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Q&A With Nancy Lieberman

PUBLISHED June 20, 2014 | News, Sports

ScoreBoardTX sat down recently with Basketball Hall-of-Famer and local sports icon Nancy Lieberman to talk LeBron, the Spurs, the Mavs, Dirk and her upcoming basketball camps for kids. Lieberman’s resume reads like a no other’s – two-time Olympian, three-time All American, two-time collegiate national champion, two-time National Player of the Year at Old Dominion University, WNBA player, coach, general manager, broadcaster for ABC, NBC, FSSW and ESPN, motivational speaker, author and the first female coach of a men’s team under the NBA umbrella. Lieberman was also the first woman to play in a men’s professional league.

Today, she serves as the assistant general manager for the Texas Legends and TV analyst for the Oklahoma Thunder.

In addition, she focuses her efforts on The Nancy Lieberman Foundation, which was established to provide a healthy physical, emotional and mental environment for young girls and boys to build self-esteem and confidence so they will be able to make the right choices in the future. Lieberman is dedicated to expanding and ensuring that sports and educational opportunities exist for youth, through her basketball camps and clinics, DreamCourts and educational programs.

ScoreBoardTX: So right off the bat let’s talk NBA – what did you think about the Finals? Were you surprised how easily the Spurs took care of LeBron’s Heat?

Nancy Lieberman: I thought the NBA Finals were fantastic. It was amazing to watch how the Spurs played both on offense and defense. They really showed us how to play team basketball – moving the ball, making the extra pass and understanding basketball movement surpasses athleticism movement. The fact that they were able to contain LeBron James is incredible. I say “contain” LeBron with a little tongue-in-cheek because he was still amazing, he just did not have any help. It was unfortunate that he didn’t get any help from Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade – it totally changed how the series was going to play out. Without him getting 60 to 65 points a game from his teammates, LeBron was outmatched on both sides of the floor.

SBTX: Do you think LeBron will opt out of his contract with the Heat and move on to another team?

NL: I believe he’ll remain with the Heat, and Pat Riley will add the players he needs to have around him to compete for a title. The Heat are already 5-2 favorites to win the title next year on the big board in Vegas.

SBTX: The Spurs are an amazing example of a dynasty – 5 Larry O’Brien trophies over 15 years and spanning 3 decades.  What do you attribute their success to?

NL: The Spurs are definitely an example of what a dynasty should be – they have sustainability. That Coach Popovich has done this over three different decades is amazing. I attribute their success to great leadership from Popovich and great team play from their future Hall-of-Famers Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. Duncan is not only unselfish, he empowers his teammates. The Spurs play system basketball which means they have their core two or three great players and then plug other role players in around them. All the players on the team have the same basketball philosophy, and they are a no stats team. They are by far the deepest team in the NBA that I’ve seen in many years, and the 105 points a game they averaged in the Finals is the most in the last ten years in the NBA.

SBTX: OK now to our Mavericks. They seemed to get back on track last season (actually played the Spurs as tough as anyone in the playoffs) – what do you think they need to get back to the elite level?

NL: I thought the Mavericks did a great job last year. Rick Carlisle is probably one of the top two or three coaches in the NBA, and the Mavericks are very fortunate to have him. He makes everybody on the team a better player, and he does well at system basketball while having a superstar in Dirk Nowitzki. I think it is important to recognize that they did play the Spurs better than anyone in the playoffs. They move the ball and have three-point shooters, they just didn’t have enough depth and weren’t able to finish off a great Spurs team. Their defense was good but not great, but I do believe that with a few additions to the team next year, getting one or two more superior defenders, they will be in the playoff hunt again for next year.

SBTX: Do you think Dirk will get another ring before he hangs up his hi-tops with the Mavs?

NL: I don’t know if Dirk will get another ring before he retires with the Mavericks, but I know that he’s finally healthy again and looked fresh and renewed on the court. If Coach Carlisle and the team’s front office can put a few key players around him, he could get deep into the playoffs again.

SBTX: Enough NBA – so what’s a normal Nancy Lieberman day entail these days?

NL: A normal day for Nancy Lieberman? That’s funny. It’s working out, it’s being healthy, it’s teaching and watching film and doing what a coach does to try to figure out how to make players better. I’m excited about the NBA summer coaches’ camp in Las Vegas, and I hope that I will have an opportunity to catch on with a team in the NBA summer league as a coach.

SBTX: I know you’ve also got your kids basketball camps coming up.  Can you tell me a bit about them?

NL: Basketball camp starts on Monday. We have our first of three camps at Fieldhouse USA in Frisco, and this is the my Foundation’s 34th year of summer camps. We love having all the kids come through our program learning the game the right way –  from fundamentals to teamwork to how important it is to skill and drill and learn the game, and then they can apply all of what they learn once they get into five-on-five competition. We pride ourselves in being the best teaching camp in the area and continue to stay focused on being a character camp, using positive trigger words to teach and help young athletes obtain their goals.