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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"D" Turns Cinderella Without Glass Slippers

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON _ It was late in Tuesday night’s WNBA game in the MCI Center between the Washington Mystics and Phoenix Mercury when a Star Wars confrontation broke out between the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi and the Mystics’ DeLisha Milton-Jones.

In a matter of seconds, Taurasi transformed from a former University of Connecticut super sensation into Cinderella woman.

Taurasi is no Russell Crowe, nor is she a bad actor, but in a game dominated by physical play, last season’s rookie of the year managed to become associated in some way with four technical fouls assessed to players and coaches arguing calls involving Taurasi in a 77-56 victory by the Mystics over the Mercury.

The outcome of the game had already been well decided when Taurasi, perhaps inadvertently, collided with Mystics newcomer and WNBA All-Star DeLisha Milton, who immediately became interested in delivering some retaliation.

However, Washington teammate Chasity Melvin rushed to save Milton from herself as she got up off the floor and went after the Southern California native.

Taurasi shrugged off the confrontation initially, giving her spin of the situation:

“She ran into me. She fell. That’s about it,” Taurasi explained.

Milton-Jones was immediately ejected from the game and Taurasi was assessed a technical.

“I don’t know what she thought,” Taurasi said of Milton-Jones’ response. “That’s all I have to say about that.”

A few minutes later, Taurasi commented that she had been in the weight room a lot lately, trying to explain what caused Milton-Jones to hit the floor.

Afterwards, Milton-Jones apologized for her actions but also was seeking some justice in the game that was witnessed by a crowd of 10,980, including new WNBA president Donna Orender.

“I know I need to be fined for my actions and she needs to be fined for hers as well,” said Milton-Jones, who arrived here in March from the Los Angeles Sparks in the trade involving former Mystics All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw.

“I didn’t throw a punch,” Milton-Jones described the scene. “I did shove her. I don’t know if that’s the equivalent of throwing a punch or not. That’s still to be determined.”

When asked if she was glad Melvin was around to prevent a recurrence of a knee injury that sidelined her most of last season, the former Florida star responded, “I was hoping all the media row and all the fans were on the row helping her.”

Milton-Jones, who has respect for Taurasi’s game, said she plans to talk her former Olympic teammate of last summer, expressing concern how some of Taurasi’s actions on the court could result in a career-ending injury to an opponent.

The Mystics improved to 5-6 and the Mercury, drifting further from playoff contention, fell to 3-8, a record far different than what Taurasi experienced in four seasons at UConn.

Second-year Mystics star Alana Beard, the No. 2 overall draft pick of last season, led Washington with 19 points and sported a nasty bump below her left eye.

Melvin had 13 points, and Milton-Jones scored 12 points.

The Mercury were led by Anna DeForge’s 18 points, and Taurasi finished with 16 points.

That’s it for Tuesday.

Until next time,

-- Mel

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

WNBA "Conn" Job!!

By Mel Greenberg

NOT ON THE ROAD _ Somewhere in the middle of the last winter during the collegiate basketball season at a time the University of Connecticut women’s team had begun to struggle, I crossed paths with Mike Thibault, the coach of the WNBA Connecticut team that had finished runner-up to Seattle in the playoffs a few months earlier.

“So, Mike,” I said with a smile. “How does it feel to have the best women’s team in the state of Connecticut?”

Thibault, not wanting to be disrespectful of program that thrived for a decade, tossed the compliment aside.

“Well, I don’t know if that’s true,” he said of the reference to the Huskies. “We knew they were going to struggle early because of Diana’s (Taurasi) graduation. So far, they’ve lost the games I thought they might lose.

“They’ll be ok at the end.”

However, that’s not exactly the way it evolved with UConn losing to Stanford in the regional semifinals.

On the other hand, like it or not, right now the WNBA Connecticut bunch is the best women’s team in the Nutmeg State.

In fact, the Sun is involved in a two-way race with the improved Sacramento Monarchs for best overall team in the pro ranks.

Since the opening day road loss to the Detroit Shock, the Sun have won eight straight with a new Exhibit A posted every night as to their worth.

Monday night’s impressive performance began a four-game road swing to the West with a dominating 90-70 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks.

That’s the consensus pre-season favorite Los Angeles Sparks who were victimized.

The addition of 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek has given the Sun rebounding power to go with some terrific shooting that has occurred several times on the streak.

Connecticut already has a three-game lead in the loss column over Eastern rivals, who may end up merely beating each other trying to get to second place.

Que Pasta?

Speaking somewhat of the Huskies in the previous item, UConn coach Geno Auriemma recently announced plans to open up a fast food court next year at the Mohegan Sun casino-entertainment complex called Geno Auriemma’s Fast Break, a 300-seat establishment featuring such different culinary delights as Italian and Mexican fare.

