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 10, 2011

Guru Report: Former WNBA Star Caught By Surprise With CAA Coaching Honor

(Guru's note: You know the drill this week. Below this post are the daily and overall conference trackers. -- Mel)

By Mel Greenberg

Over the years Cynthia Cooper-Dyke has been one of the familiar faces of women’s basketball as a collegiate star with Cheryl Miller and the McGee twins – Pam and Paula – helping Southern Cal to win two national titles in the early 1980s.

Then after returning from overseas to join the WNBA at its outset she was a mainstay in helping the Houston Comets win the first four championships of the pro league.

Cooper-Dyke’s pointing her hands toward the ceiling after scoring key baskets to signify a raise-the-roof message was one of the more recognizable images in the early years of the league in which she won numerous All-Star and MVP honors to go with some Olympic gold.

In more recent times there were two acceptance speeches to be made for induction into the Women’s and Naismith Basketball Halls of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., and Springfield, Mass.

There was also instant coaching success at Prairie View A&M where she led the squad to first-ever appearances in the NCAA out of the Southwest Athletic Conference.

But for all that, Cooper-Dyke, who began a coaching stint at UNC Wilmington, was stunned here Wednesday night when her new colleagues elected her coach of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The presentation was made at the annual awards banquet held at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center at National Harbor on the Potomac River near Washington.

(An aside: The Guru doesn’t think folks would be labeling the CAA a mid-major if they saw the property the conference is headquartered for the women’s tournament.)

This season heading into the tournament, which begins Thursday at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., Cooper-Dyke led the Seahawks into a second-place tie with Old Dominion at 22-7 overall, a record for wins at UNC Wilmington, and a 14-4 CAA record that gave the Seahawks their best finish since joining the conference in 1984-85.

UNC Wilmington was picked eighth in the preseason poll by the same league coaches – the media doesn’t vote any more – and had one of the best reversals upwards in improving from a 12-19 finish and 6-12 in the CAA last season.

So while to many the choice of Cooper-Dyke would seem a natural, it still brought an expression of shock on her face when she was announced.

“I’ve won some awards in my career and I’ve played a lot of basketball,” Cooper-Dyke said with her voice quivering slightly in experience the emotion of the moment.

“Contrary to what my players believe, I don’t know everything. I will tell you that to be -- this is just a great honor for me and I want to thank all the coaches in the CAA, the players – you guys are awesome – for me to be voted by my colleagues as coach of the year from our conference is amazing to me,” she continued.

“My players – You guys deal with me every day, every day, thank you, thank you for buying into our system, for believing in us as coaches.

“My staff – my gosh, you guys work tirelessly all day, all night. Yep, I work all day and all night and we work closely together. Thank you for all that you do.”

She thanked everyone in the Seahawks delegation and then admitted, “I’m really speechless, and for those who know me, know that’s a rare sight.
“Thank you very much – this is incredible.”

Afterwards, Cooper-Dyke had a brief chat with the Guru to describe her feelings.

“I was completely caught off and surprised – I mean what great coaches we have in the CAA – Old Dominion – Wendy Larry, I could go coach by coach – they have such great accomplishments and in my first season here to win coach of the year in the CAA and to be voted by my peers is incredible,” she said.

“I feel very honored. It was tough to take it all in and then go up there and talk – I’ve had some speeches in my life but that one was tough just the realization that you were voted coach of the year by your peers and there are great coaches in the CAA – for me it’s amazing.”

A testament to Cooper-Dyke’s work was having three of her players named to the five member all-defensive team and one of them, Alisha Andrews, was named rookie of the year, though some had expected Hofstra’s Kate Loper to win.
James Madison’s Dawn Evans was voted player of the year after leading the nation in scoring – she’s second at the moment -- and breaking the conference career record set a year ago by former Drexel star Gabriela Marginean.

Delaware sophomore Elena Delle Donne, winning both the player and rookie award last season, was named to the first team despite missing 12 games due to symptoms of lime disease.

But when she did play and has since returned, her averages were among the best in the nation.

Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite made the second team and Jasmine Rosseel was named to the third team. Rosseel also was named the top player in a poll at the CAA website, which leads the Guru to believe the DACPack might have been busy with clicking fingers among the 500 who participated in the voting for players in the 12-member conference.

The CAA site has complete details of the dinner ceremony.

West Chester’s Shante Evans of Hofstra, a sophomore, was named to the first team.

Lauren Carra of Delaware was named to the third team.

Former Drexel star Jen MacNeill and former Delaware star Alena Koshansky were among the annual legends honored at the dinner along with former Old Dominion star Nancy Lieberman, who is coaching the men’s D league.

Lady Monarchs coach Wendy Larry accepted for Lieberman.

The best line of the night among acceptance speeches came from William & Mary’s Lindsey Moller, winner of the Dean Ehlers Leadership Award, who said, “I’d like to wish everyone good luck even though we’re the 12th seed.”

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The actual ending of the quote by Lindsey Moller was "fear the 12th seed." That certainly has a different message than the misquote by the author doesn't it?

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