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.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guru Musings: The Real March Madness May Exist On The Coaching Carousel

(Guru's note: In a post below this is the Guru's official review of Bird at the Buzzer -- The Big East title game of 2001 won by UConn over Notre Dame, which got revenge later in the NCAA tournament semifinals. Also, WNIT quick roundup with major upset of Old Dominion by Loyola, Md. in opening round action. In melgreenberg.com click Mel's Blog to get to the review.)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -- There are many storylines involved with this year’s NCAA women’s tournament, which begins play late Saturday morning.

Can UConn make it three straight NCAA titles with just one blemish – the loss at Stanford in December that ended the NCAA record 90-game win streak before the Huskies bounced back to win everything else the rest of the way and finish No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll?

Will Stanford finally finish off the return to a trophy celebration for the first time since 1992?

Has Baylor with shot-blocking sensational sophomore Brittney Griner grown enough to make it back to the top for the first time since 2005?

How much a distraction with the off-court stuff if Tennessee and Connecticut matchup in the semifinals, meeting for the first time since their heated national series ended after the 2007 season?

Is there a Cinderella or pseudo-Cinderella (higher seeds) among the other 60 teams in the field?

Those are some of the lines that will be written and broadcast as the tournament plays out all the way to Indianapolis and Conseco Fieldhouse where the Women’s Final Four will be held the first weekend in April.

However, all those items will pale alongside the rumor mill that will grow and expand the next several weeks all the way to the lobby hotel of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

Another stunning vacancy occurred Wednesday afternoon when LSU announced Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor will become an administrative aide to athletic director Joe Alleva for the remainder of Chancellor’s contract through next season.

This makes a second coaching legend to depart in the last week with the announcement at Virginia that Debbie Ryan was stepping down.

From statements made at their press conferences and reading wire reports it appears that neither Ryan’s nor Chancellor’s decision were entirely all their own idea, though it may have been more so in the case of Ryan.

Though the Guru has yet to talk to Chancellor, one report, though not confirmed, is Chancellor learned of his change several hours after he woke up Wednesday morning.

Additionally, openings have also occurred at Washington, where Tia Jackson is stepping down, and Virginia Tech, where Beth Duckenberg was let go.

There are also openings at several other places such as Fordham in the Atlantic 10 but the focus becomes over those positions at BCS schools.

Potentially a few more positions may become vacant on the BCS circuit, as well as other places.

And so the question becomes who will fill land these jobs and depending who ultimately gets and receives offers then, in turn, the spots they are leaving will become vacant and the dominos will continue to fall over the next several months.

Ironically, Alleva at LSU comes from Duke and was on board in 2007 when Gail Goestenkors departed from a long association with the Blue Devils for Texas.

Washington’s Jackson had been one of her aides at Duke when she was hired in 2007, the same time that her former boss left for the Longhorns.

Huskies athletic director Scott Woodward was not in charge when Jackson was hired at Washington and he was previously at LSU.

Alleva said he had several candidates in mind but, like announcements at other places, the word is those coaches might be with teams still playing in the NCAA or WNIT tournaments.

When LSU opened in 2007, Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer was briefly mentioned in the rumor mill.

One dynamic that will immediately happen is that if a school is interested enough in retaining a high profile coach, in the next week or so a re-worked contract will be announced.

In the past Hartford’s Jennifer Rizzotti, whose Hawks will open NCAA play Sunday in the neighborhood against her alma mater at nearby Connecticut, benefitted in the past when her name quickly came up in discussion over some decent vacancies.

Speculation not requiring brain surgery, because of expectations since Dawn Staley experienced instant success at Temple, is the day that Virginia would open, the job would be hers in a flash.

“There’s always been an interest at Virginia in Dawn,” said a source beyond Charlottesville familiar with past discussions about what would happen when Ryan would ultimately depart.

Of course since the origination of those thoughts, Staley moved to South Carolina, where in her third year she has given the Gamecocks a winning season and an opening round win Wednesday night in the WNIT, beating Appalachian State 67-54.

