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.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Guru's Time Machine: 'Nova Stops UConn Streak

By Mel Greenberg

As we move closer to real current coverage -- the Guru will be at College Park, Md., Tuesday for the Terps' media day -- who can forget this blast from the past that happened in 2003 at the Big East Tournament at Rutgers. It resulted in overall page one coverage as well as the following story that dominated page one of the sports section. The story also topped the Washington Post, which got it by way of the Knight-Ridder Wire. -- Mel

Wildcats' Wild Upset

Villanova's victory not only ended UConn's nine-year stranglehold on the Big East tourney, it also ended the team's record 70-game winning streak.

Mar 12, 2003

By Mel Greenberg


PISCATAWAY, N.J. _ Villanova shocked the women's basketball world last night by ending the University of Connecticut 's record 70-game winning streak with a 52-48 victory in the Big East championship game at the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center on Rutgers' campus.

'Nova's victory, before a national television audience and a loyal following from the campus of 10,000, ended the Huskies' nine-year ownership of the Big East tournament. It was, said an elated Wildcats coach Harry Perretta, "maybe a miracle. "

"This is the greatest moment in our program, to beat the No. 1 team in the country," said Perretta, who has coached the women's team for 17 years. "It's great for the kids. I've been around a long time. I've had good things happen to me. I'm just happy for the kids. "

So was Jay Wright, the Villanova men's coach. "It's a great day for Villanova basketball," Wright said. "We've always known that Harry's had a great program, and now the rest of the country knows it.

"I'm happy for Harry and their team. They've been building and building, and tonight they proved themselves. "

Geno Auriemma, coach of the perennial women's power from Storrs, Conn. - and the team most likely to be the star of the upcoming national tournament - saw his season fall short of the perfection of UConn's undefeated championship team of a year ago. Still, the Norristown native could not help but smile at the night enjoyed by Villanova , and Perretta, his longtime friend and peer.

" Villanova is tough," Auriemma said. "If they get the lead, they are impossible to play against. They play a different style of play than most people are used to.

"They had a perfect game plan, and we missed a lot of shots. "

Again, Auriemma smiled. "He [Perretta] is always worried whether his team's good enough. Well, tonight, they proved they're good enough. "

Perretta's team trailed by as many as nine points in the second half, but the Wildcats persevered, though, and their triumph highlighted what already has been a phenomenal season.

Now 25-5, the Wildcats earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with last night's upset. It was also their first conference championship since 1987.

Trish Juhline, who had carried the Wildcats past conference heavyweights during the last month of the season, put the game away with four foul shots in the last 39 seconds, including a pair with 13.3 seconds left for the final score.

The Cardinal O'Hara graduate, who was voted the most outstanding player in the tournament, finished with 18 points. Diana Taurasi and Jessica Moore each scored 13 for the Huskies (31-1).

"The last minute and a half of the game I thought was an hour and a half long," Juhline said. "We still can't believe it happened. We're so excited. You should see us in the locker room. "

Senior Katie Davis also expressed the disbelief the Wildcats felt. "We knew the streak was going to end. We just didn't think it would be us," she said.

Perretta said of Juhline's performance: "It's unbelievable. She made every free throw. She made shots down the stretch. "

As for the rest of the architects of 'Nova's biggest victory, he said: "Nicole Druckenmiller made threes. Courtney Mix. . . . But Trish has been absolutely phenomenal. It's the only word I can use to describe it. "

The Huskies' season is certainly not over. "Maybe this will be the best thing for us," Auriemma said. "It will rejuvenate us for the NCAA tournament. "

The Wildcats got off to a small but early lead in the game as Juhline pumped in 10 points. The crowd, dominated by Huskies fans, kept waiting for UConn to take control, but Villanova would not yield, and by the time the half ended, the Wildcats had a 20-17 lead.

It was the first time the Huskies trailed after the first 20 minutes of action during their record Division 1 70-game winning streak .

"If I tell you we're going to outrebound the other team," Auriemma said, "and we're going to hold them to 34 percent [shooting], and we're going to get 16 offensive rebounds, we should win that game, right?

"I guess we're going to start from scratch now," Taurasi said. "The last couple of weeks haven't been going all that well.

"We couldn't get anything going on either end. We're used to their style of play. We just didn't execute," she said.

The big statistic of the opening half was on the boards, where Villanova matched UConn, 20-20. Jana Rediger and Jennifer Hilgenberg helped key the defensive effort with three rebounds each.

Wildcats fans began to think the highly implausible might occur, especially with a statistic that showed that Villanova was 53-2 over the last three seasons when ahead at the half.

Connecticut , however, had overwhelmed Villanova in recent times with an 18-game winning streak by taking 26 of the last 27 meetings. And Connecticut had averaged more than 80 points per game during its winning streak .

The Wildcats stayed tough early in the second half, and when Mix hit two foul shots with 16 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game, Villanova still had the lead, 23-22.

With 12 minutes to play, the Huskies had a slim 28-27 advantage. Connecticut went on to build a 36-27 lead with 9:27 left in the game and the Huskies looked to be back in control.

Villanova , however, would not quit and went on a 15-0 run to regain the upper hand.

Even if Perretta's squad had come up short last night, his players went into the game knowing they were in outstanding shape for an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament when the 64-team is announced Sunday afternoon.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Guru's Time Machine: ODU Wins NCAA Title

By Mel Greenberg

Today we stop in 1985 when Old Dominion beat Georgia for the NCAA title in Austin, Texas, a town in mourning because their beloved and nationally-favored Texas Longhorns had been upset earlier in the tournament at Western Kentucky. A year later, however, coach Jody Conradt's squad redeemed itself with an unbeaten title.
This was also the first tournament in which the smaller "women's ball" came into use.

Before reprinting the story, some Guru personal history from Oct. 29, 1969.

The Guru had been on the job one month at The Inquirer as an editorial assistant on the business page. A pal wisecracked that Walter Annenberg, then the owner, wouldn't last a month with the Guru as an employe.

And so it was at 3 p.m. after the stock market closed that the Guru walked to the Dow Jones ticker machine and saw a line that read: Knight Newspapers Buys Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

The Guru walked into the main newsroom next door and yelled to a colleague, "We've just been sold," bringing all activity to a dead stop just before deadline.

Unfortunately, the incident established the Guru as the person in the know around this building.

Which brings the question: What's going to happen at the paper Tuesday night when the contract extensions expire.

Hard to say but in either event, the Guru will be on the way to Indy the next day, no matter, to attend the 24-hour NCAA get-together with print media types to discuss women's basketball issues involving coverage and growing the game.

That said, here's today's time machine stop. In the next few days, in honor of one of the games in the State Farm Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff in two weeks: Rutgers vs. Georgia, we'll reprise the only two Rutgers wins, both of which we covered, in the eight-game meeting between the two schools.

-- Mel


Apr 01, 1985

By Mel Greenberg

Special to The Inquirer

AUSTIN, Texas -- Old Dominion's Lady Monarchs ruled the backboards against favored Georgia yesterday afternoon to produce a 70-65 victory in the NCAA women's basketball championship game.

The winners outrebounded Georgia by 57-30. Indeed, coach Marianne Stanley's team (31-3) used second efforts to more than make up for a rather poor 38.2 percent shooting performance.

Old Dominion got 24 points from 30 offensive rebounds, while Georgia got only 10 points from eight offensive boards.

This is Old Dominion's first NCAA crown, but the Lady Monarchs won titles in 1979 and 1980, when the tournament was run by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).

Those squads were led by Nancy Lieberman and Inge Nissen, who joined the team before Stanley became coach in 1977.

"The last time (ODU won)," Stanley said, "people questioned whether they were my players. This one is nice because this is my team. "

Two of Stanley's seniors, 6-foot, 3-inch Medina Dixon (18 points) and 6-2 Tracy Claxton (17 points), outrebounded the entire Georgia team by grabbing 15 and 20, respectively. Georgia collected 30 rebounds.

Early in the nationally televised game, it appeared that Georgia (29-5) might fulfill its role as the preseason favorite and post a victory in front of 7,597 at the Erwin Special Events Center. The Lady Dawgs held a 31-22 lead when Dixon was sent to the bench with her third foul with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half.

"I didn't know what to say to my teammates," Dixon said. "I know they look up to me, but I was feeling frustrated. "

"I told her, 'You better start getting on the boards, or we're going to lose this tournament,' " said Claxton, named the tournament's most valuable player.

Although Dixon was on the bench for the rest of the half, Georgia began missing shots and Old Dominion managed to sneak back to within a point, 31-30, as the half ended.

Part of the reason was the foul trouble of Lisa O'Connor, Georgia's 6-1 junior forward, who was sent to the bench with her third foul shortly before the cold spell began.

"She is as important as anybody on the roster," said Georgia coach Andy Landers . "We experienced a lot of frustration running the offense. "

In the second half, Old Dominion, which had shot 37 percent in its win over Northeast Louisiana in the NCAA semifinals, was picking up every loose ball, while Georgia was getting deeper into foul trouble.

Georgia's Teresa Edwards, the Olympic point guard, was charged with her fourth foul with 13:23 left in the game. When she returned at the 9:24 mark, her stay was short-lived. She picked up her fifth foul with 8:10 left and her team behind, 50-48.

Georgia still had its chance, primarily because freshman guard Traci Waites (19 points) was filling the void left by Edwards. Waites' basket with 5:06 left gave Georgia the lead back, 58-57.

It was the last lead, however, and it came after Georgia's 6-2 Katrina McClain fouled out a minute earlier on a questionable call under the Old Dominion basket.

Then Georgia turned the ball over three straight times. The Lady Monarchs converted the opportunities and were on their way.

"I have to take the blame for the rebounding," Landers said. "We really don't work a lot on it in practice and don't really have people who are aggressive on the boards other than McClain.

