Donnie Nelson is the GM and president of the Dallas Mavericks. He is also the owner of Texas Legends, a team in the NBA Development League. He hired Nancy Lieberman to be its head coach. What are her qualifications? She was the youngest basketball Olympian to receive a gold medal, the first woman to play professionally with men, and oldest person ever to play in the WNBA.
Great players do not necessarily become great coaches or managers (e.g. Ted Williams). In an article written for The Dallas Morning News (November 18, 2010), Mark Dent provides a profile of Lieberman that suggests her qualifications include strengths that have nothing to do with the game she played and now coaches.
For example, how highly valued she is as a human being:
• “Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama have asked for her autograph.” Earlier this year, she was in Ali’s home, holding his hand as they watched the Michigan State-Butler Final Four game.
• Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle: “ She is a kick-ass chick.”
• Mavericks player Jason Terry: “She’s genuine, very caring. People sort of gravitate towards a person like that.”
• Martina Navratilova was her first basketball student. Although Lieberman knew little about tennis, she taught her “because she knew how to use her mind to coax her body into matching the actions of bigger and faster athletes. She found her max, as she calls it, and honed it by emphasizing the subtle fundamentals most players didn’t even consider. Her goal as a coach is to teach the Legends to do the same.”
As John Wooden, Pat Summitt, Tony Dungy, Joe Paterno, and Nancy Lieberman continue to suggest, great competitors can also be great people.