Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, July 01, 2016

On the Passing of Pat Summitt: Guru Recalls Years With the Legend, Part 2

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

First,  thanks to the many of you who sent notes on Part 1. 

Someone asked in the last few days how long it took to write the obituary on Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt in The Inquirer and the answer is over 40 years but it was simply a matter of downloading the memories in the brain onto the iPad and then send to the office..

As for Part 1 here on the Guru’s blog, I felt in I was in uncharted waters just getting that together but I thought it was one way of sharing what I saw through the last five years but at different intervals as opposed to those around Pat a large amount of time.

Over the last few days I feel Pat has been Finally freed  from the physical burden of carrying the fight and through the flood of photos from her era and the tributes from the thousands of lives she touched on and off the court she has become a living presence in our memories.

In running the USBWA women’s awards one of the nuances I have placed in the presentations is some DNA from Tennessee and Pat would always be on the podium as part of the ceremony.. 

Holly Warlick, her Tennessee successor, accepted the first one on behalf of Pat, followed the next two years by her son Tyler, who was terrific, and then last April in Indianapolis, Michelle Brooke-Marciniak, who also was wonderful.

Once media began to pay some attention to women’s basketball Pat in achieving success drew attention to become the lighted beacon on a hill. The man in the street may not know what was below but as per my experience outside the women’s world, he or she knew Pat.

Answer a question at a bar or in some social setting and explain what I did, and the quick response would be, “So do you know Pat Summitt, personally? What’s she really like? Is she that stern?”

The fact that the obituary I wrote on her for The Inquirer on the same day that former NFL Eagles coach Buddy Ryan passed away overcame the coverage of him, or so I’ve been told, tells you all you want to know about her reach.

Following the party she threw in 2007 at her pool house heading into my induction class’s ceremony in Knoxville at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, my nieces back home would make points with their dates saying they met Pat Summitt.

When I called well before we got to that weekend – two Tennessee players were also being inducted in my class – I joked that since she claimed I had a role in her achieving the salary she received, it was time to get some pay back.

Just tell me how many people you have coming, she responded afterI heard her chuckle.

Before things really got testy between her and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, I told people that their pre-game antics were on the scale of televised wrestling.

Away from the public bluster there was a profound respect for each other.

For example, I was in Knoxville on the day Auriemma was named an assistant to the 2000 USA team for the games in Sydney, Australia.

Seeing Pat later that day, she came over and said, “Hey, have you talked to Geno? Is he excited to get the job?”

There were two times things took a downturn prior to her ending the series, which by the way became public the same weekend as my being in Knoxville for the 2007 induction.

During the preview press conference for the NCAA championship Jere Longman, a former sportswriter at The Inquirer now at the New York Times, asked Auriemma did he find it cosmic that the two best known Cheesesteak places were Pat’s and Geno’s.

He quickly responded, noting how one was very new and glitzy (Geno’s) and one very old and dilapidated.

In 2002 it appeared things had calmed after Pat showed up in the UConn locker room following another Huskies NCAA title win over the Lady Vols to salute the team and Geno then made nice at his post-game presser.

But a year later, after his Philly boyhood friend Villanova women’s coach Harry Perretta became pals with Pat, the relationship set off new fodder for Auriemma, who is a master at working the media.

Perretta had won his Sweet 16 game in Knoxville and he noted he wore one of the lucky gift ties Pat sent him.

In another regional, after seeing the quotes, Auriemma’s media wanted a reaction and Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant turned it into a column – which by the way was copied and  stacked up and on the media info table the next night in Tennessee.

So, Geno did Pat ever give you a tie.

No, a noose maybe. What can I say. Harry gave me up for an older woman.

After I read the piece, I go over to Harry and he says, I just got off the phone with him. He’s laughing his a—off.

She called first thing. Did you see what he’s saying now.

I told her, relax.

It was as much a clash of personalities besides Perretta saying to me, “They’re two people who like to win very much and very competitive. What can I say.”

Earliest Days

When I started running what became the AP Poll, Pat didn’t want to be on the voting board, which were coaches until 1994-95, because of the time it might detract from buiding the Lady Vols brand.

But she welcomed its arrival and we talked a bunch all the time since before computers I was plugged into the nation. And if we didn’t talk directly, her famed Sports Information Director, Debby Jennings, besides enjoying our friendship and exchange of information, would often call with a conversation opening, “Mel, Pat needs to know … “

The legend and I had fun tossing each other’s name around – me, because of her growing reputation and she, because she could claim she had an in with the guy who could get her team some national attention.

One time, for example, yours truly in Knoxville for a key game, leads out of town media to a popular barbecue place called Calhoun’s.

It’s crowded and it was going to be a long wait. I turn to the group and in a louder voice to be heard by the hostess, say, I asked Pat when she sent us over here if we were going to have to wait.

Upon hearing me, the hostess comes to me and says, I didn’t know you were friends with Coach Summitt. We have a room around the side we’ll open for you.

 She put the shoe on the other foot a few years later when we hosted the Women’s Final Four in Philadelphia.

Pat was the feature speaker at a mid-winter fund raiser for the tourney. 

I got there just at the start so hadn't been to the vip reception in which Cathy Andruzzi, the head of the local organizing committee, had all the city’s movers and shakers.

So I don’t know if Pat was aware I had made it.

But as she begins her talk and at the top of her opening, she says, “I’m pleased to be here. Everyone in women’s basketball knows, when you’re in Philadelphia, you’re in Mel Greenberg’s city.

Needless to say, when she was done, many of the guests came over remarking, really, you’re personal friends with Coach Summitt.

  At The Top of Her Game

As much a reputation for being stern with her players, Pat’s X’s and O’s pulled her team out of the fire many times when it looked like defeat loomed.
Funny, there was a stretch she became known as the Dean Smith of women’s basketball for the wrong reason. Having come so close so many times just like the renowned UNC men’s coach, she didn’t win her first national title until 1987 – he too went a long way before getting the Tar Heel’s first.

