It’s been a busy offseason for the New York Liberty and now the franchise has a new coach — Walt Hopkins.
The team held a news conference Wednesday at Barclays Center, its new home for the coming season, to introduce Hopkins.
“Walt’s a genius. He has this humble confidence about him,'” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said. “He’s a person of character. He’s a person of high basketball intellect. He’s an elite level communicator.”
Hopkins had been an assistant for the Minnesota Lynx since 2017. Before that, he was the academic coach at Cal. He previously was director of basketball operations and player development for the Tulsa Shock.
The 34-year-old coach is excited for the bright future the Liberty have on and off the court and said that was a big reason why he decided to take the job.
“The ownership, the No. 1 pick, the new arena, the move to Brooklyn, all of it are factors,” Hopkins said. “Had this team been in Westchester with this ownership, I still would have jumped at it. Those are icing on the cake. Things that are really nice, I didn’t need to hem to help make the decision; it was more about the people.”
Former coach Katie Smith’s contract wasn’t renewed after the season ended in September. The Liberty have the first pick in the WNBA draft in April. Neither Kolb nor Hopkins would say who they were taking first, although the consensus top pick is Oregon star guard Sabrina Ionescu.
“We need to get it right, just like this coaching search,” Kolb said. “We’ll be doing our homework there. We’re excited about the possibilities. Having the No. 1 pick is a huge blessing and we’re excited to get to work.”
This was the first coaching hire for the Liberty under owner Joe Tsai’s group, which bought the team last year. Tsai also owns the Brooklyn Nets.
Kolb said the Liberty spoke with more than 20 people about the opening.
“It was a large pool and we did that on purpose. … All had different levels of backgrounds and qualities. We looked everywhere far and wide,” Kolb said. “Needed someone who coaches women and can relate to them. Someone who can motivate, worked with elite level athletes. The more we looked at that, the more Walt’s name made sense.”