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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Guru's Musings: Holly Warlick Could Contend for WBCA's Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach Award

By Mel Greenberg

With the coaching carousel still swinging around as vacancies at Georgetown and St. Louis, for example, remain at this hour (middle of night Fri-Sat 4/27-4/28), it appears the annual competition next season for the WBCA Maggie Dixon Division I rookie coach of the year will be more plentiful than this past one but remember the rules:

Individuals such as former St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico, former North Texas State coach Karen Aston, and former Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy are not eligible, no matter how much they respectively improve Michigan, Texas and Auburn, respectively, for example, because they previously held Division I jobs.

In some situations, unless there's not a lot of productivity nationwide, it will be hard for newly-named St. John's coach Joe Tartamella, promoted Friday at the Red Storm after being a longtime aide to Barnes Arico, to win barring getting to the Women's Final Four in New Orleans because he is inheriting a squad still loaded that got to the Sweet 16.

On the other hand, Jonathan Tsipis at George Washington, Vic Schaefer at Mississippi State, Ali Jaques at Siena, Lisa Cermignano at Bucknell, Joe Haigh at St. Francis, Pa., Laura Beeman at Hawaii and Kerry Cremeans at Denver have opportunities, among several others, though once the swinging door stops the Guru will list all the eligibles since the slow pre-WNBA period allows for such compilation.

The frontrunner with opportunity, however, will be Holly Warlick at Tennessee, who is moving up from her longtime role as associate head coach while legend Pat Summitt moves over to Head Coach Emeritus to serve as a mentor and in other duties while continuing her courageous battle with early onset dementia, Alzheimer type.

In a routine handoff at the national powerhouse in Knoxville, Warlick might have less chance to land as the winner but considering the Lady Vols are losing five starters and if voters at Associated Press and USA Today when they return to their duties in the fall mark down Tennessee in the preseason polls the way ESPN's Charlie Creme has done with a forecast of 21 at the outset, one of the lowest ever in any preseason ranking -- UT was not listed in the first-ever AP poll, though a different time, obviously -- but Warlick delivers another Southeastern Conference title, or close to it, a much higher run in the polls and a deep run in the NCAA tournament, then given everything do the illustrated math to what that would translate.

Lecturing and Not Lecturing Sports Editors

In doing some catching up here at the blog the Guru noticed that at the recent annual Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) confab in New York City with the various heads of different sports organizations, NBA Commissioner David Stern took some time to offer a few words of criticism in terms of the lack of coverage accorded the WNBA in print publications given the product and audience involved with the women's pro league in the summer.

Yes, given the downsize situations with reduced staffs and print space its tougher than the early years of the league when roundups were the norm in major cities, but in many non-WNBA cities and perhaps a few league locales as well, other than spot features, on a good day standings might appear in the scoreboard sections and that's about it.

But while Stern at least called attention to the situation, unless a transcript exists somewhere, no similar words could be found from NCAA president Mark Emmert about the dwindling attention to the Women's Final Four on the collegate level though there was much else to discuss given the men's side and the various scandals that have dominated the news in football and basketball.

WNBA Chatter

Former Houston Comets coach, as well as LSU and Mississippi, Van Chancellor after watching Delaware's Elena Delle Donne during the early rounds of the NCAA tournament.

"I think she is going to make a great pro."

Here's some coast to coast history reversal: John Whisenant, who became coach/general manager of the New York Liberty last year, was under strong consideration two years ago in some quarters for the vacant coaching job with the Los Angeles Sparks, which ultimately went to Jennifer Gillom prior to her ouster early last season.

She had been interim coach of the Minnesota Lynx, a job which ultimately went to Cheryl Reeve, who ended up guiding the team last season to its first WNBA title and one of the all-time won-loss seasons in what was the 15-year history of the league, which becomes Sweet 16 in a few weeks.

Whisenant was going to be available when the nefarious Maloof Brothers, who own the NBA Sacramento franchise, jettisoned the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs.

After Joe Bryant served an interim spot for the rest of last summer with the Sparks, his second tour of duty at the helm, general manager Penny Toler hired former Atlanta Dream assistant and Mississippi U head coach Carol Ross to take over this season.

Ross was on a short list prior to last year under former New York general manager Carol Blazejowski, according to a source familiar with the search, to become the replacement for Anne Donovan, who had declared prior to the start of the 2010 season she would be heading back to the college ranks to take charge at Seton Hall, which, ironically, is a short distance from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where the Liberty are playing two more summers while Madison Square Garden in Manhattan is finished getting renovated.

But Blazejowski, after serving as chief executive of the Liberty since the WNBA charter season of 1997, was shot down in the early fall of 2010 by MSG management and others then warmed to Whisenant, who had been campaigning for the Liberty coaching job prior to Blazejowski's ouster.

With the Hall of Famer and shooting legend departed, Whisenant suddenly became a great fit as an economy package to fill both positions, something that had become more or less that kind of deal elsewhere in the league.

On Friday Whisenant announced the hiring of former New Mexico men's coach Norm Ellenberger as an assistant. An aside, if former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter jokingly referred last year as a "generational thing," about the marathon answers at times her WNBA coach and college coach Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer gives the media, she hasn't seen anything yet.

However, given the mess involving NCAA violations in a previous time, it was suggested by someone in a conversation the Guru was having Friday that Ellenberger could come in handy to find new ways to beat traffic to the arena following the problems the squad encountered early last season when the franchise was still learning the drill from the Westchester training complex and neighborhood near the Tappan Zee Bridge down the New Jersey side of the Hudson River or some variation.

Another Summitt Tribute

Duquesne coach Suze McConnell-Serio, who was out of pocket at the time of the news, added to the list this week of Atlantic Ten coaches who answered the Guru's request the day Tennessee announced the eventful coaching change involving Summitt and Warlick.

McConnell-Serio, a former Penn State All-American as well as an Olympic gold medalist, as well as a former WNBA All-Star and coach, several times played against Tennessee as a member of the Lady Vols besides in later years serving with Summitt on several USA Basketball committees.

Wrote McConnell-Serio: “Pat Summitt has a tremendous impact on women’s basketball. She will be missed, but I’m happy that she will still be involved in the program.”

“Holly Warlick will definitely continue the tradition at the University of Tennessee.”

Dupree Fans Have Their Say

Since the conversation was informal the Guru won't go into detail but he was questioned by a few at the Women's Big Five Awards dinner this week at Drexelbrook in suburban Drexel Hill about how come former Temple all-timer Candice Dupree, a WNBA All-Star with the Phoenix Mercury who played on the World Championship gold medalists for USA Basketball two seasons ago, wasn't picked for the Olymoic squad loaded with six former Connecticut Huskies -- half the team -- and being coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma, who also coached the World University squad.

Incidentally, how could the Guru forget? When noting on a short list who was still around coaching from the AIAW era following Summitt's departure from the active ranks, there's Villanova's Harry Perretta, who has been on the Main Line spouting lines (and a few other things during games) his entire career since several years before the NCAA came on the scene.

And that is the report or musings in this edition to keep you tuned in until the next go-round begins.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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