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, October 14, 2011

2011 Manhattan Clam Chatter

By Mel Greenberg

The Guru attended the annual Jimmy V dinner Thursday night at Pier 60 of the Chelsea Piers complex along the Hudson River, an event that sets the stage for the men's and women's collegiate basketball seasons by bringing in the coaches of teams in the Jimmy V classic.

In the women's game, defending NCAA champion Texas A&M will travel to play Connecticut so that meant the Aggies' Gary Blair and the Huskies' Geno Auriemma were in the house -- ok, on the wharf.

There was a pre-cocktail party part of the night allowed for formal/informal media interviews.

Because the Guru has to be up early for Immaculata movie day Friday, time does not allow yet for transcriptions of quotes, which will appear in ensuing stories, though the Guru's good friend Associated Press national women's basketball writer Doug Feinberg was on the scene and will be in Philly for the movie activity so look for his coverage.

Incidentally the Immaculata brigade is in town for an overnight stay to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Auriemma recalled the Mighty Macs as the "founding fathers" of women's basketball as it is known today, which, if that is considered an odd turn of gender, understand the run to the first UConn national title in the unbeaten season of 1994-95 established Auriemma's mark as being known as the founding mother, so to speak.

Incidentally, this was a rare moment because the event was totally devoid of the presence of The Horde, which covers UConn.

But this setting is when Auriemma is at his best mingling in both worlds speaking men's and women's basketball.

Also MIA was representation from the women's pro league, which used to be heavy, including the home office and the local franchise, which will be spending two more summers across the Hudson in New Jersey.

During the media event, Auriemma was besieged about the ongoing conversation involving the musical chairs actions of conference switching and the reports of UConn's desire to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but not unhappy to help save the Big East.

The Guru did point out last year that in the Huskies' present setting off of lopsided wins over Florida State, North Carolina and Duke, Auriemma was able to state a claim to both the Big East and ACC titles.

He also had nice things to say about Linda Page when he learned that the former North Carolina State star who broke Wilt Chamberlain's Philly high school record scoring 100 points in a game had passed away last week.

Auriemma was in Europe at the time on a brief tour with members of the USA Basketball Senior National Women's Basketball team.

The remarks will be part of the coverage of Page's funeral Saturday.

Former Wolfpack star Derrick Wittenberg, now an ESPN broadcaster who co-emceed the dinner and was involved in the winning play that gave the Wolfpack the upset over Houston for the NCAA title, was a contemporary of Page.

"The guys always went to the women's games just to watch Linda, because she was that good."

More of what Wittenberg had to say will also be part of Saturday's coverage.

(Incidentally, the Guru just noticed that he accidentally omitted the 11a.m. start time several posts ago on information about the funeral arrangements.)

Auriemma in his dinner remarks at the podium quipped about playing the Aggies, "We haven't played the defending NCAA champion in a while."

Of course that's because his group had the role the previous two seasons.

Blair in the media session talked about how life has been since winning the title over Notre Dame and the trips to Disney World and the White House.

On the site, a multi-million dollar yacht was berthed at the next pier.

Auriemma remarked how the men's coaches were flying in their charters back to their respective campuses, but he and his wife Kathy were staying overnight to drive the car back to Hartford.

Blair later said from the podium that Geno may be taking a car, but since the Aggies won the title, "We're going home in that little water taxi next door."

After winning his first NCAA crown as a head coach, he observed that between Auriemma, Tennessee's Pat Summitt, and himself, the trio had won 16 NCAA trophies.

Auriemma also talked in the media session about life after Maya Moore, which will be the other major topic along with the conference shuffle as we go through the next several weeks, especially back up here next Thursday morning for Big East women's media day.

Incidentally, one of Auriemma's high school boys players from his Philly days in the Catholic League was at the event.

For any of you who don't know, the event powered by ESPN and the V Foundation is to raise money for the fight against cancer that took the life of Jim Valvano, the popular local figure here and coach of that Wolfpack men's team that upset Houston.

Considering the many ESPN operatives who were running around with their cell phones and the recent stories involving the sports network's role in the ongoing shuffle, the Guru observed it was nice to see the group on conference calls instead of calling conferences.

Incidentally, ESPN communication honcho Rosa Gotti, who began life in the public relations world at her alma mater Villanova as the first female sports information director over an entire athletic department at a Division I institution, said she planned to be at the Immaculata Red Carpet event at the Kimmel Center Friday night.

"That was my time," Gatti noted.

ESPN officials, incidentally, who sponspor the United States Women's Basketball Writers' women's awards breakfast at the Final Four are enthusiastic about the Guru's new initiative to get the women's awards named after former stars and coaches as is done on the men's side of USBWA.

Anyhow that is it for now. The Guru will be tweeting and everything else throughout the day Friday which begins with an informal luncheon hosted by the movie group before the press sessions begin at a center city hotel.

But at least you know what's ahead throughout the weekend.

And to be honest and fair, the dateline for this post says New York, which is where it occurred, but the Guru is actually on his keyboard and iPad in a diner near his home after getting back to the area on a late train.

So time for some shuteye for now until the marathon weekend continues the next three days.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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