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, April 30, 2011

Guru WNBA Report: Wide Awake In Seattle For Smith-Agler Reunion II

(Guru's note: If you got here via the melgreenberg.com route, there is another post below this one in blogspot giving details of playing in the Philly summer league. Just click mel's blog on the left and keep scrolling.)

By Mel Greenberg

While the NFL was back in lockout mode Friday, Katie Smith was finally locked into getting her wish to become a member of the WNBA reigning champion Seattle Storm.

A mega-trade went down Friday and when the smoke cleared Brian Agler, coach of Storm and superstar Smith were reunited once more at the back end of the former Ohio State all-American’s career.

Smith joined the Washington Mystics last season as a free agent after having played on WNBA champions with the former Detroit Shock.

Before that, she and Agler held Reunion I starting the Minnesota Lynx after the two had combined with such former collegiate stars as Shannon “Pee Wee” Johnson, Val Still, Andrea Lloyd Curry, Nikki McCray and Tonya Edwards to produce two championship off the Columbus Quest in Ohio in the only two full seasons of the former American Basketball League’s existence.

The ABL died under bankruptcy early in its third season in the winter of 1998.

Smith, who became the U.S. women’s pro player to reach 5,000 and 6,000 points off her combined WNBA/ABL participation was able to move to the Storm off a three-way trade involving the Mystics and Indiana Fever.

Agler, of course, caught up with Smith last fall when Seattle beat the Atlanta Dream to make him the first and only coach to win ABL and WNBA titles while Smith gained the achievement as a player when Detroit beat Sacramento.

In terms of the overall deal, Smith and Jacinta Monroe, a second-year pro out of Florida State, move from the Mystics to Seattle in exchange for recently drafted Duke star – one goes in Lindsay Harding and another replacement comes along – and Seattle’s 2012 first-round draft.

Seattle also picks up Indiana’s second-round draft slot in 2012.

Indiana picks up Erin Phillips, the Aussie guard who starred with the Connecticut Sun, got injured Down Under, landed in Seattle and now heads to the Fever along with Seattle’s third-round 2012 draft pick.

The Mystics also get the Indiana-owned third-round pick of the 2012 draft.

Thomas, the 12th overall and final first-round pick earlier this month, joins former Duke stars Alana Beard, who missed last season recovering from an injury, and Monique Currie, who will miss this one doing likewise.

The Mystics have had almost as many Dukes, ok Dookies, as attended the Royal Wedding Friday of Prince William and Kate Middleton in London.

Smith has other reunions also in the Storm family. Assistant coach Nancy Darsch was her Ohio State coach as the Buckeyes won several Big Ten titles and advanced to the Women’s Final Four in 1993 when future OSU coach Jim Foster was in the group guiding Vanderbilt and someone named Sheryl Swoopes helped Texas Tech win the whole deal.

Former UConn star Swin Cash was a Detroit Shock teammate of Smith’s when the championship over Sacramento was won.
Furthermore, Cash, Smith and former UConn star Sue Bird were Olympic gold-medal winning teammates.

Upon Further Review

Although many of us jumped on the WNBA off the way it initially handled the announcement of Laurel J. Ritchie as the league’s third president, the Guru has learned the league had to be a bit hasty ahead of its own plans in making Richie’s hire known and having her available for a teleconference with the media.
The Girls Scouts of America, of which Richie had been an executive and marketing officer, were getting ready to announce her departure ahead of the WNBA announcing the hire.

Also, some criticized the league for not announcing the hire at the Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis at the beginning of this month, but as the Guru assumed, Richie had yet to be formally finalized as the new WNBA leader.

Furthermore, considering the so-called amateur status in the NCAA world and the pro status of the WNBA, it is a very delicate dance the organizations do with each other to on one hand help each other’s causes but on the other still try to maintain some
separation of salaried athletes and those whose collegiate living is earned through scholarships.

Jayda Evans, our colleague and dinner companion when she’s on the three-city Eastern swing of Mohegan Sun (Uncasville/New London, Ct.), New York (Newark the next three summers) and Washington, has quotes and all in her story in the Seattle Times.

Seattle is a happening city in the WNBA. It was there in February that Richie was giving a keynote address and Storm ownership was at the same event to receive an award. Chit-chat ensued and soon thereafter Richie was on the receiving end of a "Uncle David (Stern) may want you" type of phone call and the hiring process evolved from there.

Another Staley Homecoming

Despite describing the lay of the land in the previous item, sometimes in a slow period the Guru finds it necessary to blend WNBA and NCAA items together, though technically this may not be a violation at all considering who is being mentioned.

That’s right. Former ABL and WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley will make another Philadelphia homecoming appearance next season when the South Carolina coach brings the Gamecocks to West Philadelphia to play at Drexel on the front part of a two-season home-and-home deal.

Staley, who had left Temple for South Carolina and the Southeastern Conference, made a previous return two years ago to St. Joseph’s tournament but the Gamecocks lost to Boston U. in the first round of the Hawk Classic before finishing third.

The Terriers had their own homecoming special in former La Salle star and former Penn coach Kelly Greenberg.

Drexel has been a favored stop for Staley over the years, especially when in town in the winter because of her longtime friendship with Dragons men's coach Bruiser Flint and his wife Renee.


Guru Notebook: How to Join Philly Summer League

(Guru's note: There is a post above this one on the WNBA mega-trade revealed Friday).

By Mel Greenberg

Just in time to help fill a bit of the void between the end of the women’s collegiate basketball season and ensuing coaching changes and before the day-to-day startup of the WNBA summer action other than when mega-trades are made such as what went down Friday, comes everything one needs to know about the summer fun here in Philadelphia.

David Kessler, the man who keeps retiring as commissioner but keeps coming back for more, has passed along the info for competing in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer League, which formerly had the Philadelphia Dept. of Recreation affiliation attached to it.

Prior to last summer most of the games were held at Northeast High School but again this time around the Renegades AAU facility – the Kelly Bolish Gymnasium -- in Hatboro will serve as the venue.

So what follows is everything from the commish, other than when the Guru is not running around the WNBA circuit he will provide as much coverage of the league as he can conjure will occur here.

In fact if any of you out there want to help the cause of coverage give the Guru an email notice. The scheduled action doesn’t begin until mid-June.

Though awards are not given per se, other than the championship trophy after the playoffs, a year ago St. Joseph’s Katie Kuester off some prolific three-point shooting was the star of the season.

Many Big Five players, past and present, as well as well-known locals who play elsewhere and outsiders who wish to find good competition here, participate.

Division II and Division III players also compete and the runnerup last summer was a first-ever for Division II when most of the Holy Family-dominated squad, past and present, advanced to the championship round, which is allowable under NCAA rules.

And now go ahead David:



Site: Kelly Bolish Gymnasium (home of the AAU “Renegades”)
2950 Turnpike Drive
Hatboro, Pa. 19040
Site has 3 gyms, snack bar, ample parking, and is near the Pa. Turnpike

Playing dates: Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning Thursday June 16
Game times are 7:00 & 8:15 P.M.

There is space for 13 teams of 10-12 players per team. TO ENSURE ACCEPTANCE INTO THE

Fee: $130.00 per player (includes shirt with name and number on back, number on front along with
league logo imprinted over the heart. Fee also includes officials, score/timekeepers, awards,
site rental, and league expenses – insurance, balls, books, postage, copying, etc.)

This is a draft league. Players can form teams, but cannot come into the league with a full squad. The league needs the flexibility to assign players to each team. This is done for parity and because NCAA regulations prohibit Division I players from playing with more than one college teammate (this does not include incoming freshmen, who are not yet officially enrolled in school.)

Division I players (except incoming freshmen) are required to submit a letter of permission from their Athletic Director to the league director or they will not be permitted to play. Letters can be submitted:
by e-mail, through regular mail, or delivered in person. THIS MUST BE DONE BEFORE THE PLAYER’S FIRST GAME! The league will be certified by the NCAA in the month of May. Status can be checked online (ncaa.org)

Friday April 29 registration forms and information letters mailed to players

Thursday May 26 player draft (coaches only) teams are formed at Kelly Bolish Gymnasium-7:30 p.m.
Tuesday May 31 shirts are ordered
Tuesday June 7 rosters and schedules are mailed to players and coaches
Thursday June 16 shirts distributed, league begins
Depending on the number of teams, playoffs should begin the last week of July and end the first or second
week of August





PHILADELPHIA, PA. 19116-1046


And here’s a copy of the application form assuming it looks ok going from a word document to the Guru platform.




ADDRESS __________________________________________________(AS OF MON. 6/6/11)


TELEPHONE (HOME OR CELL)_____________________________________________________

E-MAIL ADDRESS________________________________________________________________

HIGH SCHOOL_______________________________________YEAR OF GRADUATION_______

COLLEGE___________________________________________YEAR OF GRADUATION_______


ARE/WERE YOU ON BASKETBALL SCHOLARSHIP?___________________________________

ANY BASKETBALL AWARDS OR HONORS?__________________________________________

WILL YOU BE PLAYING ON A DRAFT TEAM?_________________________________________



SHIRT SIZE______________________________NUMBER REQUESTED ON SHIRT___________

DATE OF BIRTH__________________________________________________________________

-- Mel

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Guru Report: Delle Donne Back In USABasketball Loop

By Mel Greenberg

Though the official USABasketball invite list is soon to be made public, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne is in the group of those who still have collegiate eligibility and have been offered a shot at making the World University Games USA women's squad when trials are beld late next month in Colorado Springs, Colo.

A source familiar with Delle Donne's invitation confirmed her first offer from USA Basketball since she was a finalist for the U19 team in 2007 but declined to participate with the eventual gold medalists as she went into a summer hiatus as a high school senior at Wilmington's Ursuline Academy.

The following September she initially chose the powerful University of Connecticut program from her list of final four considerations of where to spend her collegiate career. But her time with the Huskies was just a little over a day following enrollment in summer school in June 2008 and she eventually joined Delaware but took a year off from basketball before opting to play for the Blue Hens following her one-year stint on the volleyball team.

Connecticut eligibles who receive invitations won't attend due to a trip the team is taking to Rome and Athens, Greece this summer.

