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, August 12, 2011

BB Inductions: Tara VanDerveer - "I'm not too popular in Connecticut"

(Guru’s note. Here are some excerpts from Stanford coach Tara VaDerveer’s media session Thursday at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, where she will be inducted along with Teresa Edwards in a few hours (Friday night). Some of Teresa’s comments will be appended under the transcription of her induction speech. The Guru will have both speeches, though they may not be up by sunrise. Will advise on twitter @womhoopsguru)

By Mel Greenberg

Right off the bat Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, one of two inductees from the women’s committee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame along with former Olympic and Georgia great Teresa Edwards, currently the interim coach of the struggling WNBA Tulsa Shock, was asked about snapping the UConn NCAA record 90-game win streak in December.

“It was very exciting. Are you a UConn fan?” VanDerveer asked the questioner, who was one of several allowed to join the media corps at Thursday’s interview sessions at the Hall.

When the questioner nodded in the affirmative, VanDerveer smiled and said, “Sorry about that. I know the next time I’m coming into Hartford is when we play them this winter.

“I’m not too popular in Connecticut. I’m sure of that,” she referred to the neighboring state on the southern border a few miles away from the Hall, which is only about 40 minutes further from the UConn campus in Storrs near Hartford.

VanDerveer then praised what UConn has done for the sport and made a few other comments. Here is some of that, since by the time of this post a lot of the Thursday activities have already been reported elsewhere.

“The UConn streak was a tremendous accomplishment. We were at both ends of it. She found it a bit ironic that in the coaches’ strategy room where VanDerveer sat for the one-on-one interviews she underneath a picture of Immaculata coach Cathy Rush, a previous inductee here.

She noted how she had gone to the first AIAW tournament in Indiana, which the Mighty Macs won. That gave her a tie of sorts with fellow inductee Herb Magee, the all-time winningest NCAA coach all divisions from Division II Philadelphia University.

Magee, known for his expertise on shooting the basketball, often spoke at Rush’s basketball camps and clinics.

“He mentioned that to me,” VanDerveer said.

During her brief remarks prior to the breakouts, she joked about fellow inductee Dennis Rodman, saying that “I’m so excited I’m going to go out and get a tattoo.”

Someone trying to gain some knowledge admitting they hadn’t be able to see Stanford a lot back here in the East, brought the quick response, “You’re going to see us a lot soon on the PAC-12 network. The only thing is you’re going to have to stay up late to watch us.”

The Pac-10, formerly the Pac-10 prior to the addition this year of Utah and Colorado, has new network that will offer much additional TV exposure of member schools, which also includes UCLA and Arizona State, who have been NCAA participants in recent seasons.

VanDerveer was asked about ideas on growing the game and noted that “In the NCAA tournament, I don’t know if the women’s teams get a financial payback for participation the way the men do.

“If not, maybe they should and athletic directors and other university officials across the country who haven’t been as supportive as in other places might step up and make a bigger commitment,” VanDerveer said.

She mentioned that when she got her 800th win, it came at San Francisco, where one of her former players Jennifer Azzi is the head coach and another Katy Steding is an assistant.

“Even though they were on the other side, it was fun to get it with them there because they were the players and their group that really got us going at Stanford,” VanDerveer said.

“I’m not big on the number stuff. I’m more excited about the relationships I have with people in basketball. I’m more excited about seeing the improvement of players I’ve coached (many of whom play in the WNBA), being with just great assistant coaches.

“I love going to work at Stanford, it’s so beautiful. We don’t get snow.”
“When you get here (inducted) you look back and try to fit the pieces of the puzzle, `Why am I sitting here and someone else isn’t? That puzzle is interesting.

“In the day, there were no opportunities (when she played),” VanDerveer talked about her past. “When I say this to 50 eight-year-olds at our basketball camps, I said, `When I was your age I never went to camp,’ and one little girl raises her hand and says, `Why not?.

“And then when I asked, `Can anyone else explain it,’ One little girl raises her hand and says, `Sexism.’ Eight years old. So things have changed in a very good way and there are opportunities for young girls.

“There are more media paying attention – TV televising games. All the growth of women’s basketball is spectacular.”
VanDerveer noted that if she had an easier opportunity she might not be as well rounded, she referred to her many activities beyond the court.

“Now if you’re a young player, you’re playing AAU basketball, you’re playing the circuit, you’re working all the time. And for me, I’m much more multi-dimensional now. I sail I water ski. I bike. I love opera. Because of what I experienced as a child, I love music. Because of what I experienced as a child I feel I have a rich life now that I might not have if things had been different.

“Now for some young girls, less would be more. Many of them play too much and get injured. There’s too much pressure on them. They get burned out.

“I still carry (basketball) video on my computer but I feel like I have a very balanced life.”

(More to come later)

-- Mel


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