Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

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July 16, 2009
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Laimbeer is back where he is well-known

STATELINE - Well after the American Century Championship fades away, former Detroit Pistons' star Bill Laimbeer will live on.

Laimbeer is infamously tied to the 54-hole celebrity golf championship for what transpired in the event's second year.

On the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with Rick Rhoden in 1991, Laimbeer agonizingly wedged five consecutive shots into the drink guarding the 18th hole. He wanted to concede the hole, but tournament officials made him hole out or risk being disqualified. Ever since, the little pond has been known as Lake Laimbeer.

For the past eight years, Laimbeer hasn't been ducking the tournament because of that misfortune. After resigning as the WNBA's Detroit Shock's coach last month, Laimbeer needed only a week to decide he wanted to renew his association with the tournament.

"I retired again, so it's fun to be back here and see all of the guys that I used to play around with, and everybody is glad to see me back," said Laimbeer on Thursday prior to the American Century Championship Celebrity-Amateur event. "I missed hanging around with the players and competing against them at a great spot like this."

Even though Laimbeer is 15 years removed from his NBA career and hasn't played in the ACC since 2001, he was welcomed back by tournament officials. Laimbeer directed the Shock to three WNBA crowns before resigning.

"That's the thing, guys will come back," said Jon Miller, executive vice president of programming for NBC, which selects the tournament field. "We encourage guys to get their name out there, because at the end of the day this is a television event."

Laimbeer is using his second retirement as an opportunity to explore other coaching opportunities.

"I had to do something different, and Rick (Mahorn) needed an opportunity to be a head coach," he said. "It was time to move on and see what is out there."

The Pistons didn't give Laimbeer serious consideration when recently filling their coaching vacancy. Laimbeer wasn't interviewed for the job - a subject that silenced the 6-foot-11 coach.

"I don't even want to talk about it," Laimbeer said.

Eight years after placing 10th in his last appearance at the ACC, Laimbeer said he has lost some yardage to the younger stars. Yet, he believes he can still finish among the leaders.

"I'm also a lot older; I'm 52 now," he said. "Some of the young guys will hit it a lot farther than I will, but I will get out there and compete. If I make some putts, I'll be in the mix."

Laimbeer has learned that fans have memories of elephants. They won't allow him to forget what happened that odd day 18 years ago in the first of two playoffs in tournament history.

"I'm reminded of it all of the time," he said.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jul 16, 2009 09:39PM Published Jul 16, 2009 09:38PM Copyright 2009 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.