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, March 15, 2012

Guru College Report: Coaching Changes Jump-Starting March Madness

By Mel Greenberg

The Women’s NIT has barely begun, the NCAA is still 48 hours away, but the annual revolving door signaling coaching changes is swinging full force involving some veteran mentors though most movement is only in the exit direction at the moment.

On Wednesday night, Kent State announced that Bob Lindsay, who had been with the Golden Flashes for 23 seasons, is out the door after a 6-21 finish, only the third losing record since he arrived in 1989 after having served as an assistant to Holy Cross longtime coach Bill Gibbons.

Earlier in the day, Phil Seymour left Providence after a seven-year stay at the Big East school that years ago was a top rival to Connecticut in the early era of women’s competition in the conference.

So far only one job has been filled with the announcement this week that Vic Schaefer, who had been Gary Blair’s “Secretary of Defense” at defending NCAA champion Texas A&M, is replacing longtime coach Sharon Fanning-Otis at Mississippi State, whose sister state school Mississippi in the Southeastern Conference also has a vacancy.

Among notables departing through either retirement or other circumstances – you pick the lingo – are Nell Fortner at Auburn, the 2000 U.S. Olympic Gold-Medal winning coach, who could end up returning to ESPN, where she did a capable studio job during her last hiatus from coaching.

Jolette Law, who previously was C. Vivian Stringer’s associate head coach at Rutgers, was let go at Illinois while elsewhere in the Big Ten Felisha Legette-Jack is out at Indiana.

Legette-Jack previously coached at Hofstra building the foundation of the Pride before Krista Kilburn-Stevesky arrived from her previous assistant job at James Madison to make the Pride a force in the Colonial Athletic Association.

“There seems to be a lot of jobs opening early – I don’t know where they are going to find people to fill all of them,” said St. Joseph’s longtime coach Cindy Griffin, whose Hawks will be hosting Boston University at 7 p.m. on Thursday night in a Women’s NIT opening round game.

Two of vacancies are in her own Atlantic 10 conference where soon after George Washington and Saint Louis were ousted in the recent tournament on Hawk Hill both the Colonials, whose Mike Bozeman had succeeded longtime coach Joe McKeown in the nation’s capital, and the Billikens, whose coach had been Shimmy Gray-Miller, announced vacancies.

Western Kentucky longtime coach Mary Taylor-Cowles has left the Hilltoppers while Gina Castelli will no longer be coaching Siena.

Bucknell in the Patriot League became open during the season.

In all, 20 Division I jobs, including the filled position at Mississippi State, are involved in switches, according to the website of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, with more certainly likely to occur.

The one that may create the biggest stir is at Tennessee, where legend Pat Summitt, who is battling early onset dementia, Alzheimer type, indicated it is unknown at this time whether she’ll be back. The comments were made in a discussion reported by The Associated Press about preparations for the NCAA tournament where the current senior class has yet to advance to a Women’s Final Four.

Summitt will face her alma mater – Tennessee-Martin – in the first round this weekend.

Here are the 19 Division I schools with openings at the moment:

Auburn

Bucknell

College of Charleston where longtime coach Nancy Wilson retired

George Washington

Georgia Southern

Hawaii

Indiana

Kent State

Louisiana-Lafayette

Mississippi

North Carolina Central

North Dakota

Northwestern State

Saint Louis

Siena

Tennessee State

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Troy

Wagner

Western Kentucky

Women’s NIT

Apparently the Drexel visit to Fairfield in a first-round game was switched from Wednesday to Thursday, though the Guru just checked with the sheet he received Monday night from the WNIT and it did say Wednesday when the first version of the bracket was trotted out.

As mentioned, St. Joseph’s will host Boston U., while Temple will host Quinnipiac, and Villanova will host American U.

USBWA All-Americans

The ballots have been counted though it will be several days yet, perhaps, sometime next week that US Basketball Writers Association women’s All-Americans will be announced.

A little housekeeping is needed before the 10 are declared. The player, coach and freshman of the year awards will be presented at the annual breakfast at the Women’s Final Four in Denver on the Tuesday morning of the championship game.

The breakfast is open to all credentialed media covering the Women’s Final Four though there will be room for other interested parties so if there is interest now is the time to indicate as such before the hotel has to received the cantaloupe count.

Though most voting centered on candidates on the recent 20-member watch list, 47 student-athletes appeared on at least one ballot though four dominated the voting with the next four also having some distance from the rest of the contenders.

Voting on the individual awards, unlike previous years, was more focused among a few contenders.

In the next few weeks some new initiatives and other awards will be announced.

Tennessee’s Summitt is being given the Most Courageous Award, though details on the presentation are on hold until it is known whether or not the Lady Vols advance to the Final Four.

Anyhow that is the news of the moment.

Follow the Guru on twitter at @womhoopsguru for breaking and quick notes, including tweets on the locals Thursday night involved in the WNIT. The Guru will probably headquarter at St. Joseph’s.

- Mel

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