By Joe Henricksen
This offseason has marked the return of some former big-named prep basketball stars from the Chicago area to the coaching scene. Tom Kleinschmidt and Donnie Boyce, a pair of high school hoops stars in the 1990s, were named head coaches at York and Proviso East, respectively.
Could one of the all-time greats, former Mr. Basketball and King star Marcus Liberty, be joining them in the coaching ranks?
Crane coach Tim Anderson, who led the Cougars to a 61-22 record in his three years at the West Side school, left to be an assistant coach at Texas Pan-American. There is talk Liberty is being prominently mentioned as a possibility to replace Anderson and is at the top of Crane's wish list.
Although Liberty to Crane is hardly a done deal, there have been discussions between Liberty and the Crane administration about the coaching position.
"It is of interest to me and I am thinking about it," said Liberty of the opening at Crane. "I do want to get involved and do something with kids, whether that's as a high school coach, a mentor, working one-on-one with young players. ... We need to get these kids right. But I need a little time to make sure that [coaching at Crane] is something I am ready to commit to and I'm ready for."
While Kleinschmidt and Boyce were all-staters at Gordon Tech and Proviso East, respectively, Liberty remains one of the iconic prep players in state history. During his junior year, he led King to the 1986 state title and was ranked the No. 1 prep player in the country heading into his senior year. In four state tournament games in 1987, Liberty poured in 143 points (35.7 ppg), including 41 points in the Sweet Sixteen win and 41 points and 15 rebounds in a state championship game loss to East St. Louis Lincoln.
Crane is expected to be among the top teams in the Chicago Public League this season, led by the return of 6-3 senior Willie Connor. In addition, it's expected that former Morgan Park point guard Markee Williams will be transferring to Crane this fall.
Ironically, Liberty transferred from Crane to King in the fall of his sophomore year in 1985. He helped lead Crane to a sophomore city championship, beating Simeon in the title game his freshman year.
After choosing Illinois over Syracuse, Liberty went on to a solid career playing for coach Lou Henson. He was a part of the Flying Illini Final Four team his sophomore season and averaged 17 points a game as a junior before declaring for the NBA Draft.
The former King star played four years in the NBA with Denver and Detroit in the early 1990s. He also played several years overseas. Liberty has coached in the International Basketball Association, at Cheyenne High School in Las Vegas and as the director of basketball operations at the Downtown Club in Houston, where he conducted public clinics and camps along with private training sessions.
Liberty is back in the Chicago area working with young players as a mentor and doing some individual training.