The makings of the New York Liberty’s first WNBA Finals run since 2002 started in the offseason, when the team assembled what many have called a superteam.
Just few days after the 2022 season ended, general manager Jonathan Kolb already was making plans, and in his mind were three players to chase in the offseason: Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot.
One by one, the dominoes fell. First came Jones, as the 2021 WNBA MVP was acquired via trade from the Connecticut Sun in January.
The signing of Stewart came afterward, but the seeds of the deal dated back to the previous offseason. Stewart met with the Liberty ahead of the 2022 season, but she did not want to leave retiring star Sue Bird in her final season with the Seattle Storm. One year later, though, all bets were off.
Kolb flew with other Liberty executives to Istanbul, where Stewart was playing in the offseason, to make their case. From that point on, there wasn’t anywhere else for the league MVP. On Jan. 31, she informed the Liberty of her plans to sign with them, and she did so the following day, the first day that free agents could sign contracts.
One day after that, Courtney Vandersloot joined the party. While she came close to signing with the Minnesota Lynx, another phone conversation with Kolb and Brondello the day before her signing changed her mind.
“When we put this team together, obviously the goal was to bring in the talent and let’s make a run for this,” head coach Sandy Brondello said Sunday. “And we certainly did that. Jonathan did a great job, and these players believed in the vision that we laid out to them to try and convince them to come to New York.”
While Kolb and Brondello brought the pieces together, the players themselves needed to find their rhythm. They started the season out of sync at times, but they found their groove, and they are sailing into the WNBA Finals against the Las Vegas Aces.
“I only spoke about championships [on] day one, and then it was over. Because you have to do a lot of hard work,” Brondello said. “It was a journey. I think early on people think you just snap your fingers and it’s gonna work. But it takes time. We got five new players trying to learn to play with each other. … We faced some adversity still but we had built up so much connection and commitment that we could overcome those.”