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ODU legend Lieberman wants to coach in NBA

PUBLISHED February 4, 2014 | News, Sports

Before giving a speech at Washington and Lee on Monday night, Nancy Lieberman signed a few autographs for admiring members of the W&L women’s basketball team.

“Four hundred years ago, I was a point guard,” she joked.

Lieberman signed “HOF” next to her name.

“Do you know what ‘HOF’ means?” she asked them.

Lieberman, 55, is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The two-time national player of the year led Old Dominion to AIAW national titles in 1979 and 1980, before women’s basketball moved under the NCAA umbrella.

“The greatest years of my life,” she said of her ODU career in an interview before her speech. “I had such an amazing time at Old Dominion. I’m just so grateful.

“We were selling out the field house — five, six thousand every night. If we went to L.A., to Tennessee, LSU, wherever, we always set record attendance. … We were fun because we were uptempo. … We played like guys.”

The Monarchs had to travel in vans for some of their road games. Junior high uniforms these days are nicer than the ones the Monarchs wore then, said Lieberman.

“I was the first full scholarship [female ODU] athlete in 1976,” she said. “I didn’t realize that some of my teammates were getting a sliver.

“I was a poor kid from New York with one parent, so the scholarship changed my life and gave me a chance to not be a casualty of my environment.

“Today’s young athletes expect a scholarship. My generation hoped to get a scholarship. The Taurasis and the Birds and the Delle Donnes and the Digginses expect to play in the WNBA. We hoped that one day we would have a WNBA.”

Lieberman, a 1976 Olympic silver medalist, is a legend in the game. The award for the women’s basketball point guard of the year is named after her.

She loves when NBA players tell her they know about her playing career.

“It takes my breath away that people care,” she said.

She is thrilled with how far Division I women’s basketball has come since her years at ODU.

“Everybody has a TV package or a full radio package, great facilities,” she said. “I look at the athletes now and I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so proud of them.’

“It’s kind of neat to see the evolution of the game and know that you’re a pioneer.”

She played with and against men in the United States Basketball League and in NBA summer leagues — and as a member of the Washington Generals too.

Lieberman came out of retirement at the age of 39 to play in the debut season of the WNBA.

“I didn’t get a WNBA in my prime,” Lieberman said. “I just wanted one shot.”

Lieberman later became a WNBA coach and executive.

She has also coached men — in the NBA Development League.

Lieberman is now the assistant general manager for the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends. She also serves as a pregame and postgame TV analyst for the Oklahoma City Thunder, working out of a studio in Dallas.

“My goal in the next year or two is to be coaching in the NBA,” she said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of people that go, ‘That’s not going to happen.’

“I don’t want to coach in the NBA because I’m a girl. I want to coach in the NBA because I’m qualified.”

Lieberman is a frequent visitor to the commonwealth, either to return to her alma mater or to see her son at the University of Richmond. T.J. Cline is redshirting with the Spiders this season after transferring from Niagara.

Hokies to visit FSU

When Virginia Tech visits Florida State tonight, C.J. Barksdale (groin) will miss his third straight game and Adam Smith (strained calf and stress fracture) will miss his fifth straight game. Marshall Wood, who had been starting in Barksdale’s place, will also miss the game because of the flu.

The Hokies (8-13, 1-8 ACC) will not try to push the ball up the court as much as they usually do.

“We just don’t have the bodies or the legs to do it,” coach James Johnson said. “There were games where we were running on [foes’] makes and misses. But on makes, we want to try to walk the ball up the floor, we want to try to take some time off the clock.”

Florida State (13-8, 4-5) will likely be without leading scorer Ian Miller, who suffered a sprained ankle in FSU’s loss to Clemson last weekend. The guard averages 12.7 points.

“It affects us an awful lot,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We’re not very deep on the perimeter.

“Not being very deep, we’re going to probably have to slow the tempo down … and hopefully become a much better halfcourt-executing team.”

The Seminoles are ranked eighth nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.9 percent).

“We’ve got to shot-fake them, try to crack them and get to the free-throw line,” Johnson said. “They’re long and athletic and they can guard multiple positions.”