The Vols got help because Louisiana Tech, which got their share of victories over Tennessee long before UConn came on the scene, upset Texas in a terrific game in the semifinals. 

That was huge to do it in Texas so the Techsters did not have much left in the tank to play in the title game. That tourney was marked as Long Beach, actually a favorite, fired up Tennessee in the semifinals when Cindy Brown referred to Pat’s group as a bunch of corn-fed chicks.

While much is made of the 1997 season when Tennessee won the title despite 10 losses, what is often overlooked is Pat’s group were close in eight of them and in the national semifinals, Old Dominion shocked Stanford, the national favorite.

Surprise Surprise

So it’s 1998, the year of the Tennessee undefeated super team in Kansas City. Jennings tells me the night before the USBWA awards brunch Pat wouldn’t be around to get her coach of the year honor since the title game was set for eight hours later.

Fine and when I open the boxes that morning to take out the plaques I am equally happy she wouldn’t be there because the home office spelled her name wrong.

Now local favorite Lynnette Woodard, who played at Kansas in the early 1980s, is going to get our pioneer award. Halfway through me making the introduction, I see heads turning a certain direction and can hear a pin drop.

I turn around and there’s Pat and the whole team in sweatsuits just inside the entrance.

Pat yells out: This is a historic tournament. I’ve never seen you speechless before.

I respond, I was told you weren’t coming.

She comes right back, I’d never muss one of your events.

Now I have to explain the glitch on the plaque and so I note to her that I can’t give it outright because unlike her team our organization is not perfect and there is s typo on her name that has to be fixed. 

The quote ended up showing up in a bunch of notebook columns.

Getting to Know You

It’s 1996 a month or so before the Olympics in Atlanta and the future and short-lived American Basketball League is holding an open tryout to get to a pool of 100 players for the league’s first draft.

The event was in the suburbs at Emory College.

Now as players were hanging out waiting their turn on the court there was time to chat and I started getting know who I am, yeah you played at Tennessee, or thanks for what you’ve done.

This becomes a bit baffling because over the years there was a great friendship with Pat and her staff but rarely chatted with players, other than formal interviews, because they were under lock and key.

Well, now they are out of jail, a friend said of Pat’s tight control though once Brooke-Marciniak got there, a free spirit transfer from Notre Dame, Pat began to lighten up more and admitted as much.

But a few days later, I’m talking to Jennings and mention my curiosity over what happened at the combine.

Debby says, well they all know you or who you are because Pat gives all the newcomers a quiz on the history of the game and you are a big part of the question-and-answer test.

Hitching a Ride

It’s 2005 and the Women’s Final Four is in Boston.

Sunday morning USA Basketball is having a national women’s team workout at Boston College. We drive out to Chestnut Hill and upon arriving there I see Pat is on the scene with an entourage, having been eliminated by North Carolina the week before in Cleveland.

At some point during the scrimmage, Pat, whose group had taken a cab from downtown, asks how did I get there.

I got a car.

Great. We’re all going back with you.

It so happened I had a talented student journalist from a mid-Atlantic school with me and so we pile in and Pat is crammed into back where she also sat.

On the way back, Pat, who I knew was having some issues back home, but didn’t know exactly what, gets troubling news about someone in the family and breaks down.

But she soon re-composes herself. I decide if we ever get to a point in time where we are now, I would not mention the departure from a personality of steel perceived by the public.

While my young colleague also decided she would ignore that brief moment, she was excited to tell a friend on the phone she was at the Women’s Final Four and just sat in the back of yours truly’s car getting crushed to death by Pat Summitt.

Say this about the legend long before the disease was diagnosed, a few weeks later I’m at a game of Pat’s and there’s time before the opening tip, we’re shooting the breeze, but almost at the outset she asks about the student that was with me and did she enjoy the finals.

But that was Pat. No matter how involved she was with recruiting and her team in-season she understood the game had to be grown and she was going to do her part.

When the great deliberations began among schools whether to stay with AIAW or move to the NCAA, we had several discussions and while what was best for Tennessee was important, it was what is best for women’s basketball and other women’s sports that was paramount in her view.

In 1990, when we started the women's division of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), we had an elaborate awards luncheon in Knoxville, which held the Women's Final Four.

In catching up to the past along with paying tribute to the current performers, we gave coach of the decade awards to Louiisiana Tech's Leon Barmore, who was emotional in his acceptance, and Pat.

After it ended as we were breaking up and the room emptying, Pat approached me from a few steps, and said, I love you. I want you to know that. Do you hear me. I love.

It was touching but in the last few days given the outpouring to her, via the public, radio, TV, online, local, national and global, what's also enduring is the world loves you too Pat. And that will endure.

-- Mel    




Thursday, June 30, 2016

On the Passing of Pat Summitt: The Guru Recalls Years With the Legend, Part I

Guru’s note. Having now seeing how long this may go, this contribution is going to be split into two parts with part one being dealing with watching the decline more from afar, and then part two will be vignettes of the relationship over the years.

Part 1 covers the period from first hearing the news of Summitt's diagnosis through this week. The vignettes will be part 2 coming in the next 24 or 48 hours.

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was late August 2011 and your Guru was driving down I-95 to Washington for a WNBA game between the Mystics and the Los Angeles Sparks.

For some reason the cell phone connections were not working well but they straightened for a bit to listen to a voice mail from “Willbill” William Ewart, the Guru’s photo friend in Knoxville, who had been with the women’s athletic department at Tennessee nearly as long as the Guru had become involved in women’s basketball and the creation of what within two years became the AP Women’s Poll.

The call was a little broken up but Willbill sounded in an extremely stressed condition saying  something about Hall of Fame Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt diagnosed … 

The connection had been broken but soon the Guru was able to pull into a rest stop and pull up the breaking news that the legend had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Since Notre Dame had broken a goose egg string months earlier that spanned 28 years against Tennessee by upsetting the Lady Vols in the NCAA tournament, the Guru had been constantly quizzed about how bad Summitt seemed to look on the postgame interview.

