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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Greetings from Indy

By Mel Greenberg

So here we are in the home of the NCAA, the Indy 500, and for the next week, headquarters for the Women's Final Four.

Judging by the amount of reaction to these posts to date let me say, "hello to everyone back in the office," the reason being that they might be the only folks who have figured out how to link these reports.

In a few short hours, already, we have learned this is a town where they turn up the heat, bring on the rain, welcome you to heaven and then schedule game starts that are designed to put you through hell -- really.

It was 70 degrees when the plane touched down on the runway, so we were told, and it was 10 p.m.

An hour later after settling into the local environs, a bellman from the neighboring hotel, which is where the Women's Basketball Coaches Association is sequestered, mentioned that a major storm was going to tear through the area in the next 20 minutes.

At the time, the sky was clear and the moon was shinning brightly.

However, several minutes later in our hotel, we heard a rumble and sure enough it was downpour city. But then again, there has always been a suspicion that the NCAA and the great maker were in collusion with each other, especially when it comes to legislative matters.

The first materials available to suggest restaurants during our stay were featuring Indian and Asian food. And I thought we were in the Midwest, not the Far East.

By the way, the view from our hotel window is rather scenic. We can see clear across an open space and can gaze in the short distance at a neighboring hotel whose name begins with H. No that one.

That one, associated with Paris and Nicky, is off to the left. Over to the right is a large concrete multi-level parking lot to serve the RCA Dome where the games will be played.

The company may have its roots in Camden, N.J., but don't expect Little Nipper to perform at halftime of any of the games.

This is considered the "'tweener Final Four" among the social set at these events --not raucous as last year's wild doings in New Orleans and the calm before next year's parties when Boston is the host city.

Our hotel is pretty posh but far less expensive than the headquarters last year in New Orleans.

It is always interesting to get the lay of the building when the bellman delivers the luggage to your room.

He offered a medium discourse on the nuances of the in-room vending machine, mentioning that breathing on any of the items in the cabinet/refrigerator will set off the computer to put charges on the hotel bill.

Of course what is fascinating is that down the hall on the other side of the elevator is a soda machine with bottles instead of cans for half the price of the in-room collection.

The exciting news is that our satellite radio transmitter (the brand with the X instead of the S) is once again receiving an excellent signal.

Upon setting up for the week's operation, there's enough wires and chargers along with this laptop in the room that may cause the maid to go running to Homeland Security in the morning.

Multi-media entertainment is a must on a trip like this so it's nice to choose between DVD, Ipod, or radio, and, oh yeah, on occasion, the television set.

Here's a shout to Katie from Nike, who claims to have been ignored in email reports during the season -- at least that was her claim in the sports bar next door.

Tomorrow, or later today considering the hour, the teams begin arriving and we'll have something more meaningful to say.

Until then,

-- Mel

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Quite a Mix for Starters

By Mel Greenberg

It's two down and two to go to set the survivors' field for this season's Women's Final Four at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

Baylor is quite a story with former Louisiana Tech star Kim Mulkey-Robertson coaching the once-dormant Bears program over North Carolina and into the finals of the Women's NCAA tournament.

She becomes the first woman to coach and play in a Final Four, having been part of the inaugural NCAA champions in 1982. Her alma mater also won the last full Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) title in 1981 before the transitional season in which some teams such as Rutgers remained with the AIAW and others such as Tech immediately moved to the NCAA.

Ironically, Rutgers won the last AIAW title right here in Philadelphia in 1982 at the Palestra by beating Texas. Tonight the Scarlet Knights are back in town trying to get past the powerful Tennessee program at Temple's Liacouras Center in what will be the last contested spot for this year's finals.

LSU, which had been No. 1 most of the year, also advanced last night by beating Duke after Baylor had beaten North Carolina.

Thus, the top two teams in the so-called No. 1 conference for this year _ the Atlantic Coast _ were sent to the sidelines for the rest of the way.

This could be quite a weekend for the Tigers, whose former coach Sue Gunter might be announced as an inductee to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday.

Gunter took ill toward the end of last season and could not be with LSU when the Tigers roared into nearby New Orleans for the finals. She retired afterward and Pokey Chatman was promoted as Gunter's successor.

Their second finals in the NCAA gives the Tigers a chance to reverse last year's showing when a chance to force overtime against SEC rival Tennessee was ruined on a turnover and a score in the final seconds of one of the semifinals.

The early game tonight features Michigan State and Stanford as another young coach Joanne Palombo McCallie tries to lead the Spartans over Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Tara Vanderveer into the finals.

That's all until later tonight and welcome to those of you who found the link to here.

-- Mel

Monday, March 28, 2005

Tying the ribbon

By Mel Greenberg

When Rutgers and Tennessee take the floor Tuesday night in Temple's Liacouras Center, 75 percent of the 2005 Women's Final Four will be assembled.

Thanks to Atilla the Network, also known as ESPN in this discussion, the time start is set for 9 p.m. after three of the four spots will have become known.

Tonight, 50 percent of the deal this weekend at Indy will be on the line when LSU and Duke tip off in Chattanooga, Tenn., and North Carolina and Baylor go at it in Tempe, Ariz.

Prior to the Rutgers-Tennessee game Tuesday night, Michigan State and Stanford will battle in Kansas City.

The most significant sign of the parity talked about in the sport all year is that all of these games are worthy of being a Final Four pairing. The same could be said of Sunday's game here between Rutgers and Ohio State.

Which brings us to the other sign of enhanced competition.

This is the deepest in a story concerning the Elite Eight, the gateway to the Women's Final Four, the computer keyboard has rattled along before these letters were typed into the copy: U-C-O-N-N.

That's UConn as in University of Connecticut, the former three-time defending national champion.

Stanford put the "former" tag on the Huskies Sunday night in Kansas City in yet another matchup worthy of being played a little further down the line.

Thus, coach Geno Auriemma will now get to be insufferable at Final Four parties like in the old days when his program was still trying to climb the ladder to rule the sport.

A year after history was made with the UConn men and women both winning NCAA titles in the same season, neither is around for the Elite Eight.

Press box seating just opened up in the RCA Dome because the heavy-populated contingent of journalists, nicknamed The Horde because of their size, will probably be getting an early start on their fall previews for next season.

What was the key to Connecticut's demise: No one else in the country had Diana Taurasi this season and neither did UConn after the former superstar finished her eligibility and moves to the pros with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

There will be extra incentive besides returning to end of the dance for the Huskies next season because the Women's Finals will be held in nearby Boston.

Meanwhile a bit of irony is involved with the Rutgers-Tennessee matchup.

In 2000 when the finals were here at the then-named First Union Center, the Rutgers-Georgia game in Portland, Ore., was the last to be determined late nite on the East Coast for the remaining spot in the Philly final.

Rutgers pulled an upset but then had to travel across the country to return to the right coast on a shorter calendar schedule to face Tennessee, which beat the Scarlet Knights in the semifinals.

Coach C. Vivian Stringer's group should be quite confident, having beaten Tennessee at home in January in Piscataway, N.J.

A Final Four without Pat (Tennessee coach Pat Summitt) and Geno.

Doesn't seem possible. But after the wildest of New Orleans at last year's Final Four, serenity in Indy might be a change of pace.

We'll be back late tonight after half the field is determined.

-- Mel

Friday, March 25, 2005

Company's Coming

By Mel Greenberg
So what happens when people with local connections are set to come to Philadelphia for an NCAA women's basketball tournament regional?

The local writer suddenly discovers he's been appointed the official social co-ordinator for media friends as well as team delegations.

For example, soon after Rutgers had beaten Temple in Connecticut on Tuesday night, Scarlet Knights' Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer anticipated the long hour-and-a-half trip to a city she's visited a zillion times by saying:
"So we'll have to have Mel show us what the best cheesesteak place is in town. "

Then hours after arriving back here in the office to help plan coverage, Ohio State coach Jim Foster checked in - the same Jim Foster who grew up in Elkins Park and once coached St. Joe's for almost a decade.

"What's the name of that pizza place in Port Richmond? Can we pull information on them up on the web?"

That was followed by a conversation with the local media contact at Temple, who is handling the Philly Regional arrangements:

"ESPN wants to know where everybody's going."

Of course Texas Tech has never been here, so they simply shot a simple line:

"We know it's your town, so we're counting on you ... ..."

The Rutgers beat writers were next: "Think we can get away to Atlantic City for a few hours."

The NCAA media person coming to town from headquarters asked about Friday night availability

Well, next week, he has to return the favor since the Women's Final Four will be in his town -- Indianapolis.

And so it went.

Meanwhile, questions occasionally come in about the glamorous aspects of this time of year:

Well, in the office, we get to walk past the famous unoccupied desk of Steven A. who is usually on someone's airway. We're thinking of adding it to the newsroom tour.

Then there's life on the road.

Back in Hartford, for example, I learned that when you leave your hotel room for the first time during the day to go interview a player and the maid is in the hallway and you say:

"Hi. Is it possible to get someone to change a burnt lightbulb in the lamp on the left side of the bed?"

Four hours later you discover that the foreign language translation of your request has really meant:

"Hi. Say listen, you don't really have to make up my room today."

That said, there's the technological aspects such as:

The woods of Connecticut are not conducive to cell phone conversations with the office.

On Monday afternoon, a player from a school came into the media room offering girl scout cookies (already paid for) to the working contingent.

Unfortunately, no one was able to find an NCAA manual to learn if acceptance of such substance would be considered a violation by the media for taking an extra benefit from a player, thus causing suspensions for a game from press row.

And on that crumb, we'll be back with meaningful stuff the next time around.

-- Mel

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Barely still live from Storrs

By Mel Greenberg
And so it's on to the NCAA women's basketball tournament regional finals, specifically in our case, back to Philadelphia in what still promises to be an interesting weekend even though Temple's magical season was ended here Tuesday night by Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights will be involved with a homecoming of sorts with their Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, who first hit the headlines with her Cheyney squad back in the late 1970s.
Ohio State also has some home folks with coach Jim Foster, the former St. Joseph's mentor who has brought the Buckeyes back to respectability. His staff includes Katie Smith, an Olympic gold medalist and member of the WNBA Minnesota Lynx.
He also has his former Hawks feisty point guard Debbie Black, a member of the WNBA runnersup Connecticut Sun.
Texas Tech has another Women's Basketball Hall of Famer in coach Marsha Sharp, who led the Red Raiders to the 1993 NCAA title with one Sheryl Swoopes.
Finally, there's Tennessee with coach Pat Summitt who is now the all-time NCAA coaching leader for men and women with 880 victories.
We'll be back with lots more as soon as we can get out of here in the morning before the snow, you heard me, snow hits the area.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Live from Connecticut

Hello everyone.
This is Mel Greenberg of the Inquirer Sports Dept. on the scene (and at the same hotel) with the Temple Owls as they try to win two games and get back to Philadelphia for the regional next week.
We'll also try to keep an eye on the rest of the bracket, so feel free to ask questions and we'll see what develops up here.
Meanwhile, in the world of the WNBA trade winds may be moving toward major news involving a player on the East Coast who was in the headlines for not playing last summer (and will talk about it on TV) and a West Coast team which still needs a coach.
That's it for now. We'll try to check in from today's practice sessions.
-- Mel