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, August 11, 2006

WNBA: Playoffs Still Not in Staley's Hands As Phoenix Tops Houston, 111-110 in 3 OTs

By Mel Greenberg

Maybe if Dawn Staley wasn't from Philadelphia, the Houston Comets' desperate chase for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference wouldn't resemble last season's agonizing bid by the Phillies for a major league baseball wild card berth that fell short on the final day.

Several weeks ago when the Guru punched a cheap round trip ticket to Houston by going Southwest on Southwest, the drill seemed simple.

The Comets would be in the playoffs well before the Seattle game and ceremonies honoring Staley as her playing career nears its end.

We'd get to the airport with little hassle to overcome in the early A.M. for the quick trip to Texas.

Arrive at a reasonable hour.

Catch the end of Houston's practice and then dine with coach Chancellor at his favorite hamburger joint, or, as we learned on our last trip to the Toyota Center, his newest favorite hamburger joint.

Then it would be a quick preview of the Houston-Seattle game and mention ceremonies for Staley, including the ABC halftime tribute during the nationally-televised contest, for Saturday's paper. (Two major stories -- one not by the guru -- are planned for Sunday's paper that will also be on philly.com and mine will change, obviously, as we go through Saturday.)

(Incidentally, our cyber spies on the desk just pointed out to me that our sister paper The Daily News has a tribute to Staley in Friday's paper.)

Contiuing with our original expectations for the weekend, it would then be a relatively implication-free mid-afternoon exercise to report on Saturday's activities to meld with the originally written story for the earlier Sunday edition.

Well, typically, it never goes as planned and what's been happening this week is reminiscent of star-crossed moments in Staley's career.

Quick to come to mind are several tough setbacks.

One was the 70-67 overtime loss that should have never been to Tennessee in the 1991 NCAA tournament in New Orleans.

That was followed in 1992 by the collegiate-career-ending 66-65 loss in the national semifinals to eventual champion Stanford in Staley's senior season.

Then, as she took over the Temple program, there were all those last-minute setbacks in key national games and some important local ones until Coach Staley finally got the Owls over the hump and into the limelight.

As for the Guru, a complete but early Sunday story had to readied for the Friday night late-nite run that would be substituted with Saturday's game and events, as previously mentioned.

So, the Guru's first effort began on Wednesday night in a blind not knowing the outcome in advance, obviously, of the Phoenix game.

And then, we had to dash to home office and revise the first effort off the Thursday game for the troops here to edit on Friday while we jet to Texas.

And, of course, thanks to a terror alert, we must get to the airport way in advance and then will probably learn that there's no problem since it's a very early flight.

As for the Phoenix-Houston tangle, the 111-110 win (see what I mean by those kind of deals) Thursday night by Phoenix becomes the highest scoring game in WNBA history and Ms. Taurasi breaks another Katie Smith record - this one for highest ever game total with 47 points. Earlier this week, she broke Smith's season scoring record.

As it has evolved, the game on Saturday has equal value to the ceremonies for Dawn. And if Houston loses, the Comets' fate may not be known until Sunday night.

But since I know a few of you would stop by here late-night Thursday and on Friday, because you wanted to see what was on the Guru's mind about all these turns of events, now you know.

We won't go into quotes we're seeing from afar off the Phoenix game from because our friends at womenshoops.com will be linking all over the place and many of you probably would have been to those sites first.

On another note, be warned that Ms. Kate may check in Sunday night with a dream-come-true experience reporting on another sport thanks to the Guru's connections elsewhere here in Philly -- the city where nothing ever comes easy.

-- Mel


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