"I believe Old Dominion is also quicker on the inside than us. They were able to get that step in front of us. "

Dixon, who stayed out of foul trouble the rest of the game, also managed to neutralize all-American Janet Harris, who had 13 points and six rebounds.

Claxton and Dixon were joined on the all-tournament team by McClain, Edwards and Western Kentucky's Lillie Mason.

Harris 6-10 1-3 13, O'Connor 4-8 2-2 10, McClain 3-7 2-3 8, Abrams 0-1 4-4 4, Edwards 5-15 1-2 11, Waites 8-14 3-4 19, Bootz 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 13-18 65.
Claxton 7-17 3-4 17, Goodson 3-10 3-4 9, Dixon 9-21 0-3 18, Christian 4-9 3-4 11, B. Jenkins 2-7 2-2 6, Cullen 2-7 1-2 5, Blais 0-0 0-0 0, Harrington 2-5 0-2 4, A. Jenkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-76 12-21 70.
Halftime - Georgia 31, Old Dominion 30. Fouled out - Edwards, McClain. Rebounds - Georgia 30 (McClain 8), Old Dominion 57 (Dixon 15). Assists - Georgia 10 (Waites 4), Old Dominion 11 (Christian 7). Total fouls - Georgia 23, Old Dominion 17. Attendance - 7,597.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Big East Takes Manhattan -- Again

By Mel Greenberg

The Big East Conference held its annual women’s basketball media day at the ESPN SportsZone, Thursday, the same site on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway it moved to last year when the conference expanded by five teams to a total of 16.

Prior to then, the Big East women’s extravaganza occurred in a hotel located near the Newark Airport across the river in New Jersey.

Before breaking for one-on-one interviews with coaches and players, each of the coaches extolled the virtues of the Big East following opening remarks by commissioner Mike Tranghese.

There’s certainly much to say about a league that’s produced six NCAA titles, although most of the heavy lifting has come from the University of Connecticut acquiring five of the six trophies. Notre Dame produced the other one in 2001.

Connecticut has dominated with 13 Big East titles leading to automatic NCAA bids, although Auriemma noted that the competition is much tougher in recent years.

“There’s just too many good teams right now,” said Auriemma, who spent the offseason getting inducted in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

“This was the hardest, I think, the coaches had to try to predict three through 12, “ Auriemma spoke of the slots behind his team, which was made the overwhelming favorite, Rutgers, and DePaul. “You could turn it upside down and not been wrong, probably.”

Traditional challengers Villanova and Notre Dame were picked 10th and 11th, while recent conference additions DePaul and Louisville were picked third and fourth.

“Every team that came into the league last year added a lot to an already good league,” Auriemma said. “And it’s forced us to be even better than we were previous to that, as far as Connecticut is concerned.”

Louisville coach Tom Collen was a little surprised by his team’s picked.

“I’m not sure how you picked fourth in a conference when you lose four of your five starters,” Collen said. “But I think we have some awfully talented kids and some of the coaches in the conference know that some of the players who weren’t starters for us last year that were coming off the bench are the heir apparent. That was the reason we got picked as high as we did.”

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer gave a shoutout to her school’s nationally ranked football team.

“It has been a long time coming,” Stringer said.

As for her Scarlet Knights, who are suffering with nagging injuries, Stringer spoke of coping in the early part of the season.

“We are young, we have five freshmen – they don’t have a clue about what’s going on. Sometimes when we’re talking to them, they look up to the sky and think God’s going to tell them something different.

“But I really enjoy coaching them. It’s going to take a while molding them into the team that they are projected to be,” she said.

“None of our starters have been on the floor, other than Essence Carson who joined us a week ago,” Stringer said. “We’re hoping Matee Ajavon is with us in January at the start of the Big East.”

Veteran Villanova coach Harry Perretta, who was with the Wildcats before the Big East women began play 25 years ago, said, “Every year it’s a little tougher for me to do it but Joe (Mullaney Jr.) doesn’t want to do it yet so I have to survive a little bit longer.

“We lost six seniors. We lost 75 percent of our offense which is either good or bad, depending how you look at it. We only averaged 59 points a game, so 75 percent might not be bad to some people, on the other hand, it might be really bad.”

Jackie Adamshick is Villanova’s only senior and Stacie Witman is the only junior.

“I’m going to try to be a little gentler with my team this year,” Perretta quipped.

Finger Walking: The Big 12, the Big East, the SEC, the CAA may stage major productions to tout their members’ prospects.

Meanwhile, the conference that sent three teams to the Final Four and produced the national champion in Maryland, went a different route that it resorted to a year ago.

The league sent around a DVD and then conducted a teleconference with the member coaches.

Maryland was picked to win the ACC ahead of North Carolina and Duke, and the Terrapins’ Crystal Langhorne and Marissa Coleman were named to the All-Conference first team with North Carolina’s Ivory Latta and Erlana Larkins, and Duke’s Lindsay Harding.

Wolters Takes the Mike. Kara Wolters, a former Connecticut all-American center and national player of the year in the mid-1990s is now a TV analyst on broadcasts of her alma mater.

On Thursday, she expressed a newly-discovered view of her former coach Geno Auriemma that the media has already known for years.

“You go over there to listen to him (at the Connecticut interview table), and he doesn’t stop. He just goes on and on,” Wolters said.

Rutgers’ Stringer is another coach known for long answers, especially at postgame press conferences. The print crowd is hopeful that Stacie Brann, the personable new Sports Information Director for the program moving over from Long Island, might help their cause.

Brann has an extensive background in television production, which raises the possibility she might train the Hall of Fame coach into delivering shorter sound bites.

Missing by inches. Connecticut fell to Duke in last season’s NCAA regional final, 63-61, with Charde Houston missing a short that might have extended the game.

So what was the summer like for the returning players with that defeat inserted into the memory banks?

“That just showed us how close we were and how much of an opportunity we had,” sophomore guard Mel Thomas reflected. “It fuels the fire for this year. We know what we’re capable of doing. It’s just a matter of going out there and actually being the ones that do it.”

Thomas said it is a little strange suddenly becoming one of the leaders of the squad.

“It’s strange now being the ones everyone on the team looks up to,” Thomas said. “People ask you what to do. Personally, it’s kind of different for us in that role than just being the person being told what to do.”

-- Mel

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Old Dominon Picked to Continue CAA Rule

By Mel Greenberg

When it comes to winning the Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball championship, all Old Dominion teams are created equal.

Every Monarchs contingent over the past 15 years has captured the CAA title since ODU joined the conference. More of the same is expected of the 2006-07 contingent.

The CAA coaches and sports information directors, along with media representatives who cover the conference, have picked ODU to win again.

Some Old Dominion squads have had narrow escapes in recent seasons such as two years ago when coach Wendy Larry’s squad rallied to beat Delaware in overtime after the Blue Hens had swept the season series. That came after a last-second triumph in the semifinals when Drexel nearly pulled a stunning upset.

The ODU squad for this particular season may be a little more equal than others in that the Monarchs could be a throwback to the days when the Norfolk, Va., school ruled or contended in the national landscape.

Four starters return, highlighted by junior guard T.J. Jordan, and forwards Sherida Triggs and Tish Lyons.

Adding to the excitement are two players who missed last season with injuries: 6-4 junior center Tamara Ransburg, a transfer from Kansas, and Tiffany Green, an all-rookie pick in the conference two seasons ago.

Still, Larry was playing it a bit cautious in discussing her team on Wednesday at the CAA’s annual media day for its men’s and women’s teams to preview the season.

“When you have a team that fights and claws like this team did last year to defend the crown, and you have, technically, three kids who could have played significant minutes for us go down with season-ending injuries, now you get those kids back, and you get four kids who were staples for you in fighting and clawing, now you have to blend that stuff back together,” Larry said.

“It’s not an easy task. You have some kids who played some big minutes, 25-26 minutes a game, that might come off the bench. Obviously, the losses are the coaches, and the wins are the players, so I have to get to work.”

Larry acknowledge the CAA has come a long way on the women’s side since the days when the Monarchs would blitz through their conference rivals with perfect records.

“I’m proud of the fact that Old Dominion came into this conference and raised the bar,” she said. “I think the coaches in this conference have answered the bell. They’re scheduling better. There are athletes in our league that are competitive on the regional levels, now. We’re playing nationally ranked teams on our schedules. It’s just a matter of time before some of us start knocking those ranked teams off.”

Just as on the men’s side, the upper echelon of the conference is dominated by a slew of returning starters.

James Madison, with all five starters back, was picked second, followed by Delaware, Hofstra, William and Mary, and UNC Wilmington. The second half of the preseason picks was led by Virginia Commonwealth, followed by George Mason, Drexel, Georgia State, Towson, and Northeastern.

The top teams dominated the preseason voting on the all-conference squads with William & Mary 6-0 junior forward Kyra Kaylor named the CAA’s preseason player of the year. JMU’s 6-3 senior forward-center Alexis Meredith and 6-2 junior guard Tamara Young joined Kaylor on the first team along with 5-10 junior Tyresa Smith, and Hofstra’s 6-3 senior center Vanessa Giddons.

The Pride’s Cigi McCollin made the second team, along with ODU’s Jordan and Triggs, Va. Commonwealth’s 6-4 sophomore center Quanitra Hollingworth, and Georgia State senior 5-8 guard Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen.

“ Q. Hollingsworth might be one of the best young post players in the country,” Larry said of the VCU star who drew national attention a year ago.

“When you start looking at men’s basketball and women’s basketball, the teams that have the greatest presence in the paint at every level are successful,” she added.

JMU will get a notice or two in several ways from an addition in Jennifer Harris, who becomes eligible after transferring from Penn State.