“Well,” I responded each time, “Considering the magnitude of the loss, and you’re Pat Summitt, how are you supposed to look? And besides, she’s had that nagging shoulder problem since battling the raccoon on her front porch a couple of years ago.”

But this was a shock.

 After years of updating the Guru’s AP women’s basketball poll each week during the season, if at some point Summitt would have to give up coaching, it was going to feel strange for a while not seeing her name at the top of the active list of coaching appearances, let alone cautiously now tracking the Tennessee numbers going forward in combo mindset since her numbers and the overall Lady Vol numbers were no longer going to be the same.

Soon thereafter, a call came from Dave Siegel, the host of the Dish ‘n Swish national podcast, among other things.

“Did you feel the earthquake?”

“Yeah, I just got the news about Pat.”

“No, not that. The earthquake. There was a real earthquake.”

Sure enough, and perhaps, symbolically, on the same day Summitt’s disease is revealed, a major tremor struck the Eastern seaboard.

But within a matter of days, Summitt’s situation quickly outlasted the news of whatever effects had been produced by the tremors.

With Summitt having declared she might coach another three or four years, the inner-self  reaction here was then to calm down and go into business as usual mode.

The only other piece of news in all this from inner circles was that earlier in the summer, having heard the same observations of Summitt that was heard here, UConn coach Geno Auriemma, the longtime perceived arch rival from the wars of the famed series between the two discontinued by Summitt in 2007, made a call.

He didn’t reach her but left a message saying he heard there were some health issues and that he was available for whatever would be needed.

Supposedly, that set up a road to better relations that melted away the anger she had harbored over a host of things.

Meanwhile, Tennessee was not on the Guru’s personal schedule home or away so he never got to see the ensuing months first hand after the season began. But inside news was troubling.

Those close to Pat, guided most everything to keep the public view from being one of major concern.

One time the Guru heard  one day there would be a great conversation on strategy for an upcoming game but an hour afterwards, Summitt inquired when was the meeting going to be held.

First Meeting Months After Summitt's Condition Revealed

That winter saw a host of special awards being given to Summitt for her courageous stance in public to battle the disease.

The United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) announced the women’s part of its most courageous awards would go to Summitt. 

That winter, with yours truly in charge of the women’s basketball section, we began putting names on the postseason awards and we decided that Summitt’s name would go on the hardware for all future handouts of the honor she was to received.

While it would initially seem that the right move would be to put her name on the coaching award, Beth Bass, then head of the WBCA, told me that they had a commitment long before the diagnosis from Summitt allowing her name to eventually go on their coaching award.

And actually, when you think of it, putting her name on our courage award would be more meaningful, and actually led to a special moment later on.

When it came time for the award to be given at the Women’s Final Four in Denver, Debby Jennings, who has been Summitt’s longtime media liason as well as friend of yours truly, informed that Summitt was coming Sunday for the USA Olympic coaches in history salute and then going home.

Then-Associate Head coach Holly Warlick would accept for Summitt the next day.

But Summitt actually came Saturday to watch one of her Tennessee players honored as part of the WBCA All-Americans introductions in the arena in between the practices. She was seated with a bunch of other Tennessee staff in the area used by the bands behind one of the baskets.

The Guru was in the media area underneath the stands when Willbill stuck his head in and said, “Pat’s here.”

“Well, can I say hello or is it like Fort Knox?”

“Yeah, You can go over to her.”

Meanwhile as I was emerging to the area, Summitt had just crossed paths with Auriemma, who gave her a hug, they said a few words, which set off a flurry of newspaper columns since the Connecticut media was there with the Huskies being in the finals.

Then as I made my approach, she saw me, a big smile came over her face, she stood up and uttered, “Hey.”

“I responded likewise, “Hey.”

We then gave each other a hug. Willbill, who was nearby, said, “Let’s get a picture.”

Then, since she wasn’t going to be there, I began telling her a little bit about the award, but I kind of detected she didn’t know my reference.

At the same moment some others in the Tennessee delegation noticed me for the first time and shouted their hellos so I walked over to respond in kind.

Then I walked away to continue in the media room.

But as I left, a video in my mind replayed what just had occurred and I quickly came to the realization, “She knew she knew me. But she didn’t know me.”

The reason is whenever we would see each other for the first time after weeks or months had gone by, she upon sighting would always light up and say, “Hey, Mel. How’s it going.”

Someone later said when I was mentioning my experience, “I tell people when you are shaking hands it is ok to say your name.”

Several weeks later Summitt announced she was stepping down and an era had ended.

 Needless to say that summer it did feel strange taking Summitt’s name out of the active list to get the AP database ready for the next season.

A Second Meeting Several Months Later Goes Better Until a Third Becomes A Setback

But in between, there was one other experience – Several months later after Denver, I was seated in the hotel lobby in Knoxville on Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame weekend.

The big news was the day before at a golf outing with a few friends in town for the event, Summitt hit a hole in one.

Meanwhile, the WBHOF board was just breaking up from its annual meeting.

Summitt was with them. As they emerged, many of them seeing me for the first time, there were a bunch of “Hi Mel(s)” as they neared.

It seemed that clicked a switch because Summitt  smiled broadly and came running ahead of them to give me a big embrace.

I joked with her about stealing the news headlines with the hole in one.

She said “I hit it and said, `Where’s the ball.’ `It’s in the hole, coach.’”

Across the next season while again Tennessee was not on my schedule, people who had made visits came back with mixed reviews of good days when some of them saw her, and bad when others did likewise.

A few weeks after the end of the 2013 season, I was invited by ESPN to the Greenwich Village Film Festival in NY where a preview of the 30 for 30 film on her was being screened.

