Out and About and Out of It -- Sort Of
So, time for a little personal journal of the last few days.
The eve of the trip to Knoxville, Tenn., for the annual Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (WBHOF) Induction, last Thursday was marked by a major reclamation project in our work station involving the demolition of boxscore handouts, play-by-play scrawls, game-notes handouts, etc., you name it, to produce for the first time in several months, bare, naked desktop. :)
Gee, forgot what the color was, sort of.
A secondary reason was to re-jigger our shift into the pro season and also to make the place presentable in the event a self-appointed biographer who lives in the area decides to make an on-site inspection visit. :)
Then it was home for some quick shut-eye and on to a 5:30 a.m. flight to Charlotte, connecting to the toy airplane fleet to finish off the trip to Knoxville.
The weather was quite nice and soon after our arrival and converting the hotel room into proper music ambience, our colleague and self-appointed campaign manager in Knoxville, Dan Fleser of the Knoxville News Sentinel, dropped by to whisk us off to Litton's, a place about 20 minutes away toward to the hills that serves some of the best hamburgers and french fries, ever.
Then it was back to the hotel to get ready to go to the hall next door for the media session with the six inductees. The focus was, of course, on Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, and he also earned the larger amount of our reporting here because, although many of you visit this blog from a national perspective, he is a Philly guy.
And when a certain guru is being eclipsed in print by the NFL draft, the Flyers, etc., well, this was the way to go.
Then it was back to the hotel to send in the print version of the media session and change somewhat to a slightly finer mode of attire for the Friday night events back in the WBHOF.
The first part was a reception with a buffet consisting of chicken, beans, ice cream, and other delights. It was also a chance to catch up with acquaintances, some of who were in town as members of the board to select next year's class of inductees, and others who were part of the entourages of this year's induction class.
Although, we were occupied with just catching up, we are aware of several campaigns occuring on behalf of the guru, so we took some personal notes, just in case we find ourselves on the other side of fence next time around.
Results of the board's deliberations won't be announced until November at the annual tipoff doubleheader. Once the next class of inductees is informed of their selections, those individuals face the rather difficult job of deciding who will star in the introductory video of themselves and who will serve as the escort to the podium.
Yeah, for you fans of a certain college kid whose work has appeared here, that person is high on the list for consideration, not to mention any names, just in case the knock on the door occurs. :)
But be warned, during the past several years, comments of "You're Next" have often been heard without those comments transformed to reality.
Meanwhile, some of the notables in the crowd were our Georgia friends Teresa Edwards, the all-time Olympian who continues to play (which is why she isn't in the WBHOF) and Georgia coach Andy Landers.
Bev Smith, a past inductee who starred in Canada and now coaches Oregon, her alma mater, was on the scene as was one of the newest board members -- one Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer.
In fact, later in the evening, we spent some quality time together discussing the years gone by. Incidentally, in a topic brought up from "coach," in case some of you in the Scarlet Knights crowd have been wondering, she, too, is impressed with the writings of a certain college kid on her campus.
That very same individual was asked for by one coach Pat summitt, whose local Tennessee team has been known to win an NCAA title or two or three or four or five or six. In fact, the college kid so impressed in Boston that few are using that individual's last name when mentioning that individual in conversation. :)
And to think some of us had to spend several decades before acquiring single name status. :)
Pat and the college kid became acquaintances back in Boston several weeks ago, when thrown together in six inches of space in the back seat of the Guru-mobile.
The reception also included a brief introductory ceremony in which each of the inductees made a few remarks.
Although the names of honorees are noted in our reporting just in back of this blog, to refresh -- they were two coaches -- Geno Auriemma and Bentley's Barbara Stevens -- three former all-Americans in Texas' Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, Georgia's Katrina McClain Johnson, and Louisiana Tech's Janice Lawrence Braxton. Brazilian sensation Paula Goncalves da Silva rounded out the group.
Auriemma began his comments, noting it was great to be "in Pat's summer home."
After the first part of the evening's activities concluded, everyone retired to the urban playground room on the first floor for what has become a traditional storytelling session.
It is here that serious and not-so-serious comments are made in a town hall setting by the inductees and their well-wishers.
"There are no stories about me," Barbara Stevens said, noting that her friends and family had been thoroughly warned.
