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, June 15, 2010

Guru Musings: WNBA's Cappie and Taurasi Together Again

By Mel Greenberg

Former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter and former University of Connecticut star Diana Taurasi were together again Monday on opposite teams.

Pondexter and Taurasi, who had combined in two of the last three seasons, including 2009, to lead the Phoenix Mercury to WNBA titles were in the same release by the league announcing players of the week.

Only this time, Pondexter, who was dealt to the New York Liberty before the season, was named the Eastern Conference top player while Taurasi, still with Phoenix, took Western Conference honors.

Doing The Conference Shuffle

The Guru noticed in recent major news outlet stories all covering the tug-of-war resulting to date of Nebraska moving from the Big 12 to the Big 10 and Colorado moving from the Big 12 to the Pac-10, few women's coaches, if any, have been called upon for their reaction.

There has been coverage by the women's writers online, particular Mechelle Voepel, who lives in the heart of Big 12 country.

More is still to come, perhaps, but since at least one more season will be played under the current alignments, it will be interesting to see how much of an affect the departure of Colorado and Nebraska will mean in terms of women's basketball.

Colorado had gone into decline the last several seasons. Nebraska, of course, had the breakthrough year, going unbeaten until the Big 12 tournament while playing in front of massive crowds.

With Kelsey Griffin graduated and now playing for the WNBA Connecticut Sun, it will be interesting if the Cornhuskers can maintain their momentum. If so, Nebraska's departure will definitely be a key loss on the women's side.

Meanwhile, back in the summer of 1995 when Big 10 women's basketball was one of the very top competitions in the country, C. Vivian Stringer did a lot of inquiries about how the Big East might grow in similar fashion beyond just what UConn achieved during her deliberations over moving from Iowa to Rutgers.

For now, the Big East easily went ahead of her former conference with Stringer rebuilding the Scarlet Knights as a nationally recognized entity.

So, while Stringer is not making public comments over Rutgers being speculated as a potential school to move to the Big 10, she will say how appreciative she is over what the Big East has established.

WBHOF Wrap Up II: More induction night speeches

Wow. Did the Guru call it 24 hours ago in offering the previous post below this. The complete transcriptions of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma's video introductory remarks and former Huskies star Rebecca Lobo's acceptance speech at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame ceremonies Saturday night in Knoxville, Tenn., drew over 500 hits in the period lasting just over midnight.

Thanks to those of you on the boneyard, WNBA.com, and womenshoops, for providing the links.

The Guru promised more and doesn't want to be filled with empty promises, but in the interest of time to transcribe and the late nite/early sunrise hour, here are highlight sound bites of the other inductees.

As promised, first here are some comments from former Maryland coach Chris Weller, who had a large entourage cheering her last weekend. The group included her three players of different eras to make Final Fours and become Olympians -- Tara Heiss, who is a previous WBHOF inductee, Vicky Bullet and Jasmina Perazic.

Weller, as the anchor, worried how to follow up the speeches of the previous five inductees in her opening remarks.

A key passage was when she discussed firsts, in terms of making history.

"Teresa (Edwards) gets her first gold medal, it's got to be exciting. ... She gets her fourth, how many more does she want? (laughter).

Every first that a person experiences is exciting. Now I have my firsts and I'm thinking I wouldn't give up my firsts to have their (other inductuees) firsts. Because I love my firsts.

My firsts don't sound as glamorous as their firsts, but we, at Maryland, when Dotty McKnight (who attended last weekend) was our coach, we went to Frostburg State College and played in the first tournament where we stayed overnight.

We played three games in two days and slept on the floor of the gym and had camp out with four other teams. Now that was was exciting -- I'll never forget that, that was one of my firsts.

Here's the aha, the aha is we all have our firsts and everybody's first is theirs and it means so much to them and they should be so thankful for them and enjoy them as immensely as I know my teammates did. We loved our competition and it wasn't anything like yours, but it was our first.

And it came to me, aha, that is what the Hall is about. It is about documenting all the firsts that all of us experienced as we helped the sport grow and that is what we should be so thankful for, that Gloria (Ray) got this Hall of Fame so we could follow all the tremendous number of firsts. I wouldn't give up my firsts for yours, but we should all just be blessed at the love the opportunities that we've had to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others.

In another noteworthy Weller comment: I feel like I've accomplished my life's goals because I felt like I never had a real job.

Teresa Weatherspoon's speech

T used so much energy and spoke so loudly and understandably, but in listening to the tape, it would take to many rewinds to get her remarks exactly right because of her loud enthusiasm as if she had been coaching Louisiana Tech on the spot.

But she did tell a tale of how a coach back in the day in her pre-collegiate formative years said she would never become a great basketball player and how after she won the Gold Medal in 1988, upon her return home went straight to that coach's home to gain her revenge.

Spoon's Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore did the video introduction. Weller, incidentally, was introduced by former Maryland athletic director Lou Perkins.

Comments from Gloria Ray
(She was the first Tennessee women's athletic director who oversaw the building of the WBHOF. Pat Summitt did the video intro telling a funny story about the two of them shopping and buying trash cans.)

I can feel the spirit in this room and am pleased to be here.

I am referred to around the office as the reluctant inductee in that I feel uncomfortable, but I feel so honored and so proud, particularly to be in the 2010 class.

(Discusses induction class) I've got the greatest high school coach in the country (Texas' Leta Andrews). We've got a championship caliber college coach that's going to teach them life skills and how to play as a team. And I've got three players in this induction class Lobo, Teresa Weatherspoon, Teresa Edwards, and I'll tell you what -- I'll play those three kids up against class that's been inducted. I'll sell the tickets. I'll print the T-shirts (inaudible).

It's overwhelming in that I didn't score many points, I didn't win any games as a coach, but I think my reason for being here tonight is as symbolism in that it takes a lot of people to accomplish things.

Teresa Edwards

There's so many people that I could thank because I never felt once in my life that I could do things alone.

The gift (playing basketball) gave me much more than I could possibly give it. As I mentioned yesterday, I took it one day at a time.

I never once in my life that it would land me where I am standing now -- to be amongst the class I am tonight.

I went from Cairo, Georgia, not really to Georgia, but to Andy Landers (coach and Guru 2007 WBHOF classmate).

About Summitt: I really like you. I might have said it so I can get out of Tennessee tomorrow.

My mother never played the game of basketball in her life but she could question me about my shot.

I played the game with a passion and I'm always looking for a purpose. And with my heart and soul I hope I gave you the best I could possibly give you this time around and I thank you.

Leta Andrews

I truly admire the rich history in basketball in our country.

When I was a little girl I thought I'd grow up to be the next Dolly Parton.
I'd get off the bus and I would go to the barnyard singing to the horses, the chickens, and the cows, thinking I could fulfill that dream.

And one day my daddy said, Leta Mae, I think you need to pick up a basketball. So I took daddy's advice and picked the basketball up. And guess what, I did fine tune those basketball skills.

Daddy had mounted a basketball in the chicken yard. I became a good shooter, but I want you to know I became a great rebounder. Everytime I shot the basketball I would follow it because you could imagine what it landed in.

And from that moment forward, basketball became a great passion to me.

-- Mel

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