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.

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. :)


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