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Brian Sackrowitz, Lieberman's coach at Far Rockaway High, and his wife, Barbara, lived in nearby Lido Beach. Their home became a port in the storm for Lieberman. "We just tried to uncomplicate things," says Barbara Sackrowitz.
As Nancy became more of an athlete, she became less of a student, a feat her classmates had believed impossible. She missed half her classes in her senior year because of her global basketball travels. The principal waived the attendance requirement so she could graduate. "Her average?" says Brian, laughing. "Was there an average?"
"It's safe to say she was a solid C," says Barbara.
In Nancy's sophomore year, the Far Rockaway Seahorses lost the city championship game by one point. In her junior year, the team was disqualified from title consideration because Nancy was discovered playing for the St. Francis DeSalles CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) team at the same time. St. Francis won the CYO championship. In her senior year, Far Rockaway lost Nancy's final high school game in the city quarterfinals. Later that day Nancy went to Madison Square Garden to see Delta State's Lucy Harris play. Following that game LaVozier LaMar met Lieberman outside of the Garden, packed her into a car and drove her to Allentown, Pa., where the New York Chuckles were to play the Allentown Crestettes: game time 8 p.m. LaMar says Nancy "really did a number" that night. The Chuckles won by 11 and LaMar got Nancy back to Far Rockaway before dawn.
"What times they were," says Brian Sackrowitz. "We even lived through Nancy's first romance. Or almost lived through it. The kid's name was Larry Klein. A baseball player. It lasted for a while. Then they played one-on-one in basketball. Nancy beat him by eight."
In 1974 the Sackrowitzes spearheaded a local drive to raise money and send Nancy to Albuquerque where the U.S. "was selecting a team to play the Soviet Union. Brian canvassed the neighborhoods. Somebody called the Eyewitness News team at WABC-TV. Far Rockaway came up with $1,500.
Over the next two basketball seasons, as Lieberman displayed her precocious talents on the U.S. national team, she became the first female phenom to be caught up, tooth, nail and haircurlers, in the college recruiting wars. Flexing their newly developed financial biceps, the colleges with major women's basketball programs cajoled, fought and cheated over Lieberman's services. There were the usual 400,000 offers, many of them illegal, which always are presented to young athletes with the potential to make a college rich. The only difference this time was that the young athlete was a girl.
Lieberman briefly considered the local school, Queens, but Coach Lucille Kyvallos could not come up with any scholarship aid. "I don't think she would have come here anyway," says Kyvallos. "Her brother was at Queens in pre-med at the time. There was tremendous rivalry—he the brains, she the, uh, ballplayer. My impression was they couldn't live together in the same institution."
Home life being what it was, Lieberman knew she must get away. Her Olympic coach, Moore, was at Cal State, Fullerton. But that, Lieberman felt, was too far away, and Moore was about to leave anyway. Another of her favorite coaches, Pat Head, was at Tennessee. But Head was not interested. A terrific offer came out of Las Vegas. "They said they would make my little girl the toast of the Strip," says Renee Lieberman. "I could just see it all. Everybody up in bright lights at Caesars: TOM JONES... NANCY LIEBERMAN...AND MOTHER."
But that was too grotesque even for Nancy. Instead, she elected to spend the next four years of her life at a little-known school in the friendly confines of the Virginia Tidewater. Renee was appalled. She recalls that Lou Saks had played the old Center Theater in Norfolk during the war. But Old Dominion University? "All I could picture," says Renee, "was a sailor town and a broken-down plantation."