“I can understand him featuring Italian on the menu?” Texas coach Jody Conradt said during recent activities at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction weekend in Knoxville, Tenn.

“But Mexican?”

Conradt’s program, of course, is located not far from the border down in Austin where tacos and margaritas are a way of life.

Digging Deep

Some dubious history of sorts was made at the induction ceremony in Knoxville when former AAU star Dixie Woodall of Nashville Business College, who later coached at Seminole Junior College and Oral Roberts, during her acceptance speech tried to take care of finances for her funeral arrangements,not that she has any plans to soon depart the planet.

Woodall noted how Shaquille O’Neal had offered to handle funeral expenses for Hall of Famer George Mikan, who had recently passed away.

"It was one big man taking care of another big man," Woodall said.

She then added, “That touched home.

"We are a big (basketball) family, so (Tennessee coach) Pat (Summitt) and Jody, take care of me. It would make me very happy to be taken away in one of those big Mercedes."

Dark Days For Dawn

Temple women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley thought her WNBA Charlotte Sting team would be contending for a championship and that she might happily jettison her playing career if a league trophy was attained.

As it has evolved, the Sting are 1-8, although several losses have occurred in the closing minutes.

When she made a quick trip home to Philadelphia this weekend to run a skills camp at Temple, Staley was reminded of the 1-10 start several years ago made by the Sting, who suddenly reversed direction and made it all the way to the championship series.

“Yeah, but the league is much better so it might be a lot harder to do it again,” Staley said.

Still, the key for Charlotte would be to just get to the playoffs and go from there.

That’s what happened in 2001 when the Sting upset Eastern champion Cleveland and then upset New York, taking two games in Madison Square Garden.

A Hoop is Not a Hole

You might have wondered where we’ve been since posting from Knoxville a week ago on a trip where we were introduced to a hamburger joint during that’s going to join Calhoun’s on the A list of places to dine when visiting Orange country.

Since it’s been discovered that many of you have found your way to this site on your own, joining my newsroom groupie who’s into late night cut and paste, I’ll tell you.

Arriving for a twice-weekly night-time turn on the desk last Monday, I learned the Horseman (name changed to protect Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex) had informed another editor I’d make an ideal candidate to do a quick turnaround and cover a high school baseball tournament doubleheader the following morning being played at the University of Pennsylvania on one of the hottest days of the year.

Fortunately, the winning teams were just as hot and Penn through tuition draws enough revenue to produce what passes for as an air-conditioned press box.

A few days later, the Horseman decided to send me to a sport, increasing my horizons, in which a small ball must get into a small hole and no timeclock is involved.

In this instance, the event was the Philadelphia Amateur Golf Tournament, being played at Cedarbrook, which had undergone several million dollars of improvements in recent seasons.

(That factoid is meaningless to most of you, but I told a former head of advertising here, who was at the event, I'd find a place to give his club a plug. Hey, I was chauffered in a golf cart by a guy, whose wife here is one of our data experts, so I had no complaints.).

One wag covering for a suburban publication said he couldn’t wait to read my publication the next day to see a story by me that for the first time in 25 years didn’t have the word “she” in it.

Obviously, he missed the baseball story on Wednesday and Drexel men’s basketball the last two seasons. The Devon Horse Show, won by a woman, didn’t qualify for obvious reasons.

Tuesday night, it’s off to Washington to see the Mystics meet the Diana Taurasi-led Phoenix Mercury, that’s still trying to rise.

Until then,

-- Mel, who welcomed summer by working the shortest night of the year. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Knoxville Kudos; Washington Knockout

By Mel Greenberg

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. _ Greetings from the soon-to-not-be-sunny South where Women’s Basketball is front page news this weekend and none of it has to do with a certain national collegiate power who calls this town home and is heavy on the color orange.

Hint: The university band is fond of a particular number known as “Rocky Top.”

When we’re through, Jonathan Tannenwald will be checking in from up North with a report on Friday night’s WNBA game in Washington between the host Mystics and defending champion Seattle Storm.

This also will complete a unique cycle of him now providing reports both North and South of our location on nights two things are worthy of your attention.

We’re down here this weekend for the annual Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which is Saturday night.

Six individuals will bring the overall total of inductees to 85 since the $10 million facility opened its door in 1999 on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River.

The newest honorees are former Auburn coach Joe Ciampi, former scoring sensation Lynette Woodard, former NAIA all-American Kelli Litsch, former successful high school coach Edna Tarbutton, former AAU star Dixie Woodall, and former Kodak executive Hunter Low, who helped launch the women’s basketball all-America program in 1975.

The six honorees this weekend took a tour of the Hall on Friday and were available for interviews. Later that night, they returned to the Hall for a dinner reception and a storytelling session held on the ground floor of the facility in an urban playground setting.

