Bill Laimbeer Went From NBA Villain to Championship-Winning Coach
Bill Laimbeer was the most hated man in the NBA during his playing days. He still remains one of the best NBA villains to this day. Laimbeer was the main reason why the “Bad Boy” Pistons of the 1980s and 90s got their infamous name.
With nicknames such as “The Prince of Darkness” and “His Heinous,” it’s easy to tell what players thought of the 6-foot-11 center. Whether you thought he was refreshingly physical or downright dirty, Laimbeer knew how to get into his opponents’ heads better than anyone. Laimbeer retired from the NBA in 1994, but he’s still heavily involved with professional basketball today.
Bill Laimbeer’s playing career with the “Bad Boy” Pistons
Led by Laimbeer, the Detroit Pistons in the late 80s and early 90s were a rough bunch that didn’t back down to anybody. They brought the fight to whoever was on the opposite bench every single night. If the other team didn’t come prepared for battle, they would get bullied off the court.
Laimbeer led the way with his in-your-face style of play. He wasn’t the fastest player or the guy who could jump the highest, but he made up for it with muscle and heart. His playing style made him one of the most polarizing athletes of his generation. You either loved him or hated him. There was no in-between.
Laimbeer’s former teammate Isiah Thomas famously said, “If I didn’t know Bill Laimbeer, I wouldn’t like him either.”
Laimbeer won two NBA titles in Detroit. He still owns the Pistons’ all-time rebounding record with 9,430. He went four consecutive years averaging over 12 rebounds per game. Laimbeer’s No. 40 was retired by the Pistons in 1995, but he was never voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Laimbeer’s coaching career after retirement
Laimbeer actually got into the business world directly out of retirement. He served as the president of Laimbeer Packaging Corp. in Detroit for almost 10 years, but he eventually got the urge to return to the court. In 2002, Laimbeer got his first coaching job as the head coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock.
His winning ways in the NBA immediately translated to his coaching career. He led the Shock to a WNBA championship in just his second year at the helm. Detroit was 9-23 and the worst team in the league in 2002, but it won a league-best 25 games in 2003. It was the largest win improvement in WNBA history.
Laimbeer led the Shock to two more titles in 2006 and 2008 before the franchise moved to Tulsa. He then shifted to the NBA in 2009. Laimbeer joined the Timberwolves as an assistant coach for Kurt Rambis, but he only lasted two seasons in Minnesota.
He returned to the WNBA as head coach and general manager of the New York Liberty in 2012.
What is Laimbeer up to now?
Laimbeer’s defensive intensity isn’t just a staple of his playing days. It’s also the mantra of each of the WNBA teams he coaches. From 2014-2017, the Liberty led the league in defensive field goal percentage in all three years. It marked the first time in league history a team achieved that over a three-year span.
After the 2017 season, Laimbeer was hired by the Las Vegas Aces to be their head coach and President of Basketball Operations. He led the Aces to a 21-13 record last year, and they had the best defensive rating in the league. Las Vegas lost in the WNBA semifinals to the eventual champions, the Washington Mystics.
Over his 15-year WNBA coaching career, Laimbeer owns a 264-203 overall record. He’s won six conference championships and three WNBA titles. He’s considered one of the best WNBA coaches of all time.
Love him or hate him, Laimbeer is a winner plain and simple.