Smith has not relied solely on her defensive coaching credentials in the new job, her first as a head coach. The Liberty’s offense has become more free-flowing with less reliance on Tina Charles, a forward and center whom Laimbeer, a former post player, made the focal point in half-court sets.
“We’re able to do whatever we pretty much want to,” Zellous said. “It’s going to be fun to watch. It’s just not stand and pass it into Tina and watch Tina work.”
Whether a change in scoring philosophy can entice new fans in the suburbs remains to be seen.
Two of the Liberty’s 17 home dates are still scheduled for the Garden, where the team drew just under 10,000 spectators, about half the arena’s capacity, per game last season. (They ranked fourth in the W.N.B.A. for attendance.) The Westchester County Center has an official capacity of 5,000, but the Liberty are expected to configure seating in a way that allows about 2,300 spectators, with an option to expand to as many as 4,500.
The N.B.A.’s commissioner, Adam Silver, who helps oversee the W.N.B.A., has acknowledged that keeping the team in the Garden limited Dolan’s opportunities to book more lucrative events there. In a 2015 interview for HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” Dolan said that the Liberty had never made money and that he had considered shutting down the team.
The Garden was the Liberty’s home base for 18 of their first 21 seasons. They played the other seasons, from 2011 to 2013, in Newark while the Garden underwent renovations. In 2011, the Liberty had a 28 percent drop in attendance through the first two months of the season compared with their crowds at the Garden, averaging 7,079 fans per game at Prudential Center.
Sitting atop Penn Station, with multiple rail and subway lines, the Garden was easily accessible for the majority of the Liberty’s fan base. Westchester County Center has a Metro North station a half-mile away, and the venue’s website carries minimal information about the Liberty playing there, without any advertisements for the home opener on Friday against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx.