WNBA veterans joining coaching ranks with the Liberty women basketball team (37079)
WNBA veterans joining coaching ranks with the Liberty women basketball team (37078)

This will be a New York Liberty season like no other, with All-WNBA First Team guard Cappie Pondexter playing alongside fellow WNBA champions Cheryl Ford and Katie Smith, as well as talented rookies Kelsey Bone and Toni Young.

The coaching staff is also unlike any the Liberty has had before. All four assistant coaches played for the Liberty at some point in their WNBA playing careers–Barbara Farris, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Teresa Weatherspoon and Tamika Whitmore.

“Being able to impart any knowledge or insight that I might have from my playing days to help these players I either played with or are new to the league understand what it takes day in and day out to be a champion,” said Farris, who played for the Liberty in 2006 and 2007 and for the past three years, has been teaching and coaching girls’ high school basketball. “It’s one thing to say you want to win a championship, but this coaching staff–we’ve been there at every different level either playing or coaching, and we understand the amount of time, dedication and work it takes … to be competitive.”

When McWilliams-Franklin played for the Liberty in 2010–its most successful season in the recent memory–and during her two years with the Minnesota Lynx, she was known as a calming force. As an assistant coach, she said she’s only slightly less hyper than Laimbeer. “It’s kind of like parenting–you give, teach, mold and mentor, and then you have to let them go and do what they do. Then you’re there to guide,” said McWilliams-Franklin, a mother of three. “That’s the same way I see my coaching technique.”

Although there are many faces from the Detroit Shock, McWilliams-Franklin said this group’s dynamic cannot be compared to another team. Making the decisive Liberty imprint is arguably the most dominant star, Weatherspoon, who is juggling these duties with her job as head coach at Louisiana Tech.

“Collegiately, you do more teaching. Here on this level, you do more polishing. They are professionals and you want to treat them as such, but you don’t want to go into it thinking the vessels are full,” said Weatherspoon, who works with the guards.

The Liberty open their regular season on the road versus the Connecticut Sun this Saturday. The home opener at the Prudential Center is on Friday, May 31.