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, June 09, 2012

Guru's Women's BB Hall of Fame Report: Friday Meant Strolling Memory Lane

(Guru note: Late, late as it is, but he wanted to give you something in this post, he apologizes for typos. Anything that looks out of whack, give the Guru a holler and he will get it corrected).

By Mel Greenberg

So here's the deal for you Guru followers expecting something in this space and throughout the weekend induction ceremonies for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

At philly.com there is a story on Dawn Staley written for the Inquirer sports section and they want something for Sunday editions off the induction.

After the weekend when back home fullcourt.com will get a perspective.

So now something needs to be fed to you loyalists, but reminding you that the Guru is in a dual-role as a past inductee Class of 2007.

Because some onversations were just that in the course of knowing people and also because the microphones at the story telling sessions were not good for clear digital audio taping, the Guru can't give you every little detail.

But, he will take you through his day Friday with a chronicling of what occurred so you will get an idea.

First, following the Guru's sunrise arrival Thursday, it was off to dinner after a long rest with local Tennessee women's beat writer Dan Fleser and the Guru's photo companion, the legendary William "Will Bill" Ewart.

Yes, where else, it was off to Calhoun's for barbecue, though there is a Brazilian place that opened here that is supposed to be good.

The Guru prior to getting shuteye made a trip to the Hall to keep up the ongoing tradition of making the staff the first stop on arrival.

There was a brief conversation where the Guru suggested that if a sponsorship could be found, as the Hall gets into that area, then it would be good to associate it with the newly named United States Basketball Writers Association "USBWA" Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award and then a duplicate with winners' names could be placed on display in the Hall, which would be geographically appropriate.

New Tennessee coach Holly Warlick accepted the USBWA honor on Summitt's behalf prior to its new naming at the Women's Final Four in Denver.

On to Friday where Will Bill picked up the Guru to do a quick lunch and head to a local barber to look spiffy in his past inductees outfit for the ceremonies.

Then back to the hotel for a brief chat in the lobby with arrivals and their entourages before heading to Friday's festivities at the Hall that included interview availability, a meal, and then the famed story-telling session emceed by broadcaster Debbie Antonelli, who is also signed on as the voice of the hall.

Staley's mother Estelle gave the Guru a big greeting upon seeing him in the lobby and we chatted a bit.

The Guru concentrated on getting his remarks needed for the inquirer story but the ottakes will show here in the next several days in terms of parts of the interview he didn't include.

Many former Old Dominion teammates are here for Inge Nissen, the Danish center on the 1979 and 1980 champions coached by Marianne Stanley, now and assistant with the WNBA Washington Mystics who will fly down here Saturday following Friday's home loss to New York.

Anne Donovan, the coach of Seton Hall who also coached in the WNBA and the USA gold medalists in China in 2008, was a teammate.

She came to Norfolk, Va., home of the Lady Monarchs as a freshman at 6-8 for 1979-80 when Nissen and Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman were seniors.

Nissen, at 6-5, paired with Donovan comprised the first twin towers of women's basketball. Pam McGee, also being inducted this weekend, and her sister Paula were another when they played on the Cheryl Miller squad at Southern Cal in 1983 and 1984 when the Women of Troy won NCAA titles.

Nissen paid tribute to Donovan, talking about she was the better player but she came as this skinny kid who I beat up in practice but she grew and matured and I was proud to see her become the player she did.

Some heavy hitters from ESPN are here, including John Walsh, who hired Robin Roberts, being inducted as a contributor from her early days broadcasting games when the network became involved with NCAA women's coverage.

The Guru joked with Roberts saying he is no longer the only media person in the Hall, though she responded, You will always be the first.

Nike people past and present are here because of the past USA Basketball ties, especially the 1996 Olympic team that former Tennessee star Nikki McCray, another inductee, and an assistant to Staley , played for.

Ruthie Bolton and Vickey Bullett, past inductees who starred at Auburn and Maryland, are here.

The Guru had a brief chat with Sue Donohoe, the former NCAA Vice President of Division I women's basketball, who left last winter and is now the head of the Kay Yow Foundation raising money to fight breast cancer.