Harris has brought legal action against Penn State coach Rene Portland for allegedly running her off the Nittany Lions two seasons ago for perceiving Harris as a lesbian.

A trial has been scheduled for next May, although Penn State, off its own internal investigation, produced findings that moved the school to put Portland on notice that she would be dimissed if she became involved in new future allegations.

Portland responded that Harris’ dismissal involved her “work ethic” and not because of any sexual proclivity.

Harris’ lawyers in December filed a discrimination suit with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Penn State held its own internal investigation of the matter and in April announced Portland had violated school policy in terms of Harris’ accusation, fined her $10,000, and threatened to fire her if any future violations occur. She was also required to participate in a program focusing on diversity and inclusiveness.

Portland argued the result in a brief press conference and has not commented since on the matter, citing the existing litigation.

The veteran coach was also fined, among other penalties, although when Penn State announced the results of the investigation last spring, Portland referred to those discoveries as “flawed.”

JMU coach Kenny Brooks said Wednesday he didn’t see Harris’ ongoing legal situations to become distractions to his team, although he acknowledged she probably faced some “difficult days ahead” in playing in public again and facing the media.

Drexel coach Denise Dillon, whose team will open at home on Nov. 10 against Penn State, had no argument against the Dragon’s pick at ninth.

“Rightfully so,” said Dillon, a former Villanova star. “Look at the what the teams at the top of the conference are returning. We lost a lot. We may have lost more than anyone.”

Catherine Scanlon, a graduating senior, had become one of Drexel’s all-time players.

“Since I started at Drexel, we’ve stressed team basketball. You can’t always count on anyone player,” Dillon said of her approach to life after Scanlon.

“It’s going to take some time to get the new kids ready, and the kids that have been on the team, I’m letting them know I have confidence in them stepping up to help us,” Dillon said and mentioned 6-1 junior forward Delise Johnson as having an increased role.

Junior forward Nicole Hester and junior guard Narissa Suber are the keys to Drexel success.

Tina Martin at Delaware will be looking at Tyresa Smith to keep the Blue Hens in the fray.

“It’s an unbelievable league right now,” Martin said of the CAA competition. “It’s just talent upon talent. It’s loaded. We have returning players that if we can just stay healthy, we’ll have a shot to throw our hat in the ring, too. The schedules have gotten better, the players have gotten better and overall the league has taken a huge step in the right direction.”

George Washington Dominates A-10 Poll

The Atlantic Ten women were not involved in a media day, but on Wednesday the conference announced its preseason choices in a vote by coaches and select media.

George Washington, the regular season co-champion, has been picked first, gaining 13 of 18 first-place votes and featuring a lineup with four veteran starters.

Temple, which has won the last three A-10 conference tournaments, slipped only to second despite the graduation of Candice Dupree, who went on to an outstanding rookie season in the WNBA after becoming an all-time player for the Owls and the conference.

Temple picked up two first-place votes and landed senior forward Kamesha Hairston on the all-conference first team, as well as the conference’s all-defensive team.

La Salle’s Crista Rickets made the preseason first team, that also had the GW backcourt combination of juniors Kimberly Beck and Sarah-Jo Lawrence, along with Xavier senior guard Sutana Granderson.

Xavier, the third pick with three first-place votes, have a freshman class ranked tenth in the country, highlighted by Amber Harris.

St. Joseph’s, which finished fourth in the voting after having the best turn-around in the country, placed senior guard Ayahna Cornish on the second team, along with Duquesne’s Loui Hall, Saint Louis’ Tyler McIlwraith, Rhode Island’s Safi Mojidi, and Dayton’s Jennifer Strong.

The third team consisted of Fordham’s Lisa Carrol, Richmond’s Christina Campion, Xavier’s Miranda Green, and Massachusetts’ Kate Mills and Pam Rosanio.

Beck and Lawrence of GW joined Temple’s Hairston on the all-defensive team along with La Salle’s Carlene Hightower, and Rhode Island’s Mojidi.

In the preseason team voting, St. Joseph’s was followed by Charlotte, Massachusetts, La Salle, Duquesne, Rhode Island, and Saint Louis.

--- Mel

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Guru's Time Machine: Big East Media Days (1999-2005)

By Mel Greenberg

The Big East will have its annual media day for its women's basketball team on Thursday in New York. Tuesday's time machine visit presents our coverage of past media days from 1999 through a year ago. There is a fascination as to what was said and what actually happened. Remember, we were in our local configuration for the Inquirer. Reading down we'll start at the top with the 1999-2000 preview -- a season in which Rutgers and Connecticut made it to the Final Four here in Philadelphia. -- Mel


Oct 29, 1999

By Mel Greenberg


NEWARK, N.J. _ In recent times, when the Big East Conference held its annual media day for women's basketball, the event served as a forum for coach Geno Auriemma and his University of Connecticut squad to discuss how their sights were set on a national title.

But, with three Big East teams appearing in most preseason top-10 rankings and a fourth in several top-20 listings, yesterday's gathering in Newark, N.J., was a chance to discuss the league's elevation among the elite conferences.

Connecticut is a No. 1 choice in many national publications, while Rutgers is a consensus top five, Notre Dame a consensus top nine, and Boston College, which debuted in last season's NCAA tournament, has been getting top-20 mention.

"We don't have to stand here and try to sell our teams, because they speak for themselves," Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said.

"Television-wise, there are only four conferences in the country whose schools will be making [regular-season] appearances on both ESPN and CBS - ourselves, the SEC, Big Ten and ACC. "

Connecticut, which has gone 104-4 in regular-season league competition since 1993-94, was made the top Big East choice for the seventh straight year.

To fulfill that forecast, the Huskies will probably have to face their toughest fight in some time. On the bright side, the Big East tournament returns to the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., in March.

"I don't think there's ever anything bad about having more than one really, really good team in this league," Auriemma said.

"Given the history of the league, we've been regionally good, and nationally we've been very good at the top. But, nationally, this is the most attention and most respect we've gotten as a conference, and that's indicative of the work the coaches have done in the league. "

Rutgers is reaping the fruits of attracting coach Vivian Stringer back East - she started at Cheyney State - from Iowa before the 1995-96 season, while Notre Dame, which has national ambitions, also joined the league before 1995-96.

"Joining the Big East was the best thing to happen to Notre Dame women's basketball," said Irish coach Muffet McGraw, who starred at St. Joseph's and is in the Big Five Hall of Fame.

"We were basically an independent playing in the MCC, and didn't get the national recognition I thought we deserved. We joined the Big East and suddenly we got credibility. Our wins looked a lot better, and our whole program got elevated. We had a lot of success in the NCAA tournament the last five years. "

Second-year Pittsburgh coach Traci Waites was a star at Georgia in the Southeastern Conference and later was an assistant at Arizona in the Pacific Ten before joining the Panthers last season.

"In the SEC, there was a lot of athleticism," Waites recalled. "The conference from top to bottom was strong.

"The Pac-10 is a lot like the Big East . You get your top teams and everybody else. But after being in this league for a season, I have a lot respect for the jobs the coaches do here. "I look at Villanova. Georgetown does a great job. Syracuse, Miami - those teams always seem in the middle. Also, you look at the way people are picked to finish, and it's a lot different than a year ago. There are teams in the bottom that may end up in the middle. "

Villanova coach Harry Perretta, whose Wildcats dominated the Big East in the early 1980s, endorsed the league's growth.

"This is the strongest we've been, no question," Peretta said. "I think you've got three leagues [within the Big East ] - the top four, the next four and the next four, and it will be interesting to see who can cross over. But it doesn't matter where you are in this league. "

Career move -- St. John's new head coach is Darcel Estep, who starred at Delaware Valley College in the late 1980s and was an assistant at Villanova before becoming Morgan State head coach in 1996.

"It's a dream come true," Estep said of her move to the Red Storm and return to the league. "When you work hard and try to do the right things in life, good things are eventually going to come. I'm just excited to be part of this.

"This is a great opportunity. Having been under Harry Perretta - great teaching, great philosophies - and, of course, being a head coach, I've built my own philosophies. "

Philly roots -- Estep is one of eight coaches in the league with a Philadelphia-area connection along with Perretta, Auriemma, McGraw, Stringer, Georgetown's Pat Knapp, Syracuse's Marianne Freeman (who played for Stringer at Cheyney State), and Miami's Ferne Labati (a native of South Jersey).

Coaches' picks -- Villanova was picked sixth behind Connecticut, which received 10 first-place votes. Rutgers got the remaining three first-place votes. Notre Dame, Boston College and Georgetown followed.

Connecticut junior and Russian native Svetlana Abrosimova was picked as the Big East preseason player of the year, while Huskies freshman Kennitra Johnson was named the top rookie of the year.

Rutgers junior Tasha Pointer and senior Shawnetta Stewart, a University City graduate, joined Abrosimova and Connecticut junior Shea Ralph on the all- Big East preseason first team, with Notre Dame junior Ruth Riley.

Notre Dame senior Niele Ivey made the second team, with Boston College senior Alissa Murphy, Georgetown junior Katie Smrcka-Duffy, Rutgers junior Tammy Sutton-Brown and Connecticut sophomore Tamika Williams.



Oct 27, 2000

By Mel Greenberg

It was business as usual yesterday morning at the Big East Conference media day in Newark, N.J., with defending national champion Connecticut dominating the preseason voting by the league's coaches.

The Huskies received 13 of 14 votes as the top team - essentially making them a unanimous choice because coaches couldn't vote for their own squads.

Rutgers, which along with UConn advanced to the Final Four last April at the First Union Center, had the other first-place vote and finished second. Notre Dame was third, Boston College fourth. Villanova was seventh behind a fifth-place tie between Georgetown and league newcomer Virginia Tech, which moved from the Atlantic Ten.

