Oct. 6, 2008
DETROIT, Mich. – Add another championship to the resume of former Irish basketball player Bill Laimbeer. For the third time in franchise history and third time since assuming the head-coaching reigns in 2002, Laimbeer led the Detroit Shock of the WNBA to its third crown on Sunday (October 5.) as his team completed a three-game sweep of the San Antonio Silver Stars. 76-60.
In a season where the Shock battled many question marks and injuries, the Shock overcame all the uncertainties to beat the Stars, who completed the regular season with the league’s best record as first-time participants in the championship finals.
“If you look at our season as a whole, the adversity we went through, from Cheryl Ford starting the year with no practice time on a half knee, to (Elaine) Powell out for 20 games with a foot injury to losing Cheryl for whole season, multiple suspensions, trades, rookies, the whole package — you wouldn’t have thought that we would be in this position,” said Laimbeer following the game. “But we did. And that’s all the matters to the players and the coaches that go to battle every game. We would be there.”
This year’s title marked fifth such for the four-time NBA All-Star (. In addition to this year’s crown, he also led the Shock to titles in 2003 and 2006 and won two NBA rings as a starter on the Detroit Pistons’ 1989 and 1990 NBA championship teams. Laimbeer assumed the head coaching reigns of the Shock in June of 2002 following the team’s 0-10 start that season and guided them to an 8-7 finish. He had joined the team prior to the start of the 2002 campaign as special consultant and assisted the organization in market and ticket sales, in addition to assisting the coaching staff with their off-court needs.
In his first full season as a head coach, Laimbeer led the Shock to what was the at the time the most wins and best winning percentage of any Eastern Conference team in the history of the WNBA during the ’03 campaign ( .735). Under his direction, the Shock also made the biggest improvement in the win over of any WNBA team in history (+16).
Laimbeer played at Notre Dame played three years at Notre Dame (1975-76 and from 1977-79) and averaged 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds and was a member of the 1977-78 squad that made the school’s only Final Four appearance in school history. Laimbeer enjoyed a 14-year career playing in the NBA (12 of them in Detroit) following his graduation from Notre Dame with a degree in economics. He was drafted in the third round (65th overall) by Cleveland in the ’79 draft and was traded to Detroit in February of 1982. He is the Pistons franchise leader in total rebounds (9,430) while averaging 12.9 points and 9.7 rebounds during his career. Laimbeer is one of six Pistons players to have his number retired.
Another Notre Dame product, Ruth Riley, who led the Irish women’s basketball team to the national championship in 2001, also participated in the WNBA finals as a member of the Silver Stars. Riley was the WNBA finals MVP in ’03 when the Shock claimed its first title.