Iowa State's Bill Fennelly is the head coach of the USA squad while Duquesne's Suzie McConnell-Serio and Georgetown's Terri Williams-Fournoy, both former Penn State teammates, will be his assistants.

More Awards

There is no Philly Six per se in men's and women's basketball in the Philadelphia area but the entity becomes virtual reality anytime the media or other individuals include Drexel and combine the Dragons' achievements along with the Big Five school -- La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph's, Villianva and Temple.

In that regard Glenn Papazian, who runs the Phillycollegessports.com website on the internet invited yours truly to select women's psuedo-Philly Six women's honorees, which are listed at the following link: http://phillycollegesports.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/philly-college-sports-all-philly-division-i-womens-basketball-team/.

If that doesn't get you there, just use the front part of the link to get access.

The individual winners were the same as the recently announced Big Five women's honorees -- Temple's Shey Peddy was player of the year, the Owls' Tony Cardoza was coach of the year, and Penn newcomer Alyssa Baron was the freshman of the year.

Villanova, the last of the locals, will have its women's awards banquet Sunday afternoon on the Main Line.

-- Mel
Incidentally, Drexel had its combination men's and women's postseason dinner in the Dragons' Daskalakis Athletic Center Tuesday night and the honorees can be found at the Dragons' athletic department website.

Though Drexel's lone senior Jasmina Rosseel has returned to Belgium, the wonders of modern technology enabled her to get on her computer and tape a farewell and thank you address from overseas in one of the many highlights of the night.

The guru also learned that Britt Faulstick, who has been the Dragons' women's media contact the last several seasons, is moving to University Relations so those of you who have interest in being with a program expected to do well in the Colonial Athletic Association next season should contact Mike Tuberosa, the main sports information dirtector for the athletic department.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guru Musings: The Business of New WNBA President Richie Will Be -- Business

(Guru’s note: A full transcript of the teleconference is at the WNBA.com site, while Associated Press national WNBA writer Vin Cherwoo has a pretty nice smaller summary touching on most points everyone else seemed to gleam judging by those stories already on the internet.)

By Mel Greenberg

For those who have watched the WNBA evolve into its forthcoming 15th season there were few surprises out of new president Laurel J. Richie’s introductory teleconference with the national media Tuesday afternoon.

When Donna Orender, the second WNBA president and successor to Val Ackerman, announced her resignation last fall, officials in the hybrid connectivity of the NBA and WNBA targeted the next leader to be someone with a strong business and marketing background to rebrand the league.

Richie, who shared Tuesday’s teleconference session with NBA commissioner David Stern, is all that and more having come directly from the Girl Scouts of America and previously Ogilvy and Mather, which is a global advertising agency.

Incidentally, she is also the first black female president of a professional sports league.

Meanwhile, though the league has excellent players who reach out to the community and provide outstanding female role models, one got the sense that that particular asset can now be viewed as one of the main components in helping to drive the league toward profitability.

Richie, who declared her “bags are already packed” for her coast-to-coast Tour de WNBA across the league’s 12-team cities after she is officially on board May 16th, said she initially plans to do a lot of listening to those connected with all aspects of the pro women’s basketball league.

But Stern made no bones of what the expectations are once Richie has been harnessed.

“Speaking for how we're going to judge Laurel is we want more fans to attend,” Stern explained. “We want more fans to watch. We want more sponsors to be interested. We want a broader recognition of the independent values of the WNBA.

“I think that for the early years, the women's game was measured against the men's game. That was something we struggled against. What we have here is the best women's basketball in the world. No one (in the world of tennis) usually compares Ms. Wozniacki against Rafael Nadal. She wouldn't do that well. Nevertheless, she can be ranked No. 1 because she's an extraordinary player. Or the Williams sisters are the best at what they do, the best women at what they do,” Stern continued.

“It's been sort of important for us to make that distinction because we want to really be firing across all the cylinders of attendance, ratings, recognition and sponsorship.”

In that regard, Richie displayed complete candor in saying she had watched WNBA games on television but had never felt motivated to actually purchase a ticket to attend a game in person.

Though she expects to quickly erase that slight from her record, Richie said a cause for the occurrence was she never felt the WNBA “approached” her as a potential fan to draw her to an arena.

She was quick to point out that in using herself as an example, that reason may not be universal among other persons who have resisted attending the WNBA in person.

But surely because of her own situation, making the WNBA more approachable from the league’s perspective will be a goal.

Stern again spoke of Richie’s mission as part of another answer concerning economic growth in which he jumped into the completed question.

“So the return of AMEX, the return of Coke, and the five marquee sponsorships (using uniform jerseys for sponsorship), they’re in place now before Laurel has gotten here,” Stern said. “Her working with our team marketing and business operations folks, working with the teams and enhancing their sponsorship and their ticket sales, she doesn’t have the plan, we gave her the plan, which is these guys better break even this year or come much, much closer to it than they ever have before.

“…We’ve got a lot of things. She’s going to feel like she’s been asked to go water skiing behind a bunch of canoes, but we’re paddling as fast as we can.”

Richie noted that during the interview process, which began sometime in February, she learned within the WNBA there is no shortage of opinions in terms of what courses the league needs to navigate.

"One of the things I really love about this organization is I have yet to meet anyone in any capacity who is shy about offering an opinion. So I think for me that just helps my learning curve," Richie said.

That variety of viewpoints has been obvious to many persons, be it media, college coaches, agents, etc., who have dealt with the league over its decade-and-a-half of existence.

Stern added that the healthy aspect of that situation is that out of the differences of opinions should come growth of the league.

Before Richie emerged as the winner from what Stern characterized a large field of candidates, the lack of a sports background for whoever would be named had many wondering how the business of basketball internally and otherwise in the WNBA would be conducted.

In these quarters it was felt that role would be filled in the manner of an ambassador who might already be in place to serve as Richie’s running mate.

Sure enough, Stern and Richie, when the subject came up during the teleconference, noted the presence of Renee Brown, who has been with the league since its outset in the inaugural summer of 1997.

“That's something that comes up on the basketball side on the WNBA side through Renée Brown, who is basically the senior vice president of basketball operations of the WNBA,” Stern said about discussions on such items as roster size, salary caps, and fines.

“We have the benefit of four times the length of time that the NBA has been in existence, all of the expertise that we have on the league side. But this is predominantly a WNBA series of questions. We labor hard to treat it like that. That will be, for the most part, in Laurel and Renee's hands.”

Richie said that learning the basketball issues was on her list of things to do when she takes over. But she also said she and Brown have already spent much time with each other in terms of discussing running the WNBA from the top.

“What I will say is that Renee and I have spent a ton of time together through the interviewing process,” Richie explained, “not necessarily on the specifics of policy, but really making sure that we both believe that we can be a great partnership.

“I think it's fair to say I know I have great respect for her work and her history and her expertise. I think if you were to call her and ask her, she would say the same thing about me.

“Lots of learning to do when I come onboard. But I feel like the partnership has already begun. I think that will be critical on the go forward.”

Though the WNBA, through the power of the NBA marketing machine, was able to quickly finish off the short-lived rival American Basketball League back in times of a more robust economy, pieces of former ABL philosophy have made their way into the WNBA fabric, such as independent ownership.

For a long time from the outset, the mantra for franchise existence was NBA cities and NBA ownerships and arenas in terms of placing and expanding teams.

When the women’s basketball-crazed state of Connecticut, driven by the success of the collegiate Huskies, continued to campaign for a replacement pro franchise after the ABL folded, the pleas were basically given a deaf ear.

Then the Mohegan Indian Tribe came along in 2003 to grab what had been the NBA Orlando-Big Brother owned Orlando Miracle from the discard pile to become the first non-NBA proprietor.

The team was re-named the Connecticut Sun, moved to the Tribe’s casino-entertainment complex near New London – the Mohegan Sun – which caused some initial skepticism in terms venue locality, but ultimately has become one of the WNBA’s most successful franchises.

Ironically, Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko held a similar position with the New England Blizzard, operating in Hartford as well as Springfield, Mass., as one of the few successful ABL entities.

Apparently that model is now the way to go, according to an answer Stern gave Tuesday.

“We actually think the remaining NBA teams involved here are passionate about their WNBA teams,” Stern noted. “But going forward, we’re not going to try to sell W teams to NBA teams, it’s been very hard to get the attention that is necessary to allow this league to germinate, grow, and now prosper.”

A per chance February meeting in Seattle, home of the reigning champion WNBA Storm, between team CEO Karen Bryant, who held an executive position in the ABL with the former Seattle Reign, and Richie unwittingly started the path that led to Richie’s new job.

Richie was giving a keynote address and Bryant was on the scene with the Storm owners, who were being given an award.

“I had such a wonderful connection with Karen Bryant in Seattle that I was really excited to continue the discussions with folks here (in New York),” Richie said of a call she received from the league soon after her Seattle appearance.

“And, as David mentioned, this opportunity for me feels like the culmination of everything I’ve done at Ogilvy and all of the work with the Girl Scouts, where it was a premiere brand. It is an interesting opportunity that’s full of challenge, and it is a chance to sort of celebrate and recognize and elevate the great things women are doing.

“So for me it’s a dream job.”

And for the WNBA/NBA search process, which Stern said surviving is an accomplishment in itself, Richie is a dream hire.

But reality is just around the corner and in this instance the reality is: It’s time to get down to business.

-- Mel

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guru Report: WNBA Presidential Presentation Day

By Mel Greenberg

New WNBA president Laurel J. Richie, a veteran marketing executive who has most recently been with the national Girl Scouts organization, will engage in her first face-to-phone teleconference with the media Tuesday afternoon following Thursday's announcement of her appointment to succeed Donna Orender, who stepped down effective Dec. 31 after a near-six year run.

Richie officially goes on the payroll May 16 about when training camps will be getting under way and when media days will be held, for the most part, at the various 12-team venues throughout the WNBA.

NBA Commissioner David Stern will also be on the call as Richie will offer her vision and mission as the third president of the 15-year-old women's pro basketball league.

Val Ackerman, who had worked with Stern as a legal counsel in the NBA, was the first president. She was awarded the first athletic scholarship in women's basketball at Virginia in the late 1970s by recently-departed Cavaliers coach Debbie Ryan and is headed for induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., in June.

