This will be the second season in a row Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman hasn’t been coaching. But the new “Thunder Live” studio analyst hasn’t given up her dream of coaching in the NBA.
“It could be a player development coach, it could be breaking down film, it could be Xs and Os,” she said. “I don’t think in my lifetime there will be a women’s head coach in the NBA, but I do think there can be a place for someone who just happens to be a woman, but is qualified on an NBA bench or behind an NBA bench. I hope one day that is me.”
Lieberman, 54, coached the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA Development League franchise, for two seasons, including reaching the playoffs and mentoring Antonio Daniels for an NBA run. But last season, she gave up the job to allow her time to watch her son play his senior season at Plano (Texas) West High School. A 6-foot-8, 220-pounder, T.J. Cline led his school in scoring and rebounding in reaching the second round of the state playoffs.
“Really his dream since he was 10 years old was to go to Oklahoma and be a Sooner,” said Lieberman, noting T.J. had turned his bedroom into a Sooner shine. “It didn’t work out. He ended up getting a full scholarship to Niagara.”
Lieberman still serves as the Legends’ assistant general manager. Former OU star Eduardo Najera took over as coach this season.
In teaming with studio hosts Dana Larson and John Rhadigan, Lieberman said she is excited about her new role on “Thunder Live,” the pregame and postgame shows that air on Fox Sports Oklahoma. She will make her debut at 6:30 p.m. Friday before the home opener against Portland, and is encouraging viewers to send her questions through Twitter (@NancyLieberman) or her Facebook page.
Lieberman’s basketball knowledge is unquestioned. As a point guard at Old Dominion, Lieberman earned the nickname “Lady Magic,” a nod to Earvin “Magic” Johnson, as she set a school record for career assists (961). Her playing career included stints in a men’s pro league and the WNBA, where as a 50-year-old she played one game with the Detroit Shock in 2008. A longtime basketball analyst for ABC and ESPN, she also has a long history with Fox Sports Southwest, dating to the 1980s.
“They were one of the first ones to give me an opportunity to do men’s college basketball,” she said. “I am grateful to the folks at Fox, but I am over the moon to be able to do this and be a part of the Thunder broadcast team.”
Lieberman said she is impressed with the Thunder franchise, including general manager Sam Presti and chairman Clay Bennett.
“There is a lot of humility in the organization,” she said. “They have a different picture than a lot of people. They are very entrenched in the community. They are very mindful of the young men who are a part of their philosophy and how they handle things. Winning is very, very important, but how you win is important. They are all in. They do have superstars, but in a team concept. Kevin (Durant) understands that he can’t do it by himself. Russell (Westbrook) can’t do it by himself. Clay can’t do it by himself. It takes great pieces and teamwork around you to have a solid organization. Their community and their fans are in lock step with them, and I dig that.”