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, August 04, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve -- The Jersey Girl Born To Coach

(Guru’s note: There’s no advance of the Philly summer league finals which begin Thursday night between Purple and the top-seeded Kelly Green team, headed by St. Joseph’s senior Katie Kuester, but recent La Salle grad Ashley Gale, one of the leading scorers in the league who plays for Purple, hurt her knee late in the Tuesday semifinals win over Gold and is expected to get an MRI, Thursday. The Guru expects to be on the scene after the WNBA game in Newark. As for this post, some quotes below are drawn from team reports and wire reports. If you are in melgreenberg.com click the mel’s blog on the left panel to get to the full blog archives in blogspot).

By Mel Greenberg

The Minnesota Lynx host the San Antonio Silver Stars Thursday night in one of the two games on the WNBA schedule with the other being the Chicago Sky visiting the New York Liberty at noon in the second matinee of the season at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Should the Lynx (14-4), who have the best won-lost percentage in the WNBA, prevail over the Texans (11-7) at the Target Center in Minneapolis they will open a four-game lead dropping San Antonio into a three-way tie for second with Phoenix and Seattle.

Pushing the buttons for the second straight season – but one that has been free of injury thus fare – is Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, who seems to have had a knack of bringing success ever since entering the profession at the collegiate level back in 1988 after her graduation from La Salle University in Philadelphia.

A graduate of Washington Township High, across the Delaware River in southern New Jersey, Reeve spent two years after receiving her La Salle diploma on former coach John Miller’s staff at her alma mater.

She then went on to Joe McKeown’s staff at George Washington for five years helping the Colonials become a national power.

“I’m so proud of what Cheryl has been doing,” said McKeown, Wednesday night, from the Midwest where he has been reviving Northwestern’s fortunes in the Big Ten Conference since leaving GWU in the spring of 2008 when the Colonials were a power in the Atlantic 10.

“I remember Johnny and Speedy (Morris) both called me with a recommendation for Cheryl telling me that she was serious about coaching and they thought she could be really good at it and they were right,” McKeown said, adding he liked that one of his former GWU players Jessica Adair, a 6-4 center, is on the Lynx bench.

Morris recruited Reeve and coached before he moved to the men’s program at La Salle and Miller was hired to succeed him.

“She brought us success right after we hired her,” McKeown said. “She went right into Christ the King in New York, which was No. 1 in the country, and got their two best players – Darlene Saar and Debbie Hemery – to come to GW.

"I remember her saying to me, `Why wouldn’t they want to come here? We’re going to go to the Final Four!’ and we came close advancing to the elite eight and getting ranked in the Top 10.

“You know she’s got that Philly toughness,” McKeown said.

Reeve joined the pro ranks in 2001 assisting Anne Donovan with the former Charlotte Sting that had Dawn Staley at the time and advanced to the WNBA finals despite a 1-11 start that season that resulted in the biggest turnaround in one summer in league history.

Reeve was also an aide on a Dan Hughes-coached playoff squad with the former Cleveland Rockers before the NBA parent Cavaliers jettisoned the franchise.

She also landed on Bill Laimbeer’s staff winning titles with the former Detroit Shock prior to their move to Tulsa.

It was in Detroit that Reeve got to coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin, the ageless veteran she was able to land as a free agent for this season after McWilliams-Franklin, in her last free agent move, brought leadership to the New York Liberty locker room last season.

On Sunday McWilliams-Franklin spoke in San Antonio about her role after Minnesota won the battle between the 1-2 Western teams on Lindsay Whalen’s shot before time expired.

“We have a lot of young players; players who haven’t been in a position where they were winning,” she said. “When I first got the opportunity to talk to (Reeve) that’s what she wanted. She wanted someone on defense who could speak up and talk about what was going on, on the floor and in the locker room.

“We have great talent here,” McWilliams-Franklin continued. “They’ve said that about the Minnesota Lynx for years, but it never translated on the court. `Coach’ wanted me to help those players translate all that talent onto the court. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I do.”

Sun Sweep Sparks

When Connecticut hosted Los Angeles on June 28 back in Uncasville, the Sparks were in their first game without superstar Candace Parker, who was two days removed from when she suffered a knee injury at New York that brought a medical forecast of minimally a six-week recovery period.

The Sun took a big lead and then held tight at the finish and since then the Sparks have struggled while Connecticut has been playing its best in several seasons.

The two teams met again Wednesday afternoon in the lone game on the WNBA schedule and the result was no different than last time except at the Staples Center in Tinseltown the Sun put the hammer down in the fourth quarter for a 79-70 victory.

The win in the first of three stops on the Western swing moved Connecticut (12-6) within a game of the idle first-place Indiana Fever (14-6) in the Eastern race heading into Friday night’s visit to the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm (11-8). The trip wraps up Sunday at the Phoenix Mercury (11-8).

On the Sparks side of things if Parker doesn’t return soon she may as well stay home and rest through the dwindling days of August.

The loss dropped Los Angeles (7-12), still in fifth, 7.5 games behind Minnesota and four behind the 3rd-4th deadlock between Phoenix and Seattle for the last playoff spots.

Former UConn star Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2010 who went on to rookie of the year status, had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Sun.

Charles’ Sun teammate and ex-Huskies teammate Renee Montgomery had four treys and scored 16 points for a Connecticut team that used a 12-0 run to open the fourth quarter and go on to the Sun’s sixth win in the last seven games.

“This is the only team I think we’ve trailed against at halftime both times and won,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “Just to kind of stick with it shows how much our defense is improving.”

Los Angeles’ veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones had 14 points, while Tina Thompson and Ebony Hoffman each scored 13 points in the first of a six-game home stand.

The road has not been kind to the Sparks, who are 3-10 while Interim Sparks coach Joe Bryant, the father of Lakers star Kobe Bryant, is 3-6 since being promoted following the dismal of Jennifer Gillom.

Los Angeles next hosts Minnesota Sunday.

Charles spoke of her motivation after the half.

“My team was down. I just want to win. I’m really competitive, the All-Star starter for the East said. “I want to let my team know I’m there for them and I just want their respect.”

Looking Ahead

New York (11-8) hosts Chicago (9-11) Thursday in a game that is crucial to both sides.

A third-place Liberty win in their temporary Prudential Center home in Newark, N.J., the next three summers because of Madison Square Garden renovations, inches them two games behind Indiana and one behind Connecticut while pushing the Sky into a virtual fourth-place tie with the Atlanta Dream (8-11).

New York is 1-1 in the five-game series with Chicago and a win makes the Liberty three games behind Chicago, The Sky, on the other hand, who have never been to a playoff in their history dating to 2006, goes to a game in front of Atlanta with a win and advances 2.5 behind New York.

The Guru will be on the scene and then, as noted, back for the start of the summer league finals.

-- Mel

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