SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — New Sacramento Kings assistant Nancy Lieberman recalls a conversation with Pat Riley a couple of years back when she explained to the Miami Heat executive how much she wanted to keep coaching at basketball’s highest level.
“When I said to him, ‘You know, I really would like to coach,’ and he said, ‘You would?’ and he goes, ‘Nancy, if you want something you have to tell people what you want,’” she said. “I didn’t want to be that pushy broad. I just normally assumed: ‘Well, I’m Nancy, I’ve been around the game my whole life, they should know this. They should have a crystal ball and know what I want. That was absolutely horrible thinking on my side. The most important thing is that I started to share what my aspirations were — ‘I’d like to do this.’”
The Hall of Famer was hired by the Kings on Friday, joining Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs as another female NBA assistant coach.
Lieberman was scheduled to be in Las Vegas later in the weekend for an NBA coaching camp with Kings coach George Karl and Vlade Divac, Sacramento’s vice president of basketball and franchise operations and a former star player. The Kings formally announced Lieberman’s hiring Friday along with the coaching staff.
The 57-year-old Lieberman joins Karl’s staff in the state capital just shy of a year after Hammon was hired by the Spurs, making her the first full-time paid female NBA assistant coach.
“Becky opened up a lot of doors even for myself, with what the Spurs did and then with her success at the summer league,” Lieberman said. “It has an effect on a lot of people’s thinking and the acceptance. I believe a lot of people saw that and went: ‘Why can’t we do that? That’s something that’s really important, and there’s other people open-minded, why can’t it be us?’
“What Becky did was very, very important for everybody. With that said, I love this game, I’ve been around the game for 40 years. I’m qualified.”
Lieberman has worked as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League team — leading the expansion team to the playoffs in its first season — and also most recently as an assistant general manager of the organization. She was previously head coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock.
She brings a decorated resume to the Kings and Northern California. Lieberman is a two-time Olympian, three-time All American and two-time national champion in college for Old Dominion.
Lieberman has been a regular in the NBA arena, too, having worked in television for the Oklahoma City Thunder the past three years.
She is eager to get to work with Karl to improve the Kings, who are looking for some stability at last. They fired Michael Malone after an 11-13 start last season, dismissed Tyrone Corbin after he went 7-21 and then hired Karl.
“George is absolutely brilliant, one of the most brilliant minds in basketball,” she said.
When Hammon was hired last summer, Lieberman offered her support and also congratulations to the league.
“The NBA does a really great job taking care of their people, and they’re not afraid to think outside of the box. I’m really proud of them,” she said then. “I’m proud of the Spurs. I’m proud of Adam Silver. It’s a great day for women, but it’s a great day for the NBA and how they feel about their growth going forward.”
Lieberman was one of the original players in the WNBA, coming out of retirement in 1997 at age 39 and getting drafted by the Phoenix Mercury for the league’s inaugural season. She would become the WNBA’s oldest player, then later broke her own mark on July 24, 2008, when she returned to play one game for the Shock at age 50.
Nicknamed “Lady Magic,” Lieberman was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame three years later. She has worked tirelessly with her charity through the Nancy Lieberman Foundation to help disadvantaged youth, hosting summer basketball camps and clinics in several cities around the country.
Other new additions to Karl’s staff are Chad Iske as associate head coach and John Welch and Anthony Carter as assistants.