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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; www.nancylieberman.com; "Lieberman introduced by D-League," ESPN; Women's Basketball Hall of Fame; Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

3 Comments

Are you aware that Nancy Lieberman is, or was, a Jew For Jesus, and has publicly expressed that Jesus is her "Lord and Saviour". Being a Jew For Jesus doesn't make her any less of a great athlete. But is she a Jew who sets a good example for other Jewish women?

I find it interesting that in an interview posted on a Jewish sports blog, Ms. Lieberman said the following:

"What does your Judaism mean to you? Have you ever thought about playing or coaching in the Maccabi Games?

I have been invited to play in it but it conflicted with USA basketball. So I wasnÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t able to participate. I would love the opportunity to coach. I am proud of my heritage and family. I am proud of religion and it is deeply proud of what I do. There is a closeness and protective state amongst family. It is like being a part of a wonderful team. It is an honor to be a Jewish athlete. Playing against Amy Schneider when I was young was amazing. People used to say why was I a tomboy, but I think that has come full circle. I am always around great athletes and I get a lot of respect and love from people for my Judaism."

Her accomplishments in sports and her foundation work make her an inspiration to young girls and boys.

As far as I am concerned, if Nancy Lieberman calls herself a Jew for Jesus, she is beyond the pale and I do not accept her as a Jew! Groups like Jews for Jesus are an abominable means to convert Jews devised and supported by the Southern Baptists. These groups attack the soul of Judaism as much as Muslim terrorists attack the bodies of Israelis. Both groups are despicable!

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 December 15, 2017) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/nov/04/2009/nancy-lieberman>.

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