Summitt was there and if one had never seen her in person, they would think things are going quite well.

But afterwards, she was standing in a reception area with a small crowd, of which a few were getting autographs. As they cleared, I stepped forward and looked at her and said, “Hi coach. How’s it going.”

She looked at me, with zero recognition and said, “I’m fine, how are you.”

I said, “OK,” then stepped away for others to shake hands. There was nothing more to do.

Summitt's Surprise Visit to Lauren Hill's Big Game

A year went by and in the fall of 2014 I was at Xavier to give out the USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award at halftime to Lauren Hill, the Division III student with terminal brain cancer who had made it to the season opener and play the game she long desired to be in.

Tough as it was to have it all together, I was in pretty good shape, emotionally for me in terms of the speech and magnitude of the nationally-televised event in a 10,000-seat sellout arena.

I got to the arena in Cincinnati way early because the NFL Bengals had a game to played three hours later across the street from my hotel.

When I got there, my good friend Debbie Antonelli, who was going to do the color, grabbed me and first introduced me to Brad Johansen, the local TV sports/newscaster who had made the nation aware of Lauren’s story and was going to emcee the halftime.

Then Deb said, “I’ve got a secret to tell you. Pat’s coming.”

“What??? Are you serious??”

“ She’s just going to stand with you, not say anything. She wanted to be here. They wilL announce she is here right near the end of the half.”

When the halftime came, as we approached each other from opposite ends, I said something, in part to see how to play things, “Pat. A 40-year friendship and you still love playing surprises on me.”

She said nothing, but gave a little smile.

In a few, reaching to her that way was helpful because off Brad’s generous introduction of me, I used the same sentence to get into the presentation and I was able to craft the moment for all of us.

The End Comes Much Too Soon For All of Us

And that was the last time we were in each other’s company.

Last Friday after a WNBA game a colleague asked if I had heard Summitt had taken a turn For the worse and was in grave condition.

I hadn’t but said, if true, we need to know, because she is a Basketball Head of State and we have to get ready to go to give her final homage.

On Saturday, the social media was silent on any indication and I dropped for the moment any attempt to reach the inner circle.

Then I awoke to get back to New York for another game and saw the news was out.

As a courtesy since my Inquirer departure in 2010 had been on good terms, I sent sports editor John Quinn a note so they wouldn’t be caught by surprise. He thanked me for the heads up.

A few hours later the office sent a request for me to ready the obituary for the paper.

In a way, her last favor – and she did plenty for me over the years – was her hanging on long enough to for me to produce a tribute that would be worthy of the subject.

That was the professional side – doing this becomes the personal side.

 I think you needed to read this to then enjoy the next part which will be a series of vignettes from over the years.

If you got to this point, thanks for staying all the way through. You will be rewarded in Part 2.

 -- Mel   


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On the Passing of Pat Summitt: A Tribute From Lafayette Coach Theresa Grentz

Guru note: All are invited to send remembrances, stories, for postings here as many of you have in the past when we paid tribute on the passing of referee Bonita Spence, longtime pioneering women's sports information director Mary Jo Haverbeck of Penn State, WBCA founder Betty Jaynes, and Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle. 

The email is poll416@gmail.com. - Mel Greenberg. 

The rest of this page is all from Theresa Grentz

Editor’s note: Theresa Grentz has known Pat Summitt for over four decades. Grentz and Summitt were teammates and roommates during the 1973 World University Games. Both Grentz and Summitt went on to become Women’s Basketball Head Coaches at the age of 22, and both eventually became United States Olympic Team Head Coaches. Grentz writes this tribute to her colleague, teammate, and friend.


“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Today is such a day. With a heavy heart there are many tears over the loss of a mother, wife, coach, mentor, colleague, teammate, and friend: Pat Summitt. 

The legacy of Pat Summitt will remain as the standard for all leadership positions in any walk of life. Pat defined the excellence that is necessary to compete in life. Her life was conducted and lived for others. Her leadership was defined by servanthood. There will never be another Pat Summitt. She was and always will be the best. It’s an unfortunate situation that she is no longer with us on earth, but there is no doubt, Pat Summitt left her mark in this life through the countless players, coaches, fans, and people she interacted with during her journey. 

The news of the last several days has been very difficult to make any sense of. Watching a full day of the ESPN Tributes to Pat has not assisted in trying to bring reality into focus with any sense of lucidity. How could this be happening? Women’s basketball needs its leader and biggest advocate to grow the game. This news must be mistaken. The TV shows are just reminding us about her record. 

 The tears flowed freely and unashamedly throughout the day.  Pat coached because she was born to coach. She crossed lines of gender; she could have coached males or females in any sport. Leadership traits were plentiful when you mentioned the name of Pat Summitt.  A magnanimous personality that shared love, instruction, and a zest for living life to its fullest. Could the reports really be true? 

Today, I have no answers to these questions. Pat was a God fearing woman and I must find consul in her faith and belief in her God. Many of the most recent pictures of Pat have her wearing a simple cross around her neck.  

The cross is an outward sign of her faith in a Higher Being for all to see.  Pat was blessed with a great responsibility to teach others how to succeed. She embraced that challenge.  She met each of her own encounters with grace and dignity. 

Many of those tests would have reduced others to a broken spirit. However, we are talking about Pat Summitt. She was the teacher who taught young women to be invincible. She taught her players how to take their proper place in the world after spending four years with her on a basketball court.

 Those life lessons would serve those 161 women for life. Some coaches can impact lives, Pat changed lives for the better. Everyone who watched this process gained an appreciation for Pat’s work and her style. Today we must celebrate Pat and her life choices. 

Today we must face the reality that this great lady is no longer with us. The time Pat was with us was too short, however, we don’t have a say in that timeline. I can only be thankful that during the last four decades I had the distinct pleasure and honor to be a colleague, teammate, and friend with this wonderful woman. I will miss her smile and her friendship terribly, but I will continue to keep her in my prayers and thoughts until we meet again. In Pat’s own words, we must “keep on keeping on.”

