Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb is the 2023 WNBA Executive of the Year winner, the league announced Thursday.
Kolb and Dallas Wings executive Greg Bibb appeared on the most ballots (eight). From those eight ballots, Kolb received 20 points, beating out Bibb who received 15. The award is voted on by all 12 executives who aren’t allowed to vote for themselves.
“I was incredibly humbled by it. It’s an award that means a lot because there’s only one that goes around every year,” Kolb said. “If you’re in this position, it’s something that you aim for especially because it’s voted on by your peers. And that just means a great deal.”
Kolb’s peers took notice of the busy offseason he had leading up to a record-breaking season for the Liberty. First the GM acquired star center Jonquel Jones and defensive specialist Kayla Thornton in a three-team blockbuster deal in January.
The busy offseason continued a month later, with international meetings leading to two-time champion Breanna Stewart and five-time All-Star Courtney Vandersloot inking deals to officially give the squad the super-team label.
Then, Kolb re-signed their former No.1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu to a multi-year extension that keeps her in New York through the 2025 season.
Most recently, the GM was able to reach multi-year agreements with guard Betnijah Laney and Thornton. Thornton has said in the past being forced to New York via trade was out of her “comfort zone,” but her forgoing free agency and signing an in-season deal is a testament to the environment Kolb created since arriving in 2019.
“To me, it’s really making sure we can keep this thing successful and sustainably successful,” Kolb said about his role of being a general manager. “So that’s something I take pride in. I think we do a great job of creating an organization that players want to be a part of. Not only to come here initially, but also to stay here.”
Kolb is the first Liberty executive to win the award. Under his leadership, the team surpassed the franchise’s single-season win total (23) and finished the regular season with a 32-8 record. The team also finished with a .800 win percentage, which is the highest figure in the franchise’s 27 seasons and a stark improvement from its .444 mark (16-20) in 2022.
The successful regular season earned the squad the No. 2 overall seed in the WNBA playoffs. The Liberty will start their postseason run against the Washington Mystics Friday at Barclays Center.
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