Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Guru Musings: Lieberman Ready to Hit The Books

By Mel Greenberg

Nancy Lieberman, a pioneer and still a contemporary of sorts in the modern history of women's basketball, is about to rack up a few more achievements for the books.

In one instance, the former All-American and two-time national player of the year at Old Dominion who led the Lady Monarchs to titles in 1979 and 1980, has authored another publication: Playbook for Success, which is a guide for professional women in the boardroom using principles Leiberman has applied in her storied career that includes playing and coaching stints in the WNBA.

Lieberman's first business book is scheduled for release Oct. 18 and more information can be found at her website Nancylieberman.com.

NBA All-Timer Earvin "Magic" Johnson has written a forward, considered appropriate because when Lieberman played for ODU she was nicknamed "Lady Magic" in comparison to him.

Secondly, in early November the native New Yorker out of Queens, who also does broadcast work for ESPN-TV, will be strolling the sidelines as the first female coach in either the NBA or NBA's D League, beginning a stint with the Texas Legends.

Lieberman, who will be making some tour stops next month to promote the new book, was named coach on November 5 almost a year ago.

"This is really going to be big as we get closer to the date," Lieberman said about her new coaching assignment.

"We've already heard from Oprah (Winfrey)," she added in a recent interview several weeks ago. That conversation was prior to the news of Carol Blazejowski, a contemporary playing rival of Lieberman, who was let go by MSG Sports from her 14-year run as general manager of the WNBA New York Liberty.

"I believe some day a woman is going to coach in the NBA," Lieberman said. "I may not be the one who is the first to do it but this will certainly be a start in that direction for it to happen."

Lieberman, who was a senior at Old Dominion in 1979-80 when sister Hall of Famer Anne Donovan became a freshman, was the high school sensation of her time. At age 18 she became the youngest Olympian in 1976 when women's basketball made its debut at the Montreal Games. The USA won a silver medal behind the Soviet Union, which was virtually invincible prior to the ascendancy of the United States in the 1980s.

Two years earlier Lieberman, who ventured in her youth to play against boys on the rough and tumble courts of Harlem, was also on USA squads competing in the FIBA World Championship and Pan American Games.

Years later after the Harlem competition, she played on male teams in the pros, competing for the Springfield Fame (1986) in Massachusetts and Long Island Knights (1987) in the United States Basketball League. Lieberman also toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Many thought she was headed for nearby Queens as her collegiate career loomed on the horizon but instead of staying close to home, Lieberman was recruited by Pam Parsons at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va.

Parsons was gone a year later, replaced by Marianne Stanley, the former Immaculata star who debuted on the collegiate sidelines as a head coach and guided the squad that also included Danish center Inge Nissen to two titles.

Stanley is currently an assistant with the Washington Mystics.

Although Lieberman had already achieved Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame status in Springfield, Mass.(1996), she came out of retirement when the WNBA launched, playing for the Phoenix Mercury then coached by another Hall of Famer: Cheryl Miller.

She was 39, a WNBA playing record that held until July 2008. That's when at the age of 50 the former Detroit Shock signed her for a one night stand against the former Houston Comets because of suspensions and player injuries.

Liberman also became coach-general manager of the Shock when it joined the league several coaches before Bill Laimbeer took over and quickly went on to lead Detroit to three WNBA titles prior to his return to the NBA as an assistant in Minnesota.

"I did everything then but I know if I was ever in that situation again I would let someone else do all the business end of it," Lieberman said a year ago prior to her hire by the D League team.

Some observers think because of Lieberman's WNBA background and her local name recognition in the New York metro area, she would be worth a look by MSG executives for something in the Liberty organization.

But again, that conversation was before anyone knew Blazejowski would be gone from the Liberty. Lieberman has not been reachable during the same period in which the book publication date and D League season nears.

Maybe the question will come up during the book tour unless MSG executives have already filled or are bout to fill both vacancies, including the one left by Donovan as coach in the wake of her departure for Seton Hall.