Philly Women's Summer League: St. Joe's Star Chelsea Woods' 43 Leads Purple to Five-Way Tie in First

By Mel Greenberg - @womhoopsguru
And Bob Heller

 HATBORO, Pa. – Saint Joseph’s junior Chelsea Woods, who has been hot all season, exploded for 43 points to lead Purple to a 90-81 win over White (2-3) Tuesday night and become part of a five-way tie for first at 4-1 in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Certified Women’s Summer Basketball League 

Pink’s sole possession at the top as the last unbeaten team quickly ended as Gold (4-1) bounced back from last Thursday’s -2-0 forfeit loss to Purple to beat the league leader head on 76-59 on the strength of Alex Smith’s 18 points at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades.

Maroon (4-1) topped Kelly Green 58-47 while Sky Blue (4-1) in one of the more competitive outcomes of the night overcame Red 61-56 to keep pace at the top and become the other parts of the five-way tangle as the third week of action got under way.

It could stay that way for a while since none of the five will meet each other Thursday night and then because of the July 4 holiday on Monday the league, in a rarity, will be dark all next week before action resumes on Tuesday, July 12.

Royal Blue (3-2) got to hold sixth place all by itself as a result of a 55-45 victory of Black (0-5) which, along with Kelly Green (0-5), has yet to hit the win column to date.

Saint Joseph’s senior Amanda Fioravanti made her first appearance of the summer and scored 14 points to lead Royal Blue. Hawks sophomore Michala Clay made her first appearance also, playing for White, which fell into a three-way tie for seventh with the loss to Purple while Red’s loss to Sky Blue and Orange’s 67-42 win over Hunter Green (1-4) placed those two teams into the seventh place deadlock.

Hunter Green’s loss dropped the squad into sole possession of 10th place. Black and Kelly Green, which fell to Maroon, hold the 11th place tie at the bottom with their winless performances.

Tori Smick’s 21 points for Red made her the only other player to reach the individual 20 or more points nightly milestone besides the Woods attack.

With help from Bob Heller, who tracked everything Tuesday night, and longtime Commissioner David Kessler’s scoring recaps sent to the Guru, here’s a look at all the action.


Purple 90, White 81 – Woods used five 3-pointers and shot 7-for-7 from the line to fuel her 43-point total for Purple while Symantha Marrero, one of several Penn State-Abington players on Purple and also a Central High grad had 18 points off four treys, while Jaryn Garner, a Saint Joseph’s senior out of Germantown Academy, scored 12 points.

Sierra Taylor, a Kutztown freshman out of Camden Catholic, scored 16 points for White, Karen Lapkiewicz, another Kutztown freshman but out of St. Basil, scored 15, Alexandra Heck, a recent Philadelphia University grad out of Archbishop Wood, scored 14, Gabbi Wright, another Kutztown frosh, this one out of Cheltenham High, shot 7-for-8 for the line on the way to 11 points, and Michala Clay in her summer debut scored 10 points.

Woods’ big night helped push a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter to eight at the half.

White narrowed the deficit to two points in the third before Purple pulled away to become the third team this summer to score 90 or more points.

Gold 76, Pink 59 – In the game that saw Pink fall from the unbeaten column, Alex Smith, a 2014 Holy Cross grad out of the Peddie School, hit three treys to propel her way to her 18 points for the winners, while Adaisha Franklyn, a Saint Joseph’s junior out of Bayard Rustin, scored 14 points and Shira Newman, a 2013 Millersville grad out of Upper Dublin, scored 10 points for Keith Woods’ team.

Coach Steve Flynn got 13 points from Emma Dorshimer, a Gettysburg sophomore out of Jenkintown, shooting 4-for-4 from the line for his Pink squad, while 12 points each were collected by Emily Walls, Moravian Sophomore out of Bayard Rustin, and Lauren Rothfeld, a Salisbury junior out of Upper Dublin, who had a pair of treys and made both her foul shots.

Gold reached a double digit lead late in the first quarter and never trailed. They took an 11-point halftime lead and scored the first seven points of the next period.

Pink did not go quietly, responding with a 10-1 run to get within nine, but Gold was quickly back up by 11 and built the advantage to as many as 18 points.

Maroon 58, Kelly Green 47 – The  USciences squad on the way to keeping Kelly Green out of the win column, got 13 points from Laura Trisch, a Devils junior out of Arcbishop Wood, while eight points each came from Alyx McKiernan, a Devils sophomore;; Colleen Walsh, a junior out of the Shipley School, and Alex Thomas, a targeted for 2020 graduation.

Trisch sank six foul shots in the final two minutes to secure the win. Maroon used runs of 15-0 and 13-7 around a 12-0 Kelly Green counter to maintain control in the stretch drive.

No one scored in double figures for Kelly Green, as Danielle Skedzielewski, a Delaware Valley sophomore out of Archbishop Ryan, scored nine points, Zoe Hahn, a Stevens Tech freshman out of Kingsway Regional, scored 8, and seven other Kelly Green players got into the scoring column.

Orange 67, Hunter Green 42 – Mackenzie Rule, a Saint Joseph’s senior out of Cardinal O’Hara, got most of her 14 points for Orange out of three 3-pointers, the same number that Allison Chernow, an Emory freshman out of Upper Dublin, shot to go with her perfect two foul shots on the same number of attempts, while Morgan Goldenbaum, an Ursinus freshman out of Neshaminy, scored 12, Lauren Killion, an Albright freshman out of Lower Moreland, scored 10 points on two treys and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line, and Kendall Grasela, a Penn freshman out of Germantown Academy, scored 10 points.

Katherine Feehery, a Scranton junior out of Cardinal O’Hara, scored 15 points for Hunter Green, while Karissa Mansure, a Catholic U sophomore out of Shawnee, scored 11 points.

