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Women's Hoops

The latest news and analysis on college and pro women's basketball.

November 5, 2009 at 9:41 AM

Mailbag: Are we hating on Nancy Lieberman?

Lieberman.jpgOK, so this is really coming from the Twitter file, but I’m not alone in pondering the question: Is Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman taking too many hits?
It seems since former Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer left the WNBA to ultimately accept an assistant coaching position with the Minnesota Timberwolves that Lieberman (pictured right by ESPN) has moved into the women’s league’s easy target slot. Or maybe she simply took over the space since she was bashed before for showing too much love to three-time MVP Lisa Leslie as a broadcaster and the bad start as Shock coach.
But, while I’m a fan of Lieberman, her latest move got me wondering. She was named coach of the new Dallas D-League team, an affiliate for the Mavericks. It’ll make Lieberman the first female head coach in the league and second overall, following Stephanie Ready, who assistant coached for the now-defunct Greenville Groove in South Carolina from 2001-03.
Ready is currently a sideline reporter for the Charlotte Bobcats, commentating about the WNBA Finals with various guests for NBA-TV, too.
Lieberman is widely respected — and should be — for her basketball knowledge. It hasn’t happened, but when broadcaster Kevin Calabro accepted his on-air position with ESPN Seattle (710 AM), he said Lieberman could join him in-studio because he loved talking hoops with her.
Still, that’s as a broadcaster. And I was wondering — via Twitter — if a return to coaching was a gimmick. After all, her return to playing in 2008 at age 50 set the league back. It was later stated that the move was made to promote health and fitness or something, but plenty of current players were available for Detroit to sign to its seven-day contract.
Lieberman responded to my tweet regarding her coaching by stating, “ive never been about gimmicks, i do what i love, its called passion..dont hate in this year of change and opportunity my friend!”
So, is this progress? I’m an advocate for women being viewed equally in the coaching realm. Men who’ve “crossed over” to the women’s game have certainly proved basketball is basketball. Women have coached men on lower levels or overseas and if Lieberman is successful, maybe NBA owners will look at other women in a different light and give them a chance.
My only issue is why it didn’t start there. Lieberman has dabbled in everything under the basketball sphere, most recently challenging President Obama to a pick up game to bring some true equality to the White House basketball court. So, even though she hadn’t really piped up about coaching again, it’s not a surprise for her to return to the bench. And somebody has to make the first move – heaven knows we all owe Lieberman for all the barriers she’s already crashed through for women.
I just know there are others who truly wanted a gig like this and wonder if an opportunity for advancement in the game passed. What do you think?



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