To say the last two seasons have been rough for the New York Liberty is an understatement. One of the WNBA’s original franchises played home games in Westchester, far from its NYC roots and many of its fans. Prior to the 2019 season, the Liberty was bought by Joe Tsai, who at that time was a minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Last fall, Tsai purchased the Nets and announced the Liberty would play home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Home court established, Liberty management focused on how to move forward from back-to-back losing seasons. On Jan. 8, the team announced the hiring of Walt Hopkins, who spent the past three WNBA seasons as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx.
Hopkins, a 2010 graduate of University of Nevada-Reno, has not spent much time in the New York area, but said he’s eager to put down roots in Brooklyn and bring Liberty players to their full potential. He has worked in player development since he was a teenager and earned two master’s degrees, including one in education with a focus on moral development, social psychology and motivation theory.
“I look not so much at the wins and losses, but you look at the group you’re inheriting and from a developmental perspective what they’re capable of and what trajectory that you might see for the next few years,” said Hopkins. “This team is really exciting in all of the young talent.
“The people around me in terms of front office and organization, I feel that we all are aligned in what we’re looking to do and how we want to build this thing out,” he added. “That’s probably one of the biggest reasons—if not the biggest reason—why this is such an attractive possibility for me.”
Although Hopkins joined the Lynx in 2017—the year the team won its fourth WNBA Championship—he is aware the team went from years of underperforming to a dominant force in the league. “The main way [coach Cheryl Reeve] did that was her extraordinary level of preparation,” said Hopkins. He and Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb are also hyper-focused on thorough preparation. “We’re not afraid of the grind.”
The Liberty has the first pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft and the intense preparation begins now. He embraces the players’ commitment to community connection.
“Myself, the players, the front office and organization are all eager to get out and grow this thing,” said Hopkins, who’ll be reaching out to the current roster of players in the coming weeks. “We’re all really excited to get out in the community.”