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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Guru's NCAA Notebook: Mulkey Better Than Maya?

(Guru’s Note: A post above here is the raw copy on a Geno Auriemma feature for the Sunday print paper if it is difficult to find at Philly.com. There is not much change in the final product but you should go there anyhow because in the advanced early edition is a long profile of Maya Moore by Ashley Fox.)

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA –
Some quick thoughts, observations, and other Guru musings heading into Saturday’s press conferences here at Temple’s Liacouras Center with an eye to news coming from elsewhere including Sweet 16 regional semifinal rounds in Dayton, Ohio and Spokane, Washington as well as WNIT quarterfinals play this weekend.

While the final collegiate exploits of Connecticut senior Maya Moore shift into overdrive this weekend as she nears however the final chapter will read, a question put to the Guru while handling some United States Basketball Writers’ women’s business behind the scenes, resulted into some fascinating research.

No question, Moore has achieved unbelievable success to date with only three collegiate losses in her UConn career.

But someone wanted to know if anyone has ever won more from the start of her high school career through everything else, including Olympics and coaching, than Baylor’s Kim Mulkey, the former All-American at Louisiana Tech.

Maybe there is someone who tops Mulkey’s stats but it is hard to see who after putting Mulkey’s biography at the Baylor website under the magnifying glass.

And, yes, feel free to offer other names to the Guru if any come to mind.

But get a glance at the Mulkey track record.

At Hammond High in Louisiana, Mulkey’s four-year playing career produced a won-loss record of 136-5, four state titles and a national high school record of 4,025 points.

Then at Louisiana Tech where she earned all-American honors, the Techsters were 130-6, held a 36-week record of being No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, since eclipsed by UConn in the Moore era, won two national titles (one was AIAW), finished national runner up and made another Final Four appearance.

Mulkey, who will turn 49 in May, won Olympic, Pan American and Olympic Festival gold medals.

In 15 years at her alma mater as an assistant and then associate head coach, the Techsters were 430-68.

A few days after the 2000 Women’s Final Four ended with a UConn title in Philadelphia, Mulkey was hired to take over a Baylor program that had just finished at 7-20.

Since then, the Bears have had 11 straight 20-plus winning seasons and in 2005 won the NCAA title making her the first individual -- man or women -- to win national collegiate titles as a player, coach, and assistant coach.

When Baylor moved ahead of UConn before the Huskies returned to the top of the AP poll, Mulkey became the first to play with and coach an Associated Press No. 1 ranked women’s team.

Not Really The Obama Hometown Regional

The regional here has been able to draw many nicknames beyond its official geographical NCAA designation, but it could also be called the Presidential Hometown Regional in terms of two of the participating teams.

It may not have been noticed but DePaul out of Chicago and Georgetown out of the nation’s capital represent the two presidential residential affiliations of Barack Obama.

Though Washington is a sort-of-quick trip away from the Liacouras Center on North Broad Street, Karen Aurebach, Temple’s women’s basketball media liaison and assistant media host of the Philadelphia Regional, said all has been quiet in terms of advance checks from the Secret Service preceding a presidential visit.

Actually, though the nation’s business may have Obama necessarily preoccupied, there hasn’t been a lot of love from the commander-in-chief for either the Hoyas or Blue Demons in filling out his women’s tournament bracket for ESPN.

He picked Georgetown to go out quickly to Princeton, which sparked a little extra motivation for the Hoyas to advance here by dispatching the Ivy League champions and then shocking host Maryland Tuesday night at the Terrapins’ Comcast Center.

Obama did allow DePaul to advance here but stopped there with a prediction of Duke to stop Doug Bruno’s squad.

On the other hand, UConn, which has been an ongoing visitor to the White House the last two seasons to mark the previous two NCAA titles, is his choice to win it all a third straight time.

By the way, there will be divided loyalties from the host Temple contingent.

The Owls’ staff has a strong dose in UConn DNA in head coach Tonya Cardoza, who was a 14-year assistant to Geno Auriemma, while one of her aides, Willnet Crockett played for the Huskies, and operations director Stacey Nasser, was a manager.

On the other hand, Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw, who is a graduate of La Salle here in town, was previously in a similar capacity at DePaul.

“I hired Doug Bruno, what else could I say?” Bradshaw quipped.

Enhancing The Student, Disrupting The Coaching?

The Guru has learned that during the ESPN telecasts the basketball committee has made it mandatory for a student athlete from participating teams to be made available for quick TV interviews pregame and at the half.

How do the coaches feel about this?

They may not say for the record but the Guru’s thermometer will be dipped into the activity here to get a reading.

Coaching Searches

If the phrase continues to be used by school athletic officials that they can’t yet chase candidates to fill vacancies at such places as Virginia because of targeting teams still in the tournament, let’s look at what the roll call reveals.

The first question is does “still in the tournament” also mean the WNIT?

Well, actually Virginia is still in the tournament, meeting Charlotte in the WNIT quarterfinals, making Debbie Ryan extend her active career several weeks after she announced her departure from her longtime place on the Cavaliers sidelines.

So, who is still in the tournament?

Well, WNIT-wise, Charlotte has Karen Aston, a former Texas and Baylor assistant, who has made the 49ers a challenger in Atlantic 10 title races.

Toledo’s Tricia Cullop, who was a previous Evansville head coach and Xavier assistant (prior to the McGuff era), has made toe Rockets into a frontrunner in the Mid-American Conference.

However, she signed a contract extension last September through 2017-18.

Forget Syracuse, Arkansas and Southern Cal, while Colorado (Linda Lappe) and Illinois State (Stephanie Glance) have rookie coach contenders for the WBCA’s annual award named for Maggie Dixon.

One wonders if the world would have been different previously at Colorado, whether former Buffaloes coach Kathy McConnell-Miller’s name would be in the Virginia speculation mix as a former player.

On the NCAA group of 16, eliminate Baylor, Texas A&M, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Duke, Connecticut, DePaul, Stanford, and North Carolina.

There is speculation that LSU in replacing Van Chancellor may chase Louisville’s Jeff Walz, whom Tigers athletic director Joe Alleva would have familiarity from Alleva’s days at Duke and Walz’s as an assistant to Maryland’s Brenda Frese, which includes the 2006 NCAA title in his resume.

Possibly, Washington could pursue neighboring Kelly Graves for his work at Gonzaga, while local success could lead Wisconsin to Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Matt Bollant.

That leaves Georgetown’s Terri Williams-Flournoy, especially off her impressive building the Hoyas to their success this season in both residing the distance in the AP Poll as well as Tuesday’s second win of the season over Maryland.

But she signed an extension at the end of last summer so it might be difficult for Virginia, unless it’s ready to spend the dollars, to pry her loose.

Several buzzes from Charlottesville have said the Cavaliers took a run at UCLA’s Nikki Caldwell, a former UVA assistant, and struck out.

So then the question lingering is whether a pursuit of all-time UVA star Dawn Staley at South Carolina is alive or whether her Gamecocks deal is a barrier or whether it won’t start, although athletic director Craig Littlepage has always kept track of Staley.

Williams-Flournoy and Virginia however certainly know what each other is about.

Stay tuned from the press conferences. Time to head home for some quick shuteye and a haircut – in case another out-of-bounds play heading towards the Guru on press row also is captured by the TV cameras.

-- Mel

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