A group of country female singers entertained during the dinner hour. The buffet meal included crushed corn, chicken sections, corn bread, salad, and a sundae with a choice of various accompaniments.

The theme of the weekend is “welcome to our family,” and throughout the hall were pictures of the inductees and their individual “trees.”

Saturday night’s ceremony will include video presentations by someone associate with each individual and curiosity is building over what former Philadelphia 76ers and Auburn star Charles Barkley, a longtime friend, will say about Ciampi.

Several former members of the famed Harlem Globetrotters are here to support Woodard, a University of Kansas star who was the first woman to play for the team.

They credited her during the storytelling session for “saving” the Globetrotters at a time interest had dwindled somewhat towards the team’s wild antics.

Woodard was reminded this was her induction was the second in less than a year after being honored last fall in Springfield, Mass., at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

"That's pretty cool, now that I've been reminded of that," Woodard said.

Sue Donohoe, the head of the women’s basketball sector of the NCAA, is among the notables here.

Saturday’s print edition of our coverage, which is also in the sports’ section of Philly.Com provides some more details.

After Friday’s events, we hit one of the local sports bars in the ritzy West End with our colleague Dan Fleser, who is the Tennessee women’s beat writer of the News Sentinel.

It was halfway through some outstanding brisket that we felt a pulse out of our blackberry with Jonathan checking in with coverage of the Mystics game against the storm.

Now that we are back in our hotel room with the ability to pull all the information together, here’s Jonathan from D.C. and we’ll be back both in print and here in the next 24 hours to wrap up the weekend’s events here.

Incidentally, for those of you keeping track of tales of the Rapidly Dominishing Dominant Airline in Philadelphia, even though we flew out of D.C. to save a few dollars, guess who's luggage still managed to not arrive on the same trip until later in the day?

Mystics Erase Storm: 64-52

WASHINGTON – It is the time of year in Washington where severe storms in the early evening are an almost daily occurrence. A different brand of Storm came into D.C. on Friday, as the defending WNBA champions played the third of four straight road games at the MCI Center.

Seattle out-rebounded the Mystics, 34-26, had more points in the paint by a 24-22 margin, and also had more second chance and fast break points than the home team.

So naturally the Mystics won, 64-52.

What, I forgot to tell you about the Storm’s 21 turnovers? Oh. Sorry.

“The turnovers hurt a lot,” Storm coach Anne Donovan said. “I think it broke our spirit more than anything.”

The Mystics’ spirit was quite different.

“We needed this win desperately,” Mystics coach Adubato said, not least because the Mystics have to head almost straight to the airport for a Saturday night game at Minnesota.

Washington’s last win came against the Lynx exactly a week ago, also at the MCI Center.

That game ended 74-71, and although this game had a much wider margin of victory it was not so for much of the time. After the Mystics raced out to a 13-point lead midway through the second half, the Storm rallied to make it 51-48 with six minutes to play. But Washington put the defensive clamps on from there, and Seattle only made one field goal– a Betty Lennox three-pointer with 2:01 remaining– for the rest of the game.

“Psychologically that’s very, very important for us,” Adubato said. “To know that we’ve had two close games and we’ve been able to execute and pull them out in the end. So now I’m hoping that we turn that thought process the other way, where they think okay, late in games, we execute, we understand we can win.”

The crowd of 10,024 celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness Night by honoring those in attendance who had survived the disease. Many fans sported the pink Mystics caps that were handed out at the door, and the coaches and team staffs wore pink ribbons on their lapels.

Aussie– Oy

One of the biggest factors in Washington’s victory was its ability to shut down the Storm’s Australian frontcourt tandem of Lauren Jackson and Suzy Batkovic. Although Jackson had a game-high nine rebounds and tied with Lennox with a game-high 18 points, she did so on only 7-of-17 shooting from the field.

Granted, those are good numbers, but Jackson scored only one point in the final 6:43 of the game. That might have something to do with the fact that she played all 40 minutes, and Donovan admitted afterwards that Jackson “looked fatigued, there’s no doubt.”

Mystics forward Charlotte Smith-Taylor, one of many players who guarded the 6-foot-5 center, was proud that Jackson “had to work hard for those 18 points.”

Batkovic came off the bench and was held scoreless, and had only two rebounds.

The rest of the Storm’s bench scored a combined four points.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

That happened in large part because the Mystics turned in their best defensive performance since their first game of the season at Charlotte. Seattle shot only 37 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range. But the more impressive statistics were further to the right in the box score. The Mystics recorded six blocked shots in the first half, with two each for DeLisha Milton-Jones and Nakia Sanford and one each for Charlotte Smith-Taylor and Chastity Melvin. Another Smith-Taylor block in the second half brought the total for the game to seven.

