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.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WNBA Report: Liberty's Moving Experience A Mixed Bag

(Guru's note: New Team Guru member Julia Harmon makes her debut with the following post. Also, there is a Guru post below this on the Philly/Suburban Summer League opening. If you are in melgreenberg.com, click Mel's blog on the left to get to the full archive. You can follow Julia on twitter at @juliaharmon32 )

By Julia Harmon

NEWARK, N.J. --
In a league where it’s tough to win on the road, the New York Liberty find themselves struggling at home instead. An unblemished record on the road and two losses at their temporary home in Newark puts the Liberty at a 2-2 record in the WNBA's Eastern Conference.

“We’ve got to do some soul searching. We are a better team on the road than we are at home. I haven’t got it figured it out yet," said head coach John Whisenant, who is making his own adjustments after having coached the former Sacramento Monarchs in northern California.

The Liberty will spend the next three seasons at the Prudential Center while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations.

Some kinks have surfaced early in the Liberty’s transition to their temporary home -- the most recent of which was two separate car accidents occurring on the way to the arena Tuesday night.

The two fender benders involved Plenette Pierson, Jessica Breland, and Alex Montgomery and in a separate traffic accident assistant coaches Monique Ambers and Lady Grooms.

Although neither accident resulted in injury or tardiness to the game, it shows changes for the Liberty already need to be made.

Whisenant said next time they will have a driver because of the lack of focus it created in the 79-58 loss to the Atlanta Dream.

“That’s why coaches try to control game day so stringently,” said Wishenant, “and we didn’t have that.”

Last Saturday the Liberty contingent returned on an early flight from Indianapolis and Friday night's win over the Indiana Fever.

The organization chose to stay in a hotel near here to save time before the home opener, which New York lost to the same Fever, who shared the same flight.

"We have three of those (back-to-backs) this season," Whisenant said in a chat with reporters before Tuesday's game. "They (Indiana) got to stay in their own beds (in Indiana) and we had to be away three nights. You hope it evens out over the course of several seasons."

For the Liberty, this season is more than just adjusting to a venue change.

“It’s tough, we’re moving, we’re transitioning from the Garden to here. We’re transitioning in terms of learning his [Whisenant’s] system offensively and defensively. There’s a lot of things working right now,” said Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter, a former Rutgers all-American who led New York to the Eastern Finals in 2010 when Anne Donovan, now at Seton Hall, coached the team.

The Liberty currently practice at a facility in suburban White Plains, N.Y., in Westchester County near the Tappan Zee Bridge.

“It’s a no-win situation. It’s weird. We haven’t had practice here. We practice in our training center, we live forty minutes away, and I’m not using that as an excuse,” Pondexter said.

However, Pondexter said she isn’t concerned about the team getting acclimated to the new environment.

A similar feeling was expressed by Liberty Guard Essence Carson, another former Rutgers star. “We still have our fans, many faces that I’ve seen at the Garden are still here, and a lot of New Jersey fans. All in all it’s good, we just got to learn our way around traffic. We’re used to New York traffic, we got to get used to New Jersey traffic.”

Carson grew up near the Prudential Center.

According to new WNBA President Laurel Richie, who spoke with reporters before Tuesday's game, the Liberty fan base is made up of 30% New Jersey fans.

“I’m hoping that as a result of being here for three years that will increase and when we move back to the other side of the pond those folks come with us,” Richie said.

For now, Pondexter isn’t worried about their New Jersey location.

“We’re four games in, I’m not worried at all. It’s just a matter of just getting our routine down, just feeling comfortable with his system, feeling comfortable with this arena and everything that’s going on,” she said.

“It will get better, I can promise that.”

-- Julia

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