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.

Friday, June 02, 2006

WNBA: Staley vs. Dupree - The Guru's Cut

By Mel Greenberg

HOUSTON
_ A four-season bond between Temple coach Dawn Staley and all-America center Candice Dupree in Philadelphia helped bring the Owls into national prominence.

On Friday night in the Toyota Center, however, the two were opposing warriors in a WNBA game between Staley’s Houston Comets and Dupree’s Chicago Sky, which is in its first season in the league.

The teacher’s team was the best Friday night with a 71-60 triumph that was Houston’s fourth straight after a season-opening loss to the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Conversely, the setback was the Sky’s fourth straight after a season-opening triumph in Charlotte against the Sting, although Chicago made things interesting in the closing minutes after shaving 21-deficit to just seven before the rally died.

It’s the first time in the WNBA a collegiate head coach went up against one of her former players.

Because Staley and Dupree play different positions _ Staley being an internationally-acclaimed point guard and Dupree an all-America center _ the two were involved in different traffic patterns during their time together on the court.

However, the two were very much aware of each other’s presence in the game and afterwards Staley mixed criticism with praise of the WNBA rookie’s effort.

“I think Candice is too lax, too lax,” Staley said. “And when she gets used to playing in this league, she’s going to have to be a little more aggressive and little more selfish, but not in a bad way.

“She just kind of goes with the flow and let’s the game come to her,” Staley observed. “She’s got to get a different mentality. Tina’s (Houston’s Tina Thompson) got that mentality, (the Los Angeles Sparks’) Lisa Leslie’s got that mentality, where they’re just going to go at you, and that’s what they did.

“But she can hold her own,” Staley continued. “She just needs that extra umph.”

However, Staley was reminded she was caught smiling on the bench when Dupree, who had seven points and six rebounds, nailed an outside shot during the third quarter.

“That’s my baby, that’s my baby,” Staley said with a laugh. “Tina said she had to get her back, though.”

Dupree also had a bit of chuckle when asked afterwards about the difference between Temple, where she had dominated the Atlantic Ten Conference on the way to three NCAA appearances. And Chicago, where she is the overall No. 6 pick in the first round of the WNBA draft.

“Well, it’s different for me because we’re not winning,” Dupree said. “But this is all part of being an expansion team. Chemistry is a big factor. We’re still working on that, figuring out who can start off games, who can finish games, what type of plays to run, so it’s different. But we’re trying to get used to it.”

As to Staley’s comments after the game, Dupree shrugged and said, “I’m sure I’ll hear about it once I get out of here. She was talking to me on the floor, too.”

The two arrived at the arena at about the same time Friday night and when a reporter from Philadelphia who was between them in the tunnel approached Dupree, her former coach yelled over, “Don’t go telling any lies about me.”

Dupree, who has come a long way from her media-shy early seasons at Temple, quickly shot back, “She’s been talking a bunch of crap since she found out what team I was going to.”

On Thursday night after Chicago arrived in town, the two dined together at nationally-known Asian restaurant.

“I paid,” Staley beamed about who picked up the tab. “It’s legal now for me to pay, now, right? She didn’t get her first check yet. She’s making more money than me.”

Staley is in the final season of a prolific career that began at Dobbins High in Philadelphia and has included three Olympic gold medals, all-star accolades in the WNBA and former American Basketball League, an two national player-of-the-year awards in the early 1990s when she led Virginia to three straight NCAA Women’s Final Four appearances.

“I’m happy, though, that I get a chance to play against her,” Staley said of matching up with Dupree. “I’m happy that I’ve played long enough to see someone come through our program at Temple and become a professional.”

Dupree said the biggest change from college in the pro leagues was “it’s much more physical here.”

Nevertheless, Stacey Dales-Schumann, a former star guard at Oklahoma who came out of retirement to sign with the Sky, praised Dupree’s performance in the early season.

“She’s a terrific teammate,” Dales-Schumann said. “She’s as smooth as anyone I’ve seen in the WNBA. When she competes, she takes her time. I think she has some of the best hands I’ve played with.

“Chamique Holdsclaw had incredible hands (when the two were in Washington). Candice has some pretty good hands.”

The two meet again in Chicago on July 14.

Staley’s farewell tour will take her to Washington, Tuesday night, where the Comets’ game against the Mystics will be the first of three final visits to the East Coast, unless Houston and one of those teams – potentially Connecticut – would meet in the WNBA finals.

- Mel

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