In the second half, the Mystics turned from obstruction to theft, stealing the ball six times. Milton-Jones and Temeka Johnson had two steals each after halftime, and three each for the game. Alana Beard had one in each half, and one more by Chastity Melvin brought the team’s total to nine.

Add to that the seven jump balls in the game not including the opening tipoff, and the Mystics had more than enough to counter the Storm’s considerable rebounding advantage.

“They out-rebounded us, but we tied them up for jump balls,” Adubato said. “They out-rebounded us but we blocked shots. They out-rebounded us, but we stripped them.”

Rough house

There was plenty of jostling in the post and for the ball throughout the night, and the two teams committed a combined 38 fouls. Quite a few provoked the ire of one team or the other, to say the least. In particular, the reach-in fouls and the multiple interpretations of what constitutes a charge instead of a block made for some interesting discussion along press row and in its immediate vicinity.

But for anyone who has spent a mid-winter Friday evening in the Palestra, the refereeing would have seemed oddly familiar.

Not that it makes the aforementioned calls correct, as they were certainly questionable. But none of the parties involved were surprised at how much contact there was.

Smith-Taylor said that she didn’t “even know how to begin to describe how physical this game is this year– it’s more physical than ever.
“They’ve tried to eliminate a lot of the hand-checking out in the front court,” she said, but down in the paint, it seems like it’s more physical than it’s ever been.”

Donovan concurred.

“The nature of the league, it’s like the rules now are to back off a little in the perimeter, but in the post it’s as much contact as players can stand,” she said. “I don’t think we can stand any more than that.”

But Beard took a more practical view of things.

“Seattle wouldn’t be champs if it wasn’t a physical team,” Beard said. “It’s not anything you can complain about– you’ve just got to put your head in and take it hard.”

It is certainly fair to say that the NBA teams which share arenas with the Shock and Silver Stars would concur with that philosophy.

Bird grounded

Sue Bird did not make the trip to Washington as she began her recovery from the broken nose she suffered against Connecticut. According to Donovan, Bird might not be out as long this time as she was when she last suffered the same injury.

“They were thinking initially that they might have to have some surgery on the cheek but at this point we’re thinking no surgery,” she said.

Donovan described the difference between the Storm with Bird and the Storm without Bird as “night and day– we’re just a completely different team.”

The former Connecticut star’s absence has certainly made Seattle’s road trip harder than it would have been were she playing.

“This is a brutal trip– four games in six days coming from Seattle is a brutal trip, and it’s a test of what we’re made of,” Donovan said. “We passed it in Detroit and we failed it tonight, and we have one more opportunity to prove ourselves.”

That opportunity will come Sunday at Charlotte.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sun Shines At Night Over Storm

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Ct. _ The Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm had their first meeting Tuesday night here since the Storm thumped the Sun in the third and deciding game of the WNBA playoffs in Seattle last fall to become champions of the women’s professional basketball world.

In the months that followed, free agency cut into some of the Storm’s depth that helped produce a title.

Connecticut, meanwhile, was out to obtain what coach Mike Thibault considered the missing piece to his roster, a sizeable center who might have made last October’s result more favorable to the Sun.

He found the commodity in 7-foot-2 Polish center Margo Dydek, who he acquired in a deal on draft day in April when Thibault gave up the Sun’s first-round pick to the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Connecticut’s addition was a factor in the 81-69 victory Tuesday night in the Mohegan Sun Arena as Dydek blocked shots (5), dominated the backboards (14 rebounds), and scored 11 points as the Sun (4-1) as the Sun topped the Storm, 81-69.

The victory extended Connecticut’s win streak to four games after an opening day road loss to the Detroit Shock.

That was the same day Seattle suffered an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Sparks at home as the Storm were given their championship rings before the contest.

Seattle (4-2) had won four straight since then.

“I don’t know what you say other than it’s a great regular season win,” Thibault beamed of a game in which the Sun led by as many as 19 points at 63-44 with 14 minutes, nine seconds left in the second half.

“I thought we played, for two-thirds of the game, as well as we can play,” Thibault said. “We got a little sloppy at the end. We need to play a little better with a lead, but it’s nice to have a lead.”

Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who once played for the Philadelphia Rage in the defunct American Basketball League (1996-98), scored 19 points for the Sun and the veteran has become the inspirational leader of this outfit.

“I’ve already touted her for an MVP candidate, but it’s a little early in the season for getting into that,” Thibault praised McWilliams-Franklin, who is more comfortable in not having to be a one-woman defense in the paint now that Dydek is here. “I don’t see anybody in the league playing better than her right now.

“I always maintained since I came here (2003) that you’re never going to be great until your best players are your best workers. And we finally got to that point.”

