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Bill Laimbeer the coach is an up-in-your-face guy

Bill Laimbeer is back WNBA as coach Liberty after working as an assistant with Timberwolves. He wthree WNBA titles with

Bill Laimbeer is back in the WNBA as coach of the Liberty after working as an assistant with the Timberwolves. He won three WNBA titles with the Shock. | Elaine Thompson/AP

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SATURDAY

Liberty at Sky

The facts: 7 p.m., Ch. 26.2.

Updated: August 21, 2013 6:16AM



For the record, Bill Laimbeer does not regret walking off the court early without shaking hands with 7.9 seconds left in the game as the Bulls put the finishing touches on a sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference ­finals.

“I don’t regret that one bit,” Pistons “Bad Boy” Laimbeer said without hesitation. “That’s the way it was, and that’s the way it is.”

Laimbeer might not have any regrets from his days as a polarizing player despised by Bulls fans, but he might soon regret walking onto the court Saturday as the coach of the New York Liberty to face the first-place Sky at Allstate Arena.

The Sky (11-4) took a 75-55 road victory over the Liberty (6-9) on Thursday. In four meetings this season, the Sky has outscored Laimbeer’s Liberty 340-260.

Although he’s in his first season with the Liberty, Laimbeer is a veteran of the WNBA. He led the Detroit Shock to three titles as coach from 2002 to ’09 and posted a 137-93 record. Laimbeer left the league in 2009 for an NBA job as an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Sky forward Swin Cash won two titles under Laimbeer with the Shock. Cash said Laimbeer’s “Bad Boy” reputation comes through in his coaching style.

“He’s very competitive,” Cash said. “A lot of what he did as a player, he brings that experience and demands his team to play hard at all times.”

It’s been two decades since Laimbeer’s notoriously dirty play frustrated Bulls such as Michael Jordan, whom Laimbeer describes as “an OK guy, now that he’s older.” But Liberty forward-center Kara Braxton said Laimbeer’s NBA experience influences his coaching.

“He comes off like he’s still playing,” Braxton said. “It’s funny because he’s really a player still. He’s an up-in-your-face, raw, get-down-to-business type of coach.”

Although his aggressive style ­remains unchanged, Laimbeer said there is a vast difference between visiting Chicago now as a coach and general manager than as a bruising center in the midst of the Bulls-Pistons rivalry.

“As a player in the heat of the moment and the emotion of the fans and the championship aspirations of those teams on both sides, it was an intense environment,” Laimbeer said. “As a coach, I don’t play the game. The players are the show. I am just a significant bystander.”

Laimbeer understates his role, but players know his bold personality brings attention to the league.

“People either like him or they want to strangle him,” Cash said. “He has a polarizing effect with fans, and his coaching style is definitely good for the game.”



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