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.

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

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