Lieberman’s death being investigated as a murder

Former Thorndale coach found dead at home


Jeff Lieberman Jeff Lieberman JARRELL—Former Thorndale athletic director and basketball coach Jeff Lieberman’s death is being investigated by police as a murder.

Lieberman, 64, was found dead in his home Tuesday morning with blunt force trauma to the head according to sources.

Jarrell police did not respond to calls.

Lieberman had lived in Jarrell for two years after moving from Taylor where he lived for some time.

According to sources, Lieberman was found by former Thorndale athlete Justin Simank, who was working for him, Tuesday at noon.

Lieberman—who led the Bulldogs to back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008— resigned in 2009 after a prolonged battle with the Thorndale school board over policy matters.

Thorndale has always had a policy that it doesn’t start one season until the other season is completed.

The school board changed that, Lieberman disagreed.

Lieberman’s list of accomplishments while at Thorndale was unprecedented, with 357 wins, eight district championships, including six straight and 48 consecutive league wins.

Heading into the 2008 season, Thorndale had not lost to a Class A team since March of 2006.

In three straight trips to the Final Four from 2006 through 2008, the Bulldogs posted a 93-9 record.

Lieberman—a Wisconsin native—was brought to Thorndale from Lake Travis in 1991 by legendary Thorndale football coach Don Cowan who won three state football titles at Thorndale in 1989, 1994- 95.

He became athletic director in 1996 when Cowan left.

Under his athletic directorship, the Bulldogs captured four of the school’s seven team state championships; two in basketball and two in baseball.

Lieberman—who previously lived in Taylor— had a lucrative t-shirt business and several rental properties to keep him busy during his retirement.

He had just returned from his busiest time of the year, selling t-shirts at the state tournament in San Antonio.

Lieberman often did business with Sandy Hale of Rockdale Embroidery, who had spoken to Lieberman just two days ago about an order.

“He was always helping someone,” Hale said. “He would help anybody.”

As word of Lieberman’s death spread Tuesday afternoon, it sent a shockwave through Thorndale and the basketball community.

“He was a great coach,” said current Thorndale coach John Kovar, a 1994 Thorndale graduate who played for Lieberman. “He loved his players, he loved the game. I enjoyed playing for him and always enjoyed talking basketball with him.”

Like Lieberman, Kovar led the Bulldogs to the state tournament this past season.

Brandon Irwin, the 2008 Class A player of the year, who led the Bulldogs to their second crown in 2008, worked for Lieberman off-and-on since he graduated and remained close to his former coach.

“I’ve known him since second grade,” Irwin said. “He was the most giving person I’ve ever met. He always included everyone and always made everybody feel important. He saw the good in everyone.

“He was always there for me.”

Irwin always helps Lieberman with his t-shirt sales at the state tournament, but didn’t this year.

“The last thing I said to him, was, ‘I’ll be there next year, I promise’.”

Irwin said he has been in constant contact with ex-players and teammates since the news hit, including Austin Falke, Chris Cornwell and Cody Schneider.

“His family was Thorndale and all his players,” Irwin said.

Former Milano and Mumford coach Alvie King was a friend.

“He loved basketball,” King said. “He had a big heart and helped many young people by giving them jobs and getting scholarships for them.

“I know several of his ex-players who have much better lives today because of his help.”

LIEBERMAN FILE

Age—64

Hometown—Milwaukee, Wisconsin

College—Texas Christian University

Coaching stops— Burleson, Saginaw, Aleto, Bridgeport, Lake Travis, Thorndale

Record—357-159

State championships—2, 2007, 2008

Final four appearances—3, 2006, 2007, 2008

District championships— 8, including 6 straight (2003-08).

Streaks—Won 48 straight district games (2003-08).

Class A Players of the Year— 2008 Brandon Irwin; 2007 Austin Falke.


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