The longtime resident of Pennington, N.J., a suburb of Trenton, the state capital, was recently in the news over her new gig -- a consultant to the National Hockey League in terms of how the organization might be beneficial to women's hockey.

Richie will be reporting to NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Adam Silver instead of directly to Stern as the organization chart existed in terms of Richie's predecessors.

Given Silver's longtime involvement in WNBA affairs, not much should be read into the change. However, with many of the usual Guru media colleague suspects on the call, expect poking around into the Richie's lack of sports background though it will probably be learned she hasn't been totally oblivious to the playing field.

Richie does fit the profile as to what operatives in the WNBA and NBA said they wanted in Orender's successor as the search got under way -- someone with a strong business/marketing background who could have the ability to increase the branding of the league into more homes across America.

Coaching Carousel Slowing Down A Bit

Unlike Thursday when Richie's announcement had to share the overall women's basketball page with several collegiate coaching moves, her teleconference Tuesday should be the top story.

The most recent of the 27.5 Division I coaching changes making news occurred Monday with California officially announcing UC Santa Barbara's Lindsay Gottlieb, a former Golden Bears associate head coach, as the successor to Joanne Boyle, who left for Virginia to succeed Debbie Ryan.

Charlotte, one of three schools making changes in the Atlantic 10, will introduce its new coach Tuesday but while the 49ers did not mention the identity in its press release, it has been revealed elsewhere that Marquette assistant Cara Consuegra is the new hire and successor to Karen Aston, who resigned earlier this month and then filled the opening at North Texas State.

Previously in the Atlantic 10, Fordham announced Stephanie V. Gaitley, a former Villanova star and St. Joseph's coach in Philadelphia who had been at Monmouth, will succeed Cathy Andruzzi.

Xavier promoted assistant Amy Waugh, a former star on the Musketeers, to replace Kevin McGuff, who filled a similar opening at Washington.

Gottlieb's move now makes perennial Big West contender UC Santa Barbara a place to watch as it begins the search for her successor.

Using the ESPN coaching change tracker as a guide, though it has not been recently updated, other openings still exist at Maine, which let former Bears star Cindy Blodgett, one of the all-time NCAA scorers, go, and Colgate, which is not on the ESPN list for whatever reason, but has a vacancy following the departure of Pam Bass.

Colgate, incidentally, on Monday hired Temple men's assistant Matt Langel, also a former Penn assistant with Temple coach Fran Dunphy who also played for the Quakers and is married to former Penn women's star Twomey. She was a key member on the first of two Penn Ivy women's champions in 2001.

Also on Monday, New Orleans announced Amy Champion will focus just on her duties as the school's athletic director in the Big Easy and that Keeshawn Carter will carry the interim title as her replacement. The Privateers are apparently headed for the calmer waters in Division II accounting for the Guru's 0.5 portion of the listing of Division I coaching changes.

Delle Donne Back In The USA Basketball Loop?

With Iowa State's Bill Fennelly announced as the head coach for USA Basketball's Women's World University Team with assistants Suzie McConnell-Serio of Duquesne and Terri Williams-Flournoy of Georgetown as his assistants, what remains is the invitation list later this week or early next week for the tryout camp to be held May 22-25 for the 12-member team at Colorado Springs, Colo.

McConnell-Serio and Willaims-Flournoy, incidentally, were once teammates at Penn State and McConnell-Serio was on the gold-medal winning Olympic squad in 1988.

The games will be held August 14-21 in Shenzhen, China.

Candidates enrolled in college with remaining collegiate eligibility qualify for consideration by the USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee to earn an invite to the trials for the games, which are played once every two years. The same group appointed the coaching staff which was approved by the USA Basketball Board of Directors.

The Guru brings this up is because one Elena Delle Donne, a junior next year at Delaware, has returned to eligibility for consideration, which, if granted, would put her back into the USA Basketball loop. That would be the first time since the summer of 2007, when as the nation's top girls high school player out of Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Del., she was named a finalist for the eventual gold-medal winning U19 National Team, but chose to bypass the games declaring a break for the summer.

You all know how it went from here. But in Cliff Notes summary, the following September she picked Connecticut as her choice from four finalists, but lasted one day in summer school on the Huskies' campus in June 2008 before suddenly returning home to re-think her choice.

By the end of August, she returned her scholarship, declared basketball burnout, enrolled near her home at Delaware to play volleyball in the fall of 2008 but the following spring announced her plans to return to basketball for the Blue Hens -- she really suffered from homesickness not burnout in leaving UConn, which then embarked on an NCAA-record 90-game win streak with two NCAA titles.

Connecticut's Geno Auriemma became the Olympic coach, though Delle Donne's best shot as of now would be for 2016.

A year ago as a freshman she became the player and rookie of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association -- a rarity. This past season she missed 12 games because of claims of suffering the effects of Lyme Disease, but returned near the end to lead the Blue Hens to two upsets and to the title game of the CAA before losing to James Madison.

Her 25-plus scoring average would have led the nation had she played in enough games to be eligible for inclusion in the scoring statistics kept by the NCAA.

So there it is. To return to the Olympic road, if she is so inclined, the path could begin with the invite.

"She wasn't playing the last time around when the University Games were held in 2009, so this would be her first chance since 2007 to be considered," said a USA Basketball official not involved with the selection and invitation process.

Those that are include the Junior committee chairwoman -- Sue Donohoe, vice president for NCAA Division I women's basketball; new Virginia coach Joanne Boyle, Penn State coach Coquese Washington, Nebraska coach Connie Yori, and Beth Cunningham, the former Notre Dame star who is listed as player representative off the 1999 USA Pan American Team games. She is also the coach of Virginia Commonwealth, which competes in the CAA against Delle Donne and Delaware.

Also, though, remember some names who will also be eligible -- Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims of Baylor, Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, Caroline Doty (that could be interesting in terms of Delle Donne), Bria Hartley, Tiffany Hayes, and Stefanie Dolson of UConn; Keisha Hampton of DePaul, Khadjiah Rushdan, among other potential Rutgers candidates, who is a former high school rival of Delle Donne's at St. Elizabeth's; Maggie Lucas of Penn State; Courtney Hurt of VCU; Nnemkadi and Chiney Oguwmike of Stanford; Sugar Rodgers of of Georgetown; Shekinna Stricklen of Tennessee; Alyssa Thomas of Maryland, Chelsea Gray of Duke, Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams of Miami; Chay Shegog of North Carolina; Drey Mingo of Purdue; Samantha Prahalis of Ohio State; Shante Evans of Hofstra, and Jasmine Dixon of UCLA to name a few.

Skype Users Wanted

Obviously, the Guru has a lot of time on his hands between the end of the collegiate season and start of WNBA play, not counting covering the naming new coaches and pro league presidents.

So if any of you are skype users and know the Guru, please email him to do a little experimentation off the Macbook, which has a camera, and the original ipad, which does not.

Other than that, hope this has been a makeup for staying quiet the last several days.

-- Mel

Friday, April 22, 2011

Guru News And Musings: Elsewhere - A New WNBA President

By Mel Greenberg

Timing was not everything for the WNBA Thursday in announcing veteran marketing executive Laurel J. Richie, a senior vice president and chief marketing officer with Girl Scouts of the USA, as the women's pro basketball league's third president in its 15-year history.

The WNBA/NBA PR machine, somewhat lacking the luster it once held, managed to roll out a name without rolling out the body.

Richie, who may or may not become a household name in the women's pro game, won't be made available to the press until Tuesday.

That relegated the announcement of her hire to be placed in print publications as well as in many internet websites and tweeter accounts in the shadows of the daily spin of the current collegiate coaching carousel which stopped for a while Thursday in Westwood, Calif.

That's where Cori Close, associate head coach of Florida State, was announced as the new head coach of UCLA three weeks after the departure of Nikki Caldwell to LSU.

Close previously worked as an assistant with the Bruins and is known for helping build teams like Florida State that can score, except when making stops in the state of Connecticut at Yale and against the Huskies.

Sorry, couldn't resist that.

Ironically UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero commented that the Bruins had "a robust list" of candiates and just needed to determine who really wanted the job and who was using the vacancy as leverage.

Based on reports on her way out the door, it appears that UCLA's previous coach did the latter of the two in tripling her salary in taking the LSU job after the Bruins failed to provide a substantial counter offer.

So timing wasn't great in tinsel town for the WNBA, the home of the Sparks, where Close's hire was given good coverage by the L.A. Times and Richie's hire took some perusing the paper's website to find that news.

Meanwhile, it appears that Bowling Green's Curt Miller suddenly has caught the fancy of California, which is looking to replace Joanne Boyle, who departed for Virginia.

Miller was on campus in Berkeley Thursday while the other name that also getting increased attention is Lindsay Gottlieb, the UC Santa Barbara head coach who was a previous associate head coach under Boyle with the Golden Bears.

New Mexico was also considered a likely place for Miller to land but it now appears the Lobos (the college team not the former UConn star and her family) will stay in-house with the hire of Yvonne Sanchez.

Also on Thursday Jenny Palmateer, a former assistant on the late Kay Yow's staff at North Carolina State and currently an aide to Anne Donovan at Seton Hall, was introduced as the new Monmouth coach in central New Jersey, succeeding Stephanie V. Gaitley, who filled the Fordham vacancy.

Down Charlotte way -- the city in the Tar Heel State as well as the school -- the 49ers of the Atlantic 10 may be ready to make a hire.

A source said that the successor to Karen Aston would be a young assistant out of the Big East but not a minority person nor UConn's Shea Ralph, a Huskies assistant and former star at the school who is a native of the state.

If true, Marquette assistant Cara Consuegra, whose name had been mentioned as a candidate, fits the profile. A former Iowa star, she also was a director of basketball operations at Penn State somewhat near the end of the Rene Portland era.

Texas A&M assistant Vic Schaefer of the newly crowned NCAA champion Aggies is believed to have been given an interview. VCU's Beth Cunningham, who was briefly involved at Xavier before the Musketeers stayed in house with the promotion of Amy Waugh, has also been said to be on the Charlotte search list along with one or two others.