Connecticut senior guard Shea Ralph was voted preseason player of the year. Two of her teammates - junior guard Sue Bird and senior guard-forward Svetlana Abrosimova - joined her on the all- Big East first team, along with Rutgers senior guard Tasha Pointer and Notre Dame senior center Ruth Riley. Scarlet Knights senior center Tammy Sutton-Brown was one of the five second-team honorees.

In the balloting, UConn also had the top rookie, guard Diana Taurasi of Chino, Calif. Coach Geno Auriemma recently said she brings a different dimension to the program because of her ability to score from all over the floor.

What's scary is that this Connecticut team might be even more powerful than the group that trounced Tennessee, 71-52, for the national title.

Bypassed for the preseason honors, for example, were 6-foot-5 senior center Kelly Schumacher, who set an NCAA record with nine blocks in the title game; junior forward Ashja Jones, who was the most valuable player of the Big East tournament; and junior forward Swin Cash.

Another big announcement this week for UConn was that between national telecasts and a regional package of 21 dates, every game on the Huskies' schedule will be televised.

"When you come in here as a freshman, you're really in awe," Cash said. "But after a while, you just realize it's really big and you try to build on it. "

Rutgers is also expected to return to the national title hunt and Sutton-Brown, who played on the Canadian Olympic team, said the Final Four experience of last season should help, despite the graduation of University City High's Shawnetta Stewart.

"We have five seniors, and . . . we understand what it takes to get there," Sutton-Brown said.

Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer was upbeat about the Scarlet Knights' recruiting efforts for next year.

"If we get who we think we might get, that class might be among the top ones this season," Stringer said.

Virginia Tech is ready to take on its new competition after being among the Atlantic Ten's leaders the last several seasons.

"The bar has been raised here," said coach Bonnie Henrickson. "In the Atlantic Ten you had a quality group among Xavier, George Washington and Massachusetts and ourselves, but you didn't have a defending national champion, a Final Four participant, and a Sweet 16 [Notre Dame]. "

The conference tournament is scheduled for March 3-6 at Connecticut. For 2002 and 2003, Rutgers will host.

On the mend -- After Virginia coach Debbie Ryan returned from a trip to Hawaii in August, she underwent surgery for a small blockage in her pancreatic duct. Doctors found and removed a tumor, which turned out to be cancerous. The disease, however, had not spread.

"I had returned from Hawaii on a Thursday and then, the following Monday, when I woke up with all these tubes attached to me, I just knew I had to get back to coaching," Ryan recounted during the Atlantic Coast Conference media day Sunday in Greensboro, N.C.

"I'm not at 100 percent, yet, I won't lie to you," said Ryan, who is a graduate of Ursinus. "The way I feel right now is like I've been through a season, not at the start of one.

"But my energy level is very good and in terms of practice, I've been about to do everything that I normally do. I'm finished my therapy so I should continue to get stronger and stronger. "

Virginia, which is expected to challenge favored Duke for the ACC title, will make a non-conference visit to St. Joseph's on Dec. 6.

Camera shy -- Temple's players were a little startled Wednesday to see the sizable media turnout for a chat with first-year coach Dawn Staley and the rest of the Owls before practice in the Liacouras Center.

"Oh, wow," said junior center Lisa Jakubowicz, Temple's leading scorer (10.5 points) and rebounder (6.3), who hasn't seen much in the way of crowds as the team has struggled in recent seasons.

Staley, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star in the ABL and WNBA, has set winning the Atlantic Ten championship as a goal for the season.

"We had a pretty good team last year," Jakubowicz said, "but for whatever reason, we never could put all the pieces together. So, it's really not an unreasonable expectation. "

Staley said the biggest disappointment during her first days of practice was that players were not in shape.

"They are paying for that right now," Staley said, "but they won't make the same mistake next year, I promise you that. "

Temple has attracted recruiting visits from candidates who would not have previously given the Owls the time of day. One recent visitor was 5-foot-9 guard Cappie Pondexter from Chicago; she has been reported to be considering Connecticut, Rutgers, Southern Cal, Nevada-Las Vegas, and DePaul.

Miller time -- La Salle coach John Miller received a contract extension through the 2002-03 season, the school announced yesterday.

The Explorers finished first in the nation in grade-point average among NCAA Division I women's basketball teams, the second time in four seasons the team topped the list compiled by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

Mel Greenberg's e-mail address is mgreenberg@phillynews.com


In the Big East, talk of basketball and terrorism

Oct 26, 2001

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, N.J. _ On the surface, the women's basketball preseason media day for the Big East Conference yesterday was no different from those in previous years.

Connecticut, a strong national favorite, was the coaches' choice to win the conference - a perennial pick since the start of the 1993-94 season.

Commissioner Mike Tranghese boasted of the Big East 's national reputation and its two consecutive NCAA champions - UConn's Huskies in 2000 and Notre Dame in March. The conference also has one of the better TV arrangements.

Villanova, Boston College and Georgetown could speak with a little more authority on pursuing the perennial Big East front-runners, which include Rutgers.

But at the Sheraton Newark Airport Hotel, the conversation turned from basketball to the altered American landscape since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and in the sky over Western Pennsylvania.

Many of yesterday's participants had seen the strong National Guard presence when they arrived at Newark International Airport.

"If you don't live here in the Northeast, you might feel a little distant from what happened," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

"But I feel like I was personally attacked," she said, nodding toward Lower Manhattan, where the twin towers once stood.

"It's a terrible time to be recruiting, when you're trying to bring a kid east," the Hall of Fame coach added. "What do you say to their parents?

"But if anything positive has come of it, at least now we know who the real heroes are in the world," Stringer said of the rescue workers.

Georgetown coach Pat Knapp, a native of Philadelphia, and St. John's coach Darcel Estep, who played at Delaware Valley College, must prepare for the season in cities where bioterrorism is the foremost topic each day.

"We talked to our kids about Sept. 11 the next day," Knapp said. "And we offered counseling, as anybody did. We talked to them again a week later.

"The quick answer is they don't seemed fazed by it. We talked about it in a historical sense that we were in a city [Washington] that was going to be the focal point of this stuff. Little did we know how much more.

"We did have a young lady from the West Coast bail out after this," Knapp said of a recruit.
Team travel is another concern.

"This year, before it ever happened, we were only going to have four plane trips," Knapp said.

"Now, we'll bus to Syracuse, and we're looking to charter flights for the other three.

"To be honest, I haven't seen a strain on [the players], and maybe that's good. They should live their lives as 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old kids and not worry about this. But we told them to be aware. "

Estep said she saw a different side of her players in New York on Sept. 11.

"That time of the year, I'm still trying to bond and learn the personnel you've just brought in," Estep said. "They have been very mature about the worldly situation and put things in perspective. Practices have been very focused and entertaining, but at the same time, they have an understanding that other things are going on beyond the basketball. "

Early honors -- Villanova's Trish Juhline was named to the all-conference preseason first team with Connecticut's Sue Bird, the Big East preseason choice as player of the year. Bird is expected to be the top draft pick in next spring's WNBA draft. Connecticut's Swin Cash, Boston College's Becky Gottstein, and Notre Dame's Alicia Ratay also were named to the first team.
Rutgers' Davalyn Cunningham was named to the second team.
Villanova was fifth in the coaches' poll behind Connecticut, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Boston College.

Goring to UConn -- Gillian Goring, a former Germantown Academy center rated among the top recruits in the nation, has made an oral commitment to attend Connecticut, the Journal Inquirer of Manchester reported.

The 6-foot-6 native of Trinidad and Tobago, who still must meet several academic requirements before she can compete in the NCAA, will play this year for Waterloo West High in Iowa. She averaged 16 points a game last season for the Patriots.

Mel Greenberg's e-mail address is mgreenberg@phillynews.com.


Perretta admits 'Nova is talented

Oct 25, 2002

By Mel Greenberg

NEWARK, N.J. -- At first, it sounded like the usual preseason whine from Villanova coach Harry Perretta yesterday during the Big East Conference women's basketball media day at the Sheraton Newark Airport Hotel.

"I never get excited about the season," Perretta, the dean of the conference coaches, said. "If I get picked 14th, I get aggravated right away.

"I think our team stinks at the beginning of the year," he continued. "I think they stink in the middle of the year. And I think they stink at the end of the year. "

But Perretta, who will begin his 25th season on the Main Line, found it difficult to continue his downbeat approach.

"We have three seniors returning, and I'm minorly excited about that. We might actually score more than 50 points in a game," Perretta said. "We have a group of five talented freshmen. "

Then came a rare Perretta admission that's no secret among his conference colleagues, who picked the Wildcats fourth in the Big East preseason poll.

"I actually have the most talented team I ever had at Villanova, from one through 15. "

"We're excited," said senior Trish Juhline, who was named to the all-conference preseason starting five. "The freshmen are doing really well. We had long practices in the beginning so they could learn all the offenses, and they picked it up pretty quickly. "

The other senior starters are Nicole Druckenmiller and Katie Davis, who, like Juhline, are proficient three-point shooters.

Junior Courtney Mix returns as the first player off the bench, and Cardinal O'Hara graduate Kate Dessart Mager is featured among the freshmen.

"They're going to be very, very good," said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, a former St. Joseph's star whose Irish tied defending national champion Connecticut yesterday as the choice to win the conference.

Even though his team has dominated the Big East over the last decade, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma has had his uncomfortable moments against Villanova.

"Harry is a classic con man," said Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown. "When they're not very good, he wants you to believe they're never going to win a game, and then they figure out a way to beat people. "

Rutgers revival -- Coach Vivian Stringer has put last season's 9-20 performance, the worst in a stellar career, behind her.

The Scarlet Knights are bolstered by the addition of Cappie Pondexter, a Chicago native who was the nation's top high school player two years ago and was an academic redshirt last year.

