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, November 12, 2010

"Philly Girl" Marianne Stanley Honored In Local Hall of Fame

(Guru's Note: WNBA Washington Mystics assistant coach Marianne Stanley, a former Immaculata star from Yeadon in the suburbs, flew home from Spain Thursday night to be one of 15 inductees into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Here is the piece the Guru wrote for the program upon a personal request from Stanley. Her eloquent acceptance speech will be transcripted later this weekend.)

By Mel Greenberg

In assessing Marianne Stanley's Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame credentials, both her two-fold career as an All-American point guard on a pair of national champions at Immaculata University and her success on the sidelines as a longtime coach at the collegiate and WNBA levels have each been individually worthy enough for her to gain acceptance.

Stanley's overall collegiate mark is 416-222 with three national titles and she was the first in the modern history of the women's game to achieve that duo player-coach distinction. However, Stanley has never been as much about the numbers as she has been about leadership.

Geno Auriemma, the veteran University of Connecticut womenís basketball coach who grew up in Norristown, has watched Stanley evolve over the years because of his friendship with St. Joseph's men's coach Phil Martelli and Phil's wife, the former Judy Marra who played for the Mighty Macs.

"Marianne did something that is very difficult to do," said Auriemma, a Naismith Hall of Famer who has guided UConn to seven NCAA titles. "She took a great playing career and then turned it into a great coaching career at a very young age and then won a national title very quickly."

In 1977 former Old Dominion athletic director Jim Jarrett in Norfolk, Va., needed to hire a women's basketball coach. His deliberations resulted in deciding whether to make the offer to either an experienced veteran from the West Coast or to take a chance on the 23-year-old Stanley, who had been assisting former Mighty Macs coach Cathy Rush.

Jarrett chose to gamble with youth and his decision was rewarded two years later when Stanley guided the Lady Monarchs to two straight national crowns under the former Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) prior to the NCAA era. Then in 1985 she added an NCAA championship to her collection.

Stanley's playing days, dating as far back as her high school years at Archbishop Prendergast, earned her the same reputation as many renown local men's collegiate stars. She too was called a classic Philadelphia guard because of her all-out hustle.

"I am a 'Philly girl,'" Stanley proclaimed in her acceptance speech Thursday night.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, a member of the Big Five Hall of Fame who guided the Irish to the 2001 NCAA crown, recalls playing for St. Josephís against Stanley.

"`Fierce competitor' was probably my first thought going against her,"McGraw recalled. "As a point guard for a national championship team, she was somebody I looked at and thought that's somebody I want to be. She was somebody I had tremendous respect for as a player and certainly followed her career and later cheered for her when she was coaching Old Dominion to a title."

Stanley, an inductee into the Womenís Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., later made coaching stops at Penn, Southern Cal, Stanford, Cal-Berkeley and then into the WNBA as a head coach of the Washington Mystics. She also served as an assistant in the pros with Los Angeles and New York.

Her trophy case is filled with numerous Coach of the Year awards earned over the years. This past season Stanley returned to Washington as an assistant with the Mystics and helped guide them to their best record at 22-12 in the WNBA with a first-place tie in the Eastern Conference.

She is again spending the winter overseas as an assistant coach of the UMMC Basketball Club in Russia, which includes several WNBA All-Stars in Ekaterinburg.

"I'm coaching such schlepps as (former Rutgers star) Cappie Pondexter and (former Tennessee star) Candace Parker," Stanley quipped in her speech.

As a collegiate coach, Stanley recruited the multi-talented Lisa Leslie to Southern Cal. At Old Dominion though the fabled Nancy Lieberman, a future Naismith Hall of Famer, was already on the roster when she arrived, Stanley later attracted another future Naismith inductee in Anne Donovan, who is in her first year coaching Seton Hall.

Donovan, who coached New York in the WNBA this past summer, won several Olympic gold medals as a player and went on to win a WNBA title coaching Seattle before coaching the United States to a gold medal at the Beijing Games in China in 2008.

Several years ago in their first courtside coaching reunion, Stanley's Mystics upset Donovan's now-defunct Charlotte squad in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

"Marianne was such a brilliant young coach," Donovan said about deciding to play at ODU. "She was all business but she understood the other side of life also.

"We had a special connection right from the beginning," Donovan continued. "From what Connecticut is experiencing now, back in the day Old Dominion had the luxury of being the top program in the country. It was a special time and Marianne was a big part of building that program, obviously."

"She's been a mentor for me as a player,"Donovan added. "I didn't aspire to be a coach but through the years I was subtlety learning from Marianne how to be a coach so when I went into coaching, she was one of the first persons I called and she remains a mentor now."

In 2007 Stanley hooked up as an assistant to Naismith Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer at Rutgers, helping to guide the Scarlet Knights to the NCAA title game.

"She is a brilliant, just a brilliant coach,"Stringer praised Stanley, a native of Yeadon. "She is a real purist and just loves the game. And it showed every time Marianne stepped on the floor. She probably couldn't explain why her heart beats so fast about basketball but I see her as a perfectionist in all she does, the ultimate professional. Personally, I think she is one of the best coaches in the country. No one is more brilliant and I told her that a thousand times. Thatís why I selected her to be one of my coaches when I was coaching one of the international teams."

Stanley is the third member of the Immaculata era to be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, joining former teammate Theresa Grentz, who had coaching success at St. Joseph's, Rutgers and Illinois. Former Mighty Macs coach Cathy Rush, naturally, was the first of trio.

Off the court Stanley has engaged in aiding such community activities as Hoops for Africa, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society the Hope House Foundation and YMCA.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Mel Greenberg is a former sportswriter at The Philadelphia Inquirer who retired from the paper in April after a 40-year career on North Broad St. The founder of the Associated Press womenís rankings, Greenberg, who has earned the nickname "Women's Hoops Guru," has continued to write his nationally-followed blog and has himself been inducted into five Halls of Fame including the Big Five and Women's Halls.

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