Nancy Lieberman is making history again. On Wednesday, the Hall of Fame women's basketball player was hired as a head coach in Ice Cube's BIG3 league, replacing Clyde Drexler as coach of team Power.
Lieberman had previously been the head coach of the Texas Legends of the D-League, making her the first woman to coach a men's professional sports team. She later went on to be an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings.
Lieberman said she first became interested in the BIG3 last year, when Rick Barry invited her to attend the games near her home in Dallas. At first he offered her tickets, then later suggested she sit on the bench with him as an assistant coach.
"I see these guys playing and it hits my heart because they still love the game," Lieberman said in an interview with espnW. "They still want to compete and have that swag and that ego to want to play for something bigger than themselves."
Lieberman won two AIAW championships as a player at Old Dominion, a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics, and she played against men in the USBL and as a member of the Washington Generals. She was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1996.
Lieberman said she related to the former NBA players in the BIG3 because she played in the WNBA at age 39 and age 50, each time becoming the oldest player in the league.
"We are athletes. We are born and bred to compete," she said. "That's what we know, and as long as we can still play at a high level, I think it's great Ice Cube has given us this platform."
Lieberman said that after she returned to play for the Detroit Shock at the age of 50 in 2008, she heard from Kobe Bryant, who had watched the game with his daughters.
"He asked why I did it," she said. "And I told him I wasn't afraid. I was ready. And I still loved the game."
Lieberman, 59, will coach a Power roster featuring former NBA players Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson and Corey Maggette. She said she has already been texting with Mobley, the team's captain, and feels good about how she'll be received by her new team.
"They know I'm a woman, trust me," she joked. "But they know the résumé and that I'm qualified to do what I'm doing. I feel that way. I'm not afraid."
Lieberman is currently broadcasting New Orleans Pelicans games. She stepped away from her role with the Kings after last season to spend more time with her 88-year-old mother, who lives in Florida.