Stringer said Pondexter's absence had a plus side: "It was important that we grew as group. "

Stringer is enthused by the addition of 6-foot-4 guard Ksenyia Shneyder, a native of the Ukraine. In January, Shalicia Hurns, a 6-3 junior forward who transferred from Purdue, will become eligible.

Notes -- Junior Diana Taurasi, the remaining starter from Connecticut's unbeaten NCAA championship team, is the coaches' preseason choice as conference player of the year. Also on the preseason first team are Notre Dame's Alicia Ratay and Jacqueline Batteast, Miami's Chanivia Broussard, and Virginia Tech's Ieva Kublina. . . . Conference officials announced a three-year agreement beginning in 2004 to play the Big East postseason tournament at the Hartford Civic Center. . . . Boston College was picked third ahead of Villanova. Virginia Tech and Rutgers rounded out the top six.

Contact Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.


No Big East discord among the women

At the media day, soon-to-be-gone schools did not face the disdain they have elsewhere.

Oct 31, 2003

By Mel Greenberg


NEWARK, N.J. -- The Big East women's basketball coaches expressed love toward each other and pride in the recent success of conference schools at their annual media day.

Unlike the rancor among the men's teams in the conference over the upcoming defections of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the Atlantic Coast Conference, coaches of the departing schools were wished the best of luck.

"I probably speak for the rest of the coaches, that we're going to miss all you guys 'cause of all that nonsense in football," Geno Auriemma, coach of two-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut, said yesterday. "We have nothing but respect for you guys and it's always going to be that way. "

Miami coach Ferne Labati and Bonnie Henrickson of Virginia Tech will be moving out of the Big East with their schools next season. Cathy Inglese will depart a year later with Boston College, as things stand for the moment.

"We love you guys," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "Sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle because we are so competitive. But for the coaches that are leaving and the coaches that are remaining in the conference, they are first-class. And that means everything. "

Agnus Berenato, who is beginning her first year at Pittsburgh after 15 seasons at Georgia Tech, an ACC member, volunteered some help.

"I want to make a deal with Ferne, Bonnie and Cathy," Berenato said with a smile. "I have stacks and stacks of scouts [scouting reports]. You give me your scouts and I'll give you mine and we'll call it even. Give me a call. I'll tell you everything, especially what Georgia Tech does. "

Connecticut, with three NCAA titles in the last four seasons, has been dominant in the Big East for more than a decade, though it was upset by Villanova in last season's conference title game.

Other Big East teams have improved, though, to the point that the Big East sent a record seven members from the 14-team conference to the NCAA tournament last season.

"I really do believe if we win our league, we're automatically the best team in the country," Auriemma said. "With so many good players returning in the league, if you're one of the top four or five teams in the league this year, you have a chance to go to the Final Four. You have a chance to win the national championship.

"Maybe this year people will talk about the 'always tough Big East ,' because I'm sick of hearing about [other conferences being the best] around the country," Auriemma added.

Stringer praised Connecticut for setting a standard.
"Geno is the best until proven otherwise," Stringer said. "To be the best, you have to play the
best. "

The rankings -- Despite winning the conference championship last year, Villanova fell back to the middle of the pack at seventh in the coaches' preseason forecast following the graduation of stars Trish Juhline, Katie Davis and Nicole Druckenmiller.

Connecticut was the top preseason pick, with 13 first-place votes. Rutgers, picked to finish second among the 14 teams, received the remaining No. 1 vote. Coaches cannot vote for their teams or their players in the preseason ballot.

Senior Diana Taurasi of Connecticut, the consensus national player of the year last season, was named the preseason Big East player of the Year. Rutgers junior Cappie Pondexter was also on the Big East first team.

"I have never in my life coached a player that has it all," Stringer said of Pondexter, whom she said she believes is right behind Taurasi in terms of performance. "Dribble, shoot, score and rebounding, and now she knows when to take control [in a game] and it won't be late. "

Villanova senior Courtney Mix was named to the second team.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.


There's more than just UConn

Oct 29, 2004

By Mel Greenberg


NEWARK, N.J. -- The scene at past Big East Conference women's basketball media days has usually featured a rush by sportswriters to the interview table containing the main attraction: Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and several of his players.

Yesterday, however, it took a while longer for the media crowd to build around the three-time defending national champions.

With eight Big East teams advancing to the NCAA tournament last season, there was enough interest elsewhere in the interview room to avoid a pileup at Connecticut's table.

Rutgers senior Chelsea Newton talked about coach C. Vivian Stringer's demeanor after the coach returned from a stint as an assistant coach with the Olympic gold medalists in Athens.

"She was a new person when she came back," Newton said of the famously intense coach. "I don't know if she realizes it. But we all see it.

"It was sort of weird watching her [on TV] in the assistant-coach position - not saying as much and not being the one controlling everything. "

Villanova and Connecticut players, new to this event, talked about growing into team leadership roles.

"When you're a freshman, you come in and you're initiated [by veteran players] about the way things work," Connecticut junior guard Ann Strother said.

"By the time you're a junior or senior, you know what's expected of you. When you sign the papers and say you're coming to Connecticut, you're saying you want to be a national champion. "

Said Villanova junior Liad Suez: "You don't just wake up one day [to the responsibility]. You know it's coming. You prepare yourself. But by the same token, we're so close as a team, the role of leadership hasn't fallen on just us. It's everybody pushing together. "

Despite the graduation of Diana Taurasi, Connecticut was still made an overwhelming favorite by the coaches to win the conference and its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

That's not the way the conference chase has ended in the last several years, however.

In 2003, Villanova tripped Connecticut to win the conference crown, and last season Boston College did the same.

"What happened the last two years was absolutely tremendous [for the conference]," Auriemma said. "And I go around the country telling people, 'You know what? It's a lot harder to win the Big East than it is to win the national championship. ' And they know exactly what I'm talking about. "

Rutgers was picked fourth and Villanova was picked fifth in the coaches' poll.

Suez and Rutgers senior Cappie Pondexter, who will miss the first half of the season for unspecified personal reasons, were named to the all- Big East preseason first team.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

Women's Big East

Preseason Picks

All-Conference Team
* Jacqueline Batteast, Notre Dame
* Jessalyn Deveny,
Boston College
* Yolanda Paige,
West Virginia
* Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers
* Ann Strother, Connecticut
* Liad Suez, Villanova
* Barbara Turner, Connecticut

Player of the Year
* Jacqueline Batteast,
Notre Dame

Freshman of the Year
Charde Houston,

Team Rankings
1. Connecticut
2. Notre Dame
3. Boston College
4. Rutgers
5. Villanova
6. West Virginia
7. Seton Hall
8. St. John's
9. Syracuse
10. Georgetown
11. Pittsburgh
12. Providence


Reshaped Big East set for women's basketball

Oct 28, 2005

By Mel Greenberg


NEW YORK -- Boston College is gone. Five former Conference USA members are moving in.
The expanded 16-team Big East Conference has a new look in women's basketball, and the coaches are excited.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno expressed delight yesterday to be in a conference in which Connecticut has won five NCAA titles since 1995 and Notre Dame has also captured a championship.

Connecticut coach "Geno Auriemma is right," Bruno said yesterday during the coaches' opening remarks at the conference's media day at the ESPN Zone. "The Big East prepares you to play in the NCAA tournament and compete for a national title. "

Bruno predicted that the new Big East teams would not damage the league's reputation after the defections of Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference in the last few years.

Cincinnati, South Florida, Louisville, and Marquette will debut with the Blue Demons this season.
"Being in the Big East allows us to at least get into homes" for recruiting, Bruno said. "Recently, we kept losing kids to [schools in] the Big East . "

Villanova senior Liad Suez said she is not fazed by the new teams in the bigger Big East .

"Coach Joe [Mullaney Jr.] handles all the scouting," she said of the Wildcats assistant. "We worry about us, what we do, and how we execute. "

Connecticut senior Ann Strother welcomes the new competition as a change from home-and-home scheduling formats in the league.

"These teams are going to bring a lot, and it's going to be nice to not play three or four teams three or four times," Strother said. "It's going to be nice to see more teams once and only a couple of teams twice, although the coaching staff will be busy learning all about our new rivals. "
Yesterday, a team other than UConn was made the favorite in the Big East coaches' preseason poll. The No. 1 nod went to Rutgers for the first time since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big East for the 1995-96 season.

Coach C. Vivian Stringer's talent-rich squad received 11 first-place votes and 221 points, just in front of Connecticut's 215 points and five first-place votes.

Notre Dame was close behind in third, followed by DePaul and Villanova.

Stringer, whose Rutgers team has some nagging injuries at the moment, accepted the ranking as a reflection of her program's development. But she also acknowledged the team's need to excel to achieve its goal.

"We have to demonstrate we are worthy," Stringer said. "Our task right now and each year is to be better than before. "

Rutgers all-American Cappie Pondexter, who decided to return as a fifth-year senior, was named the Big East 's preseason player of the year. Scarlet Knights center Kia Vaughn earned preseason freshman-of-the-year honors.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Guru's Time Machine: Turning Pro

By Mel Greenberg

So in 1996, the Guru's byline made a rare Page One appearance in the front of the entire Inquirer, sharing coverage with the announcement birth of the WNBA.

That is the first of a three-point shot in Monday's time machine visit.

Some quotes are amazing in retrospect.

The other two stories, to give the former league equal time, are from coverage the same year from Atlanta, on the scene for tryouts for the American Basketball League. One was an advance. The other was a feature on a phenom from Australia, who happened at the time to be Philly's best kept secret - Debbie Black.

Ohio State fans will be amused because there will be references to Black having played for Jim Foster at St. Joseph's before he became nationally known at Vanderbilt. Now, of course, Black is a member of Foster's staff with the Buckeyes.