Donohoe said the new position which will be heading all three divisions of NCAA women's basketball "is a good thing" and that perhaps someone might be named in the next three weeks.

And, yes, though noted on his twitter and in the Inquirer story, the place was abuzz early in the evening when word came of Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt getting her first hole-in-one, which occurred Friday on the 17th hole of Sevierville Golf Club.

New Tennssee assistant coach Jolette Law, the former Illinois coach and previous associate head coach at Rutgers, stopped by the lobby bar hangout afterwards and though seated with C. Vivian Stringer, it still took some doing viewing Law in a Lady Vols basketball shirt.

A bit of Guru humor suggested he needed to take a picture of the moment so when Rutgers comes down here next winter and some controversy develops and they all start throwing bricks at each other, there will be a photo of happier times in Knoxville.

Lieberman, if not mentioned, is here for Inge and sat around telling war stories from way back in time, where many of us began, and it was quite fun.

It did age everyone of the contemporaries as she showed a picture of her son TJ, who is now being recruited by several colleges to play basketball.

When the time came for Marriott officials to say, 'Time to call it a night,' here,'" Lieberman beamed, "This is the first time I ever closed down a bar."

The Guru said she gets no credit because as a native New Yorker she held a lifetime threat for that to happen one day.

But the Guru always salutes the delegation that can hang late, which is similar to handing honors to Women's Final Four newcomber lobbyhounds.

A year ago, it was the Redheads All-America basketball team doing the late night honors. Incidentally, they are heading as the first women's team into induction at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in September.

Former Georgia star Katrina McClain is also an inductee at Naismith.

The honor for the first night of late hanging in goes to the group here for Nancy Fahey, the successful coach at Division III Washington at St. Louis, who guided her team to five NCAA titles including back-to-back unbeaten ones in 1999-2000.

The Guru noted to Fahey back at the Hall that with 72 Division I jobs changing hands, which many not be the final number, how did she escape being chased, considering her track record.

"It could be that I love my job," she said.

So UConn coach Geno Auriemma's squad in 2009 and 2010 aren't the only ones. And in case you are wondering, yes when Geno is here, he has been around for the long haul, but he is not eligible because it is more newsworthy if he turns in early rather than real late.

Perhaps his body clock was the key component in landing the Olympic job for London and not all those NCAA titles.

Note to a friend of the Guru's, who now works in Pittsburgh, your former coach and the Guru, who are known to be creatures of the late hours, did have a very long, long chat about a lot of things in our long, long history, and changes in the game.

Incidentally, not in the Inquirer story, Staley talked about it has been a beautfiul thing watching the women's game and technology evolve together.

"You can keep up with everything and communicate in so many different ways," she said. "No matter where you are, you can watch the WNBA on your phones, iPads, and computers."

Ok, so the Guru downloaded some impressions and those savvy enough can detect nuggets of news in this post and you youngsters out there needed to be here just to here the so-called oldtimers discuss the past.

Because of the long day, Saturday, can't be sure when the Guru will be back on the post, but he will tweet @womhoops along the way.

Before departing, some quick observations off Friday's WNBA notes: The C's have it at the top of the East Connecticut and Chicago. The amazing thing about the Sky is that for all the moves and additions, which certainly meant improvement, it is former Rutgers star and third-year pro Epiphanny Prince that leading the renaissance.

Chicago visits New York in Newark, N.J., Sunday and it's a big game, as is Atlanta at Connecticut.

Tulsa losing in overtime to Chicago is tough and now they play Minnesota, which may match the all-time WNBA best season start as the defending champions seek to go 9-0 on Saturday night.

In terms of the Western Conference race and those that may be more likely to be draft lottery bound for the talentfest next Aprl, a bottoms up salute to San Antonio, Seattle, Phoenix and Tulsa.

Washington is more likely to be lottery bound, as of now, and then if New York keeps up, there will be a five-for-four hunt for the Eastern slots in the postseason.

OK. -- Time for the Guru to sign off.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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