Landers, Stringer, and Auriemma lauded the all-American trio as some of the best of all time.
Auriemma, whose staff was on the scene, noted a game in the fall of 1995 when his first defending national champions played the United States Olympic team on campus and Jamelle Elliott had to guard McClain.
"Had not the referees been compasionate, Jamelle would not only be the only player in Connecticut women's history to score 1,000 points, and grab a 1,000 rebounds, she'd have the only triple double -- 15 points, 10 rebounda, and 12 fouls," Auriemma said.
He also noted said that "had Katrina had better coaching in college, she would have won at least one national championship," giving his friend Landers a dig.
Stringer talked about the need for the three players to join the coaching ranks to make younger players appreciate what came before.
"You were the real players," Stringer said with pride.
She already has one such person on her staff in former Scarlet Knights star Sue Wicks, whose name, we hear, is drawing interest by Hofstra for the vacant position.
It would seem a natural match, considering Wicks' Long Island roots.
In discussing the recent dunks by Tennessee freshmen Candace Parker and their impact on the game, Auriemma also mentioned that "One thing is going to change the women's game when people become more competitive, they rebound harder, they run the floor harder, they take better care of the basketball, they play defense with a passion, they play the game like their life depends on it. That is what is going to make the game better -- not dunking the basketball. That doesn't change anything."
He mentioned Stevens and former Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp as two coaches "who do things the right way, they win the right way and they coach the right way. They're two people every coach should emulate."
Davis-Wrightsil said the biggest change in the women's game was exposure made possible through television and also the WNBA.
da Silva recalled as a little girl taking home a toilet seat from a demolished housing development to shoot a basketball at.
Then it was back to the hotel bar where some other faces in the crowd included Beth Bass, chief executive officer of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association; Carol Stiff, an ESPN executive; former Texas Tech coach Fran Garmon, among other players and one of the early pioneers of the modern era.
Much of Saturday in the daytime was spent by yours truly visiting former Inquirer sports editor Jay Searcy, who retired to Knoxville. Some of you might remember his name as part of the work of a college kid's class project that was posted here. (Some day one of you guru fans needs to tell me how to put links back to those places. :) )
Anyhow, Jay, who had the original idea to start a women's poll, lives in a ritzy neighborhood 30 minutes West of Knoxville on Lake Loudon, which is part of the Tennessee River system.
We were treated to a boat ride to the Calhoun's on the River, another in a chain of fabulous ribs places.
We had some minor intrepedation, because when Jay stepped down as sports editor, he took the horse racing and boxing beats and became famous for running into computer problems from the road.
So you could imagine our fears of becoming stuck on the lake if the boat suddenly had computer trouble and missing the induction ceremony.
But it all went smoothly. The induction ceremony is covered in the previous blog. As media types, we did have a first this time -- a media room set up under the Tennessee Theatre, well you know what I mean, with wireless transmission access, a monitor of the stage, and sound piped through the ceiling.
Our good friend at the WBHOF was on the case. Things went smoother than otherwise might have because editors up north decided to scale back sending their writers to Knoxville for Auriemma, considering he will also be inducted into the nearby Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September.
Then it was back to bar and some general socializing that eventually produced the biggest disaster of the trip. -- Yep, yours truly overslept and missed a very early morning flight and then being held hostage by USAir to get a later flight.
Meanwhile, in other news, the United States Basketball Writers Association is moving closer to announcing a special way to honor the memory of Maggie Dixon, the 28-year-old Army coach who died suddenly of a heart problem early last month.
Here at Guru central, the uncertainty of the sale of our home newspaper continues. In fact, we jested to a colleague here that it would be funny if we got a call from the WBHOF for the next induction class and then would have to go to the ceremonies in a West Coast uniform. :)
Also, yours truly and a handful of media colleagues yesterday in teleconference call set the all-star ballot for the WNBA, which will be announced sometime next week.
Remember, write-ins will be allowed if we committed an oversight.
Also, the guru is in the early planning stages of how we will cover Dawn Staley's final WNBA season, so if any of you have ideas of things you'd like to see, send them along.
If this particular blog appears endless, it's because the college kid is taking finals and is not around to recommend a wrap-up.
So we will sign off and once again take off into the sunrise. :)