Next up, in honor of Big East Media Day in New York on Thursday, will be the Guru's coverage of past Big East media days this decade. Ironically, some of you will find humor in the 2002 media day at which Villanova's Harry Perretta makes a rare admission that he actually likes that year's team. Of course we all know now what happened near the close of that particular seaason in the tournament at Rutgers.

And now on to today's visit.

--- Mel



Apr 25, 1996, Page 1-A

By Raad Cawthon and Mel Greenberg


Inquirer staff writer Nita Lelyveld contributed to this article.

NEW YORK - The National Basketball Association, throwing its considerable financial clout and proven marketing muscle behind women's basketball, yesterday announced the formation of an eight-team women's professional league.

``We are giving life to a concept that has been much discussed, much attempted, but that we feel is now ready to bloom,'' NBA commissioner David Stern said. ``It's about time. ''
It's also about money and marketing.

The eight teams, which the NBA said it hoped to name by July 1, would begin play in the summer of 1997 in cities where the league already has franchises, in arenas now used by NBA teams.

Pat Croce, new president of the 76ers, said he wants one of the teams to be in Philadelphia. ``If there are going to be eight teams, I want us to be one of those eight,'' he said.

Professional women's basketball leagues enjoy considerable success in Europe, Asia and South America, but at least five previous ventures in the United States have failed. The last, the six-team Liberty Basketball Association, which had a franchise in Philadelphia, debuted in a nationally televised exhibition in 1991 but folded before playing a regular-season game.

Plans for an American Basketball League , a women's circuit that would play in the winter in smaller cities with a history of supporting the women's college game, also have been announced.

That league, like the previous attempts, is based on a markedly different concept than the Women's NBA. Neither it nor any of the previous ventures could call upon the support - in television contracts, arenas or publicity - available to a league backed by the NBA.

The WNBA was ``approved in concept'' by a unanimous vote of the NBA's Board of Governors in a meeting here yesterday. Details have yet to be worked out, but in a second-floor ballroom of the St. Regis Hotel, the parameters of the league began taking shape. They include:

* A league schedule of 25 to 30 games. The season would run from mid- to late June through mid-August, tucking neatly into the summer months when the NBA is idle. Players would be encouraged to play in European, Japanese or South American leagues during the regular winter basketball season, opening the door for marketing of WNBA merchandise abroad.

* The range of player compensation has not been set, but Valerie Ackerman, NBA vice president of business affairs, said women players in the European leagues average about $70,000 a season, and stars can draw low-six-figure salaries.

* A television contract that could include broadcast and cable networks would be in place before the league's first game and would not be limited to NBC and TBS, the networks now broadcasting NBA games. Stern said there is considerable interest in the television rights to a women's league. ``I think it's safe to say the response has been gratifying,'' he said.

* Rules that ``with few exceptions'' would mimic the rules used in the NBA.
As a mark of their enthusiasm, many NBA owners lobbied to have teams among the first eight, Stern said. One of those was Croce.

``Why wouldn't we want a team here?'' he said. ``Philadelphia is a great basketball city. ''
The league would draw on college stars and women who play overseas. Players would be assigned to teams on the basis of geographical considerations, as well as through a draft.

Dawn Staley, a point guard on the U.S. national team, is a Philadelphia native. Presumably, Staley's rights would be assigned to a Philadelphia franchise, if one existed.

``Right now, my heart is with the ABL,'' Staley said, adding that the league contract prohibits involvement with other leagues.

``But I think it's great that the NBA is getting involved. Of course, if they had a team here in Philly and I could play, I would love it. ''

Carol Blazejowski, the NBA's director of women's programs and a former Montclair State star, said it was a big step for women's basketball.

``My only regret is I wish I was still a player,'' she said.

Stern said the genesis of a women's league dates from 1980, when the NBA, then headed by commissioner Lawrence O'Brien, commissioned a study on the feasibility of women's pro basketball.

Former Old Dominion great Nancy Lieberman-Cline, now a TV broadcaster, yesterday recalled Stern telling her 10 years ago that this league would become a reality.

``I sat in David Stern's office and he told me, after closing the door, `I wouldn't say this to anyone else. Before I'm through, one day there will be a league. I have so many other issues to deal with first.'

``He believed there could be a league and it would be popular, and he was true to his word. ''
With no women's league in place 10 years ago, Lieberman-Cline played for a men's team, the Springfield Fame of the United States Basketball League.

``I'm not going to cry about not being a player,'' she said about the new league. ``I'm excited and proud. I'm excited for the opportunities for the players out there. ''

The idea gained momentum as the NBA watched women's collegiate basketball gain in popularity and television ratings. It may have been the University of Connecticut's 1995 national championship and star player Rebecca Lobo's national appeal that brought the concept to fruition.

``I think the success of the University of Connecticut, and seeing the interest it attracted in the New York market made a difference,'' Ackerman said.

The league's interest was heightened by Team USA, the national women's team that the NBA is helping fund with $4 million. The team has toured widely and successfully, not only taking on the best teams in the the world but also selling out arenas. Stern said the ``overwhelming interest'' in the women's national team was the final catalyst.

``We don't enjoy failing,'' Stern said. ``We've raised the stakes and we'll make it happen. That's the way we are. ''

The news had perhaps its greatest impact on the high school and college stars who may be able to look forward to pro careers in the United States.

``Oh, great!'' said Kristen Clement, 17, a junior point guard at Cardinal O'Hara who has accepted a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. ``Everything's just falling into place.

``I think it's going to do very well. I think that women are getting a lot better, a lot stronger. Look back 30 years, the women's game was so different. It'll take time. It's gradual. But we'll get there.''




May 27, 1996

By Mel Greenberg


Beginning tomorrow, women who normally toil as lawyers, accountants and nurses will get a chance to pursue a fledgling fantasy - a spot in the professional American Basketball League .

About 550 women who have collegiate and international experience, from as far back as the mid-1980s in some cases, will head to Atlanta to audition for the 100-player draft pool of the ABL, to be determined by Sunday.

To ensure fair evaluations, the Atlanta hopefuls, who each paid a $200 entry fee as well as travel expenses, will arrive in three shifts for the workouts, to be conducted at Emory University. The least experienced players will begin tomorrow, a more experienced group will arrive Thursday, and players with the most experience will arrive Friday.

Last fall, ABL officials announced their intention to begin play this winter, and have since awarded franchises to eight medium- to small-market cities. The East will consist of Atlanta, Columbus, Richmond and Hartford/Springfield, while the West will be represented by Denver, Portland, San Jose and Seattle.

Ten of the 11 members of the U.S. national team, who are expected to become Olympians, have already signed contracts with the league, including Dobbins Tech graduate Dawn Staley, a two-time national collegiate player of the year while at the University of Virginia. Twenty-six other players with international experience have signed contracts, including former Stanford star Val Whiting of Wilmington. The contracts will pay from $40,000 to as high as $125,000 to the 10 national team players.

Former Connecticut star Rebecca Lobo remains the unsigned member of the U.S. national team.
The league will attempt to balance the quality of players on the teams. It will also attempt to assign players to teams based on territory, according to where they went to school or where they live.

One member of the ``most-experienced'' group that will begin Friday is former St. Joseph's star Amy Mallon, an assistant coach at Villanova last season. Mallon played at the University of Richmond for Big Five Hall of Famer Stephanie Gaitley before both moved on to St. Joseph's five years ago.

``I'm really excited, especially to be put into that category,'' said Mallon, who has also played in Europe. ``When Dawn [Staley] was here with the U.S. national team, she talked to me about trying out. She's already been assigned to Richmond with Lisa Leslie.

``Just to make the pool for the league would be fantastic,'' Mallon added. ``But to be drafted by Richmond would be unbelievable. I really like it there. ''

While Mallon has great ambitions, Penn senior Shelly Bowers will be part of the middle group. She is going to Atlanta with no expectations.

``I want to support the concept of a women's pro league, and this is a way of testing my situation before going on to medical school,'' Bowers said. ``But hey, the worst thing that is going to happen is that I'm going to have at least two fabulous days of basketball. ''

Another local player who initially intended to go the ABL tryouts, but has since decided not to, is Villanova's Sue Glenning, who helped lead the Wildcats to the Big Five title last season and was the player of the year in the city series.

``I was really excited at first at the opportunity,'' Glenning said. ``But after the $200, it was going to cost $30 a day for the dorm, another $200 for the plane fare probably, and then money for food, which, the way I eat, could be expensive.

``Then, when I saw that they had over 500 persons coming, I realized I have more important things to look ahead to. I'd like to coach at St. Hubert's, my old high school; I'm getting married next spring; and I'm getting a degree in nursing.

``But I'm curious as to how it will turn out. Then there's always a chance, maybe, with the NBA. ''
Last month, the ABL founders ran into a new challenge when NBA commissioner David Stern announced that the league planned to begin a summer women's operation in 1997 in eight NBA cities, for which Philadelphia is a candidate.

The NBA blueprints, including TV contracts, are expected to be announced July 1, according to Stern. The ABL is still trying to hammer out a TV contract.

An NBA official said late last week that the TV deal might be announced sooner, while the announcement of cities might come a little later than the target date.

Stern also said that the NBA women's players would be free to pursue competition in either Europe or in the ABL in the winter. On the other hand, the ABL contracts are restrictive, a condition that worries Bruce Levy, an agent for the last 18 years who has helped collegiate graduates land lucrative deals abroad.

``What if the ABL doesn't make it through the season and all these players with one-year contracts won't be able to do anything until next August? '' Levy said.

``We believe we have the right plan and we're moving full-speed ahead,'' Steve Hams, a former Silicon Valley computer executive who is one of the league's founders, said after the NBA announced its summer operation.

Likely to be named Sunday are former Alabama all-American Niesa Johnson, former UCLA star Natalie Williams, former Miami stars Frances Savage and Vicki Plowden, and former Tennessee stars Dana Johnson and Tonya Edwards.