It doesn't appear that Xavier assistant Mike Neighbors is involved with Charlotte, making him still an appealing catch for someone along with former LSU assistant Bob Starkey, who was an assistant to the ousted Van Chancellor at LSU as well as previous Tigers coach Pokey Chatman, the new coach of the WNBA Chicago Sky.

The Guru was told by a usually knowledgeable source from past dealings, that two other jobs may soon open that haven't been announced but was not given the names.

No news on Maine other than the new coach won't be Bears fan and horror author Stephen King, who became enamored of the program during the days of scoring sensation Cindy Blodgett, who was recently let go from her alma mater.

Back To the WNBA News

Sorry folks but the Guru's heavy traffic in recent weeks to this site and his twitter account has been driven by the previous items.

So now turning attention to the other news of Thursday:

The Guru begins with this stranger-than-fiction account of unwittingly crossing paths with the unknown future.

When Donna Orender departed last December as president after a six-year run in the wake of Val Ackerman's presidency of the WNBA, the Guru, noting the numerous times Orender would bring a group into the New York Liberty locker room at the same time media types would be trying to do postgame interviews, remarked that "Well, with Donna gone I guess we won't be seeing the girl scouts around here as much."


With the hire of Richie, the WNBA apparently got its woman based on what NBA officials, including commissioner David Stern, said they were after to fill the vacancy.

Give the boys of New York (sorry the Guru does not believe any females were in the loop but could be wrong) credit with keeping the hire close to the vest.

One did briefly wonder if during the interview process whether the subject of Girl Scout cookies came up and the WNBA thought that the candidate promised to make the league a mint when she may have offered to actually bring boxes of them.

Sorry, but the Guru's fan club at several WNBA locales wanted him to stick that remark in this post as well as the observation that given the lack of sports background of the new WNBA president that the Guru was still on equal footing as with Richie's successors except that in this case the Guru had never heard of Richie and vice versa.

In looking at reaction from some of his colleagues and good friends, the Guru must take issue with the idea that an opportunity was lost by not having Richie available at the Women's Final Four or at draft day.

First, who knows if the hiring process was actually completed when the time came for the collegiate championship in Indianapolis.

Furthermore, only four WNBA markets had media representatives on the scene -- Indianapolis, as the host city; New York (only the Times); Connecticut (participant) and Washington (The Post, which was one of the very, very few print publications not involved in either geographical proximity or team participantion that sent a women's beat writer.)

As for Draft Day, things went so well with the ESPN setup that people actually began to wonder whether a WNBA president was actually a necessity.

And, hey, the players should be the ones getting all the attention that day because they are the future on which the league will continue to rely to grow.

Richie appears as though she will be able to help with marketing the league and getting it more into the mainstream.

A friend on a call Thursday night noted that considerng the Girl Scout background, there may be a push for more weekend afternoon games to get people in the seats.

But that might create an interesting debate since the ESPN-TV partner is focused on viewers and best airing times.

Which brings the Guru to the next point, which he as alluded to previously in terms of the new techology: You folks really need to produce an IPad apps for the WNBA in the same manner as the fabulous NBA Courtside Apps, or, even better, the March Madness apps that allowed viewing of all the men's games.

With the fact that the league already offers free streaming via computers, enabling the access of an Ipad could put untold new audieces into the mix considering being able to catch games while either sitting at the beach, riding public transit, or dining in restaurants where wifi hotspots exist.

Anyhow, going in the other direction, because the press conference isn't until next week, timing really wasn't everything Thursday as the Guru makes the illustration in this post.

Since 99 percent of the women's media and maybe 95 percent of the league. if not more, had no idea of Richie's existence, what was the rush when compared with the way Orender was trumpeted when her appointment was announced.

Actually, even if Richie wasn't available, a housekeeping brief teleconference could have been held so the league might talk about the search process to get that out of the way.

Everyone is probably curious as to who found who and if the WNBA made the initial approach to Richie, what was the motivation, who made the recommendation.

Quite possibly Orender could have made a recommendation given her contact over the years with such groups as the Girl Scouts.

As for a new style from the presidency, one can envision that other than the introductory trot out tour in the front part of the season, one will not run into the previous litany of state of the league visits that were part of the previous two presidents' duties.

In fact, in making the rounds, the league would be much smarter to target Richie's Tour De Franchises with interview abilities on the day BEFORE a scheduled home game rather than the pre-game rush jobs when most writers are focused on the floor action while presidential visits are notebook fodder.

As for those worried about Richie's ability to make the basketball decisions involving franchise relocation, etc., without a sports background, understand it is Stern and the NBA elders as well as WNBA board of directors calling the shots.

Ackerman, off her lawyer expertise, and Orender, off her ability to size up situations via her many franchise visits, had major input. Whoever pulls the trigger on major issues, it will still be placed under the signature of Richie.

In terms of player issues, besides the WNBA home office reps, the Guru has been told that the major player from day one back in 1997 is legal counsel Jamin Dershowtiz, who has been helpful to general managers and coaches, especially in terms of player contracts and endorsements.

And the fact that Richie will report directly to NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Adam Silver instead of NBA Commissioner David Stern, that's not really a big thing.

Stern has much on his plate on the NBA side and Silver is in close enough contact that if Stern is needed to get involved in something he will, and if not, he won't, as long as he is made knowledgeable of all that he needs to know.

This league is still his baby, which is now in its formative years.

Richie's job is to bring the child into full adulthood.

-- Mel

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guru Report: WNBA Announcing New President Thursday

By Mel Greenberg

Well, the word began to seep late Wednesday night that the WNBA will be unveiling its new president Thursday and perhaps after sunrise a name will be attached in advance of the press conference.

The guru has no idea and it appears that in the wee hours the group of national chroniclers many of you follow had no idea either considering all just made a comment on the process.

The third president following Val Ackerman and Donna Orender may very well be from a different background in that by now if it was someone from the women’s basketball world the identity would already be out there.

For those who think Jay Parry of the Phoenix Mercury organization might be in the mix, and she certainly has the business pedigree the NBA was seeking, it should be noted that a well-known high executive in the organization and longtime friend of the Guru wasn’t even aware an announcement was going to be from WNBA central.

Once the identity is known and the press conference is held, the larger item of interest will be the various reactions from throughout the league and beyond.

Xavier Names Waugh

The Musketeers went for continuity after the departure of Kevin McGuff to Washington, naming assistant and former Xavier star Amy Waugh as the new head coach on Wednesday.

Though the Guru mentioned VCU coach Beth Cunningham was in the mix in Wednesday morning’s post, he was basically relaying what many coaches who attended the Boo Williams games in Hampton were saying off the rumor mill.

But he did not say she had the offer and if one goes back to the post from Indianapolis during the Women’s Final Four when McGuff’s departure became public, the Guru noted that Waugh or assistant Mike Neighbors would be strong candidates for the two-time defending Atlantic 10 champions out of Cincinnati.

It is not known if Neighbors will now either follow McGuff to Washington, stay at Xavier with Waugh or head elsewhere. The Charlotte job in the Atlantic 10 is still open.

USA Basketball Camp

USA Basketball named the four coaches who will work with UConn’s Geno Auriemma at a three-day national team camp in Las Vegas May 10-12.

Three of them – DePaul’s Doug Bruno, WNBA Atlanta’s Marynell Meadors and WNBA Los Angeles’ Jennifer Gillom were on Auriemma’s staff for the gold-medal winning world championship in September.

A fourth assistant was not on the roster but WNBA Phoenix’s Corey Gaines has been added to the group, giving a sense that perhaps the quartet will remain with Auriemma for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Considering the injuries that held several players back in the fall, this could be quite the competition during the three days with Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus, Washington’s Alana Beard, and Los Angeles’ Candace Parker all healthy and ready for the WNBA summer season.

Now that Maya Moore had made the transition to an affiliation with WNBA Minnesota, the 24-player national team roster is devoid of collegians again.

Seven former UConn stars are in the group – Sue Bird and Swin Cash (Seattle), Maya Moore (Minnesota), Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery, and Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix).

Additionally former Tennessee star Kara Lawson comes from the Connecticut Sun, a franchise for which Lindsay Whalen of the Minnesota Lynx starred before her trade a year ago that netted the Sun Tina Charles with the first round pick of 2010.

Former Temple star Candice Dupree of Phoenix, who was on the USA roster in Czechoslovakia, remains with the group as do former Rutgers stars Cappie Pondexter and Kia Vaughn of the New York Liberty.

Penn State’s Washington Says Tweet-A-Loo

The Lady Lions’ Coquese Washington announced she is closing her twitter account fueling speculation that she might be in the mix for either opening at UCLA to replace new LSU coach Nikki Caldwell or at California to replace new Virginia coach Joanne Boyle.

Unless the money is too much to turn down, it is hard to believe Washington would jump ship from a team that nearly advanced to the Sweet 16 and had achieved its best success making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.

Last May Washington agreed to a two-year extension at Penn State through 2013-14.

New Ipad Apps Has Free Movies and TV Shows

With a lot of downtime the Guru is continuously hunting for new apps for the ipad and on Wednesday tripped into a new one for the iphone, ipod touch or ipad called Crackle.

Once installed, one can watch old TV shows or choose from an array of movies, all for free. The Guru tested it and it was pretty neat watching Ghostbusters and an old Seinfeld show as tests.

Since the new WNBA president is suppose to have a business background, the Guru is interested if the NBA will offer an IPad apps this summer for the WNBA in the same manner as that excellent NBA apps that was trotted out this winter.

That’s it for now until the WNBA news occurs Thursday and/or more coaching jobs are filled.

-- Mel

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guru Report: Another (State of) Virginia Coach On The Move?

By Mel Greenberg

Notre Dame DNA may be thicker than anything else when it comes to hiring women's basketball coaches at Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Several weeks after Kevin McGuff, a former aide to Irish coach Muffet McGraw, left the Musketeers and two-time defending conference champions for the University of Washington in the Pac-10 soon to be Pac-12, Xavier might be dipping into Notre Dame pool again to hire McGuff's successor.

