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NEW YORK -- As she has almost every year since her retirement in 2004, Teresa Weatherspoon returned to the city where she became a WNBA legend. However, Thursday night's visit was drastically different than any of her previous ones. The iconic Liberty guard was back as the head coach of the Chicago Sky for a game against the organization she represented for seven years.

"Who knew? Who knew? Who knew?," Weatherspoon repeated at morning shootaround when asked to react to coming back as a head coach in the league she helped build. 

"This is where I played. Blood, sweat, tears here. So of course, I feel a certain way. It's home for me. These people loved me. They gave me all of them as I tried to give them all me," Weatherspoon said hours before coaching against her former team for the first time. 

Weatherspoon's Liberty played at Madison Square Garden back then, not the team's Barclays Center home of today, but that didn't change the emotions of the Hall of Fame player, who was literally the cornerstone of the team and league when the WNBA began play in 1997.

"You step in here and you feel it. This is where you played, this is where you poured every single thing you have in you. It was not in this gym, but it was in that uniform ... so of course there's emotions there. I love this organization," Weatherspoon said before the game. 

It was her passion that endeared her to Liberty fans, and it's that same passion that fueled her team to victory in Brooklyn in handing last season's WNBA finalists their first loss of the season. 

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Sky guard Dana Evans said after the 90-81 win. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything." 

The Sky held the Liberty to 11 fast break points and won the battle in the paint, 46-36. After a late surge by the Liberty, Weatherspoon's team dug deep and ended the game on a 22-9 run. With the win, the Sky put the league on notice: they are here to play and to play hard. 

"Coach Spoon does not want us to settle for those threes," Sky guard Marina Mabrey reluctantly told CBS Sports postgame. Mabrey, who led all scorers Thursday with 21 points, is a career 36% three-point shooter. 

She jokingly said there were still more shots she'd like to launch while stepping away from the mic postgame, but the team has bought into Weatherspoon's vision and that means feeding the ball into the paint. 

Last year Chicago took 888 three-point shots and converted at a 37% clip, third best behind the Las Vegas Aces and the Liberty. Weatherspoon has asked her team not to fall in love with perimeter shooting, but instead to trust the team vision and the growth process. 

"We want to play as a team. Everybody wants to touch the ball," Mabrey added. "So, when we can find that balance, start in the paint, and kick out or score, that's kind of our best offense." 

That, at times, means giving up an okay perimeter shot for a better high-quality look. 

"We've worked pretty hard and there are big expectations we have of ourselves and that's the most important thing," Weatherspoon said. "Everybody on this team knows what their role is, and [they] know how they have to play the role."

That provided the needed separation from a New York team that, at times, fell short of its game plan. "Sometimes we're overthinking," said Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello, lamenting the easy shots her team missed. "We're professionals. We should make those shots ... It was a bad night at the office." 

But it was a good night for Weatherspoon, who has her young and untested team off to a 2-1 start with three road games despite injuries to Diamond DeShields, Isabelle Harrison, and rookie Kamilla Cardoso. 

"We're holding it down until they get back. When they get back, we'll be extremely happy," Weatherspoon said. The Sky still have plenty to prove, especially as they prepare to host Connecticut, Seattle and Los Angeles next week, but Thursday night was a good test for the players and a special moment for their new boss.