Two Friends, Former Colleagues Face Off On Tuesday In St. Paul

Mitchell Hansen
Web Editorial Associate
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Two friends and former colleagues will once again face off against each other on Tuesday night in St. Paul.

But they won’t be playing in the game. Rather, they will sitting at the head of their benches on the sidelines.

Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer will lead their teams into their first meeting at Xcel Energy Center this season on Tuesday.

“I look forward to seeing Bill and to check in with him,” Reeve said. “I’m fond of Bill and I’m sure he’ll get on my nerves and I’ll get on his. That’s the fun of it.”

The two coaches coached together for four seasons (2006-09) with the Detroit Shock. Laimbeer was the head coach of the Shock, with Reeve as one of his assistants.

In those four seasons together in Detroit, Laimbeer and Reeve helped lead the Shock to four straight playoff appearances, three consecutive WNBA Finals appearances and two WNBA championships.

In 2009, the Shock announced they were making the move from Detroit to Tulsa. Laimbeer ended up resigning early in the 2009 season and Reeve went on to take her first WNBA head coaching job in Minnesota before the 2010 season. That officially ended an era in Detroit.

“Bill’s been really good to me in my career in terms of when I worked for him and then his involvement in me getting this job (in Minnesota),” Reeve said. “I always feel grateful to him.”

Throughout the years, the two friends have still stayed in contact while seeing each other every time their two teams play. As the season progresses, that contact dies down due to both coaches being invested in their teams.

“Once the season starts, we might text here and there, but we are both so engrossed in our teams that literally when we see each other, that’s when we catch up a little bit,” Reeve said. “During the offseason, there are more conversations. I trust Bill and I think Bill trusts me. For me, it’s about our team, and I know with Bill it’s about his team. There’s not much sharing in that regard, we are trying to beat each other.”

On Tuesday, the two coaches will once again meet on the basketball court. Reeve now in her eighth season with the Lynx and Laimbeer in his fifth season with the Liberty.

Although some may view it as just another game, the players on both teams will be trying their best to help their coach and team come out on top.

“Every time we play New York, coach Reeve wants to prove herself to coach Laimbeer,” Lynx guard Seimone Augustus said in a conference call earlier this season. “He is her mentor, so we are feeling that in practice. But we love those games and we love how coach Reeve competes. She is the head of our snake and when we see her compete, it makes us want to do the same.”

If there is one thing Reeve said is a given about a Laimbeer-led team, it’s defense. That’s one thing the Lynx are preparing to face on Tuesday.

“Their defense, they are going to protect the paint. They do that better than anyone in the league, (Bill) always has,” Reeve said. “When I worked for him, I know exactly what their goals are. They are good at it and they are good at it year-in and year-out. That’s his trademark.”

If you look at the style of play in both Minnesota and New York, you will see multiple similarities, starting with that stellar defense and a strong presence in the paint.

Those similarities branch off of two friends and former colleagues who coached together in Detroit. Two people who found success together with the Shock and have continued that success today on their separate teams.

Those two coaches who will be sitting across the court from each other at the head of their benches Tuesday night, looking to help their teams come away with another win.

The Lynx (16-2 overall) and the Liberty (10-9) will tipoff at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The game will be aired on ESPN2 and 106.1 BOB FM.