A balanced Connecticut attack had Katie Douglas with 20 points, Lindsay Whalen with nine points and eight assists, and Nykesha Sales with 15 points.”

Thibault also spoke of how Dydek’s presence has changed things for the Sun, who were struggling this time a year ago before launching a run to the playoffs and title round at midseason.

“When you have someone in the post position that’s bigger and has good skills, it changes the dynamics of the game,” Thibault said. “What’s interesting is that she’s only scratched the surface. So I can’t wait to see her develop as the season goes on.”

Lauren Jackson, who already has one regular season MVP trophy in the WNBA, led Seattle with 20 points, but was bumped around a lot by the Connecticut defenders.

“Having Margo inside is a huge difference,” Jackson said of Connecticut's re-vamped attack.
“She’s playing unbelievable basketball. I’ve never seen her play like she is.”

Former Connecticut star Sue Bird suffered a broken nose late in the game, catching an elbow by teammate Jackson, and finished with 12 points.

Bird received a loud ovation from the crowd of 7,080 during the opening lineups, but as was also true several weeks ago here when former UConn star Diana Tarausi was introduced with Phoenix, the Sun was clearly entrenched in the hearts of the fans here the rest of the way.

Foie Gras, Geno?

Speaking of Huskymania, Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is appearing here Wednesday morning to announce some business venture with the casino-entertainment officials.

It is known Auriemma has been interested in opening a restaurant.

If he launches such a venture, it will give him an opportunity to serve something on a platter other than the head of the opposition, a frequent occurrence in Connecticut’s success in NCAA competition since 1995.

Ah, we can see the menu item now: Tennessee Demi Glas

Volunter-land, by the way, is our next stop this weekend in Knoxville for the annual Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Soggy Day and Mystics' Night

By Mel Greenberg

DEVON _ Yes, folks, it was a wet one at the Devon Horse Show yesterday, making for a shortFriday afternoon and and even shorter, in fact non-existent evening.

Following the last event on the afternoon card, which we reported in the print edition of the major metropolitan newspaper, officials postponed the night portion and re-schedule most events for today's finale.

So it's compacted report from out in the suburbs, unless you want to hear about the nice Japanese restaurant in nearby Strafford.

Didn't think so.

Meanwhile, our Washington correspondent Jonathan Tannenwald was at the Mystics encounter with the Minnesota Lynx on a WNBA night in the MCI Center in which deep threat returned to the Washington attack in the form of three-pointers.

Also back were Alana Beard for the first time and DeLisha Milton.

So here's the inside report from Jonathan.

Mystics Three-Game Skid Ends With Win over Minnesota

WASHINGTON _ In his pre-game pep talk before his team faced the Minnesota Lynx, Mystics head coach Richie Adubato put a note up on the board.

“You’ve got to dig down deep, ladies, you’ve got to dig down deep,” it said.

But unlike his team’s three previous losses this season, all of which came at the MCI Center, Adubato had his best shovel back from the shop Friday night.

At last, Alana Beard returned to the court in the nation’s capital, and she made an immediate impact as the Mystics beat the Lynx, 74-71, for their first home win of the season. The game included seven lead changes and five ties, and even though Washington had a six-point lead with 36.7 seconds remaining, the game was still in doubt until the very end.

“Our backs were at the wall tonight,” Adubato said. “We could not afford to lose four straight at home.”

Although her sprained right ankle was not completely healed, Beard ended up playing a whopping 32 minutes, recording 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field. Her last two points were also the last two points of the game, when she hit a layup with four seconds to go that iced the victory.

“We look completely different [with her], there's no question about it,” Adubato said. “When she takes the floor, it's the charisma that she brings to the court, it's the excitement that she brings to the court. She can play 1 or 2, she creates her own shot, which is very important.”

Delisha Milton-Jones , who sat out the Mystics’ last game against New York with a strained right knee, also returned to action. She played 29 minutes as a substitute, and scored 16 points including two three-pointers in the second half. Chastity Melvin recorded a double-double, scoring a team-high 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Minnesota’s Katie Smith unsurprisingly led all scorers with 20 points.

The 9,620 people in attendance arrived during a rainstorm and had enough time afterwards to get home and see the final at-bat of the Nationals’ 3-2 win over Florida in 11 innings, which may have been a reason for the small crowd.

Beard seizes the stage

With the announcement this week that former second-in-command at the FBI W. Mark Felt was the anonymous source called "Deep Throat" who helped the Washington Post in its coverage of Watergate, one of the great parlor games in Washington history came to a conclusion.

Another question that has been on the minds of a lot of folks here lately-- albeit for more like 30 days, instead of the 30 years since Richard Nixon's resignation-- is when Beard would finally return to action.

That question was answered Friday night, and there was certainly nothing anonymous about it. Beard started the game, and the crowd of roared its approval when her name was announced as the last of the Mystics' five starters.

Was she nervous?

“I didn't go to bed until 1:30 last night and my normal bedtime is 10:00,” Beard said. “I couldn't sleep and felt like a kid waking up on Christmas.”

But once Beard, one of last season's top newcomers, got out on the floor, she said that “it felt so good.”

“I don’t think I can really put it into words, because it was like, I was almost out for a month,” she said. “When I got back to practice I almost had tears in my eyes because I was so happy to be back out there.”

The former Duke star was in action early, stealing the ball from Lynx star Katie Smith just under a minute and a half in. Beard raced away down the floor and was fouled hard by Svetlana Abrosimova, landing on her side under the basket. But she got up immediately, and went right back to work. Her first points came at the 12:40 mark, when she got a pass from Temeka Johnson, took a quick step to her right, and nailed a 15-foot jumper.

With 3:55 to go in the first half, Beard drove hard to the basket and was fouled by Lynx forward Amanda Lassiter. Beard came up limping, which elicited quite a few gasps from the crowd. She was able to run at full strength back to the Mystics bench for a timeout called by coach Richie Adubato, however, and came back out onto the court, where she promptly made two free throws.

Beard said that her injury “was in the back of my head” when she went down, and that “It was a little pain there, a sharp pain.”

Adubato chalked up the quick recovery to karma.

“I figured we're about due for a break, so she's going to get up,” he said.

Beard’s first three-pointer came with just over a minute to go in the half, and the Lynx coaching staff was not so happy about what they thought was an illegal screen to set the shot up.

“It would have been more legal if they were dancing,” Lynx assistant coach Nancy Darsch yelled to whoever was within earshot.

Beard and rookie point guard Temeka Johnson seem to have established a quite formidable partnership in the Mystics’ backcourt. Johnson recorded her second double-double in as many games, scoring 16 points and dishing out 10 assists, three of which went to Beard.

“She’s the type of point guard that comes in, she sets her teammates up, and she knows the game,” Beard said. “We have so many people that can score and she distributes the ball really well, and she gets hers when they leave her open.”

Smith in focus

Adubato had heaped praise on Lynx forward Katie Smith over the last few days, and that continued before Friday night’s game.

“What scares me is the fact that they made the playoffs last year without Katie Smith and now they have Katie Smith,” he said.

Smith got hurt prior to the Olympics, but traveled with the USA team to Athens before being sidelined permanently.

Adubato's concerns were was justified with Smith’s 20 points, although she was held to only 1-of-5 shooting from three-point range. At one point in the second half, Smith was swarmed at the edge of the paint by three Mystics players, which led to a three-second violation on Stacey Lovelace after Smith somehow wrestled her way through to get Lovelace the ball.

“She’s our leading scorer, she’s our leader on the floor, she’s someone that is a big part of our offense and a big part of our defense as well,” Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio, a former Penn State all-American said. “It’s 20 points, and not by any means is it a selfish 20.”

Melvin’s big night

Of perhaps equal significance to Chastity Melvin’s double-double was the fact that she finished the night with only four fouls, after fouling out in the last game against New York. Against the Liberty, Melvin played only 24 minutes, but she played 31 against the Lynx.

“Chastity Melvin so far has had a banner year for us,” Adubato said. “We’re hoping that she continues to score inside, we love her inside game. The big thing with Chastity, we hope that she continues to rebound– she’s always been an offensive rebounder.”

Med school

Yours truly (Jonathan) is much more a liberal arts type than the type that would be found in, say, a set of buildings adjacent to a large and well-known hospital in Philadelphia a few blocks west of the Schuylkill River. So, wanting to learn a bit about how a person such as Alana Beard would recover from a sprained ankle, I sought out Mystics trainer Chalisa Fonza in the workout room before tipoff.

So with apologies to those readers who thought they were done with class for the summer, let’s all get the notebooks back out, shall we?

“The first thing we do is, one, pain management, then we try to decrease the amount of swelling while we decrease the amount of pain that the person is experiencing at the same time,” Fonza said. “In conjunction with that we do a lot of stretching, a lot of balance activities.”

Then come what Fonza called “a battery of tests.”

“The big thing is we look at their strength,” she said. “Whether that's doing figure-eights, straight ahead running, some cut-and-pivoting, those kinds of things will give me better cues as to whether they'll be able to do those things out on the court.”

Celebrity watch

Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas and forward Brendan Haywood sat at center court in the seats which were occupied by the Mystics' new ownership for the New York game. Cathy Andruzzi was in the house as well, scouting the Mystics for the Liberty. The two teams will face off at Madison Square Garden on Sunday

Front office watch

When the Mystics locker room opened to the media, those who came by found new owner Sheila Johnson and General Manager Linda Hargrove standing outside the door acting as a rudimentary cheerleading squad as the players came by. Midway through the second half, Johnson showed off her dancing skills to the crowd when she was caught on the JumboTron during a timeout.

When asked how the first few weeks of her time at the helm have gone, the co-founder of Black Entertainment television answered, “I'm having a ball.”

On to New York

The Mystics’ next game is Sunday afternoon against the Liberty at Madison Square Garden, and Milton-Jones offered some tactical advice as a preview.

“They are big on the inside, very crafty veterans that they have in Ann Wauters and Elena Baranova,” she said. “If we can eliminate them, keep them under their average, as well as get to those prolific shooters in Vicki Johnson and Crystal Robinson, then I think we can get the win.”

Melvin said that there was a good chance that her team could do just that.

“It's going to be a battle, she said, “but I feel like if all of us come out and play like we did tonight and we make some shots, obviously, we’ll win the game.”

Friday, June 03, 2005

Doin' Devon - Episode I

By Mel Greenberg

DEVON _ We know why you bothered to stop by this space.

You are curious as to how will yours truly find a way to involve women's hoops in a blog report from the Devon horse show out on the Main Line.

Well, here it is right from the top in the first of a three-night extravaganza.

Upon our arrival in late afternoon, Thursday, seated in the press box was our colleague and good friend Benjamin Lowe, who reports for us out here in the suburbs.


What you don't know is Ben's sister Sarah is a senior guard for the University of Florida women's team coached by Carolyn Peck, who previous coached Purdue to the 1999 NCAA ttitle and also coached the former Orlando Miracle WNBA team now known as the Connecticut Sun.

That's all the basketball there is here tonight, but enough small fodder to not disappoint your computer click to this location.

Next question.

Did I survive night one in an exercised that could be subtitled "Out of My Element?"

Well, yes, and it went rather well.

It went well because the Grand Prix event was executed in a manner that is looked upon fondly by journalists when it occurs -- The story wrote itself.

First, about the event.

Because of space limitations, we were in a "just the facts" mode and didn't have to go into great detail.

For the participant riders and horses, the goal is very simple -- In the opening round, clear all the rails to get to at least the jump-off.

Once advanced to that portion of the event, the next goal is clear all the rails and do it quickly.

In Thursday night's contest, three riders and their horses survived the first round. In the jump-off, the first horse didn't clear all the rails, the second horse cleared all the rails, and the third and final horse cleared all the rails and did it quicker than the previous horse.

Game, set, match, and this isn't even tennis.

Ask the winner a few logical questions and type the story. It's also helpful to have some veteran experts sitting near by to protect you from unknown errors.

As to the story itself, since I am still figuring out how to insert links back to Philly.com, you can buy the paper and enable me to claim I am actually driving readership traffic to the print edition.

So give them some color, Mel!!!


We arrived in late afternoon under clear skies and a cool breeze.

Curiously, we ran into a lot of traffice several miles up the road and expected conditions to stay that way, considering the event was going to be watched by a sellout crowd of 7,500.

But a block later, many made a left turn off the main drag, as they were actually the working class crowd returning to the neighborhood.

It reminded us of the time the University of Maryland women's basketball had its first ever sellout and we were asked, when did we believe there was really going to be a crowd in Cole Fieldhouse?

We responded, "When night school didn't make the left turn at the light."

But we digress, one of the lavish excesses of blogging.

After wheeling our computer operational tools from the parking lot across Lancaster Ave. to our working location alongside the Dixon Oval, we had a chance to check out the local scene.

It is here the very rich of Main Line Society and the rest of us gather side-by-side. The high side of that equation saw many spectators dressed to the nines with women wearing fancy hats as they do down South at the Kentucky Derby.

In a very small area, food concessions, amusement rides, and souvenir stands are organized in an impression fashion to give the impression of a village.

Incidentally, if you are a local reading this and plan to attend the last two days of Devon, try the $1.00 tea sandwiches, which are quite tasty.

The Dixon Oval in person is striking because the area of the competition is more compact than it appears in pictures and on television.

Once the event begins, in Thursday night's instance, the Grand Prix, one is amazed at watching these large horses sleeky navigating the hurdles in the manner of a jumbo commercial airliner jumping over an air pocket.

The individuals associated with the competition are gracious and easy to interview, but we must allow it was our first-time ever at this event.

Two more are ahead and the action will be conducted somewhat differently than Thursday night.

So, we'll be back

- Mel

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Gang's All Here As New York Tops Washington

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON_ It was reunion time Wednesday night in the MCI Center as New York Liberty coach Patty Coyle made her first appearance against her former boss, Richie Adubato, now coach of the Washington Mystics.