Virginia Commonwealth's Beth (nee Morgan) Cunningham, the all-time Notre Dame women's scorer, has surfaced, according to well placed sources, including coaches who attended the Women's Big 5 awards banquet Tuesday night in the Philadelphia suburbs, as a potential candidate who would be leaving the Rams in Richmond if she lands the job.

If hired, Cunningham, who has built VCU into the upper echelon of the Colonial Athletic Association, would be yet another addition to action that has been heavy in the state of Virginia involving coaching moves and/or news.

The headliner has been in Charlottesville where longtime coach and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan left the Cavaliers and was replaced by former California coach Joanne Boyle after former UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell spurned Virginia for LSU.

There's also been the media dustup in Norfolk between longtime Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry and new Monarchs athletic director Wood Selig who told local papers he was not inclined to get Larry a contract extension at the moment.

Both sides at ODU apparently have since decided to cool their heels and wait to see if the Lady Monarchs can return to the top of the CAA or land in the NCAA tournament next season.

Cunningham, however, isn't the only Xavier candidate with a Notre Dame affiliation. Current associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis off McGraw's staff that guided the Irish to the national title game is also in the hunt, while Mike Neighbors, who was an assistant to McGuff at Xavier, was also interviewed.

Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski is a Notre Dame graduate and was an assistant and associate business manager at his alma mater, a stint he served between 1984-89.

Bobinski hired McGuff, who had been part of the Notre Dame NCAA champions staff in 2001.

Meanwhile Vic Schaefer, a finalist for the New Mexico job who is secretary of defense for Gary Blair with the recently-crowned Texas A&M NCAA champions, may also be involved with the vacancy created at Charlotte after Karen Aston left the 49ers to be closer to her family in Arkansas and is the new head coach at North Texas.

Nothing new at the hour of this post in terms of UCLA's and Cal's opening.

Stay tuned.

-- Mel

Monday, April 18, 2011

Guru Report: Auriemma and Staley On Philly Hall Ballot

By Mel Greenberg

Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown and became a Hall of Famer, and Dawn Staley, who will soon be Hall of Fame eligible to join Auriemma in both the Women's Hall in Knoxville, Tenn., and Springfield, Mass., are on the ballot for the eighth induction class of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

The ballot, which also has top choices from fan participation, is broken down into two categories -- those individuals who had a majority of their career more than 50 years ago and those individuals who had a majority of their career in the last 50 years. There is also room for a third area that involves write-ins for legacy of excellence honorees who have been in the media, administration, announcers and other sports venues making contributions from beyond the playing field.

Last November veteran NBA writer Phil Jasner of the Daily News was a legacy honoree who was inducted several weeks before he succumbed to a battle against cancer.

That same class included former Immaculata star Marianne Stanley who is an assistant coach with the WNBA Washington Mystics.

Auriemma and Staley are the only women's basketball nominees, although in the first category Ora Washington, who was one of the first black female basketball greats, is listed for tennis, a sport in which she also excelled. Hold the phone. Her basketball accomplishments are also listed in the nominees' biographical section that came with the ballot.

Voters are instructed to choose five of the nominees for each category and than five more that can be chosen in either category.

There are 21 nominees on the psuedo-modern day portion and it appears that the older era of stars might go six or seven deep, which, if happens, that means the younger group, so to speak, could have eight, nine or ten inductees.

However, nominees on 70 percent of the ballots are automatically inducted while the Hall of Fame Selection Committee has the power to determine additional inductees. No, the Guru is not on the higher committee, so just pointing it out that he will have no influence on who gets named.

Former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz and Mighty Macs coach Cathy Rush are previous inductees.

Staley starred at Dobbins Tech in North Philadelphia and then went on to lead Virginia to three Women's Final Fours before winning three Olympic gold medals and earning All-Star status in both the WNBA and former American Basketball League.

In 2000- 2001 she joined the coaching profession taking Temple into the national spotlight in her eight seasons with the Owls before moving to South Carolina after the 2008 season where she recently signed a three-year extension.

Auriemma, of course, has led the Huskies to seven NCAA women's titles and next summer will be the USA Olympic coach at the 2012 London games.

In terms of eligibility, locally establish individuals are allowed even if most of their success was elsewhere.

To give one an idea who Auriemma and Staley are competing against in the recent stars category: The group includes such Phillies baseball notables as Pete Rose, Johnnie Callison, while umpire Henry "Shag" Crawford is also on the ballot; College basketball offers Maryland coach Gary Williams, who grew up across the Delaware River in South Jersey; former La Salle All-American Michael Brooks, while Wali Jones starred both for Villanova and then 76ers. Former 76ers star Moses Malone is also from the pro basketball set. Former Eagles greats Bill Bergey, Eric Allen, and Wilbert Montgomery are from the world of the pigskin as is former Ohio State star Eddie George; Hockey offer former Flyers stars Ric MacLeish and Mark Howe and also former Olympic and New York Rangers standout Mike Richter.

Recently retired Drexel wrestling coach Jack Childs was a fans choice in the modern group and soccer's Benny McLaughlin of Temple in the older category. Soccer great Bob Rigby is on the list of recent stars.

The history of past inductees and as well as notes on current activities can be found at the hall's website phillyhall.net.

Induction night will be November 10 at the Society Hill Sheraton near Penn's Landing, which was the hotel for UConn during the recent Philadelphia Regional portion of the NCAA tournament.

An announcement date for the class is not known, at least not here, but a year ago it was made in early summer.

-- Mel

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Guru Report: Staley Extended At South Carolina

(Guru's note: Although the Guru had intended to do this in reverse order, it didn't post that way, soooo, the post under this carries the winners in the Big 5 announced Friday, though the banquet will be Tuesday night at Drexelbrook. If you're in melgreenberg.com just click the mel's blog panel on the left to get to the Big 5 item under this post in blogspot. Also, since it is now Saturday, those of you who follow or keep track of the Guru's biography as of 12:15 p.m. you need to increase the age digit by one -- a counting that began in 1947.)

By Mel Greenberg

Though the email from South Carolina's athletic department arrived hours ago, since the Guru doesn't see it anywhere in the obvious places, for the record, the Gamecocks have extended Dawn Staley's contract through three seasons to 2015-16 along with amending the contract of football coach Steve Spurrier.

The contracts were approved Friday at a meeting of the executive committee of the board of trustees at South Carolina.

Spurriers' financial base was listed but no figures were given for Staley in the release.

At the time of Staley's hire away in May 2008 from Temple multiple sources said her new salary at South Carolina would be $650,000. Considering the progress the Gamecocks could continue to make it's possible that the former three-time Olympic gold medalists and WNBA All-Star could approach the $1 million plateau at the end of her new deal.

Ironically, the extension of the original four-year deal that would expire at the end of next season comes several weeks after Staley was involved in brief talks with officials at Virginia, her alma mater, about the vacancy in the wake of longtime coach and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan's departure.

Staley, who is involved with multiple buyouts via the South Carolina contract and conclusion of the exit money involving leaving Temple, then announced that she was staying with the Gamecocks and that Virginia was going off in a different direction.

The compass needle pointed West but it took two shots after UCLA's Nikki Caldwell spurned the Cavaliers and accepted an offer at LSU. Soon thereafter Joanne Boyle of California emerged as the new frontrunner and was formally introduced at Virginia on Monday, the same day as the WNBA draft.

With the annual spring high school tournaments occurring this weekend at Boo Williams' operation in Hampton, Va., and several other places and the number of college coaches who will be scouting future talent, rumors should intensify over the primary vacancies at California, UCLA, Xavier and Charlotte.

Incidentally, the addition of former Vanderbilt star Chantelle Anderson being hired as an assistant at Virginia Tech carries the item that she had been assistant coach this past season at Division II Palm Beach Atlantic in Miami.

The head coach over Anderson in Florida in her first season was and is Clarisse Garcia, a 2007 graduate of Harry Perretta's Villanova Wildcats who last year was an aide at Stetson and before that was on the staff of Ferne Labati, the former Miami coach, at Seton Hill near Pittsburgh.

Immaculata Movie

The Guru has been wanting to mention this that the recent red carpet debut at the Franklin Institute of The Mighty Macs, the long-awaited film about Immaculata's first national title under Hall of Famer Cathy Rush was basically a fundraiser targeted mostly inhouse to the Immaculata community.

So said people with the PR firm for the film who had a booth set up at the Women's Basketball Coaches Association convention at the Women's Final Four in Indianapolis.

The public rollout is expected this fall around the time of midnight madness in October when practice begins for next season at schools across the country.

Of course under the new rule that went into effect last season some schools will start as early as mid-September.

Come to think of it, someone should check to see how many schools in the NCAA field took advantage of the early start time that was allowed.

That's it for now. A note that with downtime between the end of the collegiate season and start of the WNBA with exhibitions in mid-May postings here may become staggered per the way the news flows. So make sure to check with twitter at @womhoopsguru which always notes a new post or attempts to flash news as it warrants.

Though as noted in the post above this one that all the Big 5 women's award winners were announced Friday ahead of Tuesday night's annual banquet, the Guru will report on acceptance speeches, such as they are, and anything else pertinent.

-- Mel

Friday, April 15, 2011

Guru Report: Temple Dominates Big Five Awards

(Guru's note: Since it didn't take in order, though you wouldn't know that, the Guru switches gears to say above this post is one on the news of the day highlighted by South Carolina extending Dawn Staley's contract three years.
By Mel Greenberg

-- Temple dominated the Big 5 postseason women's awards after sweeping to the City Series season with a 4-0 record.

  The Owls have now won five outright titles at 4-0 each and shared one crown with St. Joseph's at 3-1 in six of the last seven seasons.

 Villanova won the title last season.

 The banquet is Tuesday, April 19 at Drexelbrook in Delaware County, though with the release Friday of all the winners nothing is left for suspense as far as the individual awards.

 Drexel actually had the same 4-0 record against the same opponents as Temple when the Dragons began the season on their nonconference portion of the schedule.

 However, Drexel is not considered part of the official Big 5 family, though the Dragons do get invited at times to Big 5 events. Temple and Drexel did not play each other this season and though the Guru suggested an informal summer game as part of the Dept. of Recreation action, it is probably not feasible under NCAA rules.

 Temple coach Tonya Cardoza made it three-for-three as Big Five coach of the year since being hired by the Owls in July 2008.