Debbie Hemery and Darlene Saar, who two years ago led George Washington to the Atlantic Ten title and a spot in the NCAA Sweet 16, are also likely candidates.

Hopefuls who starred in this area include Debbie Black, the feisty point guard for St. Joseph's in the mid-1980s, who has played professionally in Australia; Robyn Bostick, another former Hawks star; and Jennie Hall of Norristown, a star for Rutgers in the 1980s who is now an assistant coach for Vermont. Debbie Lytle, who played for Simon Gratz and Maryland in the 1980s, is also on the list, as is Missy Masley, a recent Penn State star.




Jun 01, 1996

By Mel Greenberg


ATLANTA _ The Energizer Bunny is a mere turtle when it comes to comparison with former St. Joseph's point guard Debbie Black.

A decade after the frenetic 5-foot-3 backcourt ace terrorized collegiate opponents for the Hawks, the graduate of Archbishop Wood High just keeps going. She plays for the Tasmanian team in Australia. But with a good performance here, she could be playing in the United States again.

``Tasmania is going to get killed this week,'' former Virginia center Heather Burge said. ``She's their whole team, but she's up here.''

``Here'' is a gymnasium filled with desire at Emory University, where an original field of 550 aspirants began tryouts Tuesday for a place in the draft of the American Basketball League .

This new effort at professional women's basketball in the United States will begin in the fall in eight medium-to-small market cities. Next summer, the Women's National Basketball Association, sponsored by the NBA, also will begin as a women's pro league in eight cities.

``It took me 26 hours to fly here, but I've got to give it a shot,'' Black said yesterday. ``It's been fun in Australia, but I'd like to come home. If I can't play [in the league], maybe I could get into adminstration. ''

So far, Black's playing hopes are still alive. She survived the week of cuts through yesterday afternoon before the most experienced players arrived to compete this weekend. Those players were given a bye of sorts.

Black's play certainly has entertained onlookers.

``That's what I think,'' Black said. ``Once you get to your eighth, ninth or 10th player of a team, you've got to be something different. I think I could be fun to watch. ''

Tryouts will conclude tomorrow at the George W. Woodruff Physical Education Center. Then the league will name about 100 or so qualifiers who will be part of the draft to be conducted on June 19.

``She was way over in the distance, but I knew that was her when I walked into the gym,'' said former Penn State center Vicki Link, who played against Black in college. ``She can still play, even better. ''

Black's arrival on Hawk Hill in the 1980s enabled former St. Joseph's coach Jim Foster to get his squad ranked in the weekly polls for the first time in his career.

``Look where he is today,'' Black said of Foster, now the women's basketball coach and interim athletic director at Vanderbilt. ``I should get a piece of his money. I got him started. But he helped me, too. ''

Coincidentally, during one of the workouts, Black was matched against Vanderbilt's Rhonda Blades, who helped Foster advance through the NCAA tournament in recent years.

Black makes about $20,000 playing for the team in Australia and makes an additional $50,000 in her other job, as a consultant.

``You won't believe what I do,'' she said with a grin. ``I visit companies and tell them how to save energy.''

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Guru's Time Machine: Wrong Exits

By Mel Greenberg

Before returning to memory lane, some quick notes:

The ballot box is open: The Associated Press preseason poll starting the 31st year of voting will be released on Nov. 8 with the preseason all-America team to follow the next day. To you Sports Information Directors out there, Chuck Schoffner is still completing changes on the voting panel. The Guru will send the list when it is ready. The Guru will also clarify whether the release date for the first poll means it will move 6 p.m. on Tuesday for Wednesday AMs or 24 hours later. Weekly voting begins the following Sunday and the Guru will also clarify the weekly release dates as to whether AM and PM cycles will alternate.

The boss shares her dough -- sort of: On Thursday night we attended the Jimmy V dinner in New York to preview the men's doubleheader classic that will be held at Madison Square Garden and the women's single-game classic with Duke to visit Rutgers. It was mentioned that the women's classic might move to the Garden in the future.

As it evolved after the dinner, as the Guru stood in Penn Station deliberating what train to take, a familiar woman approached from the opposite direction.

"Well nothing like coming to New York to be stalked by the head of the newsroom," the Guru remarked to the Inquirer's Amanda Bennett.

She had been in the city visiting a friend from her collegiate days. Once aboard the train, Bennett offered the Guru a half of her sandwich, inspiring the headline for this section.

And to the Guru's newsroom colleagues reading this, no, the approaching deadline for contract negotiations with the unions was not a topic of conversation.


Moving on to the time machine, the Guru offers four more items from the electronic tomb of past coverage. Today, we bring what became the final collegiate games of three of the all time greats -- Cheryl Miller at Southern Cal; Chamique Holdsclaw at Tennessee; and Dawn Staley at Virginia. Each event was in a losing effort with only Miller reaching the title game her senior season after winning two NCAA crowns as a freshman and sophomore. There's also a notebook that followed Holdsclaw's exit a day later.

The order will be, for local reasons here, Staley, then Miller in a game that made Texas an unbeaten champion, and then Holdsclaw. And if any of you out there, or y'all down there in the south, have a local or national memory you think the Guru might have covered, feel free to email make the request.

-- Mel


Apr 05, 1992

By Mel Greenberg


LOS ANGELES _ This was a short circuit of the worst kind for a player who had energized her sport the last four years.

It was not the way she wanted her brilliant season to end.

The career of Virginia's Dawn Staley came to a screeching halt yesterday - without an NCAA title.

The crowning jewel of Staley 's career would not be won, just as it had not been won when the Cavaliers had a men's all-time great, Ralph Sampson.

Last year the villain was Tennessee, which toppled Virginia, 70-67, in overtime in the NCAA women's championship game.

Yesterday it was Stanford 's turn to be the spoiler, as the Cardinal ended the Cavaliers' season with a 66-65 upset victory in the second of two semifinals, one that had the closest result ever produced in an NCAA women's Final Four.

It ended when Staley , a 5-foot-5 senior point guard from Dobbins Tech, grabbed one last pass and launched a futile shot as the final eight-tenths of a second evaporated.

As the shot left her hands, she still believed.

"We always think we're going to win, and Georgia Tech won with that amount of time left," Staley said of an NCAA second-round victory by the men's Yellow Jackets this year. "We practiced those shots a lot every day. "

But this time, the shot didn't go in.

Staley 's career scoring meter stopped running at 2,135 points, an all-time mark for the Virginia women's program.

"I think I played a pretty good game," Staley said. "But my shots just didn't fall. "
She drilled 7 of 18 shots for the afternoon.

"They knew I liked to drive and penetrate," Staley said. "They really made it tough inside. "

Much tougher than many opponents had while the Cavaliers were on their way to a 113-21 record during her four-year career.

In that time, Staley elevated the Cavaliers to a new level as she became a three-time all-American and was twice lauded with player of the year honors, as she was this season.

Within two years of her joining the roster, Virginia had landed in its first women's Final Four.

The Cavaliers lost to Stanford in the 1990 semifinals, but that was OK, because the Cavaliers were young and there was time to grow.

So last year, they returned as the favorite, but lost again. That was tough, but there was still one more shot - until yesterday.

"I was hurt," said Staley , who played the final game of her career before a crowd of 12,421 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. "I didn't want my career to end this way. Our team deserves better. We worked so hard all year.

"I gave my all, and that's all I can ask for myself," Staley continued. ''Some possessions I'd like to have back, but that's the way the ball bounces. "

And with that it was time to start thinking of the future.

"I guess I'll take a few weeks off and start training for the Olympics," she said.

But for Stanford and Western Kentucky, there will still be today.

For Staley , however, her dream of a title ended just as her final shot did - just a little off the mark.



Mar 31, 1986

By Mel Greenberg

Special to The Inquirer

LEXINGTON, Ky. _ Last year, it was the Villanova men's basketball team that performed magic here at Rupp Arena. Yesterday, the artistry belonged to the University of Texas women.

Unlike the Wildcats, the new NCAA champions are no miracle bunch. You simply do not say that about a team that was ranked No. 1 ever since the first preseason story was written. But the Longhorns, who completed a perfect 34-0 season with a 97-81 victory over No. 3 Southern California (31-5), still must be called special.

They had been called the best before, but until last night, the tower in Austin had never been lit in celebration of a women's national championship.

While the year ended in high-fives and net-cutting for Texas, the brilliant career of USC's Cheryl
Miller came to a conclusion in the worst of ways. She was sprawled on the floor, fouling out with 7 minutes, 30 seconds to play after getting her fifth foul chasing a loose ball.

"I did not want to see her go out that way," Southern Cal coach Linda Sharp said. "I thought Cynthia Cooper was fouled by both their players on the way to the basket. The officials don't call anything, then the shot bounces back and goes loose and they call that on her.

"I would have loved to see her leave the way she came in - sitting on top of the basket blowing kisses to fans. "

Long before her fifth foul, it had become apparent that Miller would not be celebrating a third national title.

Given an opportunity to finally reach for the brass ring, Texas did not simply grab - it gang-tackled.

The Longhorns produced 58 points from their bench, while the substitutes for the Women of Troy contributed only 4.

"All year long, I've said it doesn't make a difference who starts for us," said Texas coach Jody Conradt, who called the comparison meaningless.

The two substitute stars were freshman Clarissa Davis, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, who scored 24 points, and Cara Priddy, a senior who collected 15 and played a major role in shoring up the Longhorn defense after senior Annette Smith got into foul trouble early.

