NEW YORK — Katie Smith is getting a chance to be a head coach for a game.
The Liberty’s associate head coach will lead New York on Tuesday night against the Washington Mystics.
“Being an associate head coach has given me a taste of what it’s like to do it, but you have no comprehension of all the things that go through your head when you’re in charge,” she said. “It’s a learning experience.”
New York head coach Bill Laimbeer is happy to step aside and give Smith a chance.
“I should have got kicked out a couple games earlier,” he said jokingly. “Let her run a couple games. She wants to learn and it’s a natural progression. The hardest thing for me will be to keep my mouth shut.”
All kidding aside, Laimbeer was proud that the Liberty has been one of the organizations at the forefront of giving former players positions in the organization.
“That’s my belief. That’s our franchise’s belief. Get former players involved in the coaching ranks whether it’s in the WNBA or college,” he said. “You see our staff is former players and will continue to be such. That’s our giveback to former players.”
The league has had a handful of former players serve as head coaches in the league, including current ones Stephanie White, Sandy Brondello and Jenny Boucek. There will be at least two coaching vacancy’s next season in the league when Indiana’s White heads to Vanderbilt and San Antonio’s Dan Hughes retires.
“I really appreciate (Bill), he’s always willing to let you learn,” Smith said. “It’s something I’ll be able to grow from and experience.”
The Liberty already have clinched the third seed in the postseason, so the game means nothing in the standings to them, while Washington would need a lot of help to still make the playoffs. New York also remained third in the AP Power Poll this week.
POWER POLL: Minnesota still No. 1, back to unanimous choice. A look at this week’s WNBA poll:
1. Minnesota (26-5): With homecourt clinched throughout the playoffs, the Lynx can rest some of their veteran group in the final week.
2. Los Angeles (24-8): The Sparks are backing into the playoffs having struggled since the Olympic break with five losses in eight games.
3. New York (21-11): Liberty are looking for more consistency heading into playoffs.
4. Atlanta (16-15): Angel McCoughtry’s temper got the best of her as she’s forced to sit out a game for accruing seventh technical foul .
5. Indiana (16-15): Lot of emotions this week with Tamika Catchings playing her final regular-season home game on Sunday against Dallas.
6. Chicago (16-15): Suffered a huge blow with Elena Delle Donne having thumb surgery on her injured right finger.
7. Seattle (15-17): No one has been playing better than the Storm since the Olympic break with a 6-2 mark.
8. Phoenix (14-17): One more victory or a loss by Washington gets Phoenix in the playoffs. A dangerous eight seed if they do make the postseason.
9. Washington (12-19): Injuries have hampered the Mystics all season.
10. Connecticut (11-20): Made a push for the postseason after the Olympics, but had too big a hole to climb out of.
10. Dallas (11-21): Finally ended an 11-game winning streak. Lot of talent to build on for next season.
12. San Antonio (6-25): Dan Hughes is retiring. So is Jayne Appel-Marinelli. The Stars would love to send them out with a win or two.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Breanna Stewart has done it all for the Seattle Storm in her rookie season. She has raised her game over the past week averaging 20 points, nine rebounds and 1.7 blocks to help the Storm win all three of their games. Others receiving votes included: Indiana’s Lynetta Kizer, Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Minnesota’s Maya Moore.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Dallas Wings at Indiana Fever, Sunday. Tamika Catchings has meant so much to the Fever and the city of Indianapolis. They will get a chance to say thank you in her final regular season game.
This version corrects day of Catchings’ final regular-season home game to Sunday, not Saturday.
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