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, January 11, 2011

Guru Report: Shirley Tries Again For 600

By Mel Greenberg

- Depending on weather conditions later involving more snow in the forecast, Philadelphia University women's basketball coach Tom Shirley will take his second shot at becoming the 20th mentor in combined NCAA Divisions I, II and III to reach 600 career wins when the Rams (7-4, 3-2 CACC) travel to the Northeast part of the city to meet 15th-ranked Holy Family (9-2, 6-0) at the Tigers' Campus Center at 6 p.m. in a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference game.

Shirley, 56, had his first opportunity Saturday at Felician College in Rutherford, N.J., ironically the site of his 500th victory in January, 2006, but despite erasing a 17-point deficit that existed at halftime to force the game into overtime, the host Falcons ruined the moment for Shirley and prevailed with an 86-81 victory.

The Rams will be an underdog Tuesday to the Tigers, who are on a five-game winning streak after struggling at the start of the season when leading scorer senior Catherine Carr hurt her ankle.

Should Holy Family prevail, the next time out, which could definitely be the charm, will be at 2 p.m. Sunday when Philly U. hosts District of Columbia at the Gallagher Center.

The Guru expects to be on the scene Tuesday night to handle print coverage again for The Inquirer and has already decided to sacrifice a key Colonial Athletic Association contest at Delaware Sunday when perennial conference power Old Dominion visits the Blue Hens if the move is necessitated.

Several other coaches in Division I are on the verge of 600 wins -- Lynn Agee at UNC-Greensboro has 596 while Old Dominion's Wendy Larry is at 597. Villanova's Harry Perretta has 593 in his 33 seasons on the Main Line making him only seven wins but also possibly several months away from 600 considering his young Wildcats squad and its challenge handling play in the Big East.

Unaware of how much space is available in print when Shirley's moment arrives, here is a recap and elaboration of everything you need to know about the 1976 graduate of DeSales University, known as Allentown College where Shirley, who played on the men's team, began coaching at his alma mater in1981-82.

Shirley, who has also been Philadelphia University's athletic director since 1992 when R.H. Ted Taylor retired, had a 149-73 record in eight seasons at the Division III DeSales. Overall, this is his 30th season and his current mark after Saturday's loss is 599-273, which is fourth among active Division II coaches. His career with the Rams began in 1989.

Among women's coaches who have passed through the City of Brotherly Love, Shirley is the winningest active coach in the city and fourth overall. Jim Foster, who coached at St. Joseph's before moving on to Vanderbilt and his current job at Ohio State, has 716 wins. Rene Portland, the former Immaculata star who coached at St. Joseph's, Colorado and Penn State, had 693 wins when she left the Nittany Lions in 2007. Her former Mighty Macs teammate Theresa Grentz, who is now a vice president at her alma mater, collected 671 wins coaching St. Joseph's, Rutgers and Illinois.

Ironically, the coach in front of Shirley who last reached 600 is Notre Dame's Muffet MxGraw, who played at St. Joseph's in the late 1970s and coached at Archbishop Carroll High in the western suburbs and then at Lehigh before landing the plum job with the Irish.

In 1992-93 the Rams received their first-ever NCAA Division II tournament bid and finished 27-2 earning Shirley national coach of the year honors. In 2002 he guided Philly U. to a postseason ECAC tournament title. His last year in Allentown before joining the Rams resulted in a school-record 24-6 record and advancement to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16.

Asked recently to name his all-time players, Shirley selected six, of which five became all-Americans. Lynn Tubman, who had been an associate athletic director over the Rams and is now the AD at Chestnut Hill, played at Allentown, where she was his first all-American.

Tammy Greene. a 1994 graduate who was national player of the year, holds the school scoring record with 2,490 points. Samara Speakes, a 2005 graduate is fourth in scoring with 2,082 points, while Theresa Carroll, a 2000 graduate, is 3rd with 2,115 points and fourth in rebounds with 1,033.

Darlene Hildebrand, a 1995 graduate, is sixth with 1,695 points. Karen Wusinich, a 2000 graduate who is not listed in the media guide as an all-American, was nevertheless a productive star with 1, 556 points for eighth, and and her 224 three-pointers are second on the all-time list at Philly U.

As athletic director, Shirley, who lives in Harleysville, Pa., with his wife Monica, is also the boss of men's basketball coach the legendary Herb Magee, who last year became the all-time winningest coach in the NCAA.

"The thing about Tom is we get along so well because we share the gym, we share the busses, and share our experiences," Magee said. "The best thing you can say about our relationship is we're very close. We understand each other and we bounce ideas off of each other.

"Tommy is perhaps the most organized guy I've ever met in my life and I'm the most disorganized guy. So Tom is always helping me with different things like scheduling and things like that so I appreciate his help," Magee added.

One Shirley daughter Kristen played for him with the Rams while another daughter Caitlin is a graduate of St. Joseph's.


Temple's Kristen McCarthy was named the Big Five women's player of the week after leading the Owls to a key Atlantic 10 Conference-opneing win on the road at Charlotte on Friday.

Looking Ahead

Only one Division I game of area interest is scheduled Tuesday night when Rutgers visits No. 25 Syracuse in a Big East challenge of the road. The Orange are one of the top rebounding teams in the nation while the visiting Scarlet Knights are among the shot-blocking leaders.

Locally, if one wants to challenge the weather elements, such as they may be, No. 8 Xavier is expected in town to visit St. Joseph's for a noon game at Hagan Arena, held at that hour to make it a kids' day special.

Then at 5 p.m. on the front end of a doubleheader with the men, Temple will be hosting Rhode Island in the Liacouras Center while at 7 p.m. in The Palestra, in what could be an interesting matchup, Villanova visits Penn for a Big Five game.

Prior to the weather system move on the Northeast, the Guru has and is still considering if he can get to Trenton Wednesday night to jump on the train for the late-night 9:30 p.m. Big East tilt in Madison Square Garden where the No. 2 Connecticut Huskies will meet at 9:30 p.m. St. John's, which just got ejected from the new Associated Press women's poll.

It will be UConn's second visit to the Garden this season following last month's Maggie Dixon Classic appearance against Ohio State, which resulted in the Huskies' tying the UCLA men's all-time Division I record win streak at 88 set in 1971-74. Two nights later in Hartford the Huskies beat Florida State to establish a new standard, which then reached 90 at Pacific until Stanford put an end to the winning ways two nights later.

La Salle, whose Ashley Gale is among the three-point leaders and steals leaders in the NCAA statistics, visits St. Bonaventure in frozen Olean, N.Y. near Lake Erie for an Atlantic 10 game.

Thursday night has Drexel traveling to James Madison for a matchup in Harrisonburg, Va., between two of the top teams in the CAA, while in another CAA game Delaware will host William & Mary. Injured sophomore star Elena Delle Donne remains a day-to-day decision on whether to return after suffering with a nerve condition in her back.

Minnesota will visit Penn State in Big 10 action, while Boston College and Archbishop Carroll grad Kerri Shields, the sister of St. Joseph's freshman Erin Shields, will be at No. 13 Maryland for another Atlantic Coast Conference showdown.

And for now, the Guru pauses but will return when the score, er, weather changes.

-- Mel


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