"As a sixth player, Davis played a key role in Texas' winning the national championship," Sharp said. "There's not a better sixth player in the country. "

Conradt agreed, but she also cited Priddy's relief work. "When we talked before the game, Cara said, 'Everyone is talking about Cheryl Miller's last game. Hey, I'm a senior, and it's my last game, too. I want to play well. ' "

Working inside, Texas jumped off to an 8-2 lead before Cooper was able to get USC activated with 7 points, to help bring the USC women back to an 18-18 tie with 12:34 left in the first half.

Even then, the Texas depth was showing. The Longhorns' inside people were racking up fouls, specifically defensing Miller, but there always seemed to be a fresh body to help out.

"This may be the best team of all time," Conradt said.

Sharp, who had won two previous titles with the 6-foot, 3-inch twins, Pam and Paula McGee, along with Miller, objected mildly to that statement.

"I'm rather sensitive on the issue because I thought we had a pretty good bunch," she said.

"However, we only did it with seven people. In terms of the depth, you'd have to credit Texas. They have everything it takes to win a national championship. "

USC's last lead was 30-29 with 5:29 left in the first half. Then, with Priddy and Yulonda Wimbish (10 points), another substitute, hitting some key shots, Texas made a run and built a 45-35 lead at the end of the period.

"Other than our fastbreak opportunities, Texas was giving our quarter- court game trouble all evening," Sharp said. "We missed three easy baskets early, and I knew it just wasn't going to be our night. "

Miller had all 16 of her points in the first half, but she was 2 for 8 from the field. The rest came on foul shots.

"We needed to have Cynthia Cooper play in the first half like she did in the second, but they really defensed her well," Sharp said of the USC senior, who scored 27 points.

In the second half, Texas rode to a 58-42 lead with 14:26 left to play. But Southern Cal, led by Cooper, made a run and cut it to 70-61 with 9 minutes left.

"We kept celebrating too early," Conradt said, "And USC wanted their own celebration. "

"I thought we had a chance at that point, but we were just too beat," Sharp said.

Texas took advantage of the physical and mental attrition to go on a 14-3 tear, and the long quest was over.

"It was something I've wanted ever since I was 8 years old and watched Old Dominion and Tennessee on television," Priddy said. "I told my mother, 'Some day I'm going to be there. ' "
Yesterday, her dream and those of her teammates finally came true.




Mar 23, 1999

By Mel Greenberg


GREENSBORO, N.C. _ Duke pulled off one of the classic upsets in NCAA women's tournament history last night by felling top-seeded Tennessee, 69-63. The triumph gave the third-seeded Blue Devils the East

Regional title and brought a sudden end to the storied collegiate career of Chamique Holdsclaw .

Tennessee (31-3) had won 21 straight NCAA tournament games and was poised to claim a fourth straight national title. But Duke , which lost to the Volunteers in December, had other ideas. And now the Final Four figures to be wide-open.

``We were playing for respect,'' said Duke coach Gail Goestenkos, whose team survived a challenge by St. Joseph's a week ago in the second round.

``I told our players in the locker room that no one out there but you thinks we can win this game tonight. ''

It was the first time in Holdsclaw 's basketball life, dating to her days at Christ the King High School in New York City, that her season had ended in defeat.

Acclaimed as the greatest women's college player ever, Holdsclaw suffered through one of her worst performances. The future WNBA star and U.S. Olympian shot 2 for 18 from the field, committed five turnovers, and scored just eight points while grabbing 11 rebounds.

With 24.5 seconds remaining, Holdsclaw was charged with her fifth foul and went to the bench, where she slumped in tears and buried her head in a towel.

The scene brought to mind the end of another great college career - that of Southern Cal's Cheryl Miller, who fouled out while chasing a loose ball as her team was losing the 1986 NCAA title game to Texas.

The Blue Devils (28-6) earned the way to San Jose, Calif., and their first women's Final Four.

They will meet Georgia in one of the semifinals Friday night. This is the second time in NCAA history that the men's and women's team from the same school have advanced to the national semifinals in the same season.

Several members of the Duke men's team, which advanced Sunday by beating Temple, were in the crowd of 12,235 at the Greensboro Coliseum.

``They did everything we asked them to - everything,'' Goestenkors said of her players. ``You can't ask any more as a coach.

``Our goal from the beginning was to win a national championship. It wasn't to beat Tennessee. It wasn't just to get to the Final Four. Tennessee just got in the way. ''

The Blue Devils took it to Tennessee from the outset, getting a punishing block by Peppi Browne of a shot by Tamika Catchings. Having set the tone, Duke went on to open a 13-point lead late in the first half before settling for a 35-24 advantage at halftime.

``We're feeling a lot of pain right now,'' Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. ``It's been a tough night for us. You can want something so much in life sometimes to the point that you can't just relax and go get it.

``If you look at tonight's game and break it down, Duke played extremely well. They played loose. They played with great intensity and confidence. I think we came out tight. Shots didn't fall for us. You could look back and say we took too many quick shots or modified shots, but we didn't get to the boards and they did. ''

Nevertheless, Tennessee could have been expected to make a second-half rally, much in the manner of a year ago, when it closed a 12-point gap in the final seven minutes against North Carolina on the way to the Mideast title.

Sure enough, the Vols began chipping away, but they were never able to get the lead.
A telling moment came with 6 minutes, 52 seconds to play, when Catchings missed two foul shots with Tennessee trailing by 46-45.

``I knew we never wanted them to get the lead,'' Goestenkors said.

Tennessee was down by 48-47 when Duke 's Georgia Schweitzer hit two foul shots, and the Blue Devils built the lead from thered.

Schweitzer, who was named the regional's outstanding player despite a separated shoulder, led Duke with 22 points, going 3 for 4 on three-point shots. Nicole Erickson, who made some key foul shots to keep Duke in front in the closing minutes, scored 17 points, while Michele VanGorp, the Blue Devils' 6-foot-6 senior center, added 12.

VanGorp and Erickson are transfers from Purdue, which will be the Midwest representative in the Final Four after beating Rutgers last night.

Tennessee's Semeka Randall scored 18 points, while Catchings added 13, and Kellie Jolly 11.
Of her poor shooting performance, Holdsclaw said: ``I had some great looks. They just didn't go in. They weren't bad misses. It was front end, front end. It just wouldn't go in. ''

Holdsclaw , Catchings, Erickson and VanGorp joined Schweitzer on the all-region team.


(Women's Notebook)




Mar 24, 1999

By Mel Greenberg


This was not the way the collegiate chapter of the Chamique Holdsclaw story was supposed to end.

Sure, the possibly had existed that some team would upend the Tennessee women's basketball team in the Final Four in San Jose, Calif.

But it all came to a stunning conclusion on Monday night - earlier than anyone would have anticipated - when Holdsclaw , arguably the greatest women's player ever, tossed clinker after clinker at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina as the Volunteers succumbed to Duke , 69-63.

Holdsclaw 's numbers on the night: 2 for 18 from the field, 4 for 8 from the foul line, 8 points, 5 turnovers and 11 rebounds.

It was not the first time this season that the four-time all-American had come up short at a critical moment. In January, the New York City product was 2 for 9 from the field and was held to eight points and nine rebounds in her homecoming game at Madison Square Garden.

However, Tennessee still was able to turn back Rutgers, 68-54.

``That's not the Chamique you'll see in San Jose,'' Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer promised at the time.

In fact, the Chamique everyone will see in San Jose will be in street clothes, accepting one final haul of awards for an outstanding career. She may make one more playing appearance prior to a pro career in the WNBA if she decides to participate in the coaches' association senior all-star game.

On the heels of last season's 39-0 NCAA crusade, Tennessee was poised to become the first team in either the AIAW or NCAA era to win four consecutive national championships.

Holdsclaw and senior classmate Kellie Jolly would have become the only individuals associated with that distinction.

Furthermore, after crossing the 3,000-point milestone in Saturday's regional semifinal win over Virginia Tech, Holdsclaw had the potential to pass Patricia Hoskins of Mississippi Valley, who holds the NCAA mark of 3,122 points.

``Maybe this is a selfish thought,'' Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said in Greensboro, ``but I hate to see a team so exciting with the best player in the game won't get a chance to get into the Final Four this year. ''

One mark got away from Tennessee earlier in the season when Purdue beat the Volunteers in their second game, depriving them of a shot at the women's all-time win streak.

Nevertheless, Tennessee was still regarded as the team to beat, even when it was not holding the top spot in the Associated Press poll.

The subject of invincibility was put to Holdsclaw and her teammates after Monday's debacle.

``I never think we're invincible,'' Holdsclaw said while struggling with her emotions, ``but I never expect to lose. ''

A year ago, after Tennessee's third straight triumph and sixth overall, Holdsclaw was asked if her team was the best ever.

``No,'' she said with a smile. ``Next year's team will be the best. ''

Duke coach Gail Goestenkors agreed prior to her team's victory.

``They're better than a year ago,'' she said, ``but all of us are working harder to get where they are. ''

Remember us? Although Connecticut and Tennessee are no longer part of the action, Louisiana Tech's 88-62 victory over UCLA for the West title sent last year's runner-up back with another shot to gain a third national crown.

Coach Leon Barmore's program has almost as much Final Four experience as Tennessee. In meeting Midwest winner Purdue in one of the semifinals Friday night, the Techsters will find a familiar opponent.

A year ago, the Boilermakers were Tech's stepping-stone to the finals in the Midwest title game. However, Purdue reversed the outcome at the start of this season with a 71-65 win at West Lafayette.

The other double. Duke 's men's and women's teams earned Final Four berths. The women's semifinal opponent, Georgia, matched the feat with the Bulldogs men in 1983.

Nice partial forecast. When Tennessee beat Connecticut in January, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma mused at the time: ``You only hope you get a chance to play a game like this again in March. Hopefully, someone will get to them and we won't have to worry about it. ''
The problem, of course, is someone got to UConn first. Iowa State upset the Huskies in the Mideast semifinals.

-- Mel