Bill Laimbeer, Pistons great, is an alpha-male. When thinking back to his playing days, many things come to mind: bruises, blood, broken bones and Bad Boys. This is the reason it’s surprising to some to see him walking the sidelines as Head Coach of the Shock, Detroit’s WNBA franchise.
Yet, Laimbeer brought his physical style of play with him to the WNBA, winning the championship in 2003. His abilities and tendencies as a player have made a huge impact on his squad, as well as the league and his presence is always felt, if not heard.
As the league sets out to garner more male attention to the women’s game, Laimbeer briefly discussed the topic with Stephen Litel.
Litel: The new “Expect Great” ad campaign seems to be geared towards grabbing more of a male fanbase. Why do you believe the league has such a difficult time connecting with younger men who are, in fact, a huge market?
Laimbeer: Well, I think the WNBA is such a young product that it’s going to take time to grow to the level of where I think it needs to be. Also, the players have gotten so much better exponentially the past few years, I think that once more people see the product as it is they’ll come, enjoy it and come back.
Litel: So, in essence, you believe the WNBA doesn’t need to target a certain demographic, but let the play on the court speak for itself?
Laimbeer: There’s nothing you can do. You can market all you want to, but the bottom line is it’s the player’s game. The players are the ones who sell the show and there’s no question that today’s WNBA is the best it has ever been.
Litel: Is this new crop of young stars, such as LA’s Candace Parker, Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus and Cappie Pondexter from Phoenix, the group that will break through those barriers and bring in more fans?
Laimbeer: It’s a possibility. Candace Parker is obviously the marquee name out there as far as the flashy style of play and she’s very good at that. If every little bit like that draws more attention to our product, it’s all the better.