  Cardoza was also picked as the Atlantic 10 coach of the year.

  Newcomer Shey Peddy, a junior transfer who grew up in Cardoza's hometown of Roxbury, Mass., was named the player of the year in the vote by coaches and select media.

   Temple also placed three players on the all-Big 5 first team: Peddy, junior Kristen McCarthy, who was the Big 5 player of the year last season; and senior Qwedia Wallace. Penn freshman Alyssa Baron, also the freshman of the year recipient, also made the first team, as did La Salle senior Ashley Gale, who was also voted the most improved player.

  St. Joseph's Katie Kuester won the sportsmanship award to round out individual honors.

  The All-Big 5 second team consisted of Villanova's Laura Sweeney and Landsay Kimmel, a junior and transfer from Temple; St. Joseph's Kuester and Michelle Baker and La Salle freshman Jess Koci.

  All-Academic honors, which go to one from each school, went to Marli Bennett (Temple); Emily Suhey (Villanova); Chelsea Connor (La Salle); Caroline Nicholson (Penn) and Shelby Smith (St. Joseph's).

      St. Joseph's Poastseason Banquet

  The Guru did say he would catch up with the Hawks awards at their banquet on Wednesday night and now that an email arrived, the winners are:

   Most Valuable Player: Michelle Baker
   Chris Dijulia Inspirational Player: Dominique Bryant
   Offensive Player and Loyalty/Leadership: Katie Kuester
    Most Improved and Patricia Ryan Unsung Hero: Kelly Cavallo
    Roosevelt Hunter Community Service: Mireia Vila
    Reverend Emory  Ross Academic Excellence: Shelby Smith.

  Additionally, assistant coach Stephanie McCaffrey (nee Graff) was inducted into the St. Joseph's Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

 -- Mel

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guru Report: Rutgers Lands Prized Recruit Betnijah Laney

By Mel Greenberg

In the arms and legs and skills race among women’s basketball powers in the mighty Big East, Rutgers picked up a prized weapon Wednesday with the signing of a national letter of intent by Betnijah Laney of Clayton, Delaware and Smyrna High.

That means Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer will have coached two generations of Laneys, considering former All-American Yolanda Laney played for Stringer on the Cheyney squad that advanced to the first NCAA title game in 1982.

No one knows whether contact with a prospective athlete almost directly out of the womb is an NCAA recruiting violation but Stringer noted her first introduction to the younger Laney as part of her statement in the Rutgers press release announcing Laney’s addition to an already highly-regarded recruiting class of incoming freshman for next season.

“This has been a dream come true,” said Stringer. “I have never waited on a player as long as Betnijah. It’s been 18 years. I first held her in my arms at three months old and I believed then that she would be a great talent and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to coach her. Her skills are what everyone talks about; she’s a relentless athlete and one of the most competitive people I know which is not a surprise because I coached her mother Yolanda.”

Laney is the second McDonald’s All-American in the Scarlet Knights fold among the freshman class, which has also gained Willingboro, N.J., native Briyona Canty. Shakena Richardson and Syessence Davis of Neptune, N.J. are also listed in top 100 recruiting lists and a fifth recruit is Christa Evans of Jackson, N.J.

Obviously the Rutgers fan base is giddy over the shot in the arm to the Rutgers roster, which has another Delaware product in Khadijah Rushdan of Wilmington who will be a senior next season.

But considering the gold mine that lost some of its luster with a pair of defections off the last super class from 2008-09 it will be interesting to see how patient the fan base will be during the front part of the season while Stringer is trying to mold the newcomers into her complicated defensive strategies.

Actually, this class will have the benefit the last several Rutgers classes did not because at least there is now some upper class leadership in place to bring the newcomers along.

That experience was lacking two years ago when Epiphanny Prince bypassed her senior season to play in Europe and prepare to compete in the WNBA where she became a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Sky.

Nikki Speed, April Sykes and Chelsey Lee are still around from the last super class but Jasmine Dixon transferred to UCLA, helping the Bruins return to prominence while Brooklyn Pope went to the Brittany Griner-led Baylor squad.

Though Rutgers again made the NCAA tournament with a closing rush and a bit of help on the final day of the regular season when a series of upsets put the Scarlet Knights in sole possession of fourth place in the Big East, the run from November’s tipoff to the finish line was a tenuous struggle.

With the success Georgetown’s Terri-Williams in the NCAA tournament, Temple’s Tonya Cardoza in the Atlantic Ten, UNC Wilmington’s Cynthia Cooper-Dyke in the Colonial Athletic Association and former UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell who recently left for LSU, to name a few, a new generation of young black female coaches have arrived.

From one standpoint, it is the type of growth Stringer has always wanted to see develop, but from another with Rutgers’ reduced profile last season it was hard to determine whether youth was a factor or whether a trend of decline had begun.

But Laney and the other newcomers when blended with the rest of the brood could restore Rutgers to its past residency in the weekly Associated Press poll, which the Scarlet Knights were absent from this past season.

Coaching Carousel

The Guru noticed that some of his West Coast followers took the Guru to task on saying in the previous post that there were no names of any sorts being heard for either the California or UCLA vacancies and that former Cal coach Joanne Boyle, who left for Virginia, was pushing for her former associate head coach Lindsay Gottlieb who is the head coach of UC Santa Barbara.

Well, actually, when the Boyle move was transitioning from rumor to fact involving the Cavaliers, the Guru did note that perhaps Gottlieb could get in the mix to move to the Golden Bears.

So to clarify, perhaps the Guru should have said no word has leaked or surfaced of either contacts being made by UCLA or Cal or by candidates interested in replacing Boyle.

Meanwhile, the Guru attended the postseason Temple banquet here in Philadelphia Wednesday night and while several sources noted that a new deal for Tonya Cardoza is still being worked out, her remarks in handing out awards did not make her seem like she is anxious to move on.

Granted all was calm during the banquet in the former regime of Dawn Staley several weeks before South Carolina came knocking with a $150,000 raise above what was already a hefty package at Temple.

While Cardoza may not yet be getting the $500,000 deal Staley had prior to her departure, she most likely is being treated well enough to force prospective poachers to get ready to empty the bank to steal her away from North Broad Street.

Cardoza, who never said much in public in terms of conversation with the media during her 14 years as an assistant to Geno Auriemma at UConn, once again displayed bits of humor during her remarks reviewing the Owls season.

In noting that newcomer Shey Peddy, who was named Temple’s most valuable player and is a leading candidate for Big Five player of the year at next week’s awards banquet, is from Cardoza’s home town in Roxbury, Mass., Cardoza pointed out “I’ll decide if she is the best player to come out of Roxbury.”

Peddy and senior Qwedia Wallace shared the defensive player award, Natasha Thames won the Henry B. Sklar Award for academic excellence and community leadership while the Owl Club academic award went to senior Marli Bennett. B.J. Williams was named most improved.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s had its awards dinner Wednesday night at Drexelbrook, the site of next Tuesday’s Big Five women’s banquet.

The Guru did not see a posting on the Hawks winners or receive an email but will catch up.

Also, the Guru will pass along word of preparations for the annual Dept. of Recreation NCAA Women’s Summer League, which begins at the end of May.

-- Mel

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guru Musings: WNBA Draft Day

(Guru’s note: Time to switch over to the pros for this post but on Wednesday night the Guru will be on the scene at the postseason Temple banquet so perhaps there might be some news besides the awards to the men’s and women’s teams.

Since the last college post, Joanne Boyle had her introductory press conference at Virginia; Stanford assistant Bobbie Kelsey got named at Wisconsin; and former Charlotte coach Karen Aston was named at North Texas, giving the Guru a point for a good guess at that job.

Mike Neighbors, the Xavier assistant to former coach Kevin McGuff, now at Washington, was interviewed by the Musketeers Tuesday, according to several sources. So far, no rumored names at all per the UCLA and Cal openings. And now on to the WNBA – Mel)

By Mel Greenberg

BRISTOL, Conn. –
Watching two major entities working side-by-side Monday afternoon with the WNBA draft being held at the worldwide television headquarters of ESPN was tantamount to witnessing two major banking firms going through a major.
Hartford Courant sports columnist Jeff Jacobs focusing on Maya Moore noted as an aside, “It was hard to know exactly where the WNBA stopped and ESPN started.”

Considering how downsized draft day had been the last two seasons when the event returned to NBA Entertainment studios in Secaucus, N.J., just across the Hudson River from New York, the arrangement worked out better for the most part for all parties concerned.

Unlike the early years at that site, before the brief and, obviously financially costly, setup of holding the draft at the site of the NCAA Women’s Final Four, the last two times in Secaucus the media, though not as plentiful as in the past, was sequestered in a small space and when it came time to conduct interviews after selections were made, the experience was akin to crowding everyone into someone’s bathroom.

The only thing lacking Monday here from the early draft day event was that the families and college coaches of the players being chosen were housed elsewhere in the ESPN cafeteria building on the mega-complex, which limited social access, though officials tried to comply with requests for specific individuals.

Maya’s Next Step

After four years of Maya Moore dominating headlines in leading the University of Connecticut to four final fours, two national titles, and suffering only three losses, the moment she held up her new Minnesota Lynx jersey it was akin to presidential inauguration day in Washington after a four or eight-year term had ended.

Like her Huskies predecessors in the WNBA, many of whom will be her Olympic teammates next year in London, such as Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, to name a few, she now has two new descriptive labels – one being “former UConn star … “ and the other being “Minnesota Lynx rookie … “

Oh yes, and in the Olympics she’ll be playing for her former coach Geno Auriemma, who actually did try to put Moore’s place in the her new professional world in some perspective when he was interviewed right after the native of Georgia was selected.

“If you ask Maya that question (playing with the pros as she did last fall on the gold-medal winning USA basketball team at the World Championships), if she’s honest with you, she’ll tell you the hardest thing she’s ever done is try to play with those pros and against those pros in the world championships.

“Maya finally got a chance to see what it’s like to play against players like her and even better. So I think it prepared her for what’s coming next,” Auriemma explained.

“But for us (USA), she’s got a long way to go before she can reach the level of some of the players that have already played international, won a gold medal – she’s going back to freshman year again. She was pretty good as a freshman so that will be exciting.”

