NBA

Lieberman gets chance to coach the men

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DALLAS (AP)

The first woman to play U.S. pro basketball with guys is now going to coach them.

Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman was introduced on Thursday as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks' affiliate in the NBA Development League, which will tip off in November 2010.

The D-League team is partially owned by Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations. Hiring Lieberman was his idea, and he's confident young men won't have a problem taking orders from a woman - at least, not this woman.

"She's got the skins, the experience - she knows what she's doing - so I certainly hope that we're well beyond those issues," Nelson said. "Besides, if you can't respect authority, no matter what form or color it comes in, I don't want you on my team."

Lieberman has been a basketball pioneer since she was 17 and made the U.S. Olympic team for the first women's tournament, at the 1976 Montreal Games. She starred in various women's pro leagues, then in 1986 played for the Springfield Fame of the United States Basketball League. When the WNBA started, she returned as a player, and later was a coach and general manager. She returned briefly as a player in July 2008, at age 50.

Kobe Bryant later told her that he and his daughters were watching during her latest comeback. He also asked, "Why would you put your reputation on the line like that?" She told him she did it because she had no fear - and that's exactly why she's taking on this challenge.

"I feel like I'm the right person for the job," she said. "I know how these guys feel. I played in the minor leagues. I'm ultimately connected to that part of development in a player's life.

"In 1986, my goal was not to be a girl playing in a men's league, it was to be a player in a men's league," she added. "In 2010, I don't want to be a woman who is coaching men, I want to be a coach who is coaching."

NBA commissioner David Stern, a strong supporter of the development league and women's basketball, called the hiring "great news for all."

"This is wonderful for the NBA D-League," Stern said. "A basketball pioneer and Hall of Famer continues her journey."

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