TODAY'S PAPER
48° Good Afternoon
48° Good Afternoon
SportsBasketball

Nancy Lieberman returns to her city roots with message of inspiration

Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman plays on

Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman plays on the court during the NBA All-Star celebrity game presented at the Dallas Convention Center on February 12, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Nancy Lieberman has not lived in New York since her days at Far Rockaway High in Queens four decades ago, but while you can take the woman out of the city you never can take the city out of the woman.

So it is that Lieberman has taken particular pleasure in returning home for NBA All-Star weekend.

Sort of cool, isn't it?

"It's more than sort of cool; it's a blessing," she said Friday in Manhattan before her show on SiriusXM NBA Radio, for which she appears weekly but added programs around the All-Star Game.

This was after the women's basketball pioneer and Hall of Famer had spent two hours speaking to students at Public School 105 in Far Rockaway.

"I told them, 'I was you,'" she said. "I was that kid who didn't know what was in front of me. And with a lot of luck and good people and staying positive, anything is possible. They have a better opportunity today than I did in the '60s.

“We have a lot in common even though some of us don’t look alike. We’ve a lot of similarities in how we grew up. Basketball changed my life and it just opened every possible door that I hadn’t had in my life."

Lieberman, 56, has had a long and varied career tied to the sport.

These days in addition to SiriusXM, she serves as pregame, halftime and postgame television analyst for Oklahoma City Thunder games, and as assistant GM of the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League, a team she used to coach.

Lieberman would like to get a shot to coach in the NBA. This season Becky Hammon of the Spurs became the first woman on an NBA staff. She hopes her work on radio and TV and with the Legends will open a door.

"Whether it's the D-League or being around the teams, the Thunder, the coaches, the GMs, Sirius," she said, "I'm around the right people, fabulous guys who respect me, who believe in me and my next level is to have an opportunity to be part of a team."

She said of Hammon, "I'm so proud of that girl. Jackie Robinson might have been the first (African-American in Major League Baseball), but there are thousands that have come after. Becky might be the first, but there will be women who come after her who are qualified to coach.''

Lieberman said SiriusXM came to her about a year ago and asked her to consider a weekly show.

“They said, ‘We don’t have a woman [host] and you would fit that mold.’ I am a woman and I am in their world and I am very grateful to be able to talk about things that affect my life every day," Lieberman said. "I've got 35 years of relationships with the NBA and athletes all over the country, so it's a no-brainer for me to sit and talk about the game I love, dissect it as a coach, to break it down for the listener," she said. "It's very fulfilling and rewarding."

Lieberman’s son, T.J. Cline, is a 6-8 sophomore basketball player at Richmond, yet another tie she still has to the sport.

Returning to New York from her home in Dallas is a welcome reminder of where it all began, and of the New York kid she used to be.

She recalled telling former Knick Walt Frazier years ago that he was her “hero’’ and the reason she wore No. 10.

“I said, ‘You might not even know this, but you thought you were affecting young guys but you were affecting young, white Jewish women, not just boys,’’’ she said. “I’m so grateful, because I lived for his moments. I lived to hear Marv Albert. It fueled my dreams. To be back here on All-Star weekend, on one hand it makes me think back to my childhood and all the incredible moments I had with being a Yankees fan and a Jets fan and a Rangers fan and a Knicks fan.

“It just makes it real and there’s a humility to it.’’

Speaking of the Knicks, does Lieberman believe team president Phil Jackson eventually will get the team on track?

“I do,’’ she said. “I believe in Phil Jackson. I believe he’ll look at what’s on the court and he’ll say, ‘Maybe I have to make some changes.’ He’s adaptable. He’s the winningest coach in the history of sports. I think he’ll be just fine.

“Phil needs time. Derek Fisher is going to be a heck of a coach in this league. They just need time.’’

New York Sports