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.

Friday, October 08, 2010

WNBA: New Chatter On NY Coaching-GM Vacancies

By Mel Greenberg

Patrick Henry of Virginia back in the American revolutionary era asked for liberty or death.

At this moment several centuries later in the sport of basketball, another individual currently in the South could be deliberating from a choice between the WNBA New York Liberty or NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

That would be one Ron Rothstein, who turns 68 in December, and is currently an assistant coach with the Miami Heat but also guided the former WNBA Miami Sol in their brief three-year existence in the women's pro league from 2000-02.

In fact Rothstein could be involved in talks with New York at the present time to fill both general manager and coaching vacancies.

Longtime GM and president Carol Blazejowski, a Hall of Famer, was recently let go by MSG Sports after being the only chief executive in charge of one of the original eight WNBA teams the past 14 seasons. Anne Donovan, who guided New York to a first-place tie with Washington and the Eastern Division finals, losing to the Atlanta Dream, has left for Seton Hall, a head coaching job announced prior to the 2010 WNBA season.

Rothstein's name was not mentioned but he fits a profile of someone the Liberty could be targeting, based on clues about the vacancies from a league source with reliable contacts and thorough knowledge of WNBA operations.

The Guru's source did not know where discussions would be at the moment, but given that the WNBA meetings are on the horizon and MSG President Scott O'Neil recently returned from Europe, the pace might be picking up to get a new hire in place.

Additionally, Rothstein, a former star at Roosevelt High, was near Manhattan Wednesday night as one of several inductees to the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame.

Rothstein also coached the NBA Detroit Pistons. He was an interim head coach of Miami several years ago when Pat Riley underwent surgery.

The clues from the Guru's source indicated the potential candidate is someone who had been a head coach in the WNBA, is out of the league now, but would get both jobs and has experience in the dual positions.

The Guru was also told that none of the previous potential names recently speculated at this post were in play, though some could be worthy candidates.

Rothstein held the dual GM-coaching positions in Miami, guding the Sol to a 13-19 record, the best of four new franchises in 2000 that also included Indiana, the former Portland squad, and the recently-crowned WNBA champion Seattle Storm.

The Guru's source feels the candidate would do well with the Liberty, which faces an additional challenges the next three summers playing in Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovation.

Rothstein took Miami to the playoffs the second season with a 20-12 record but the Sol fell back into sixth and last place in the East in 2002 with a 15-17 mark before the NBA Heat dispense with the franchise the following winter.

Among Miami's first players was the tenacious Debbie Black, now an assistant at Ohio State to her former St. Joseph's coach Jim Foster. The point guard had been looking for now coaching opportunities after last season and it wouldn't be surprising to see her land in New York with Rothstein, if he gets the positions and has interest in the former Archbishop Wood star from suburban Philadelphia.

Black on the Liberty staff would be somewhat amusing considering her former role as an arch-villain to the New York fans base in her court duals with All-Star Teresa Weatherspoon.

Three other players on the intial Miami team were Sandy Brondello, who was recently let go as coach of the WNBA Silver Stars, former North Carolina State star Sharon Manning, and former Liberty star Elena Baranova from Russia.

In 2001 Rothstein chose former Notre Dame star Ruth Riley in the regular WNBA draft fresh off the Irish's NCAA championship run over Big East rival Connecticut in the semifinals and Purdue in the title game.

Another of his players was Iziane Castro Marques, who had been a key in the Atlanta Dream's rise from an expansion team in 2008 to their first playoff appearance in 2009. The team went 4-0 in two rounds to sweep the Eastern Conference before being swept 3-0 in a tightly-contested finals by the newly crowned champion Seattle.

Rothstein is also a good friend of former Liberty coach Richie Adubato from their days in New York and long career in the NBA. The rivalry between their two WNBA teams were one of the better ones at the time.

Veteran agent Bruce Levy, who like everyone else did not see Blazejowski's dismissal about to happen, had dealings with Rothstein handling negotiations for many of the players listed earlier.

He has no knowledge of Rothstein's potential involvement with the Liberty but did text Thursday night that if talks were being held and were to lead to Rothstein's return to the WNBA, he could be a good fit for New York.

There had been some speculation that MSG officials privately determined to oust Blazejowski at the end of last season when the Liberty finished at the bottom of the East. That obviously was before the revival this season that saw the addition of such talents as former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, a key player in the WNBA Phoenix Mercury's run to the 2009 WNBA title.

As in many situations in the current economic climate, New York was thought to not want to have an extra salary in 2010 during the final year of Blazejowski's contract. Thus, it's possible that MSG officials could have begun a search through back channels as they hold with the NBA.

It could be they originally sought to just replace Blazejowski until Donovan's move created the potential of dual vacancies.

Despite Rothstein's age being quite senior to the New York roster featuring Pondexter, a similar situation resulted in a title for Phoenix in 2007 under former NBA coach Paul Westhead, who also coached the La Salle men in Philadelphia and Loyola Marymount.

Guru Becomes a Bobblehead or Vice Versa

On Thursday night the Philly group of collegiate sports media representatives held a small reception for the Guru, marking his retirement last spring from The Inquirer after more than 40 years.

La Salle's Kevin Bonner presented a large mug from the Explorers. Temple's Larry Dougherty, the national president of CoSIDA (Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America), offered a bobblehead doll of the Guru, which the the Guru can't post here but a picture can be found on both his twitter account @womhoopsguru and facebook page.

Meanwhile, on a sad note after just receiving the information, condolences to former Villanova star and former La Salle assistant Mimi Riley, who's mom recently passed away.

The Guru always enjoyed conversations with both her parents, especially during Riley's era as a point guard for the Wildcats.

-- Mel


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