“It’s all about energy,” said New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer after the team’s 78-62 win over the Seattle Storm. “They turned it up.”
Sunday was a high energy day at Madison Square Garden. At halftime versus the Storm, the Liberty honored Becky Hammon, who played for New York from 1999 to 2006, with induction into the New York Liberty Ring of Honor. Now a trailblazing assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, she recently coached the Spurs’ summer league team to victory.
“My experiences as a basketball player here in New York and in San Antonio really gave me a platform to hone my skills as a basketball player, to sharpen my mind,” Hammon said. “I think you’re going to see more and more women break in [to coaching men].
“I hope people do dream about it. Just because something has never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. … Leadership really has no gender.”
The players were inspired to be playing before a revved up crowd at a game honoring Hammon. “We definitely wanted to put on a great show,” said Tina Charles, who scored 29 points and had eight rebounds.
Guard Epiphanny Prince came alive in the second half of the game, scoring 11 points. She shared a few words with Hammon before the game, with Hammon encouraging Prince to “do something special.” She told Prince this team shares the same camaraderie as the Liberty that won four Eastern Conference championships.
“Becky Hammon is the ultimate trailblazer,” said Candice Wiggins, who scored 10 points. “She’s taken every opportunity she’s had and made a big impact.”
Hammon remembers how the fans embraced her even before she started playing significant minutes. She also appreciates that her career evolved over time because of hard work.
“I told the Liberty players, ‘We did some great things, but be better than we were. Go do something we never accomplished,’” Hammon said.
In first place in the Eastern Conference, Laimbeer said he still doesn’t know the long-range potential of the team. Although the Liberty appear to be playoff-bound, how deep they’ll go remains to be seen.
“Our first half of the season gave us a leg up. It gave us a chance at some breathing room, but we can’t relax,” said Laimbeer.