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.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

WBHOF -- Red Carpet Film Debut in Knoxville

Guru's Note: This weekend is the 25th anniversary reunion celebration of the Villanova team that went to the AIAW Final Four at the Palestra in 1982.

We spent Friday night at the Montrose Mansion at the Villanova Conference Center for an elaborate reception honoring the coaches and players.

More events are planned with halftime ceremonies during the Villanova men's game Saturday afternoon against Georgetown at the Wachovia Center. We'll be on the scene at the Pavilion Saturday night for the women's alumni game and more ceremonies surrounding the Wildcats' game against Rutgers.

Incidentally, that season Villanova upset Rutgers in the EAIAW regional final, equivalent to beating Connecticut in the Big East in 2003. Rutgers got even in the national semifinals. The Wildcats beat Wayland Baptist for third place and Rutgers beat Texas for the last AIAW title.

Thus, we are withholding our report for 24 hours to get all the activities in one blog, although it should be noted that in Villanova coach Harry Perretta's remarks Friday night he said he had hoped to coach the Wildcats "until I die."

Erin may file this weekend off the Pittsburgh-UConn game. Acacia will be reporting again with another Molto Monday adventure from Bologna, Italy. And to not totally spoil his surprise, of sorts, we offer the words Pretzel, Podcast, Guru, Jonathan, Monday, as clues for a special broadcast that will air after the weekend. More detail Monday morning, I think.

Meanwhile, it's debut time again as Karen Tucker of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame joins the blog team. As previously mentioned, she'll be providing news and info involving the WBHOF in Knoxville and activities she will be overseeing.

When you see the WBHOF letters in the headline, it will be her report. We also just gave you a direct line to the Hall's web site as part of our ongoing exchange.

Because the Guru is, ahem, one of the six inductees, we'll be making our own announcements, as promised, from our end.

Sometime soon, former Texas star Andrea Lloyd Curry, who now does color commentary and is also an inductee of the Class of 2007, will appear here in a blog in which we will interview each other.

The Guru also promised to let you all in on some of the deliberations involving the induction ceremonies.

Right now, the Guru and his cabinet are considering the appointments of escorts at the induction ceremony as well as those who will speak as part of the video introduction.

There are two different main groups to draw from -- the Guru's basketball associates over the years (coaches, players, etc.) and his media friends (Inquirer staffers and executives, past and present, as well as other media and SID friends.).

The Guru would like your input, even if in the ultimate decisions will be his and his alone. But you can influence with recommendations and nominations, based on what you know of the Guru's life. Just send your picks (with reasons, if you'd like) to his email address.

And now, direct from Knoxville, Karen would like to provide her own greeting before her first report.

-- Mel

Greetings from Knoxville!

I know Mel has already officially introduced me to his site (Jan. 12) but since it’s been over a month (wow, time flies!) I wanted to come on and introduce myself again.

My name is Karen Tucker and I am the Director of Basketball Relations at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born and raised in Connecticut, I have been in Knoxville for four months now and am still adjusting to the Southern lifestyle (not to mention the sea of orange that is everywhere I turn).

Since my background is in journalism, having covered the Connecticut women’s basketball team/WNBA for the New Haven Register prior to joining the Hall of Fame team, I was glad to accept Mel’s invitation to be a part of his blog.

My plan is to post news from the Hall of Fame, specifically information leading up to Mel’s shining moment as one of our six Inductees in the Class of 2007.

Induction will be in Knoxville on June 8-9, so I am sure I’ll have plenty to report between now and then.

I will also be chiming in with news from the women’s basketball world when appropriate.

The following article is one that I wrote for the WBHOF’s latest newsletter regarding a movie premiere for the film “Believe in Me” that we are hosting in Knoxville on March 8.

The movie is based on the true story of legendary high school girls’ basketball coach Jim Keith.

Through planning the event, I have gotten to know Keith and some of his former players and have become fascinated with his story.

Therefore, I wanted to share it with those of you who will not have the opportunity to read it in “Off the Backboard.”


By Karen Tucker
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

When "Believe in Me" was shot in New Mexico in 2005, Jim Keith, the legendary Oklahoma high school girls’ basketball coach and subject of the movie, was invited to the filming.

“(My wife Jorene and I) went out four times, for about a week at a time, and we just got to thinking that we were awfully important,” Keith said with a laugh.

When he returned to his hometown of Oologah, Oklahoma, a small town of less than 400 residents, however, Keith realized that little had actually changed.

In fact, Keith still volunteers his time to help coach a high school basketball team.

“I know I’m crazy to do this at 79 years old, but I’m eating it up, I’m just having a ball,” Keith said. “I sit in the bleachers and the little devils come running over and talk to me during timeouts. It’s kind of embarrassing but when I see these kids and they say, ‘coach can you help me with this?’ or ‘can you show me that?’ it takes the fame right out of it.”

Despite Keith’s modesty, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame is teaming up with Beyond the Box, IFC Films, National CineMedia and Regal Cinemas to host the VIP Premiere for Believe in Me, the true story of Keith’s life coaching girls’ basketball in Oklahoma, on March 8 at the Pinnacle Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"I am elated; I can’t think of any place I’d rather see it be than at the (Women’s Basketball) Hall of Fame,” Keith said. “I think it’s good for the Hall of Fame and I think it’s great for women’s basketball.”

Keith refers to the players that were on the Sayre team that the book and movie focuses on as “The Originals.” Many of them are hoping to make the trip to Knoxville for the movie premiere.

“He’s so special to all of us,” Jerry (Robertson) Bibb said. “We never thought something like this was going to happen, so we’re really excited.”

"Believe in Me" will be released in select markets nationwide on March 9.

Directed by Robert Collector, the movie is adapted from the 1974 novel Brief Garland written by Harold Keith, Jim Keith’s uncle. The film focuses on Keith's experiences when he arrived in Sayre, Oklahoma in 1964 to coach a boys’ team and found out that he has been re-assigned as the girls’ basketball coach.

It was a story that appealed to Collector on many levels.

“I am a player and I have a daughter who is a college athlete and both my wife and my daughter really urged me to do this,” Collector said.

“The decency of the people and the civil rights aspect for women really appealed to me. In an age where I think money has ruined sports, the fact that I could do a story about people who wanted to play for the love of the game really inspired me. I just thought it was so worthwhile.”

Collector wanted the movie to be realistic and without the special effects of Hollywood, so he cast all the players in the movie and sent all of them to boot camp for two weeks before the movie began production.

“I auditioned them, I had them read and the ones I was interested in, I said, ‘now you have to audition on the floor,’” Collector said. “All you have to do is look at somebody for three seconds and you know (if they can play). I just really needed it to be authentic.”

Actors Jeffrey Donovan, Samantha Mathis and Bruce Dern star. WNBA/USA Basketball great Diana Taurasi makes a brief appearance in the film as well.

“So many great people came together to make this film possible” Collector said. “It ended up that my affection for Jim, my affection for the town and the girls and their parents and what this young man went through was such that I looked forward to going to work everyday. It was a really emotionally satisfying experience for me, a real labor of love.”


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