So this is a thing. In the midst of the frenzied draft preparation, Frisco owners Evan Wyly and Donnie Nelson announced that former player, broadcaster and WNBA coach Nancy Lieberman will be the next (first?) coach of the Frisco team. The "woman-coaches-a-mens'-pro-team" angle is the one that will be played up, and that's understandable. This is pretty big. But if one ignores the whole gender issue, this is a pretty solid hire. Lieberman won two national championships as a player and two national player of the year awards. Her career assists record at Old Dominion still hasn't been broken.
After college, she played for several different pro leagues, including "mens' leagues" such as the USBL. She's not even unfamiliar with the D-League, having incorrectly appeared in a Toros boxscore. She also coached the WNBA's Detroit Shock for three seasons and served as the team's general manager. The bottom line is that anyone with that kind of track record would be a good coaching hire, man or woman.
The team also announced that former NBA coach Del Harris will be the Frisco team's general manager, and that former player (and Dallas native) Spud Webb will be the team's president of basketball operations. The team is expected in the next few days to announce the hiring of someone to tell the difference between those two jobs. In addition to his many, many years in the NBA, Harris also coached the Chinese national team, served as a consultant to the Canadian national team and coached in the Puerto Rican National Superior League. That international experience should serve him well in scouting all sorts of D-League prospects, and who knows, he could use his connections to bring a certain 6'9" left-handed Chinese point guard to Texas. And Spud Webb can speak to a D-League prospect's need to get the most of his abilities and overcome a perceived lack of size, athleticism, what have you.
But back to Lieberman. I have to say, I wasn't all that shocked. Not just because it's Lieberman, or because the Mavericks see themselves as forward thinkers. There were hints that something like this might be coming back when Bakersfield was looking for a coach. If you'll recall (or just click that link), Jam owner Stan Ellis was considering hiring a female assistant coach. They didn't, but the sentiment that a woman could coach in the D-League has been floating around for a little while. I guess I should talk about that a little, because even though I don't think it matters that's going to be this story's initial hook. Might it get weird at first? Hopefully not, but maybe. Locker rooms aren't traditionally the most open and progressive places in the world. Lieberman's career as a player and coach should speak for itself, but maybe it won't. That's why I think announcing this a year before Frisco starts playing was a smart move. Any player who might have a problem with it has plenty of time to know to seek work elsewhere. If not, they can get on board (because Frisco used to have a lot of trains, remember?). See Marge? This guy gets it:
"I think it’s awesome," Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd said. "She’s very knowledgeable about the game, for sure. You know, change can be a little weird at the beginning, but I think everybody will adjust fine."
There. I talked about the gender thing, and hopefully that's the extent of it. As I said above, this is a trio of solid hires. Congratulations to the Frisco..., Coach Lieberman, Harris and Webb.