons, no matter how effective their style was. The Pistons had a ‘get in line’ mentality with how they did things. Didn’t matter if you were a star like Isiah Thomas, or a role player like John Salley. This was the decree of their head coach, Chuck Daly. One of the reasons Daly got out of the game is because of how it changed. He couldn’t do it his way, anymore. Even if it were successful. He knew the players would eventually tune him out.
Bottom line, Bill Laimbeer is a real d**k, and it hasn’t changed from when he was a player, and he is the same way with the women as he is with the men. But let’s take a look at what one anonymous individual told espnW, and why Laimbeer will never coach in the NBA:
Laimbeer’s tenure with the Timberwolves is seen as a resounding failure, probably the final nail in his NBA coffin. Never mind this is the same league in which losing and getting fired seem like badges of honor for other coaches, something that happens every few years, like the Olympics, or the Sixers making the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Laimbeer, the popular opinion of him as an NBA coach can be crystallized in one key moment when he acted very Laimbeer-like, his behavior confirming for those who witnessed it that the label they have for him — a whiny crybaby no one wants to play for — is not just a stereotype, but God’s honest truth.
Before the 2010 NBA draft, many of the league’s top decision-makers flew to Minnesota to watch a few prospects work out for the Timberwolves, who had a high pick. As one NBA general manager explains it, the purpose of these sessions is usually twofold: “The team is trying to impress the players as much as the players are trying to impress the team. And everyone with half a brain in the NBA understands this.”
Laimbeer was on the court that day, running the workout. He set up one drill, telling the players to outlet the ball to him with a crisp chest pass, then run the lane and finish on the other end. Pretty basic stuff. Once the drill started, though, the players occasionally forgot the whole “outlet the ball” part, and Laimbeer, as he is known to do, called them out in a sarcastic manner. The next time around, the players remembered to outlet the ball but forgot about the chest pass. Laimbeer became visibly agitated by their inability to run the drill correctly. “By the end of the workout, we all thought there might be a fight on the court,” one GM remembers. “Why make yourself the center of attention like that? For some executives, that day is all they know about him. And everyone left that gym with the same impression, that Laimbeer doesn’t understand how the NBA works.”
What is sad about reading all that, is how it solidifies that the players are the one’s running the show. Obviously, they failed to do a simple drill. Unless Laimbeer was grabbing, pushing, or throwing balls at the player, it doesn’t seem that his attitude was all that terrible. He just comes off as a very old-school coach. It reads to me like the player’s are not only annoyingly lazy and that they don’t pay attention to detail, but that the GM’s are looking for someone who is willing to be overly patient and passive. And that’s just for the assistant.