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, March 02, 2011

WNBA May Days Offer A Dozen Debuts In Preseason Tilts

(Guru's note: Depending how you got here, there is a post above this on CAA season enders and several other college items. And over in melgreenberg.com press the media link and philly local to read the PSAC-East games involving local teams and and several other D2 and D3 notes.)

By Mel Greenberg

It is not known how much cash it took for the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm to keep former UConn star Swin Cash in the fold – unless Jayda Evans has it in the Seattle Times and your Guru has been too busy with college stuff for posting to check – but the team on Tuesday announced she will return with an undisclosed multi-year deal.

Not yet in the WNBA Fold with a little over a month before the annual draft occurs after the NCAA Women’s Final Four is the name of former league president Donna Orender’s successor.

Meanwhile several unofficial debut days, in fact more than several as the Guru goes through this, are now known per the release of the preseason schedule, which is being marketed as 12 games in 12 cities.

And you thought the cry of May Days meant impending disaster.

UConn star Maya Moore, likely to be the overall No. 1 pick by the Minnesota Lynx, which hit the lotto in the offseason, will see her first action in St. Paul, Minn., in the home-Twin Cities area on May 24 when the Lynx host the Indiana Fever at Concordia University.

The same day another former UConn star – they’re everywhere – Diana Taurasi will see her first action with the Phoenix Mercury after the harrowing three-month ordeal overseas when she was accused in Turkey and later cleared of taking a performance enhancing drug.

No one knows if the Mercury’s opponent for the game was an inspired move by the WNBA home office folks, who upon hearing Taurasi had a yen to get back on the court quickly decided to offer JX Sunflowers of Japan for the clash in the desert.

It will be debut central for early risers on May 25 in a game between two teams that tied for first in the WNBA East regular season and then quickly went into front office destructo mode.

Since last season closed with the best run ever by the Washington Mystics, they will launch the new one without former general manager Angela Taylor, who was let go in a cost-cutting move, and coach Julie Plank tied in part to the same action.

Former assistant coach Trudi Lacey, who starred at North Carolina State, was promoted to both positions but assistant Marianne Stanley is returning.

The Mystics will be riding the Amtrak to Newark and the 10:30 a.m. start where the New York Liberty will play the first game in their temporary home for the next three summers during the Madison Square Garden renovations – the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

It will be the Liberty’s first game under new coach-general manager John Whisenant, who held both jobs with the former Sacramento Monarchs.

Anne Donovan left after the season to coach Seton Hall, which finished last in the Big East. And longtime president and local legend Carol Blazejowski was axed after having been with the Liberty since its launch as one of the original eight charter teams in the WNBA inaugural summer of 1997.

She recently was hired at Montclair State, her alma mater, as vice president of university advancement.

Many of the front office staff seen over the summers at MSG are also gone so it will be a new look.

The same day Seattle will take the floor for the first time as the defending champions when they meet the Los Angeles Sparks, marking the first appearance of Candace Parker since her shoulder surgery early last season.

The game will be played in Carson, Calif., at the Torodome. Maybe the Sparks should be playing the NBA Chicago Bulls with a name like that.

And also on the 26th, the San Antonio Silver Stars will visit the Mohegan Sun and the Connecticut Sun at 7 p.m.

Yes there’s a debut angle. On the Silver Stars bench will be new and former coach Dan Hughes who woke up one day in his other role as the general manager, looked in the mirror, and offered himself the job.

There is no record of how long it took him to accept the offer.

It will be double debut on May 26, the next day at 11:30 a.m. when Washington’s overhaul returns home and appears in the Verizon Center in front of a fan base that has frosted all winter over the moves.

In fact, one might call the event unhappy campers day.

On the other side the Chicago Sky appears with new coach and general manager Pokey Chatman, the former LSU coach, who had been overseas after a controversial exit from the Tigers.

One of her aides returning to the WNBA is former Liberty, Mystics, and University of Virginia assistant Jeff House.

Now on May 27th Chicago and New York will actually go upstate to Albany and the Times Union Center, site of past Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournaments, to play at 7 p.m.

So if the Liberty, in their new setting, can’t make it down state, here’s a chance to test the geography.

Also on the 27th, the Mohegan Sun is making a Guru prediction come true.

Several years ago when the Indian Tribe opened another casino-entertainment complex in the Wilkes Barre near the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, the Guru wondered aloud to in-house writer Jonathan Hamilton and several of the Guru’s friends in the Sun front-office – yes, you, Chris – whether perhaps once the arena was built, it could be the home of another WNBA team.

Actually when you think about it, soon there will be so many ex-UConn players in the WNBA, the Sun can actually house two teams worth.

Well, at the time, the Guru was downplayed but San Antonio will be the opponent again for a game in Wilkes Barre at 7 p.m.

On May 28, Phoenix and Los Angeles will play a tilt at 7 p.m. at New Mexico’s University Arena, also known as The Pit, in Albuquerque.

In the past the town has been speculated as a future home of a WNBA franchise so consider this a test market experience.

Of course, it would be real interesting if New York was involved in this game, considering Whisenant has spent a lot of time in Albuquerque.

And now an international debut on May 29 when the WNBA runnerup Atlanta Dream will play an opponent to be named in Manchester, England, which is where a partnership exists between the local council and NBA.

When NBA head David Stern began saying “global baby” about the future of the NBA perhaps this game came about because someone thought he said “global babes.”

On May 29 Seattle is back home in the Key Arena to meet Tulsa, which will be the first game with former Georgia great Teresa Edwards as an executive with the Shock.

And in a perfect game ending to this Guru blog with bookends, Indiana and Minnesota finish it all off at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on May 31, which will be good for Maya Moore to return to the scene of what could be her third straight NCAA title next month at the Women’s Final Four.

And when the real stuff begins on June 3 and June 4 it will be a UConn weekend.

First comes Huskies and Vols DNA on June 3 when Minnesota and Moore open at Los Angeles featuring Tennessee all-time alum Parker.

The ABC-TV game the following day will be the raising of the banner with Phoenix and Taurasi visiting Seattle and Sue Bird and Cash.

By the then, there might even be a new WNBA president.

-- Mel


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