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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, August 04, 2005

From a Sting to a Comet

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA (That's where this is being written) _ For a team that has failed to live up to its nickname this season as the Charlotte Sting, the franchise has been quite the buzz in the WNBA this week.

It all started early Monday night when a source very much part of Dawn Staley’s inner circle left a message here just before the WNBA trading deadline that the three-time Olympic gold medallist was going to be dealt to the Houston Comets.

The caller, at the time, wasn’t sure of what the total aspects of the deal was involved in terms of what Charlotte would receive in return.

However, miles to the South of here, Bill Stickney, the veteran Comets beat reporter with the Houston Chronicle got word around the same hour from a source close to coach Van Chancellor that nothing had been completed but that Kristen Rasmussen and Adrienne Goodson and the Comets’ 2006 first-round draft pick would be exchanged for Staley and the 2006 second-round pick of Charlotte’s.

Chancellor had been interested in acquiring Staley since coaching her on the gold medal squad for the United States in Athens, Greece, last summer.

Staley, however, signed again with the Sting in hopes that the off-season player acquisitions in Charlotte would result in a long-sought WNBA title for the franchise that was one of the eight original teams when the league launched in 1999.

That’s the not the way things have evolved the last several months for the Sting, who dove to rock bottom not only in the East but an overall league-worst 3-21 mark through Wednesday night.

Despite assumptions in some circles around the league, Staley did not seek a trade for herself, according to sources in Charlotte familiar with the deal.

People in Houston familiar with the Comets’ desires said the asking price was too high when an approach was made to Charlotte for Staley sometime in the last two weeks.

But Chancellor, whose team has exceeded preseason playoff expectations, looked at some other ways to get a deal done.

“It’s already paying off dividends,” Chancellor said of Staley’s key three-pointer late in Tuesday’s game that helped the Comets beat the Detroit Shock, which had made its own blockbuster move the previous Saturday with the acquisition of all-star and Olympian Katie Smith through a trade with the Minnesota Lynx.

Staley, who has built Temple into a nationally-ranked women’s collegiate force in her five seasons with the Owls, wanted to finish her pro playing career in Charlotte.

But when the Sting management approached her with a chance to be re-united with Olympic teammates Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, along with Chancellor, Staley felt “I’d be a fool not to take advantage of the situation. I have wonderful memories with them even though it’s difficult to leave Charlotte because I am about loyalties.”

Staley went on to say next season would be her last, although some think she may leave the hardwood for good as a player if Houston wins the WNBA in the playoffs that begin later this month.

“I knew I had to make the deal when Dawn told me she wouldn’t be disruptive to our chemistry and would do whatever I asked,” Chancellor said recalling the final hours before pulling the trigger.

What the public didn’t know at the time, not that it would be a shock, but Charlotte coach Trudi Lacey was in her dwindling hours on the bench.

San Antonio coach Dan Hughes, who coached Staley earlier in his WNBA career at Charlotte, reacted to the deal when told by saying, “I’m happy for her. And I’ll tell you Houston now has a legitimate shot to win the WNBA title.”

Meanwhile, Charlotte had a game to play in Washington Tuesday night.

“Tuesday was a hard day around here,” a source in the Charlotte organization said of the day after the Staley deal was announced. “But these players have continued to work.”

It didn’t help matters with the announcement that Allison Feaster, who has been an all-star in the past, was done for the season because she was pregnant.

The Sting returned from Tuesday’s close 65-63 loss to the Mystics to be told that Muggsy Bogues, a former NBA star player with the former Charlotte Hornets, was going to become the coach, but that Lacey would retain the general manager job and the assistant coaches would keep their jobs with Bogues.

Although in an obvious rebuilding state, the Sting can still cause pain over their last ten games by being a spoiler in the three-team race for the third and fourth playoffs spots

Charlotte first meets West leader Sacramento on Thursday night at home when Bogues makes his coaching debut.

Then it’s all East with a home-and-home against Connecticut, three games with Detroit, including two at home; one game at the Indiana Fever, and three games against New York, including two on the road.

That’s it from here.

-- Mel

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