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, December 18, 2006

Staley Favors Using Male Practice Players at Temple

By Mel Greenberg

After Temple’s relatively easy 88-70 nonconference victory over Miami (Ohio) on Sunday, we gave coach Dawn Staley a chance to weigh in on the national debate over an NCAA’s committee desires to restrict the use of male practice players.

Staley, herself, practiced long ago and continued for years against male players as a member of USA Basketball’s various international squads, including the Olympics.

The former storied point guard, who retired from the WNBA after last summer, said she and her staff use male players as often as possible in practice. Two members of her staff also participate with the male squads.

Darius Taylor, who was a big-bodied post player who starred at Michigan and also worked for USA Basketball, helped develop former Temple all-American Candice Dupree who was one of the top WNBA rookies last summer.

“Coach Chimel, he’s a good guy, he likes to pus the tempo,” Staley said about Fred Chimel, who was an assistant coach on the WNBA Charlotte Sting when Staley played there before being traded to Houston late in the 2005 season.

“I’m all for practice players, especially when you have injuries,” Staley said. “It’s just hard to practice when you don’t have as many bodies. An injury or two can keep you practicing and keeping your players fresh. I’m all for it.

“I know people may oppose it, but I think it’s helpful for any program if it’s used the right way.”

Senior Kamesha Hairston, who is starting to become seriously considered in the next WNBA draft, is agreed with the benefits.

“I know it’s helped me,” Hairston said. “They’re stronger than what we face.”

Staley made another point about programs below the Marylands, Tennessees and Connecticuts of the world.

“You’re not always fortunate to have 10 all-Americans on your team in the quality of reps each and every time,” Staley said. “So you gotta have stronger (players) to measure yourself on a daily basis so everything won’t be a shock during a game if you have to play a Maryland or Tennessee and those type of players from 1-15 on the roster.

:We like to use them every day during the school year,” Staley said of male opponents in practice. We want them there.”

Incidentally, Dupree, who was at Sunday’s game was asked if Hairston could play in the WNBA now that the former Temple center has had experience in the physicality of the pros.

“Yeah, people keep asking me that question about her,” Dupree smiled. “I think she’d do all right.”

AP Public Voting

OK. So it’s several hours from sunrise and your Guru needs to get home to get some shuteye since after his turn on the desk Monday night, he is driving up to Syracuse to cover Tuesday night’s men’s game between Drexel and the Orangemen.

At this hour, the specifics of links to the Associated Press site showing how people voted in the men’s and women’s poll is still a mystery.

Usually the polls are released in early afternoon. So if any of you figure it out before I return to the office, feel free to weigh in. I’m sure I’ll see it somewhere and then will post the references here.

As for this voter, it was a relatively quiet week, so there wasn’t much to do.

I stayed with the first 17 teams from the previous vote – none of them lost. I moved No. 20 George Washington to No. 18 after the Colonials’ quality win over Auburn. (I didn’t say high quality.). I dropped Michigan State from 18 to 19 and Texas A&M from 19 to 20 in a small shuffle in that area.

I kept Marquette at No. 21, New Mexico at No. 22, and moved Pittsburgh to No. 23 from No. 24. I then went with Delaware and Hofstra for my final two positions because they had been on my ballot so there was no reason to drop them.

That forced me to drop Texas out after a lop-sided loss to Tennessee and I had not voted for Arkansas, although they appear to have the makings of a fine season. The SEC will tell us soon enough, and, hey, we’re only talking about a couple of points here.

This voter can’t wait until the start of conference play or some more major matchups to begin the sorting process.

Geno’s Other Homecoming

Connecticut is at Virginia Monday night in Charlottesville, where Huskies coach Geno Auriemma will make a homecoming of sorts visit against a program he served as an assistant coach before being hired to run the world of Storrs.

There are slightly different versions on how the hire occurred.

Former Immaculata coach Cathy Rush once told us the tale this way:

“Debbie Ryan had called our camp one afternoon where everyone was sitting around and had an interest in hiring Phil Martelli (now the St. Joseph’s men’s coach in Philadelphia),” Rush said.

“I said, `No, Phil wants to coach the boys.’

“At that point someone yelled out, `Does anyone want to coach at Virginia?’ and Geno shot back, `What’s it pay?’”

I’m sure there are probably a bunch of stories today (Monday) at the web sites of the Connecticut horde who will be covering the game.

Since we’re discussing old history and Geno, the return of Pittsburgh to the rankings for the first time since 1979 reminds us of another tale.

The brief appearance of the Panthers helped Jean Balthaser, then the coach of Pittsburgh, to eventually move on and coach Connecticut.

She did not fare too well with the Huskies, however. Her departure from UConn then paved the way for Auriemma to be hired and the rest is his-story, which he’ll tell you many times.

-- Mel


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