Orange finished the opening quarter with an 8-2 run and then dominated 19-6 in the second to coast to a win.

Sky Blue 61, Red 56 – Recent Saint Joseph’s grad Ciara Andrews out of Cheltenham scored 19 points to help Six Blue get its piece of the league lead while Lily Kuntz, a Middlebury freshman out of Episcopal scored 10 points.

Behind the 21 points from Tori Smick, a West Chester senior out of Woodstown on the predominantly Golden Rams squad this summer, Jenna Widdicombe, a sophomore out of Pope John Paul II, scored 15 points, and Mariah Traywick, a sophomore out of Spring-Ford, scored 11.

There were several ties and lead changes in the closely-fought battle but Stephanie Petery, a Mercyhurst freshman out of John Paul Ii, hit two foul shots while Kristalyn Baisden, a Saint Joseph’s sophomore, sank another in the final 43 seconds to ensure Sky Blue’s place in the standings Penhouse.

Royal Blue 55, Black 45 – After Fioravanti’s 14 points for the winners, Katie Armstrong, a Saint Joseph’s freshman from Perkiomen Valley, scored 12, making all three of her free throw attempts To give Royal Blue sole possession of sixth place a game behind the deadlocked quintet in front.

Caitlyn Cunningham, a Saint Joseph’s freshman from Mount Saint Joseph’s on the predominantly Philadelphia University squad, scored 10 points from two treys and 2-for-2 from the line, Erin Rafter, a Rams junior out of Washington Township, scored nine, and seven each came from Ashley Barber, a Rams freshman from Upper Dublin; Rachel Day, a Rams junior out of Archbishop Wood, and Kelsey Jones, a Saint Joseph’s senior out of Mount Saint Joseph’s.

Royal Blue was down five at the half but erupted on a 21-8 run over the final two quarters to seal the win.

Breaking Ties

Since looking ahead, a normal staple, doesn’t offer clear-cut must-see games based on records Thursday night other than fans cheering for their favorites, especially the underdogs, we took a shot on breaking all the ties for the purpose of standings placement.

There’s no reason yet to officially place seed numbers with an eye to the eight-team playoffs but here’s what was done with the three sets of ties:

In the five-team gridlock at the top, you look at records among them overall, though not all have met yet in the same number.

But for now, out of the mix, Purple and Gold were both 2-1 in the group and Purple has the forfeit win so they go 1-2, then Pink at 1-1 goes into the third slot, and Maroon and Sky Blue at 0-1 get the next two on a coin flip right now since they haven’t mt to use the head-to-head standard.

Royal Blue is alone in sixth place.

In the next group of a three-way tie, White is 1-0, Red  is 1-1, and Orange is 0-1 so that takes care of 7-8-9.

Hunter Green is alone in 10th while Black and Kelly Green are placed through a coin flip. 

(Thru June 29)
Team,  W-L, Pct., G.B., PF, PA

%-Purple, 4-1, .800, --, 302 200
@-Gold, 4-1, .800, ---, 318 235
Pink, 4-1, 1.000, --, 339 308
Maroon, 4-1, .800, --, 295 293
Sky Blue, 4-1, .800, --, 355 348
Royal Blue, 3-2, .600, 1.0, 317 287
White, 2-3, .400, --,2.0 315 336
%-Red,2-3 ,.400, 2.0 , 244 253
@-Orange, 2-3, .400, 2.0 233 272
Hunter Green, 1-4, .250, 3.0, 280 328
Black, 0-5, .000, 4.0, 233 305
Kelly Green, 0-5, .000, 4.0, 288 344
%-includes forfeit win
@-includes forfeit loss


Thursday, June 30

7 p.m.

Kelly Green (0-5) vs. Gold (4-1), Court 1
Purple (4-1) vs. Red (2-3), Court 2
Pink (4-1) vs. Royal Blue (3-2), Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Maroon (4-1) vs. White (2-3), Court 1
Hunter Green (1-4) vs. Black (0-5), Court 2
Sky Blue (4-1) vs. Orange (2-3), Court 3

Tuesday, July 5, Thursday, July 7

No Games

Tuesday, July 12

7 p.m.

Purple vs. Black, Court 1
Royal Blue vs. Orange, Court 2
White vs. Kelly Green, Court 3

8:15  p.m.

Red vs. Pink, Court 1
Sky Blue vs. Maroon, Court 2
Hunter Green vs. Gold, Court 3 

Thursday, July 14

7 p.m.

Hunter Green vs. Red, Court 1
Pink vs. Maroon, Court 2
Sky Blue, vs. White, Court 3

8:15 p.m.

Orange vs. Black, Court 1
Royal Blue vs. Gold, Court 2
Purple vs. Kelly Green, Court 3


Tuesday, June 28

Purple 90, White 81
Gold 76, Pink 59
Maroon 58, Kelly Green 47
Royal Blue 55, Black 45
Orange 67, Hunter Green 42
Sky Blue 61, Red 56

Thursday, June 23

Sky Blue 78, Royal Blue 71
Orange 71,  Kelly Green 65
Purple 2,  Gold 0, forfeit
Maroon 64, Black 41
White 67, Red 64, OT
Pink 70, Hunter Green 66, OT

Tuesday, June 21

Purple 57, Maroon 52
Royal Blue 80, Hunter Green 58
Red 69, Kelly Green 66
White 60, Black 44
Gold 89, Sky Blue 59
Pink 75, Orange 50

Thursday, June 16

Sky Blue 67, Hunter Green 66
Pink 63, Black 51
Maroon 59, Red 53, overtime
Purple 88, Orange 45
Gold 90, White 63
Royal Blue 56, Kelly Green 44

Wednesday, June 15

Hunter Green 48, White 44
Sky Blue 90, Kelly Green 66
Pink 72, Purple 65
Gold 63. Black 52
Maroon 62, Royal Blue 55
Red 2, Orange 0, forfeit