Incidentally, Moore may be leaving Auriemma on a regular basis, but she won’t be departing from playing for a coach with a Philadelphia background.

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve is a former star for La Salle, though the native of South Jersey graduated in 1988 one year before the Explorers knocked UConn out of its first NCAA appearance 72-63 in an opening round game in Storrs in the Hugh S. Greer, Field House on campus prior to the construction of Gampel.

As for Moore’s movement away from her UConn era, Hartford Courant women’s beat writer John Altavilla commented he felt like a wedding day when it was time to send a daughter on to a new life.

Which makes some of us who are his media colleagues wonder whether his season-long references in his blog to “Miss Maya,” will now change to “I Miss Maya.”

Considering the Lynx were also able to land Xavier post star Amber Harris with the fourth overall pick, let’s remember that perhaps the most valuable individual to put Minnesota in position to add to an already impressive array of talent with the likes of Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins, who suffered with injuries last summer, is Los Angeles Sparks veteran Tina Thompson.

It was Thompson’s buzzer-beater after Minnesota went ahead in the final days of the regular season that helped put Los Angeles into the playoffs and the Lynx into the lottery.

From Down Under To Over The Top

Though Moore was trotted all over the place between the various WNBA and ESPN circuit stops, including the website entities, ESPN programming venues and ultimately to the regular media types on the scene, the best thing that may have happened to Moore was the scene-stealing performance, though not intentional, by the number two pick – one Aussie teenager Elizabeth Cambage – who was just bubbly without the celebratory champagne after being made the overall No. 2 pick from the Tulsa Shock.

The way Cambage gushed with the innocence of her youth – didn’t have time to study and play basketball so college was never a consideration – one can envision her picking up extra frequent flyer miles out of Tulsa to appear on national broadcasts in the same way many WNBA players were ushered all over the TV map in the early years of the league.

“In the world championships last year, she was totally different,” Associated Press national women’s basketball writer Doug Feinberg said recalling his coverage in the Czech Republic last September.

“She was very shy but remember she is young.”

This is not to say Moore won’t be making extra appearances, but with Cambage providing the entertainment value off the court, Moore will be free to concentrate on her basketball development and use her promotional energies to help sell the Lynx in the Twin Cities.

Being the competitor Moore is, when asked if she would guarantee a playoff spot, she took it to the next level, saying a championship would be the goal.

Also, though Cambage already stated that she would be staying home in Australia next summer to make the national team for the Olympics, despite the instant assumption, she would not necessarily miss the entire WNBA season.

The Olympics will end in July and if you factor in the scheduling break for the games by the WNBA as in past Olympics summers, Cambage could be back just in time to get the Shock into the playoffs and then be a factor in whatever success comes Tulsa’s way.

Autocratic Rule

For the first time in the league’s 15-year history a draft was held without a commissioner holding office in the wake of Donna Orender’s resignation effective at the end of last December.

She followed Val Ackerman and at the moment the NBA types are still seeking a successor for Orender, saying they are looking for a business and marketing type individual.

If anything, the day proved that maybe that direction is not so terrible in terms of otherwise having someone well known from the women’s world.

Though draft days began with Ackerman and Orender holding up jerseys with the draft picks through the broadcast of the first round, and ended with their assessment of the selections to the media on the scene, Renee Brown, chief of basketball operations and player relations, did well in place of a standing commissioner.

And the players on hand all being used to media coverage handled their moments at the podium for question-and-answer sessions without seeming they were undergoing an undue hardship.

Former Gonzaga star point guard Courtney Vandersloot, picked third by the Chicago Sky, was asked about a paper her mother claimed she wrote in the third grade.

She had no recollection of ever writing it but did say that ever since way back she wanted to play in the league.

Adams Waits And Waits Until Picked

In just under a week’s time, former Texas A&M star Danielle Adams went from leading the Aggies to their first NCAA title and being named the Women’s Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player to a long series of anxious moments until she was taken in the second round as the 20th overall pick by the San Antonio Silver Stars.

The WNBA flew in 15 players and Adams was one of them but several players not on the scene went before she was finally taken.

At one point, her college coach Gary Blair talked to ESPN, saying, “I’ve got the best player that nobody’s ever heard of, and Danielle Adams deserves to be on somebody’s team.”

It reminded the Guru back in 2004 when all-time Penn State scoring sensation Kelly Mazzante arrived in Secaucus highly touted but did not get chosen until the former Charlotte Sting took her in the second round as the 18th overall pick.

Mazzante made the squad and after the Sting folded in January 2007, she was taken in the dispersal draft by the Phoenix Mercury and became a three-point shooting component in the team’s run to WNBA titles that season and in 2009.

Adams, whom the Aggies got from junior college, is used to being overlooked in the past and expressed happiness with being taken by San Antonio.

But she did note in her initial comments when interviewed on TV:

“That’s been my motto for my whole career,” Adams said later. “That I can’t play college basketball then (with) all those teams passing up on me. I am ready and I can work hard to get there.”

Whither Evans?

Though James Madison prolific point guard Dawn Evans was not one of the 36 picks, the Guru believes that someone looking to go the economy route will sign her to a training camp deal and then it will be up to her to take it from there. Remember, Becky Hammon was a walk-on as was the late Kim Perrot.

Stepping Up

Most teams, as others have observed, were able to get their needs, in some cases enhanced by draft day trade. It could be that playoff spots may well be decided in the East-West crossover games considering how competitive each conference will be with the West making the most improvements considering the losing records may teams had.

On The Airwaves

The Guru, the Seattle Times’ WNBA Storm beat writer Jayda Evans and former Washington Mystics general manager Angela Taylor will be on a roundtable internet broadcast hosted by David Siegel aka @DishNSwish on WSTR http://wstrradio.com Wednesday (today) at 1 p.m. to discuss the draft.

-- Mel

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Guru's Musing: Yes Virginia There Is A New Coach

By Mel Greenberg

With more coaching moves still to come, the post postseason sidelines in women’s collegiate basketball will continue to make for interesting news and observations until several key vacancies get filled and the ensuing ripple effect finally subsides.

In that regard, the annual Boo Williams extravaganza of blue chip high school talent this coming weekend is appropriately housed in Newport News, Virginia, its annual headquarters, considering the southern state has managed to top Texas as a center for news items in the sport despite A&M’s capturing its first NCAA title.

At one recent moment, Williams’ own sister, Georgetown’s Terri Williams-Flournoy, the former Penn State star, was thought to be a frontrunner for the Virginia vacancy that is no longer unfilled. She could still become a candidate elsewhere.

On the same Tuesday night last week that Texas A&M was in Indianapolis rallying in the second half at Conseco Fieldhouse to beat Notre Dame in the championship, Cal-Berkeley’s Joanne Boyle was issuing a statement to plug the rumor mill flow on the Cavaliers’ vacancy saying, “I am not the Virginia coach.”

Despite that statement, which seemed to be motivated by legal considerations, four days later on Saturday the Cavaliers essentially announced Boyle is not the Cal coach because she is the new Virginia coach, replacing longtime veteran Debbie Ryan, a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer.

Has any state beyond Virginia ever had a cluster of its major universities perform a messier job in the same time period of botching up the way they do business in the women’s game, which is not to deny what a great hire former Duke player and assistant Boyle is in succeeding Ryan. She also head coached at Richmond.

However, it also became apparent that Ryan’s decision to leave the Cavaliers was not exactly all one hundred percent a result of her own self-deliberation, although Virginia officials, who also announced her departure on a Saturday several weeks ago, accompanied her exit with a 21-gun written salute.

That was a moderation of the recent press conference approach used at LSU to announce that Van Chancellor, another Women’s Hall of Famer, would no longer coach the Tigers despite a year remaining in his contract.

Both were at least in contrast to the terse John Wilkes Booth pistol shot method used last fall by MSG Sports officials on their WNBA New York Liberty front office executive Carol Blazejowski, yet another Women’s Basketball of Famer, whose final day on the job was apparently unknown to her the morning she headed off to work.

Her ouster was announced in a few brief paragraphs without any quotes.

Apparently the LSU vacancy got in the way of Virginia officials’ original intentions when UCLA’s Nikki Caldwell, a former assistant to Ryan, as well as who starred at Tennessee and also assisted at her alma mater, spurned the Cavaliers’ approach to accept a near-$1 million offer embraced by LSU.

That’s now the money being rumored to be going to Boyle, which is still a bargain price compared to what the extraction costs were in place to become too much a financial barrier for Virginia to grab its own all-time legend Dawn Staley, who is currently the head coach of South Carolina.

Yes Virginia, there is a hefty buyout clause in the women’s game.

Though unable to land her dream position that existed once she proved previously at Temple in her native Philadelphia she could become a successful coach, Staley is not unhappy about remaining with the Gamecocks considering she has the potential to take them to front of the gap that exists between the rest of the Southeastern Conference and perennial power Tennessee.

While Virginia officials were busy keeping the university charter jet fueled and airborne, not far away Virginia Tech decided the cheapest way to save travel money finding a coach is to just walk down the hall to the men’s office where they decided operations director Dennis Wolff, a previous head coach at Boston University, was perfect to replace Beth Dunkenberger and women’s coaching experience was not a necessary qualification.

Hey, don’t discount the move totally since one boys high school coaching legend Speedy Morris in a similar move had instant success when then-athletic director Bill Bradshaw, now at Temple, hired Morris at La Salle in Philadelphia in the early 1980s.

Not to be outdone in the state of Virginia, especially involving schools with past track records of Associated Press Poll appearances, Old Dominion’s athletic director Wood Selig, a former member of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament committee when he was at Western Kentucky, decided last week to take advantage of the fading newspaper industry and use the medium as a public forum for dissing longtime Lady Monarchs coach Wendy Larry.

Saying he would have no shot at getting Larry an extension from ODU’s president and board, though its hard to believe she would have zero support for something, Selig has referenced Old Dominion’s three-year departure from its 17-year rule of the Colonial Athletic Association.

It’s hard to believe former longtime athletic director Jim Jarrett, who retired in the last year, would be airing internal ODU dirty laundry in public.