Also on the bill, former Mystics head coach Marianne Stanley was on the Liberty bench as Coyle’s assistant, but that homecoming bit was last season’s top billing.

The homecoming aspect to this coaching matchup, which also included former Liberty assistant Jeff House on the Washington bench, will occur on Sunday when the Mystics visit New York in what will be Adubato’s first appearance in Madison Square Garden since early last summer. That’s when general manager Carol Blazejowski fired Adubato, following a woeful road trip.

Personalities aside, Coyle, the student, won her first encounter with the master, as New York picked up its first win of the season after two losses, 77-68, in a game in which the Liberty finally had rebounding success.

New York had a 28-20 advantage off the backboards and was 9-6 on the offensive boards.

Washington, which was without the injured Alana Beard and DeLisha Milton-Jones, suffered its third straight loss, all at home after an opening triumph at Charlotte.

The Mystics are also 0-2 under new president Sheila Johnson, who is not ready to question her credit card statement on a multi-million dollar purchase to become part of the Washington family ownership.

Veteran Vickie Johnson had a vintage night with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

“If we could get that from her every night it would be wonderful,” Coyle said of Johnson’s double double.

Adubato was equally complimentary about his former player.

“If I was coaching her, I would be happy with her performance. She was incredible. She has a lot of heart and she knew her team needed her.”

Johnson was 9-for-12 from the field, including 4-for-4 on three point attempts.

Shameka Christon (14 points), Becky Hammon (13), and Ann Wauters (11) also scored in double figures for New York.

Rookie Mystics guard Tameka Johnson out of LSU had a double double with 13 points and 11 assists, while Chasity Melvin led Washington with 16 points.

Johnson shrugged off her first double double for the Mystics.

“It doesn’t matter what my individual stats say, we lost. We have some things we need to work onand hopefully, it will get better,” the Washington point guard said.

As for the reunion, Coyle commented, “I learned a lot from Richie. I’ll say this until the day I’m done coaching in this league. He’s a terrific teacher. And he’s a great guy.

“What happened last summer, we all feel bad about, and this is the last time I’m going to talk about it,” Coyle referred to last season’s ouster after which she was made an interim coach until Blazejowski gave her the job outright in the offseason.

“There’s nobody in that locker room that doesn’t feel bad. Richie’s a great coach and I’m glad to see him back in the league,” Coyle said, adding “It’s one game. We have them three more times.”

As for Adubato’s return, Sunday, Coyle said of Liberty fans, “I hope they treat him with respect. He gave New York a lot of good years.”

The most important aspect of the night was the execution down the stretch that produced the victory, Coyle said. “We got ourselves some good looks. When you shoot 55 percent for the game, you’ve done a pretty good job executing. That’s been one of our goals.

“We needed this game. We needed for our own sake,” Coyle added. “She’s a veteran and she understood it.”

Johnson was modest about her performance, the latest from WNBA veterans such as Houston’s Sheryl Swoopes, who is this week’s top player.

“We have a lot of great rookies in this league, but the vets still can play.”

Hammon credited the win because, “We did the little things we talked about, and we came out with the “W”.

She also discussed playing against Adubato for the first time.

“I have a lot of respect for Richie. He was the first one to give me a shot,” Hammon referred to New York signing her as an undrafted free agent. “I have nothing but respect for him and the way he coaches.

“But the game was not about us trying to beat Richie. It was about us trying to get a “W” on the board.

Washington took advantage of some sloppy ball handling by New York in the opening five minutes to zip to a 10-4 lead before the Liberty got untracked.

It was 37-37 at the half and the score was close before Hammon hit a pair of consecutive treys for a 49-45 Liberty lead that was never relinquished the rest of the way.

New York embellished its advantage over the final five minutes, building a margin that reached 11 points at 73-62 with 1 minute, 34 seconds left to play.

Adubato was asked how much difference Milton-Smith would have made in the contest.

"Obviously it would have given us another player up front to rotate, another person with veteran savvy and understanding," he explained. "Maybe she would have grabbed some rebounds for us and scored. Our leading rebounder was "Key" [Nakia Sanford] with five.

"A veteran player certainly would have helped us in our press. Our press works pretty good for us and she may have helped us in a lot of ways," Adubato added.

He said the losses at home have been tough, but optimistically looked ahead to hopefully better days.

"Losing is not easy, at home it's even harder," Adudbato said. "But we've got to persevere, we've got to understand that it's early in the season and we've just got to correct the mistakes that we made, push through them, and each time have a better effort.

" I thought we had a good effort today, I just thought we ran into a team that was red hot and on fire."

Speaking of fire, we're on our way to a horse of a different sort the next several days.

See you next blog.

-- Mel

Jonathan Tannenwald contributed to this report.