It didn’t take long for Bill Laimbeer to know Cheryl Reeve would fit right in.
It was 2006, and Laimbeer was coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock, and he’d just hired Reeve as an assistant. He knew she could scout an opponent, help prepare a team and bring a competitive nature to a staff that also included Rick Mahorn.
She did all that, and more.
“She was very fiery,’’ Laimbeer said. “I won’t say opinionated, but confident in who she is and what she could accomplish. That was good for us. Rick and I were there, and that fit right into who we were.’’
Anyone who watched Laimbeer during his NBA career and as a coach knows that for him to call someone fiery is saying something.
The Shock won the 2006 WNBA championship, went to the league finals in 2007, then won it all again in 2008. Laimbeer left a few games into the 2009 season. By 2010 Reeve had taken the head coaching job with the Lynx.
Laimbeer and Reeve remain friends and now, with Laimbeer having coached the New York Liberty since 2013, they also are competitors. Sometimes rather intense competitors, and it’s worth noting as their teams prepare to play Tuesday night in New York.
Remember 2013, when, after the Lynx pasted his team, Laimbeer expressed his chagrin with Reeve keeping star Maya Moore in the game long after it was decided? He said Moore “should get hurt’’ for that.
Laimbeer got fined. Moore’s teammate, Seimone Augustus, called Laimbeer a “cranky old man.’’ Reeve, knowing Laimbeer well, shrugged off the comment.
It all comes back to that competitive nature that made them such good co-workers.
“He was somebody that allowed me to be myself,” Reeve said. “Those were some of the best days in my coaching career, spending time with him and Rick. I loved hearing the stories of their playing days. And they loved telling them. But, more than anything, I learned the importance of allowing everyone to be themselves. Do what you do. That’s been the most valuable thing.’’
In Reeve’s case, that meant drilling down on game plans and advance scouting and learning personnel.
“She got a heavy dose of professional ball,” Laimbeer said. “How to do business as professionals. I think it was an eye-opener for her. Be relentless.’’
Tuesday is the first of three games this season against New York. The Lynx enter the game 5-0, the Liberty 2-2.
The Liberty had the league’s best record last season and is expected to contend again this year. And Laimbeer — who, like Reeve, has three WNBA championship rings — knows what it takes to win.
But they are taking vastly different approaches this season.
The Lynx are tied for the league lead in offensive efficiency while the Liberty has used stifling defense to hold opponents to a ridiculously low 33.9 percent shooting.
“It’s a clash of two worlds — our defense vs. their offensive execution,” Laimbeer said. “It will be a matter of attrition over the course of 40 minutes.’’