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Women’s basketball pioneer Nancy Lieberman becomes the first woman to coach a NBA D-League men’s basketball team

November 4, 2009

On November 4, 2009, Nancy Lieberman broke yet another barrier when she became the first woman head coach of the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate team.

Lieberman told ESPN, “In 1986, my goal was not to be a girl playing in a men's league, it was to be a player in a men's league. In 2010, I don't want to be a woman who is coaching men; I want to be a coach who is coaching.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York on July 1, 1958, Lieberman is a pioneering athlete. She won a Gold Medal at the Pan American Games in 1975 while still in high school. At age 18, she made the U.S. team at the 1976 Montreal games, the first time women's basketball was played at the Olympics. As a student at Old Dominion University in Virginia, Lieberman led her team to national basketball championships in 1979 and 1980 with a 72–2 record. During those years she won the Wade Trophy twice — a first in basketball history.

Lieberman briefly played for the Dallas Diamonds as part of a fledgling professional Women’s Basketball League. After the League folded, Lieberman made history by becoming the first woman to play for a men’s professional team as a member of the Springfield Flame in 1986. She also did a stint on the Washington Generals – the traditionally male team that opposes the Harlem Globetrotters.

She played on the U.S. Women’s National Team in 1989 and with the Phoenix Mercury when the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was launched. From 1998–2000 she was the head coach and general manager of the WNBA Detroit Shock. She was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996, and three years later into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Lieberman currently lives in Dallas, Texas, near to where she coaches the Mavericks’ D-League team and runs a summer basketball camp for boys and girls.

Sources: Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia;; "Lieberman introduced by D-League," ESPN; Women's Basketball Hall of Fame; Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Nancy Lieberman at NBA All-Star Game, February 12, 2010
Full image
Nancy Lieberman and others at an NBA All-Star celebrity game presented by Final Fantasy XIII held at the Dallas Convention Center on February 12, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.
Courtesy of Staci Kramer/Flickr.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women’s basketball pioneer Nancy Lieberman becomes the first woman to coach a NBA D-League men’s basketball team." (Viewed on January 21, 2017) <>.


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