Individual Scoring 20 Or More Points

43-Chelsea Woods, Purple, W, vs. White, June 28
33-Chelsea Woods, Purple, W, vs. Maroon, June 22
32-Chelsea Woods, Purple, L, vs. Pink, June 15
28-Alex Smith, Gold, W, vs. Sky Blue, June 22
28-Alex Smith, Gold, W, vs. White, June 16
26-Alexix Roman, Hunter Green, L, vs. Sky Blue, June 16
25-Ciara Andrews, Sky Blue, W, vs. Hunter Green, June 16
25-Ciara Andrews, Sky Blue, W, vs. Kelly Green, June 15
23-Alynna Williams, Black, L, vs. Pink, June 23
23-Kelsey Watson, White, L, vs. Gold, June 16
23-Chelsea Woods, Purple, W, vs. Orange, June 16
22-Mia Hopkins, Gold, W, vs. Sky Blue, June 22
22-Adaisha Franklyn, Gold, W, vs. White, June 16
21-Tori Smick, Red, L, vs. Sky Blue, June 28
21-Julia Glantz, Hunter Green, W, vs. White, June 15
21-Jessica Gerber, Sky Blue, W, vs. Kelly Green, June 15
21-K.T. (Katie) Armstrong, Royal Blue, L, vs. Maroon, June 15
20-Ciara Andrews, Sky Blue, W, vs. Royal Blue, June 23
20-Lauren Rothfeld, Pink, W-OT, vs. Hunter Green, June 23
20-Mackenzie Rule, Orange, L, vs. vs. Pink, June 22
20-Micah Morgan, Maroon, W-OT, vs. Red, June 16

Seed Tracker (not yet in order)

Purple (4-1) vs. Pink (L), vs. Org (W), vs. M(W), vs. Gold (W-%), vs. White (W), 
Gold (4-1) vs. Blk (W), vs. White (W), vs. SB (W), vs. Purp (L-@), vs. Pink (W), 
Pink (4-1) vs. Purp (W), vs. Blk (W), vs. Orange, (W), vs. H.G. (W-OT), Gold (L),
Maroon (4-1) vs. RB (W), vs. Red (W-OT), vs. Purple (L), vs. Black (W), KG (W),
Sky Blue (4-1) vs. KG (W), vs. HG (W), vs. Gold (L), vs. RB (W), vs. Red (W),
Royal Blue (3-2) vs. M (L), vs. KG (W), vs. HG (W), vs, SB (L), vs. Black (W),
White (2-3) vs. HG (L), vs. Gold (L), vs. Black (W), vs. Red (W-OT), vs. Purp (L),
Red (2-3) vs. Org (%-W), vs. M (L-OT), vs. Kelly Green (W), vs. White (L-OT), vs. SB (L),
Orange (2-3) vs. Red (@-L), vs. Purp (L), vs. Pink (L), vs. KG (W), vs. HG (W),
Hunter Green (1-4) vs. White (W), vs. SB (L), vs RB (L), vs. Pink (L-OT), vs. Orange (L),
Black (0-5) vs. Gold (L), vs. Pk (L), vs. White (L), vs. M (L), vs. R.B. (L),
Kelly Green (0-5) vs. SB (L), vs. RB (L), vs Red (L), vs. Orange (L), vs. M(L),
%-forfeit win
@-forfeit loss

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On the Passing of Pat Summitt: Reflections of a Ride Begun at the Lady Vol Creation

By Mike Siroky

 I’ve had a long time to think of this because of its inevitability, but it did not make the writing easier.

There is only one start to a legend. I was there to record the start of women’s basketball and, more, in at the start of the Pat Head legend.

We came together in the1970s of Upper East Tennessee. 

I came to that job having just covered Bob Knight in my previous job.

 That is important because Trish was the female reflection of Knight, coaching style, teaching methods and incredible two-way lifetime loyalty if you survived the crucible. And I was not intimidated, which she liked.

There are so many examples. 

One hot summer workout I strolled into the practice session toward the end. 

Here was a Final Four caliber team running suicides. They were past dry heaves. The only way the session ended was for someone to make a free throw.

The Coach had tried them all, the best and the fluke shooters, and no one could hit.

 As one of the adults in the room, she came to me in true panic. What to do. The tradition had to be maintained, the job completed.

I advised they had to play it out. They did of course and The Coach and I made  happy eye contact. 

She maintained part of the legend.

Another time, I asked what would she do if one of her All-Americans simply stood up to her, even in a private practice session. 

The Coach looked truly alarmed and said I dare not suggest it because she had no answer. 

These examples merely showed she was human which was often overlooked once she became a national brand and a living legend.

I would get phone calls at all hours if she had a question. 

In those days, not every score even made the national news wire. She could not very well call one of the other coaches. So it was up to me, a reporter calling a reporter. And I did it.

We had become friends in those days when she would drive one van and ace assistant Nancy Darsch the other to nearly empty gyms across the South.

 I’d drive my own car but we’d share food stops. I was usually working on my own time, so I had an unlimited schedule.

Once, coming back from a terrible loss to Clemson, where the opposing coach was no more than a glorified high school gym coach, the parade did not stop until the home campus.

The Coach ordered the well-worn uniforms be put back on because it was practice time at 1 a.m. Had I not been included in the trip, I would not have had that story.

I found out decades later she would use my stories as recruiting tools in the pre-internet era. Recruits would get copies. No other newspaper covered women’s basketball like we did, she and I.

So The Coach would send them promises of look what kind of coverage you’d get.

As the famous poet said, she used me and I used her and neither of us cared.

 We had become friends. She was amazed when she realized I really had no rooting interest. Truly amazed. 

My job started when the game ended. Her job ended then.

She introduced me to her dad, an amazingly stoic hill folk. She did not warn me. But she laughed when I came away somewhat confused.

