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.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Guru's NCAA Musings: Golden Oldie Headed Back To ODU?

(Guru's note: WNBA coverage is posted in the blog above this one, or will be depending what hour you are reading this in the middle of the night on Thursday).

By Mel Greenberg

Well apparently there is now something a little more to the "mention Nancy Lieberman on the list because you never know" speculation in terms of filling the vacancy at Old Dominion after longtime coach Wendy Larry stepped down last month.

Lieberman's name was speculated because the fomer Lady Monarchs all-timer as well as Naismith and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer has a way of turning up in the news decades after Lady Magic was doing tricks to the lead the Norfolk, Va.-based school to national titles in 1979 and 1980 in the pre-NCAA era (AIAW).

When Lieberman's name was penciled in there was the secondary thought of "just in case," with a realization that the Dallas-based star had just finished her first year as the first female coach of a men's pro basketball team handling the local entry in the NBA Development League.

Furthermore, she also wrote a book last fall on leadership and teamwork in the business world.

But that does not mean Lieberman won't drive down a new path to set a precedent at a moment's notice.

Already enshrined and retired, Lieberman broke tradition by returning to the playing court for the Phoenix Mercury when the WNBA launched in the summer of 1997.

Prior to that at one point she had become the trainer of tennis great Martina Navratilova. Lieberman later coached in the WNBA for the former Detroit Shock the team's first few seasons before the franchise eventually became a champion several years later when former Pistons Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer came aboard.

A few years ago Laimbeer hired Lieberman to a one-day deal with Detroit when his roster was shortened suddenly by a league suspension and several injuries.

There is a pretty good chance that talks could have heated up last fall after Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski was let go from her 14-year tenure running the New York Liberty front office but a MSG Sports insider was dead set at hiring Whiz and only Whiz in terms of John Whisenant, who was named as coach-general manager in a similar capacity he held with the former WNBA Sacramento Monarchs.

Furthermore, Lieberman, who was heading into another pioneering moment with the Developmental League, had her hands tied from expressing interest elsewhere as part of her deal.

So now even though the broadcaster who is busy this week during the NBA Finals doing studio work in the home of the Mavericks, Lieberman turned up at her old stomping grounds the other day according to several knowledgeable sources.

A message was left for Lieberman after the Guru heard of the meeting the other day,.

"I can see how those talks must have gone, Nancy's good at setting up all the perks in a contract -- ticket sales, and all that," said an observer who got wind of the visit through other sources of their own.

Former ODU assistant Karen Barefoot, who is now head coach at Elon, is considered a potential candidate for the Monarchs, who operate in the Colonial Athletic Association, but first-year athletic director Wood Selig might consider her a bit young for the position, which will be a bit more challenging than Liberman's time when the Lady Monarchs ruled everything.

Selig has said he is narrowing his list and hopes to name someone soon.

It is not known whether Mary Cowles, who Selig hired at Western Kentucky, is in the hunt, but it would not be a shock for her to emerge.

In fact, there could be some sense to making Nikki Lowry an interim for a year and let her prove herself but then having been on Larry's staff could be a barrier the way these head coach-university separations go sometimes.

Lieberman would certainly make headlines as a hire and keep Old Dominion in the news next season, though it would be helpful to perform as UNC Wilmington did with a best-season ever that followed the hiring Hall of Famer and WNBA great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. She also played at Southern Cal in the Cheryl Miller era that followed the one that existed at Old Dominion with Lieberman and Anne Donovan, now the head coach of Seton Hall.

Life After Geno -- The UConn of Tomorrow at U19 Trials

Considering that the USA Basketball U19 finalists training down in Orlando, Fla., include current Huskies Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, who completed their freshman seasons in April, and UConn-bound Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mesquada-Lewis and Morgan Tuck, and that the initial round included Huskies incoming freshman Kiah Stoke, and that UConn-target Diamond DeShields was also in the group, and that Hartford coach and former UConn star Jennifer Rizzotti is the head coach of the USA group, might all this be a preview of a world without Geno in 2014.

Think about it. Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma will be guiding many of his notable Huskies of yesteryear next summer in the Olympics at the London Game.

Considering how much more money does he really need to make at UConn and he catches a case of Foster's Disease, could Rizzotti be his successor by 2014 when she would be reunited with all these players.

Fosters Disease is named after Jim Foster, who after getting in the Olympic loop as part of Theresa Grentz's staff for the Barcelona Games in 1992, left tiny St. Joseph's in his native Philadelphia to head for Vanderbilt and what was then a powerful Southeastern Conference.

He has since moved on to Ohio State, where he is now the shinning Jim in the Buckeyes athletic department following football coach Jim Tressel's resignation earlier this week.

When Foster left St. Joseph's, he cited another former Hawks and NBA coaching great on the men's side -- Dr. Jack Ramsay, who supposedly said one should always aspire to coach a higher caliber of player.

Auriemma could get that same itch following next summer's game.

But then there is the counter-itch. Stay and coach those Huskies of the future to several NCAA titles until he passes Tennessee's Pat Summitt, who is current the leader with eight.

-- Mel

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