Another UConn Success Story

The rich history of UConn achivement with seven NCAA titles is showing itself at the moment with six former Huskies stars and coach Geno Auriemma on the USA squad competing in the FIBA World Championships. But the glory even extends beyond the players.

Basketball managers who have spent time doing the heavy behind-the-scenes lifting during UConn's title runs to glory have gained notoriety in a positive sense.

Tom Tedesco served time heading basketball operations in the WNBA focusing on referees and game-day situations while Stacey Nasser was recently elevated from graduate assisant to head of basketball operations under former UConn assistant Tonya Cardoza at Temple.

The latest achievement belongs to Abby Gordon, a former UConn manager who has in recent seasons served as travel coordinator and equipment manager for the WNBA Connecticut Sun, located at the Mohegan Sun casino-entertainment complex in Uncasville.

Gordon recently took a leap forward in her hire as assistant coach under Phil Stern at University of Maryland at Baltimore (UMBC).

Son of A Sun

Speaking of the WNBA team in Connecticut with apologies to singer Jimmy Buffett for stealing a partial title from one of his many songs, Eric Thibault, the son of Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, was recently hired as a graduate assistant to Kim Barnes-Arico at St. John's.

Mystics Taylor A High-Tech GM

This blog, by the way, is originating in a hotel-condo room within a few beach steps of the Atlantic Ocean from Ocean City, Md., where the Guru is spending a few days through Wednesday morning.

First, an aside to Violetta Yas, a Rutgers graduate who used to cover Scarlet Knights sports, including women's basketball, for Sports Pages Magazine alongside the Guru on press row.

Yas is now doing fine broadcast work these days for the Weather Channel in State College, Pa.

The Guru thanks her for varying degrees of sunshine that have made its way through the rain clouds the last few days. Now, please get rid of them all together or no free dinner for you when the Guru heads up to Penn State for a preseason look in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Guru, because of a slowdown in news, was going to do some Ipad talk on experiences to date since the purchase in June.

On the other hand, when one spends time at Stanford in Silicon Valley in Northern California they eventually get into the tech world ahead of others as gadgets come down the line.

Such is the case of WNBA Washington Mystics general manager Angela Taylor, who admitted to the Guru that watching him trot his device onto press row around the Verizon Center during the season motivated her to purchase one for herself.

Although the Guru forgot the link (google will get you there), Taylor's recent blog about her experiences discusses her life in technological terms similar to the Guru, who had the earliest Sony walkman when it came on the market.

Taylor, who can be found cheering for the Boise State football team these days,
is so technological advanced that during a trip in the late season to Uncasville for a Mystics-Sun game after his arrival in the middle of the night, in trying to offer an invitation for some pre-game lobster offsite, he couldn't figure out whether to message the GM through twitter, facebook, or just text.

He chose texting, but as it turned out -- bad choice that day. Taylor had put her phone aside during the morning shootaround and didn't glance at the text until way later as opposed to the other forms of communication.

In other behind-the-scenes Guru news, he also has as much of his winter composite as can be done -- 100 percent of what is available and 80 percent of the eventual finished project, which is pretty good for it being only the last week in September.

This year's annual preseason database work will be even closer to completion once Drexel and St. Joseph's decide game times, especially at home, leaving only a few missing elements here and there among the Guru's selections.

With additional time available this winter, ahem, obtained in April, the Guru will probably work on an adjacent DII and DIII composite.

Baring breaking news and consuming too many hardshell crabs here on Tuesday, the Guru will listm off the composite, the days when followers of the Big 5, Drexel, Delaware, Penn State and Rutgers, may have to make choices selecting which way to head on dates in which several attractive matchups appear to conflict with each other.

In some cases time starts might permit two games to attend the same day.

That said -- the Surf continues to be up and poinding its way a feet from here.

-- Mel

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