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, February 16, 2006

Staley Named to USA Basketball Staff


Blog readers note (two of them)

Hi whomever is over here.

First, some of you will see a an AP-Pittsburgh Bureau story regarding the turnaround of Pittsburgh overall and especially in the Big East.

There will be a brief visit with yours truly and an allusion will be made that I claimed that eight or nine Big East teams will go to the NCAA tournament.

What I actually said was right now, at least eight or nine (went off the top of my head) are in play until they sort themselves out. Example: Several years ago, no one expected Miami to make it at this moment in time with a very distant RPI about 20 spots away from the bubble.
But the Hurricanes made a run and got to the semifinals with two big wins to gain an at-large bid.

Secondly, this morning I sent you to Philly.com to read a breaking news story.

As the headline above suggests, the news has occurred but the print version will be small because of space constraints.

So here is the longer version I donated to our Knight Ridder News Wire that goes to major markets and other places.

Will be back in a few hours after dining out (not China town) with commentary off tonight's news. -- Mel

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA — Temple women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley was officially named Thursday to the USA Basketball coaching staff as an assistant for the USA Women’s World Championship Team to compete at the FIBA championship in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sept. 12-13.

Duke coach Gail Goestenkors and WNBA Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault were also named to the staff headed USA Senior National Women’s coach Anne Donovan, who also coaches the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

The national team will ultimately become the Olympic team for the games in 2008 in Beijing, China.

Although Donovan was previously named to lead the team through its duration through 2008, assuming it becomes an Olympic qualifier, Staley’s appointment and that of the other two assistants are only through the FIBA championships.

However, any or all could be retained. USA Basketball president Val Ackerman, the former head of the WNBA, had previously commented, “Dawn Staley is someone we would want to keep in USA basketball for a long time.”

Staley, an all-star point guard with the WNBA’s Houston Comets, has won three Olympic gold medals prior to her retirement from international competition after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Donovan was an assistant with Duke’s Goestenkors to WNBA Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor in Athens.

“I think it will be a great experience,” Staley said of being reunited with the former Old Dominion all-America, who also won two Olympic gold medals. “I have the highest regard for Anne as a coach and as a person. Anne and I have a long and storied history together and I expect that we will use this experience to put another notch on our belts.”

The two nearly worked together in Philadelphia in the fall of 1998.

Donovan became coach of the Philadelphia Rage in the American Basketball League, which collapsed under bankruptcy in December, 1998.

Several months earlier Staley announced during the WNBA finals in Houston, she was moving to the rival NBA-run women’s pro league, which will launch its 10th year of competition this summer.

Staley, a former star at Dobbins Tech, has competed in USA basketball nearly annually from 1989 until 2004 when she retired from international competition as a player.

“I expect this level will be the most challenging for me, being on the other side of the whistle,” Staley said of her move to the sidelines from being the “floor coach” running the offense.

Donovan referred to Staley as “a winner and the ultimate competitior. Dawn defines everything ‘golden’ about USA Basketball and I am so glad that she will be on the sidelines with me.”

A former all-American at Virginia, Staley had no prior coaching experience before taking the Temple job in May, 2000.

She has since then led the Owls to three NCAA tournament appearances as Atlantic Ten champions and also has her team challenging for another title this season.

“This is what I do,” Staley said of her long involvement with USA Basketball. “I’m attracted to things that challenge me and USA Basketball has done that to me for years. I’m excited to be given the the opportunity to be challenged on the other end.

“I’m going to approach this challenge the same way that I did as a player, helping Anne in any way that I can and doing whatever it takes to come away with nothing less than the gold.”

WNBA All-Star Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks, a longtime friend of Staley's, who has competed with her on USA Basketball squads since Leslie’s days at Southern Cal, was excited about the new relationship with her former teammate.

“I feel extremely confident that we’ll win another world championship,” Leslie said from Houston, where she is participating in NBA all-Star Game activities, “just knowing Dawn will be there with us on the bench.

“Even though she won’t be there playing alongside me on the court, having her as a coach, having her passion, her attitude and her knowledge of the game will go a long way,” Leslie added.

“I’m really excited about returning (to the USA Basketball program) and playing for Dawn,” Leslie stopped herself and laughed. “Coach Dawn. It’s going to be hard calling her ‘Coach,’ I’m so used to calling her ‘Dawnie.’”

Thibault, who has led Connecticut to two straight runnersup finishes in the WNBA, including one to Donovan’s Seattle squad, has twice coached teams in the USA Basketball system on the men’s side when he was an NBA assistant.

“Obviously winning NBA championships and CBA championships and being in the WNBA finals are all highlights. But playing and coaching for your country in a gold medal game is pretty intense,” Thibault said

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at mgreenberg@phillynews.com.


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