Tsai, who has a 49 percent stake in the Nets and is set to take control of the Nets from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in 2021, struck a deal with Madison Square Garden owner Jim Dolan, who still owns the New York Knicks and Rangers, and had been looking to sell the Liberty leading up to the 2018 season.
“It is an honor and a privilege to join the Liberty and WNBA families,” said Tsai in a statement. “As one of New York’s proudest franchises, the Liberty has played a vital role in New York City over the past 22 years.
“The Liberty and WNBA exemplify what it means to compete at the highest level, serve as role models in the local community, and bring greater opportunities to female athletes,” he added. “Our goal is to continue this important work and help bring the WNBA into its next phase of growth.”
The Liberty, much like the Nets when general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson arrived prior to the 2016-17 season, are in the midst of a rebuild after recording their lowest win total in franchise history last season, finishing 7-27 under first-year head coach Katie Smith.
The team ended with the Eastern Conference’s best regular season record each summer from 2015-2017. Over that stretch, they finished a combined 66-36 in the regular season, getting as far as the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015 under then-head coach Bill Laimbeer.
“We are fortunate to welcome Joe Tsai to the WNBA family at a pivotal time for our league,” said WNBA Interim President Mark Tatum. “As active participants in the New York Community, Joe and his team are very well-positioned to take the Liberty to exciting new heights.”
For the Liberty, it is unclear if they’ll move to Brooklyn or Long Island, but they’re likely to leave their current home in Westchester County Center, which is also home to the Westchester Knicks of the NBA G League, following the 2019 season, which begins in May.
In the forthcoming WNBA Draft in April, the Liberty will have the second, 14th and 26th overall picks. In the 12-team league, there are three rounds in the draft.
WNBA free agency also begins on February 1, and the team recently slapped a franchise tag on star player Tina Charles, keeping her in New York for the 2019 season. Charles was in attendance for the Nets win over the Knicks at Barclays Center this past Friday.