So it is unknown what barriers exist to extracting Staley from the Columbia school though many believe her deal may include an exception if her alma mater ever came calling.

And then if it happens, the result is South Carolina becomes open again.

For the moment, Ryan is still on active duty, trying to keep things going a little while longer Thursday night when the Cavaliers host Morgan State in an opening round in the WNIT.

Somewhere at some of these openings, though not necessarily all at BCS schools, some ex-WNBA coaches could be involved such as Pittsburgh assistant Patty Coyle, the former coach of the WNBA New York Liberty.

When Washington was open the last time, officials sought the help of then-WNBA Seattle Storm coach Anne Donovan to coax interest from several candidates who were officially unapproachable at the time because of contract situations.

In that vein in terms of WNBA familiarity and PAC-10 familiarity out of the other Washington as in the nation’s capital, perhaps ex-Mystics coach Julie Plank could get involved considering her past experience as an aide to Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer.

And if not head coaches, look for attempts to pry assistants at high-profile programs such as UConn’s former star Shea Ralph.

In the past three seasons, two longtime aides at UConn have been hired as head coaches.

Temple’s Tonya Cardoza, a former Virginia star who spent 14 seasons as an assistant to UConn’s Geno Auriemma, has kept the Owls moving forward after Staley with three straight NCAA appearances, including Saturday’s opener against Arizona State in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Cincinnati a year ago hired Jamelle Elliott, who has a bit more rebuilding needed than Cardoza did in accepting the job.

Considering recruiting success at her previous stop as an aide at Vanderbilt as an aide to Melanie Balcomb, Illinois assistant Lisa Cermingnano could get involved somewhere.

Several years ago, the former South Jersey high school star was a finalist with Elliott at her alma mater at George Washington, which has struggled since the departure of Joe McKeown in 2008 for Northwestern.

Xavier’s Kevin McGuff’s name has been speculated for just being pursued by schools that may become open because his star players Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips will be graduating and most likely become high draft picks in the WNBA first round next month.

But he has a long-term deal with the Musketeers so whoever has interested is going to have financial resources to go along with school name recognition.

Likewise because of a key graduation, the departure of scoring sensation Dawn Evans, James Madison’s Kenny Brooks may also be pursued from some places.

On a personal note at the end of this item, if those reports about how things came down at LSU are true, it is unfortunate considering Chancellor only had a year left on his deal. Even though the Tigers missed the NCAA tournament, they are letting go a class individual and a friend who helped the school emerge from the controversial departure of former coach Pokey Chatman, who is now in charge with the WNBA Chicago Sky.

WNIT Opens

In a rematch of last season’s first round of play, Virginia Commonwealth, which finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association and advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion James Madison, will return to Hagan Arena Thursday night to play St. Joseph’s.

If the Hawks reverse the outcome of a year ago when they lost to the Rams and high-scoring Courtney Hurt, St. Joseph’s in the next round could meet Boston College.

That would match Eagles star Kerri Shields against St. Joseph’s freshman Erin Shields, her sister. Their mom Renie is a former Hawks star in the Big Five Hall of Fame who is the compliance director at her alma mater and also broadcasts women’s games at the school.

In a major upset Wednesday night, Loyola of Maryland, the runnerup to Marist in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, edged host Old Dominion 67-65 in Norfolk,Va.

Joe Logan, a former St. Joseph’s assistant to Cindy Griffin, coaches the Greyhounds.

The Lady Monarchs had the second seed in the CAA tournament but were upset in the quarterfinals by seventh-seeded Delaware, which went on to advance to the title game.

Delaware landed a WNIT bid but it was short-lived with the Blue Hens falling 58-55 Wednesday night at Toledo despite 31 points, but on 10-of-24 shooting from the field, from sophomore star Elena Delle Donne.

Drexel will be at Florida Gulf Coast Friday night, a school transitioning to Division I, which shoots the three-pointer as well as the Dragons and will eventually play in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

-- Mel


Anonymous Boogs said...

Word on the street from C'ville is they are looking at a high profile PAC-10 coach with ties to UVA

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