Sacramento Kings Join Revolution and Hire Nancy Lieberman


A revolution is beginning in professional sports, and the Sacramento Kings have jumped on board. According to a report with CSN Bay Area, the Kings offered an assistant coaching position to Nancy Lieberman, who has accepted the spot.

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Lieberman becomes the second full-time female assistant coach in NBA history, joining Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs. But Lieberman is a revolutionary in her own right. In 2009, she became the first woman to coach a men’s professional basketball team when she took over coaching duties for the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks.

Besides that, Lieberman has an impressive résumé. She won a gold medal with the United States team in the 1976 Olympic games. She was twice awarded the Wade Trophy, an award given to the female college basketball player of the year. In 1996, she was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1997, she played for the Phoenix Mercury in the inaugural WNBA season.

The San Antonio Spurs were the leaders in this female coaching revolution. They hired Hammon ahead of the 2014-2015 season, making her the first full-time female assistant coach in any of the four major American sports organizations, not just the NBA. Hammon continued to bust through glass ceilings in the Las Vegas Summer League, when she was the head coach of the Spurs’ team, becoming the first ever female head coach in the Summer League. Not only that, but Hammon led her team to the Summer League championship.

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Hammon wasn’t the only female coach in the Summer League this year, as Nicki Gross was an assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies’ squad. After the Summer League ended, Gross was signed on to become part of the Iowa Energy’s coaching staff. Iowa is the D-League affiliate for the Grizzlies, and Gross becomes the only female assistant signed for the upcoming season in the D-League.

This revolution hasn’t been limited to basketball. Less than a week ago, the Arizona Cardinals hired a female assistant coach, Jen Welter, which is believed to be a first in NFL history. Before that, she was the first woman to be the head coach of a men’s professional football team, when she took the reigns of the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League.

Even Major League Baseball has gotten involved, and it goes way beyond the AT&T commercial that depicts the first female Major Leaguer taking the mound with Gary Thorne narrating. On June 21st of this year, 16-year-old Melissa Mayeux became the first woman in Major League history to be added to the international registration list, meaning that the young France-native would be eligible to be signed when the international signing period began on July 2nd.

Even though Mayeux remains unsigned, just her eligibility is a major step forward.

The Kings have made a lot of big moves this offseason, from adding big name players like Rajon Rondo, to parting ways with director of player personnel and analytics (read: analytics guru) Dean Oliver. The hiring of Lieberman may not open quite as many eyes as those moves, but it is a big move nonetheless. It’s continuing a trend that, quite frankly, could be very good for the game, or sports in general.

Gender shouldn’t matter. Qualifications should. Hammon has been praised by NBA commissioner Adam Silver:

"“I’m enormously proud of her, and I’m enormously proud of the players who’ve quickly seen that she’s a top-notch coach and have been willing to follow her.”"

Silver would also call her a “pioneer”, and that’s exactly what she is. She is leading this wave of female coaches in the NBA, and she is emerging as a legitimate head coach candidate in the future. Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich had extremely high praise for his assistant coach in a radio interview with KNBR.

"“I don’t even look at it as, well, she’s the first female this and that and the other. She’s a coach, and she’s good at it… I’m glad she’s there. I respect her opinion…when she went to the summer league, that stuff’s about development. … That was her purpose at summer league, and she did a great job trying to make guys play the way we wanted them to play.Obviously, she was a great player. As a point guard, she’s a leader, she’s fiery, she’s got intelligence, and our guys just respected the heck out of her, so she’s coaching with us, she’s running drills. That’s why we made her a full-time coach and gave her the opportunity to coach at summer league.”"

Hammon is leading the revolution, but Lieberman is now walking in her footsteps. Lieberman was a trailblazer in her own right, and one of the greatest basketball players of her time. Like on a pick-and-roll, there’s a clear path set in front of Lieberman. It’s on her to drive it to the basket.

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