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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Guru Musings on Delle Donne and WNBA Playoffs

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ Several years ago when Elena Delle Donne's name first surfaced as a prized No. 1 women's basketball recruit of the future, it was said that if the star of the Ursuline Academy team in Wilmington would stay local, Villanova would be her choice.

When that was mentioned to Wildcats veteran coach Harry Perretta at the time, he quipped with two observation citing Delle Donne's skill and the recruiting competition Villanova would be up against involving Connecticut, Tennessee, and other heavyweights in the women's collegiate game.

"If she would decide to come here, I'll give the team to (associate head coach) Joe (Mullaney Jr.) because I can't coach talent like that," Perretta smiled.

"Listen, there's only way I can out-recruit all those people _ personality."

Well as it turned out, that trait almost went the distance in Villanova pulling a recruiting upset before Delle Donne ultimately decided over the weekend that the University of Connecticut was the winner.

A week ago, the Hartford Courant had reported that Villanova, along with Middle Tennessee, had jumped ahead of the two national rivals, including Tennessee, that had been part of her Final Four.

After giving her verbal intention to the Huskies, Delle Donne mentioned her considerations of Villanova to the Courant.

"I was thinking that way because Villanova was so close to home," said Delle Donne, also a star on the local Fencor AAU team. "I wouldn't have to worry about going away, and I had such a great relationship with Harry.

" He's been so great to me during this process. I looked at them very hard."

"I don't know that the order of schools actually flip-flopped in her mind [away from UConn and Tennessee]," said Ernie Delle Donne, her father, to the Courant. "It's just that she may have had the sense there was no way she could choose between Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma and maybe she should just go to Villanova because it was so close to us [20 minutes]."

Delle Donne will appear in the area several times in the future because of Connecticut's Big East rivalry with Rutgers and Villanova.

The added verbal to UConn from center Heather Buck, the top player in the state of Connecticut, sets the Huskies as an NCAA favorite in the near future.

The UConn-Tennessee series may be no more, for now, after Volunteers coach Pat Summitt terminated the fierce rivalry that began in 1995, but one can envision the two powers hooking up in the 2009 championship, which would be Delle Donne's freshman season.

On the other hand, if Tennessee's Candace Parker decides to turn pro after this season, maybe not.

WNBA Playoffs I : Sun Set in the Midwest Brings Sour Note to Nutmeg State

Well, it almost was a perfect day up there in the land of women's basketball euphoria after Delle Donne's decision became public.

Then the Connecticut Sun managed to squander a 22-point lead to the Indiana Fever, lose in overtime, and miss the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in four seasons.

Considering the number of sizeable margins the Sun blew during this summer, perhaps Connecticut can get a tax write-off for charity donations to league opponents.

Well, at least USA Basketball will now be guaranteed to have its coaching staff in place when the senior national women's team trains at Temple next month (Sept. 13-15) before playing an exhibition game at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16.

Head coach Anne Donovan became immediately available when the Seattle Storm was eliminated by the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday. That game also featured a large blown lead, incidentally, until Phoenix recovered. Temple's Dawn Staley is an assistant to Donovan, as is Connecticut's Mike Thibault.

The Sun's exit means Lindsay Whalen and Katie Douglas become part of the guaranteed mix who might be caught somewhere in center city having a soft pretzel or two. (No Jonathan, I'm tossing in a link to your soft pretzel logic blog at Philly.com).

WNBA Playoffs II: Liberty Connection Puts San Antonio in the Western Finals

Tuesday night will determine whether the defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock advance to the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana or that the New York Liberty will continue their Cinderella run and uphold recent geographical tradition.

If the Liberty fall, it will be the first time in the playoffs under the current format that began in 1999 that it will be an all-Midwest final in the East. In that span, New York and/or Connecticut has made it to Stage II of the playoffs.

Meanwhile two former Liberty stars finished off the two-time defending Western Conference champion Sacramento Monarchs on Monday night when Becky Hammon fed Vickie Johnson at the buzzer to send the San Antonio Silver Stars to the conference finals for the first time.

The Stars under their previous identity as the Utah Starzz lost to Los Angeles in the 2002 conference finals, 2-0.

Of course, Liberty fans and a few media types can dream of the story lines if New York and San Antonio met in the WNBA championship series.

Johnson signed as a free agent last season, and then Hammon was dealt from New York on the draft day blockbuster trade in April that saw San Antonio ship Ohio State's Jessica Davenport, the overall No. 2 pick, to New York.

Although Sacramento's ouster meant the end of the season for former Rutgers star Chelsea Newton, who is a member of coach C. Vivian Stringer's staff with the Scarlet Knights, other former stars of the school remain involved in the WNBA postseason.

The favored Phoenix Mercury has Cappie Pondexter, last season's overall No. 2 pick, while New York coach Pat Coyle and her twin sister Mary were members of the Rutgers squad that claimed the final AIAW title in 1982.

Additionally, San Antonio's Johnson and Phoenix's Tangela Smith played under Stringer at Iowa.

Connecticut fans will now turn their hearts in the direction of Phoenix, where former overall No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi is a key factor along with Pondexter and Australian Penny Taylor in the Mercury's emergence under coach Paul Westhead's incessant running attack.

-- Mel

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