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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guru Report II: Blazejowski Heading To Academia

(Guru's note: This is an update with a brief talk with Carol Blazejowski about her new job. There is a post above this one covering the Villanova-St. John's game and some WNIT info. And press the media links and go to philly local for a new Division 2-3 report inside melgreenberg.com).

By Mel Greenberg

Just about five months to the day after she was ambushed by her MSG Sports superiors and let go from a 14-year run as the president and general manager of the WNBA New York Liberty, Carol Blazejowski has found employment again back at her roots at Montclair State.

Blazejowski’s alma mater made the announcement official Tuesday, giving her the title of vice president of university advancement.

Though some of her titles changed over the years, Blazejowski had been at the helm of the Liberty since its outset as one of eight charter members when the WNBA launched in the summer of 1997.

John Whisenant, who was coach and general manager of the former Sacramento Monarchs, in both positions replaced Blazejowski and Anne Donovan, who is now coaching the Seton Hall women.

Ironically, former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz, who went on to coaching success at St. Joseph’s, Rutgers and Illinois, has held a similar title to Blazejowski at her alma mater since she retired from Illinois.

Montclair State, located in Upper Montclair, N.J., near New York, is an NCAA Division III school that competed as a major women’s basketball power in the late 1970s under the former AIAW.

Blazejowski was a terrific scorer, won the first Wade Award, and in her senior year led the squad to the Final Four won by UCLA and Ann Meyers-Drysdale in the Bruins’ Pauley Pavilion in 1978.

She still holds the Madison Square Garden scoring record for men and women with 52 points, which was set in a game against Queens College on which former WNBA president Donna Orender played.

“It’s amazing, this job came along just when I needed one,” Blazejowski told the Guru in a quick phone call Tuesday afternoon. “I’m still getting settled and have only been in it a couple of days, but it looks like it will be really great.

“I did give Theresa a call when I got the offer.”

The release from Montclair State announcing Blazejowski is listed below this report, but her duties to a certain degree are similar to ones with the Liberty in terms of overseeing marketing, public relations, and the other aspects of the entire university.

Back in New York, trainer Lisa White and marketing head Melissa Abbe are the only holdovers from Blazejowski’s original front office staff. Kym Hampton, director of fan development, was a star center on the early Liberty squads.

“I really was still looking for something in sports,” said Blazejowski, who is a member of both the Naismith and Women’s Basketball Halls of Fame.

“But (Montclair) came after me really hard and said I could be involved with athletics along with everything else and it feels great to be wanted.

“And it’s only a 10 minute ride from the house,” she added.

Blazejowski isn’t ready to discuss her final hours in New York, but her remark sort of confirmed that she did not know when she awoke on the morning of Sept. 20 that it would be her last day on the job.

In fact, MSG Sports officials reportedly did not even give Blazejowski time to inform her staff, according to a source familiar with her departure.

No one knows exactly what the deal breaker was – she had her supporters and detractors in terms of running all aspects of the Liberty organization – but it could have been over the venue the WNBA team at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will temporarily call home the next three summers during renovations of Madison Square Garden.

She was not known to be enamored of the site early last season when the search for a temporary home was being conducted.

“It’s still not like this place, look at the atmosphere here,” she said during the playoffs when New York advanced to the Eastern finals won by the third-year Atlanta Dream.

New York, with the addition of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, and former Stanford star Nicole Powell, among others, finished tied with the Washington Mystics on top of the rugged Eastern Conference but landed the No. 2 seed from which the Liberty ousted the .defending conference champion Indiana Fever.

When the office of WNBA president was vacated on Dec. 31 by Orender to run her own company, Blazejowski’s supporters thought she might be a candidate because of her earlier life working for the NBA.

“If they were interested, they would have called quickly,” Blazejowski said last fall when the still ongoing search got under way.

Since her departure, Blazejowski has appeared in public and has attended Seton Hall women’s basketball games coached by Donovan.

Meanwhile, speaking of Immaculata earlier, the moment the long-awaited movie about the team’s first national title, now called The Mighty Macs, will have a $250 red-carpet debut at the Franklin Institute 6 p.m. on March 29, the same night as the NCAA regional title game at Temple’s Liacuras Center.

For those that missed it in the earlier post, here’s the Montclair State release on Blazejowski’s new job, which is a bit more than the terse five-or-so paragraph release from MSG that announced her departure:

Carol Blazejowski, one of the most legendary trailblazers in women’s basketball and a Montclair State University alumna, has been named associate vice president for University Advancement at Montclair State, effective February 21, 2011. In her new position, Blazejowski will help advance the University’s mission by developing outreach opportunities and forging strategic relationships. She will oversee a variety of functions, including marketing, communications, alumni relations, university relations, and partnership development.

“Carol Blazejowski's return to Montclair State following an impressive career as a Hall of Fame basketball player, professional sports executive, and business leader is an exciting opportunity for the University,” said Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole. “We are very pleased to welcome her back, and we believe that her professional reputation and stature as an alumna provide her a unique platform for engaging a variety of constituencies in the dynamic life of the University and for being an exceptional advocate for the importance of public higher education.”

Blazejowski was most recently the president and general manager of the New York Liberty, one of the founding Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchises. As general manager of the team since 1997, she was responsible for building one of the league’s most successful franchises with ten playoff appearances, three Eastern Conference Championships, and four WNBA Finals appearances.

Prior to heading up the Liberty, Blazejowski held a variety of roles at the National Basketball Association including the director of women’s basketball programs and director of licensing for NBA Properties, Inc.

“I am honored to be returning to Montclair State and to give back to the University that provided me with such an important and enduring foundation as a young student athlete,” said Blazejowski. “I have been privileged to learn from outstanding mentors and to be associated with premiere businesses over my long career, and I look forward to bringing those skills to MSU, to help the university build on its rich legacy.”

Blazejowski’s athletic accomplishments are numerous. She was named an All-American in 1976, 1977, and 1978, and won the first Wade Trophy for the Women’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1978. She was the U.S. Olympic team women’s basketball captain in 1980 and holds the men’s and women’s collegiate single game scoring record in Madison Square Garden with 52 points. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, the James A. Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994, and the Montclair State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.

Blazejowski graduated from Montclair State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education. She resides with her family in Nutley, New Jersey.

-- Mel


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