Boston basketball Public Enemy No. 1 is back in the news this week.
Yes, longtime Detroit Piston Bill Laimbeer — perhaps best remembered locally for his unforgettable brawl with Larry Bird during Game 3 of the 1987 NBA Eastern Conference finals — has left his position with the WNBA's Detroit Shock just three games into the 2009 season.
After seven years as coach and GM of the Shock — three of which
ended in WNBA titles — it seems that Laimbeer has his sights set on an
"I do want to go to the NBA and [be an] assistant coach, head coach," he said in a news conference Monday. "That?s my passion, that's my goal."
While Shock fans and players may have questions about the timing of
Laimbeer's announcement, the presumption is that he's aiming to catch
on with an NBA team before training camps open.
"I think he will be received well," ESPN's Tim Legler told the Detroit Free Press,
"because he is a guy with an NBA pedigree and he won at the highest
level possible. Plus, the guys he may have alienated as a player are
long gone, so the new generation will only care about what he brings to
the table as a coach."
With the Pistons' recent struggles on the court, wouldn't the
Detroit bench seem like the perfect fit for the baddest of the Bad Boys?
It seems not.
Despite an embarrassing first-round playoff exit, rookie coach Michael Curry will be back for a second go-round. And even though Laimbeer admittedly did speak with Pistons GM Joe Dumars about a potential future on the NBA sideline, the conversation was never about a job within the Pistons organization.
"It was more about opportunities elsewhere in the league, just
feeling out what he thought, what I may have to do to get an
opportunity someplace," Laimbeer said. "[Dumars] has staff in place,
and I'm looking for opportunities elsewhere."
But some are skeptical of Laimbeer's likelihood of landing an NBA gig.
"This is all you need to know about Bill Laimbeer's NBA coaching aspirations," writes Michael Rosenberg of the Free Press. "He wanted to show he was serious about coaching, so he quit on his team."
But Rosenberg doesn't stop there.
"Laimbeer has it backward," he continues. "He thinks the NBA won't
hire him because he has been coaching women. In fact, he has been
coaching women because the NBA won't hire him."
Laimbeer himself told the San Antonio Express-News
in October — just before his Shock smoked the hometown Silver Stars in
the WNBA Finals — that "it will take a daring NBA owner or general
manager to hire someone from the women's game."
But Rosenberg's feeling is that it's more than just a male/female
debate. His argument is that, well, "people in the NBA do not like Bill
"Doesn't Laimbeer remember his playing career? I don?t mean some
people did not like him. I mean he was the most hated player in the
league. And if that sounds harsh, please remember that at the time,
Laimbeer would have taken it as a compliment.
"He loved being hated. It was sort of his thing."
Longtime teammate and friend Isiah Thomas acknowledged as much years ago.
"I wouldn't say fans hate him," Thomas told the Detroit News. "They love to hate him. It's a love-hate relationship. Tell you the truth, if I didn't know Bill, I wouldn't like him either."
So the question remains, if the Pistons aren't an option for the newly unemployed Bad Boy, where might he turn up?
Can you imagine Laimbeer in Indy, working for Bird?
Or coaching the Bobcats under Michael Jordan, a man who punched Laimbeer during a 1988 postseason spat?
Maybe he'd get a sniff in Minnesota replacing the recently dismissed Kevin McHale with the Timberwolves?
How about running the show in New York, trying to change the Knicks' fortunes after their Isiah Thomas experiment went south?
Or — God forbid — could we someday see him on the Celtics' sideline under fellow former agitator Danny Ainge?
There's no arguing with Laimbeer's WNBA credentials, and there may
well be a team out there with its eye on him. But something tells me it
will be a cold day in Auburn Hills before we see this Bad Boy leading
the legendary green and white into battle.