With nineteen games down and fifteen to go in the inaugural season at their new home, the Westchester County Center, the WNBA's New York Liberty continue to look for a way to get back to their familiar first place standing in the Eastern Conference having earned that honor in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. The team currently stands in 5th place in the Conference with a 5-13 record coming off this afternoon's loss to the Dallas Wings. This is not a position that first-year head coach Katie Smith is familiar with, having been a seven-time WNBA All-Star during her 15-year playing career and having earned three Olympic Gold Medals as a member of the U.S.A. Women's Basketball team in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. It is also not familiar territory for the league's seventh highest scorer and 11th highest rebounder (Tina Charles), the fifth highest scoring rookie (Kia Nurse), and the seventh and 13th highest ranked players in assists (Brittany Boyd and Bria Hartley, respectively).
Above: Former WNBA All-Star and U.S. Olympian Katie Smith, now Head Coach of the NY Liberty, strategizes with her team during the game.
While the team may be struggling to find its footing, it continues to attract a solid crowd of enthusiastic fans, bringing the New York State's most populous County north of New York City its only major league professional sports franchise. With a near full-house taking in today's game and helping to celebrate team mascot Maddie's birthday, there is nothing for these loyal fans to worry about. There is some comfort to be found in looking back at the Liberty's history. As the WNBA commenced it operations, the New York Liberty quickly established itself as a league powerhouse, completing its first season in 1997 with the winning record of 17-11 and capturing second place in the Eastern Conference. They went on to post winning records in ten of their first 12 seasons at Madison Square Garden.
Above: Celebrating team mascott Maddie's birthday at today's "Westchester Day" game.
When the team moved from MSG to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, they went from a 19-15 winning record and Conference Semifinal win against Connecticut to a 13-21 losing season. The move to a new home court seemed to have set the team back. But only temporarily, for the next season, their second in their new home, the Liberty posted one of their best seasons ever, 22-12 and, once again, making it to and winning the Conference Semifinal. The following year, 2011, the team posted another solid winning season at 19-15.
Above: Epiphany Prince, former Rutger's U standout from NYC's Murry Bergtraum H.S. drops one over the Wing's Allisha Gray
Once again, in 2012, the Liberty found themselves moved to a new home court, this time back to Garden, but, the move once again took its toll. The team finished with losing record of 15-19, seemingly disrupted by the move back across the Hudson. It took four years before the Liberty reclaimed its winning ways, recapturing its first place Conference standing with a 23-11 record.
Above: The Liberty's Tina Charles (31) from Christ the King H.S. in Queens, NY, and the UConn Huskies, driving against fellow UConn alum, Azura Stevens
Finding itself in a new home for the 2018 campaign, its no surprise that the Liberty have once again stumbled as history repeats itself. The challenges the team faced upon their move from MSG to the Prudential Center in 2009, back to MSG in 2012, and now to the Westchester County Center in 2018 seem to be predictable. The magazine, Psychology Today, in citing work published in the Journal Social Indicators Research in 2016, noted that moving is a traumatic experience and frequently results in a dip in performance and well-being. Evidence of the good times ahead can be found on the hallowed hardwood of the Westchester County Center where the Liberty's brothers, the 2018 first place Westchester Knicks, suffered during their first season finishing fifth in their Conference with a lackluster 10-40 record. They rebounded quickly compiling a winning 28-22 record in their second year and, as MetroSports Magazine predicts, so too will the New York Liberty.
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