On November 5th, 2009, Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman added a new piece of history to her already illustrious career when Donnie Nelson and Evan Wyly, co-owners of Frisco’s NBA Development League expansion team announced the hiring of Nancy as the first head coach of the Texas Legends. Lieberman widely considered one of the most influential figures in women’s basketball history, will become the first
female head coach to lead an NBA or NBA D-League team starting in
Lieberman’s journey began on the rough and tumble asphalt courts of Harlem, which was no small departure from her native of Queens, New York. Lieberman quickly developed a reputation as a tough and gritty basketball powerhouse while attending Far Rockaway High School. In 1974, Lieberman’s talents were illuminated by the national spotlight after garnering a coveted spot on the U.S. National Team, and a year later managed to bring home a gold and silver medal at the World Championships and Pan American Games, respectively.
Prior to enrolling at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, on a full athletic scholarship, Lieberman set another landmark by becoming the youngest basketball player in Olympic History (male or female) at 18 years old, and earned a
silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Lieberman exploded onto the college scene and would ultimately drive the
Lady Monarchs to two consecutive National Championships, a WNIT
Championship, and leave a lasting impact that would be near impossible to
replicate. Lieberman became the first ever two-time winner of the prestigious
Wade Trophy, which recognizes the “Player of the Year” in women’s college
basketball. Lieberman was selected as the Broderick Award winner for
basketball as the top women’s player in America, as well as received three
consecutive Kodak All-American honors during her collegiate career, making
her one of the most decorated female athletes in the United States.
Lieberman went on to shape the landscape and future of women’s professional
basketball as player, coach and renowned analyst. Beginning her professional
career with the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Basketball League in 1981,
she quickly led her team in 1984 to the WABA Championship, while also
capturing the title of league MVP. More remarkably, Lieberman is recognized
as the only woman to play in an all-male league, the United States Basketball
League with the Springfield Fame (1986), and Long Island Knights (1987). In
1988, Lieberman toured the world with the acclaimed Harlem Globetrotters as a member of the Washington Generals. In 1997 Lieberman came out of retirement and was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury during the inaugural season of the
WNBA. During her time as a professional player, Lieberman hit several milestones including an induction into both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Hampton Roads Hall of Fame as a player in 1996. In 1999, She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the NYC Basketball Hall of Fame the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
After playing in the WNBA, Lieberman was named General Manager and Head Coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock in 1998, where she helped the team to the highest winning percentage of any expansion team in professional sports and was runner up for coach of the year. Lieberman served as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for two years. Thereafter, she was named head coach of the Dallas Fury of the NWBL in 2004 where she guided the team to a championship title and runner up in 2005.
Lieberman again made history on July 24th, 2008, by coming out of retirement once again signing to play for the Detroit Shock of the WNBA, becoming the oldest player to ever play in the history of the league at the young age of 50. She broke the previous record of 39 years old, which Nancy herself established as a member of the Phoenix Mercury in 1997.
Lieberman’s career progressed from playing and coaching to national commentating, motivational speaking engagements and philanthropic endeavors. Lieberman has served as an analyst for ESPN/ABC for the NBA, WNBA and NCAA Women's Basketball. She has provided commentary for NBA-TV, NBC and the NFL Network, and has written for the Dallas Morning News, The New York Times and USA Today. Lieberman is an accomplished author, having penned an autobiography entitled Lady Magic and Basketball for Women, and several “how-to” videos providing instruction and
advice to aspiring basketball players.
Throughout her entire career Lieberman’s progress as a successful athlete and leader was based on her boldness and ability to take positive action. She is an influential communicator and has a passion for educating athletes and business leaders to improve efficiency and attain peak performance. Lieberman’s in depth industry experience is unparalleled and it is for this reason that Lieberman is recognized as a prolific motivational speaker for Fortune 500 companies. Nancy travels around the country to conduct speaking engagements for private and public corporations, non-for profit organizations and basketball camps. She speaks on myriad topics, such as Business and Sports, Image and Self Esteem, Teamwork, Winning, Working, and Parenting.
Guiding youngsters and helping the disadvantaged has always been a passion for Lieberman and is reflected in her active involvement with the Special Olympics, the Jimmy V. Foundation (named for the late Jim Valvano), the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and recently her work with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Lone Star Chapter. Lieberman hosts and coaches basketball clinics and camps for girls and boys in Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix, hoping that through positive guidance and helpful instruction, can help facilitate the next generation of student athletes to success.
Lieberman’s career is a colorful one, and her impact on women’s basketball and professional sport is impressive. It is only fitting that awards are given in her honor, such as the Nancy Lieberman Award, which is bestowed upon the most outstanding female point guard in NCAA Division I Basketball and has been awarded to the likes of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Temeka Johnson, Ivory Latta, and Lindsey Harding. Nancy Lieberman’s legacy as a mom, basketball player, Hall of Famer, coach, GM, Olympian, writer, broadcaster, and motivator will endure forever.
On March 21, 2018, Lieberman was named BIG3 head coach of Power. She is the first woman ever to become head coach of a men’s professional team in any sport. Lieberman lead Power to win the 2018 BIG3 Championship.