Local sports columnist Tom Robinson in Sunday’s (April 10th) edition of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk declared, in light of an upcoming inexperienced roster and Selig’s comments, that letting Larry go now would be more beneficial than the cost-savings of retaining her the rest of the her contract, which is one or two years depending on the school’s or her position.

It should be noted that while Selig’s expectations are not totally without merit, his comment that Old Dominion should still be on top of the CAA and that remark is “not a slight” to the rest of the conference is just dead wrong.

First understand that Larry, who might be wise to take a shot at the Charlotte vacancy considering the pressures of that now lie ahead to win next year, is among the most respected Division I coaches by her peers.

Secondly, for Selig to give lip service to the rest of the CAA is to ignore that Old Dominion became the bar for the rest of the conference to improve as UConn in a higher sphere became the challenge for the rest of the Big East to get serious about the sport.

Selig noted the poll rankings of such mid-majors as Xavier, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Gonzaga, and Marist, and remarked to the Virginian-Pilot’s Robinson: “They don’t have anywhere near the history, tradition, and possibly even the support that this program has and currently enjoys. So when you analyze it like that, maybe I’m naïve, but I think we should always be dominating the CAA.”

In Selig’s apparent view, never mind that James Madison, the two-time CAA champion, has a history of competing at the top of the conference and that Dawn Evans was among the nation’s leading scorers. Forget that had injuries not struck Drexel at midseason, the Dragons in Philadelphia might have been on a serious run at an NCAA at-large bid, if not the conference title.

Obviously, in Selig’s view of the CAA, Virginia Commonwealth’s ability to recruit the likes of NCAA scoring runner up and rebound leader Courtney Hurt as well as the Ram’s addition of midseason transfer Andrea Barbour doesn’t mean all that much.

In case Selig didn’t notice, UNC Wilmington’s rise to an all-time season in its history had something to do with the hire of one Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and former WNBA star whose work this season was such that her CAA peers named her coach of the year, an honor which clearly moved her when the award was announced at the conference postseason banquet.

Also, let’s not forget about Hofstra, which has made strides since the hire of Krista Kilburn-Stevesky and has recruited an all-CAA star in sophomore Shante Evans out of the Philadelphia suburbs and a top rookie this past season in Kate Loper.

As for Delaware, the team that ousted ODU in the CAA quarterfinals, Selig may not have heard of Elena Delle Donne. Perhaps he looked at the box scores during her 11-game absence due to Lyme Disease, but she was the national high school player of the year in 2008 and actually gave up a scholarship at UConn to stay home and eventually play for Tina Martin’s Blue Hens after spending a year away from the sport.

In fact that decision, while being a negligible effect on the Huskies’ run to two straight unbeaten titles in 2009 and 2010, had some impact added to other factors – the Caroline Doty knee injury being one – in UConn ‘s downfall to Big East rival Notre Dame in the NCAA national semifinals a week ago.

But that is a discussion for another day.

Furthermore, beyond the aforementioned six CAA programs that have stepped to the plate to chase ODU, the other five schools have pulled their share of upsets against conference leaders, especially George Mason.

Elsewhere at this hour, Wisconsin, which fired Lisa Stone; UCLA after Caldwell, Cal-Berkeley after Boyle, who will be formally introduced at Virginia Monday; Xavier, after Kevin McGuff’s move to Washington, and Charlotte after Karen Aston’s surprise announcement to leave the 49ers, remain among the top of the current Division I openings.

Several weeks ago before the vacancies began to proliferate the Guru noted that when the search begins for new coaches look for schools serious about retaining persons whose names start leaking as candidates to begin announcing new contracts or reworked deals with extensions.

That’s already happened at Miami, whose Katie Meier guided the Hurricanes to a regular-season tie with Duke for the Atlantic Coast Conference title earning her Associated Press coach-of-the-year honors in a three-way tie with Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer.

Tricia Cullop, who guided Toledo to the WNIT title over Southern Cal, has a new deal as does Texas Tech’s Kristy Curry, who was thought to be involved in the LSU hunt before announcing her withdrawal.

Temple’s Tonya Cardoza, a former 14-year assistant at UConn to Auriemma who succeeded Dawn Staley in July 2008, is in a current re-negotiation, according to a knowledgeable source, that began prior to the vacancies.

Normally, the Boo Williams spring tournament is a place where the AAU/high School teams with premium talent compete before stands that constitute a virtual one-week old reunion of the just concluded Women’s Basketball Coaches Association convention.

However, this weekend in place of coaches making targeted recruits aware of their presence, the coaches themselves might discover that a person lurking nearby around the corner could actually be an athletic director with a vacancy that urgently needs to be filled.

Texas A&M’s Blair Still On a High

Aggies longtime coach Gary Blair has had few moments for normal postseason relaxation after Texas A&M beat Notre Dame for the NCAA title Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

He is also a former assistant on Louisiana Tech’s first NCAA title and has also coached Stephen F. Austin and Arkansas, which he guided to an NCAA Final Four appearance in 1998.

“I don’t have much time to talk right now,” the 65-year-old Blair said Saturday afternoon a day before heading to ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., with senior Danielle Adams, the MVP of the Final Four and one of 15 eligible stars invited for Monday’s WNBA draft. “I have to give a presentation to some 45,000 persons.”

Blair had a little time for humor and to talk business.

“Do you realize (UConn men’s coach) Jim Calhoun and I combined are 133 years old?” Blair spoke of himself and the veteran Huskies coach who just guided his team to a third NCAA men’s title.

“I’m upset that Van Chancellor retired and Don Flanagan (New Mexico) retired because now I’m the second oldest women’s coach behind (Oregon’s) Paul Westhead instead of the fourth oldest,” Blair said with a chuckle.

Westhead, who coached the Phoenix Mercury to its first of two WNBA titles in 2007, is a relative newbie to the women’s game having previously coached such NBA teams as the Los Angeles Lakers and such collegiate men’s teams as La Salle and Loyola Marymount using his uptempo style of play.

Blair also displayed some native pride over his Texas roots.

“Now that we won one at Texas A&M, you got Baylor (2005), Texas Tech (1993), and Texas (1986) with women’s titles – I don’t think there’s any other state that has four schools with NCAA women’s titles, is there?” Blair asked.

He also critiqued his own performances at the podium during the various press conferences in Indy.

“I know I’m long-winded, but I wanted to get my points across,” Blair said.

The Guru responded that Blair was well-received by the Guru’s media colleagues, several calling Blair “a quote machine,” and the Guru said he has had experience on the seaboard at schools where responses are sometimes lengthy, notably one that played A&M twice this season.

Texas A&M’s title also gives Louisiana Tech extended legacy with the Techsters’ Sonja Hogg winning one when she was the sole coach outright, and then later Leon Barmore, once an associate head coach, winning outright with the Techsters, while Blair just won and former all-American and assistant Kim Mulkey guided Baylor to the title in 2005.

Apparently Blair got little love from the folks at Disney after making postgame remarks following the championship and about wanting to take his grandchildren to the Magic Kingdom. He even mentioned Calhoun doing likewise.

Blair didn’t say so in so many words but one got the sense that the Mickey Mouse gang doesn’t exactly reach out with the perks towards notables who say nice things in public settings about the Orlando and Anaheim locales as Disney used to respond in the days before the national economy soured.

He said there’s a chance that a series with Tennessee or UConn could start next season but UConn at the moment involves having Purdue move a date, which the Boilermakers have no desire to do.

UConn and Temple in the Future?

Now that Connecticut has played at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, winning the NCAA regional at Temple two weeks ago, could Auriemma and Temple’s Cardoza have their teams hook up for a series down the road?

“I wouldn’t mind doing it, perhaps coming down here in the season we’re not at Villanova on our Big East schedule,” Auriemma told the Guru during that little press row chat the two were having during the Duke-DePaul game that ESPN cameras managed to catch.

Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said Cardoza wanted to wait until her Owls got a little better consistently, “but I think we’re already there.”

Though the Owls got crushed in Norfolk a year ago when the two teams met in the NCAA’s second round, Temple bounced back this past season to go unbeaten in conference until meeting eventual champion Xavier in the final game of the Atlantic 10 regular season schedule.

The Owls were upset by Dayton in the A-10 semifinals but then ousted Arizona State in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, before losing to eventual NCAA runner up Notre Dame in the second round.

Incidentally, the Guru was told by Michael Anastasi, sports editor of the Salt Lake City Tribune and incoming president of the Associated Press Sports Editors association (APSE), who was in Indianapolis for another event, that when Temple was out West in his city for the two rounds the Tribune put up a lot of Temple stuff at its website and that the related traffic numbers were “through the roof,” in terms of interest.

Though Tennessee and Dan Fleser of the Knoxville News Sentinel didn’t advance to the Women’s Final Four, the newspaper’s sports editor Phil Kaplan and current APSE president was on the scene because of the panel on women’s sports journalists held at the National Sports Journalism Center at IUPUI University in Indianapolis.

Postseason Banquets

Several local teams are in the process of preparing for their individual postseason awards banquets but the one for Big Five women will be April 19 at Drexelbrook, in Drexel Hill.

Check with the Big Five office in terms of public availability for tickets.

In case the word didn’t get out elsewhere during March Madness, it should be noted that Penn’s Alyssa Baron, likely to be named the Big Five freshman of the year, received the Ivy League rookie of the year award, being only the second Penn player to win the award behind Diana Caramanico.

She also was the first freshman to win the Ivy scoring title since the league began formal competition in 1979-80 and on to the double round-robin in 1986-87.

Baron scored 464 points, averaging 16.6 points per game and was the only player in the Ivies to score at least 400 points this season.

Princeton’s Addie Micir, incidentally, out of Bucks County was player of the year.

The last freshman to win the Ivy scoring title was Gail Koziara in 1978-79.

Penn was also one of 33 winners of the NCAA’s “Pack the House” challenge that involves a recipient in each conference for best attendance and the Quakers’ best of 707 fans in their game with Columbia on Feb. 12th was their highest since the 2005 season.

A $500 prize is being donated to the Cystics Fibrosis Foundation. Assistant coach Kara Cassidy has a friend who lost two siblings to the disease.

-- Mel