It’s actually kind of funny.
Bill Laimbeer, who is remembered most fondly – or perhaps most derisively – for his time with the “Bad Boy” Pistons, coaches women’s basketball. Laimbeer coached the Detroit Shock from 2002-08 and in 2013 took over for the New York Liberty, for which he also serves as general manager.
Isn’t it hard for one of the roughest, toughest, meanest players in NBA history to coach women?
“The game’s the same,” Laimbeer said on The Morning Show. “The lines and baskets – it’s all the same. It’s just the athleticism is different. The women play very hard. The best part of the women’s game – (as) compared to the guy’s game – is the women listen. Guys don’t listen at all. They do their own thing. They think they’re know-it-alls.”
While the ladies can’t match the men in athleticism, they can definitely match them in competitiveness – and if they can’t, Laimbeer can fix that in a hurry, as his in-your-face personality most definitely rubs off on his players.
“Intense competitors always have an edge to them that will rub people the wrong way,” Laimbeer said. “Some people embrace it, and some people don’t. I look for intense competitors and players – the ones that just go out there and want to rip the other team’s heart out. That’s how you win in professional sports. Make no mistake about that. The steely competitors and the ruthless ones are the ones that win. Talent helps too, obviously, but it’s still a game, it’s still about mental competition, and those are the kind of players you want. We had a collection of those when I was in Detroit.”
That was abundantly clear in Bad Boys, the “30 for 30” that aired Thursday night on ESPN. The Pistons – led by Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson, Dennis Rodman, Adrian Dantley, Mark Aguirre and head coach Chuck Daly – tormented the league with their physical, rough-and-tumble style of play that resulted in back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.
“All games are mental,” Laimbeer said. “Yeah, there’s talent and physical (skill required). But you get like teams or semi-equal teams, and its all about the mental edge. It’s about mental intimidation. You can relate it to golf. Golf is a very easy, simple game. The ball doesn’t move and no one guards it, so what’s the problem? The problem is yourself and your mental approach it. It’s the same thing in sports.
“In sports, at the highest level, you want to make somebody quit,” Laimbeer continued. “You’re just so relentless and you’re just so focused and so demanding of yourself and your team, the other team eventually is going to quit and the game’s over and you win. That’s what sports at the highest level is all about.”
Of course, the mental intimidation Laimbeer speaks of often involved throwing players to the ground. Confrontation was the status quo. Now, however, the league is considerably softer.
Does that make the game better or worse?
“Each generation thinks their generation was the best, but reality says that the game evolves,” Laimbeer said. “The players today are bigger, faster, stronger than ever. Look at LeBron James. He’s 6-8, 280 pounds, runs like the wind and jumps out of the gym. There were no kind of players like that back then.
“I think the league is legislated – and all leagues have legislated – to allow superior talent to shine forth. (The leagues) try to find ways to let (players) show who they are (and) what they’re about (on) a shrinking court or a shrinking ice rink. I understand why (that style) was legislated out, but if you talk to the fans (from the 1980s), they’ll all say the same thing: We really miss those days because it was the heyday of the NBA.”