Walt Hopkins sounds off on WNBA referees’ ‘lack of respect’ for Liberty

(Jesse Louie/Just Women's Sports)

New York Liberty coach Walt Hopkins isn’t disagreeing with the call and no-call in the final seconds that both went the way of the fifth-seeded Mercury in the final second of Phoenix’s 83-82 win in the first-round, single-elimination playoff game.

Rather, Hopkins said afterward that the Liberty have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to refereeing, both in Thursday night’s game and all season long.

“There are a lot of things I want to say about the officiating in the WNBA and about the lack of respect this team’s gotten all season,” Hopkins said. “But I can’t say that, because referees are above reproach. They don’t have to go to a press conference after games. They don’t have to explain the mistakes they made, why they did what they do.

“I don’t know where the accountability’s gonna come from, but it needs to happen. It was a bad season. The way they treated us was bad.”

He added that he thought the treatment of the Liberty by the referees is due to the fact that they have so many younger players. However, the only young player to start in Thursday’s game was second-year guard Sabrina Ionescu. The rest of the team’s starters each have at least five years of experience in the WNBA. Sami Whitcomb and Natasha Howard, who both started in Thursday’s game, each won two WNBA championships before joining the Liberty in the offseason.

While the two calls in the final seconds stand out, Hopkins said he was more concerned with others that occurred throughout the game. On Thursday night, the Liberty were called for 22 fouls to the Mercury’s 15.

“There were multiple plays where we didn’t just get calls, a free throw discrepancy … it was 18-7 tonight,” Hopkins said. “If anyone wants to say it’s because we shoot a lot of 3’s, well we outscored them in the paint 34-30. It’s not because we don’t go to the rim. It’s because we don’t get respect, because we’re a young team.”