Jonathan Kolb looking at Courtney Vandersloot
Jonathan Kolb looking at Courtney Vandersloot

Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb’s Vision is Coming to Fruition

It takes teamwork and vision to get to reach a goal, and for the New York Liberty, success is truly a team affair.

On Sept. 14, general manager Jonathan Kolb was named WNBA Executive of the Year by his peers in the league. He received six first-place votes.

Kolb spoke prior to the Liberty’s game against the Mystics and made sure to salute the people he works with.

“I can tell you this place is special,” Kolb said. “The people we have here are special. Clara [Wu Tsai] Joe [Tsai], [Oliver] Weisberg, it starts with them. And then the people that we have here, it’s a group that is truly… there are no egos. This is like ‘how do we make this the best organization possible?’ And we’ve got, I think, a ways to go in that but we’re really proud of where we are and we plan to push forward like I said earlier to achieve that goal as well. So, couldn’t be more humbled and happy and just energized everyday to work with the people that I get to work with.”

Kolb and the Liberty staff deserve plenty of credit for getting the team to this point, which involved patience and overcoming their share of obstacles.

The Liberty’s Road to This Moment

NY Liberty guard Marine Johannès
August 30, 2019: NY Liberty guard Marine Johannes waits to enter the game. Photo taken by Joe from @TheLocalW.

Kolb has been with the Liberty through various iterations. He became general manager in 2019 when the franchise was at its lowest point. Previous ownership moved the team out of Madison Square Garden and left it in Westchester County Center. The difference between the WCC and Barclays Center is stark, as Geoff Magliocchetti displayed on Friday.

“It’s all about the vision, what we want to be, not just for the New York Liberty but for the WNBA [and] changing the whole landscape,” Sandy Brondello said about Kolb prior to Friday’s game. The Liberty and WNBA continue to make gains, and having New York as a premier destination will help grow the game.”

Prior to the game, The Local W asked Kolb what helped him stay uplifted even when things appeared the most bleak.

“For us, even when it was bleakest, it really wasn’t,” Kolb told The Local W. “It was in the infancy of the plan of where we are today. … So, that’s the thing. It’s being realistic and pragmatic, but also having the drive to know that this can get to where we want it to be in the future. And like I said before, just pushing through.”

A player who has been on this journey with the Liberty since Westchester is Marine Johannes, who came over in 2019 and wowed Liberty fans with her potential and highlight passes. After shootaround on Friday, Johannes reflected on her first days with the Liberty.

“Jonathan and Ohemaa [Nyanin] did everything for me,” Johannes said. “They really helped me, they knew it was my first season overseas, and they did everything for me. They are always asking me how I feel, how I am. So when I came back here, it’s because I feel like I’m really a part of the team… it’s a nice feeling.”

Johannes has been through a lot with the French national team over the past few years, but the Liberty and her teammates have been a big source of support for her.

Players that have come and gone from the Liberty have spoken about the sisterhood on the team, and that is something that develops with time, trust and support.

A Team Effort

NY Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello
February 9, 2023: NY Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello speaks at press conference. Photo taken by Joe from @TheLocalW.

At the press conference, Kolb acknowledged every member of the organization that has gotten the team to this point. Someone who has been integral to Kolb’s vision is Sandy Brondello, who took the high expectations of this team and got everyone to buy in. The club reinvented its defense on the fly and built an offense that ensures everyone is actively involved.

After the Liberty’s win over the Las Vegas Aces on Aug. 28, Gig Speer of The Strickland asked Kolb about Brondello.

“She’s just very even keeled and she has a way about her where she’ll get on the team if she needs to, and she’ll be positive when she needs to, and she knows when to strike that balance,” Kolb said of Brondello. “She’s great at forming relationships with players and instilling trust in players. I I think she has a real skill set in knowing when it’s time. And so when she knows that there needs to be a sense of urgency, she leans into that.”

The Liberty have a great opportunity to go on a run this postseason, and ownership is ready to keep the team in contention. Jonathan Kolb is the Executive of the Year, but he and everyone in the organization are united in bringing a championship back home to New York City. It is a team affair through and through.