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New York, NY – General Manager Jonathan Kolb has been hailed as the 2023 WNBA Executive of the Year for his pivotal role in elevating the New York Liberty to championship contention. Explore how Kolb’s strategic vision and meticulous planning reshaped the Liberty into formidable contenders for the 2023 WNBA championship.
In a highly competitive field of executives, Kolb secured this prestigious award with an impressive six first-place votes. His remarkable achievements were further highlighted by notable executives like Dallas’ Greg Bibb and Connecticut’s Darius Taylor, who also earned multiple first-place votes.
Building a Dream Team
Kolb’s journey began with a bold vision to assemble a championship-caliber team. He orchestrated a groundbreaking three-team trade to acquire 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones. But the acquisitions didn’t stop there. Kolb successfully lured two of the WNBA’s all-time greats, 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart and seven-time assists leader Courtney Vandersloot, as free agents. These moves sent shockwaves through the league, positioning the Liberty as formidable contenders from the outset.
These star players, combined with existing talents like Sabrina Ionescu (the 2020 No. 1 draft pick) and 2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney, formed the backbone of the Liberty’s new superteam. Their collective mission? Dethroning the reigning champions, the Las Vegas Aces. Despite a regular-season series tie with the Aces (2-2), the Liberty finished just two games behind in the standings.
A Unique Confluence of Events
Kolb described the Liberty’s offseason as a “confluence of events that will probably never happen again.” It was a perfect alignment of circumstances—the team’s rebuilding phase, the availability of a player of Jones’ caliber on the trade market, and the unrestricted free agency of Stewart and Vandersloot, both considered WNBA legends. Stewart and Vandersloot made a collective sacrifice, accepting salaries well below the supermax, demonstrating their commitment to achieving a championship. The Liberty, as the sole remaining original franchise yet to secure a WNBA title, stood on the cusp of history.
Securing the Future
Kolb’s vision extended beyond a single season. He secured multi-year contract extensions for pivotal players such as Sabrina Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, and the versatile Kayla Thornton during the regular season, ensuring stability and continuity.
The Liberty’s 2023 regular season was nothing short of spectacular. They posted a franchise-best record of 32-8 (.800), showcasing their remarkable turnaround. This achievement was especially remarkable considering the team’s struggles just a few years prior, including a challenging 2-20 campaign in 2020 after Ionescu’s season-ending ankle injury. The Liberty also clinched the Commissioner’s Cup championship in August, marking their first championship of any kind.
As the playoffs beckon, the Liberty, seeded second, aim to end their playoff series drought. Their last series win dates back to 2015, and they haven’t reached the WNBA Finals since 2002. However, Kolb expressed confidence in the team’s readiness for the postseason. He highlighted the extensive playoff experience among the starting group, with players like Breanna Stewart (a two-time WNBA champion and Finals MVP), Courtney Vandersloot (a 2021 champion), and Jonquel Jones (a key contributor in two Finals runs).
Under Jonathan Kolb’s visionary leadership, the New York Liberty stand on the precipice of history. With unwavering dedication, strategic acumen, and a star-studded roster, they are poised to chase their first WNBA championship. Fans eagerly await the playoffs, hoping to witness the culmination of Kolb’s grand vision and the Liberty’s remarkable journey to the pinnacle of the league.
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