Bill Laimbeer is stepping down as coach of the Detroit Shock, leaving the defending WNBA champions just three games into the season.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Bill Laimbeer resigned as coach of the WNBA champion Detroit Shock three games into the season Monday in hopes of landing an NBA job.
Assistant Rick Mahorn, a teammate of Laimbeer’s from their Detroit Pistons days, was promoted to coach. Cheryl Reeve will remain an assistant and become the general manager.
Laimbeer was hired as coach of the Shock in 2002 and led them to three titles in six years.
“It’s time for me to be doing something else,” he said at a news conference. “I want to coach in the NBA, and I think it was not fair to the Shock to try to coach them while my focus and passion were somewhere else. I don’t have another job, but it is something I want to explore. Whether it is a head coaching job or something as an assistant, that’s what I want to do.”
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He is one championship short of the league record of four held by former Houston coach Van Chancellor. Laimbeer said he has not interviewed with any NBA club.
“I did that with Isiah (Thomas) in New York, and it turned out to be a big distraction for our team, so I said I wouldn’t do that again,” he said.
Laimbeer starred on the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” title teams of 1989 and 1990 before retiring in 1993. With the Shock, he talked his bosses out of folding the team after the 2002 season before orchestrating a worst-to-first championship the next year.
“I never expected to be here for this long, and I never expected to have this level of success,” he said. “I wouldn’t give a second of it back.”
Shock president Tom Wilson called Laimbeer’s decision a disappointment.
“But at the same time, Bill led the Shock to three WNBA championships and a league-record 27 postseason victories,” he said in a statement.
Mahorn, a member of the Pistons’ 1989 championship team, is in his fifth season with the Shock. He was Laimbeer’s top assistant. He coached the Rockford Lightning of the CBA during the 1999-00 season.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “I suppose it will hit me on Friday when we play Indiana. We knew this situation might arise someday, and we’re ready to take it on. This is going to be full speed ahead.”
Reeve understands she is taking on a unique role of assistant and general manager.
“I’m hoping that we can make people ask why no one tried this earlier,” she said.
The Shock are 1-2 and have struggled with injuries to key players.
“I don’t know if I would say I’m disappointed that it came after three games, but it is certainly weird,” the Shock’s Deanna Nolan said. “It would have made more sense to me if it had come before the season or even at the All-Star break.”
Detroit player Katie Smith supported Laimbeer’s decision and welcomed the continuity with the assistants now in charge.
“There isn’t going to be much of a change because Rick and Cheryl have always been a big part of what we’ve done here,” said. “I’m excited about the idea of seeing Bill coach in the NBA, and I hope someone is smart enough to give him a head coaching job.”
Mahorn hopes the return of Cheryl Ford and Kara Braxton will put his team on the road toward a fourth straight Eastern Conference title. Ford is expected to return Friday from a torn knee ligament. Braxton is halfway through a six-game suspension for a drunken driving offense.
“We’re banged up, and no one is going to feel sorry for the defending champs,” Mahorn said. “But we can play well enough to make the playoffs, and once we get there, we believe we’ll have the talent to get us back to the finals.”