She sorta liked the idea we could be friends. 

I eventually was doing some of the radiocasts, second chair, because my best friend in the world was doing the first chair for free and occasionally needed to catch his breath.

One of her All-Americans, against the orders of the Coach, played intramural softball, a left-handed third baseman.

She severely tweaked an ankle. 

The players asked me to deliver the news, because she could not take it out on me.

I did and she more or less put the information in her pocket, saving  it for a time when she needed to get the player’s attention, always thinking ahead.

We had fun because of our association with The Coach. 

She took us along for the ride of her life and we were grateful for it. 

Final Fours, coast-to-coast small gyms to mammoth arenas. 

Once when at a nondescript four-team tournament in Detroit she was so happy I was there she introduced me as “my reporter.”

 Then she realized how it sounded and apologized. Did  not faze me. She was in my writing DNA by then.

She invited me on a recruiting trip. 

As we let the restaurant she said don’t look back but a lot of people were staring. 

Those that knew her, she said, didn’t know me and she almost grabbed my hand as if we were on a date to give them something to talk about.

That was her sense of humor.

I could keep her off-balance, though. 

We were in Maryland and she had heard of this wonderful seafood joint. We all ate. And here was Lefty Driesell, another legendary coach by us, having dinner with his mom.

The Coach wanted to meet him. I knew it. 

So I asked and we walked over to his table.

 I said excuse me, Lefty, but this here is Pat Head and she wanted to meet you.

 His eyes lit up and he certainly knew who she was. I walked back to my table as they talked.

Later, her eyes twinkling, she said I didn’t know Lefty, did I. 

But I knew my friend  knew I knew she wanted to meet him. She loved it.

She once offered to let me in the locker room because other papers would send women reporters in as if the players would give them anything and not save it for me.

 I told her there were just some things about her girls I did not want to know. 

Still she talked me in once just to end that kind of discrimination. 

Her mind never stopped.

I became the first reporter to cover the women’s national championship and the next night, cover the men’s. She was happier for me than was I.

The game grew, of course. 

She and Knight swept the Olympics in Los Angeles. The women had arrived with that first Gold. The first NCAA women’s Final Four  had 37 writers. 

It is now sold out with hundreds of writers and broadcasters. I attended a Regional Final with 800 total attendance. Those games now draw thousands across America.

She and her original athletic director, Gloria Ray, invented the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame because they had the guts to do it. 

The Coach offered to put me in because legends can do things like that. 

As I am old school, I declined. 

I am still but a writer.

 I suggested the first journalist needed to be the co ordinator of the national poll, which he single handedly kept alive. 

Then again, he and I are the only ones of the original 37 from the first NCAA tournament still writing. 

She is in my life hall of fame and she made sure I knew I was in hers and that is more important.

The growth of the women’s game meant no reporters could ever get that close to a coach again.

 I was in the right place at the right time. I am blessed. We remained friends.

Pat Head Summitt did not create women’s college basketball. But she elevated it, defined it. 

She originated  the idea of  a national coach for the international competitions and then declined the honor of being that person.

She made sure male coaches would get a shot at those spots by including them in.

She did not create the Southeastern Conference, the best of all in its sport. 

But she and Gloria hosted the first two conference championships a a monetary loss once the NCAA welcomed the women’s game. 

She has won more than any other conference team, even though the record number of SEC games coached  has been surpassed. 

It is fitting no other SEC team has won a national title and yet she won eight. Other league teams have made the Final Four and not any one of them is free to win it all.

You could have your back to the door of a big room and yet you would know someone arrived as soon as she slipped in. 

She had it. 

There is not a coach in America who has not been influenced by  her. There are no others that can say that.

She became a living legend and her own brand in the process, retiring with the most wins and the most national titles. 

Those records will be surpassed because now the game is important and it is important because of The Coach.

She has launched 168 of her “young ladies” into the world.

 Every one of them who completed the program graduated, another link with Knight.

 The players have families, so the expanding circle of her direct impact continues.

She married and had a son and she lived long enough to see him rise to a Division 1 coach. He is out of it now.

The Coach lived long enough to see herself honored with statues on her campus. 

A Foundation exists  in her name. 

Various national awards are named in her honor.

 I hope the SEC names its tournament championship trophy after her. 

 She is the defining women’s coach of the originating era. 

There is only one first and she is that.

Then came early onset Alzheimer’s. We are relatively the same age so that is scary to me.

I twice was a primary witness to two other women in my life who had Alzheimer’s, a witness to the end.

The Coach followed the path.

A year of being able to fool everyone, knowing something is happening as the darkness closes in.

Then a year of being escorted, happy to see folks who were happy to see you but not knowing any of them.

Then the months of just existing, Then hospice.

The Coach had left us by then. Her body lived on.

When she ascended, it rained quite a lot that day across the Great American Prairie. 

I think the angels were crying. 

Driving home that twilight, the sun set as a big orange ball.

The wisps of color among the clouds were orange as well, an endless stretch. Even fools such as I took the meaning. 

She was now  influencing the heavens.

This special friend of mine completed her death endgame. 

I see her in the next place now, coaching games and arguing with the angel referees.

As one of her original friends, I started writing down thoughts for the expected tribute.

One of those ideas is not original.

A lot of people will die today. We all will reach that day.

In her particular last group, many will die in a convalescent home, of Alzheimer’s, and many will be more alone and less-remembered.

The human experiment teaches us so much. 

We mourn more for the famous yet everyone is someone’s child.

The lesson for those of us still on the ride is to help those we can who share the air with us. 

My friend is one of those who ultimately will be honored for the lives she touched and the pace she set.

She reminds me of the line: I have dined with kings and queens and I have dined on pork and beans.

A Tennessee country girl rose to an international impact-maker. 

She met Presidents and world rulers. 

She will be laid to rest back in Henrietta, next to her dad, where it all started.

The remembrance for me is it is not how she died but how she lived.