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, September 27, 2012

Guru's WNBA Draft Lottery Report: Winners and Losers - Delle Donne Chicago Bound?

(Guru's note updated: Considering the length of this post, you've been warned, the Guru at the top, so it doesn't get lost, would just like to say he'll be on the scene at Connecticut for the playoff opener Thursday night tweeting the game with New York @womhoopsguru, besides posting a story.

The WNBA will issue a major postseason award before the game as it begins handing out the hardware from the media panel of voters. The guess, per past tradition on how these things get trotted out, is that the host Sun's Mike Thibault is going to be named Coach of the Year, which he has won in the past. But the Guru now hears from a reliable source that they are going with the biggie quickly naming Tina Charles of the Sun MVP. The other award could still happen.

That's it. for the moment.)

By Mel Greenberg

Though perhaps one of the most exciting playoffs in the WNBA's 16-year history in terms of early rounds to trophy presentation are about to open Thursday night, next season is now even more highly anticipated in the wake of Wednesday night's revelation on ESPN's SportsCenter of the lottery results determining the top four picks in next April's drafts.

For the third time in their history, the Phoenix Mercury, which stood with the second best odds at the grand prize, captured the brass ring again with the No. 1 pick, followed by the Chicago Sky, which was fourth in line but got second; the Tulsa Shock, which landed No. 3 holding the third best odds, and, alas, the forlorn Washington Mystics, which followed Tulsa's footsteps of a year ago: going in at No. 1 and finishing with the fourth pick.

The results now bring more of a focus as to the probable destinations of three highly-coveted game-changing senior talents in defending NCAA champion Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, who was the nation's leading scorer in 2011-12; and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

Phoenix seems likely to take Griner or Delle Donne, while Chicago will favor whom the Mercury don't select, though Diggins' locality in terms of Notre Dame's proximity to the Windy City might get some consideration.

That will leave Tulsa with whomever of the trio is still alive when WNBA president announces next April, likely once again at ESPN headquarters, the Shock are on the clock.

It was an especially exciting night for Delle Donne, who watched the broadcast with her family at home while texting back and forth with Delaware coach Tina Martin.

Throughout Wednesday Delle Donne was tweeting her anticipation toward the lottery announcement.

"At least she knows the possibilities and she's good with all of them," Martin said Wednesday night following the broadcast. "As for Chicago, she's always been a Bulls fan and she loves the city.

"I'm so happy for her. When you think where she was four years ago, and now she's ready for a great senior season, ready to go to the next level, and back enjoying the sport she loves. There was a time when maybe none of this would be happening."

Martin's reference was to Delle Donne's original declaration to go to the powerful Connecticut, then leaving within 24 hours of her arrival, ultimately citing homesickness as a cause, and then enrolling at Delaware where she took a one-year hiatus from basketball but played on the Blue Hens volleyball team.

Her attachment to her older sister Lizzie, who is disabled, was a major contributor to the homesickness, but at Delaware, Delle Donne found a balance and for those who continue to question whether she has the passion, listen up class and let's quickly review this for the umpteenth time.

After suffering the aches of dealing with Lyme Disease her sophomore basketball season, Delle Donne pushed herself into top shape to try out for the USA World University Team, featuring the best collegians in the nation in the group classified just below the WNBA/Olympians.

She became the top player among top players on the way to a Gold Medal -- Griner was at the time with the Olympic hopefuls -- and that translated into a landmark season in 2011-12 for Delaware in which the Blue Hens crashed the AP Poll rising to to the Top 10, a blitz of the Colonial Athletic Association, and advancement to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, a Delaware grad and former U.S. Senator, became a fan and one can envision, November election notwithstanding, the VP and President OBama showing up at Chicago games in his hometown as well as visits to the Mystics if the Democrats are still in control of the White House.

In terms of geography, the best deal for both parties would have been for Delle Donne to play with the Mystics, but Chicago is in the Eastern Conference, meaning there could be as many as eight-to-nine visits next summer to games hosted by Washington, the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty.

Delle Donne already displayed WNBA off-court readiness prior to the draft through the phone interview she gave to NBA-TV, giving firm, solid answers.

And for those who have knocked Delaware being a mid-major school, there's nothing mid-major about Blue Hens attendance, which is registering 3,000 season ticket sales to date for the 5,000-seat Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

That is also the same total to date, according to what Martin has heard from school officials, involving sales for the first-second round NCAA games in March in which Delaware will be one of the 16 host sites.

Once the celebrations over last season subsided, Martin has been busy working on her program's post-Delle Donne future -- six seniors graduate -- as well as getting ready for the encore season that will begin with the WNIT.

If the Blue Hens likely advance off the first round, Georgetown and North Carolina, both Top 20 caliber opponents, could be ensuing hurdles and the school is already looking at ways to accomodate both a tournament involving Delaware's highly regarded volleyball program and a second-round WNIT game.

Meanwhile, Delle Donne seems likely to be a teammate one way or another of UConn/Olympic legends Diana Taurasi (Phoenix) or Swin Cash (Chicago).

All that said, let's look at the winners and losers that have emerged off the results of the ping pong ball system that produced the draft order at the top of the line.

First, the winners:

1. The WNBA itself. -- Once the college season begins and the pro playoffs have concluded, the league usually gets relegated deep to the back of the room with occasional rote references here and there.

Not this time.

In actually setting precedent by moving the draft lottery announcement up from its usually October-November past and getting it broadcast for the first time in NBA style on ESPN, a buzz has been jump started.

"Let's say Phoenix gets the No. 1 pick," an official from the league home office said a few weeks ago in a conversation with the Guru about the timing of the lottery. "That could set off a major discussion about who fits better in their system in terms of who the Mercury might take."

Indeed, right off the bat during the broadcast after the revelations, Carolyn Peck, a former collegiate and WNBA coach who is an ESPN analyst during women's baketball games, got the debate going, declaring DelleDonne should be the pick.

But Phoenix executive and Hall of Famer Ann Meyers-Drysdale takes issue with that.

Though no longer a GM and involved directly in personnel decisions -- Phoenix coach Corey Gaines has the title and input also exists from the top in Amber Cox -- Meyers-Drysdale counters, "Anyone can fit in our system -- Griner or Delle Donne.

She also feels that Delle Donne or Diggins are No. 1 pick caliber players in their own right and all three should get equal billing instead of the focus just being on Griner.

"Once more, we really haven't been running (on offense) the way we used to since (former Rutgers all-American) Cappie Pondexter went to New York," she noted.

Though the picks below the three are not getting matched with graduating seniors, look for WNBA coaches and even players, when not overseas, being an ongoing presence at NCAA games all winter making evaluations.

That will lead to on-the-spot media interviews from print-internet-broadcast folks who cover the collegiate scene, locally and nationally.

There have been TV announcements before but not on the scale of Wednesday's presentation.

The famed lottery of 2004, in which Diana Taurasi the UConn great was the grand prize, was revealed by former WNBA president Val Ackerman during halftime of an NBA game.

Ackerman announced the picks in rote and quickly, concluding with, "And the No. 1 pick goes to the Phoenix Mercury. Congratulations."

Needless to say, it was slightly more electric in the desert when the news was received.

2. Delaware -- Enhanced TV coverage could be headed for the Blue Hens to display Delle Donne in action just as likely the spotlight will also be on Griner, mostly because Baylor is a favorite to repeat its NCAA title, and Notre Dame with Diggins.

Most of the other reasons have already been addressed as to the Delaware benefits.

3. Chicago Sky -- As the regular season came to an end last weekend and Chicago lost out to New York by one game, actually two in terms of tiebreakers in terms of the needed swing, for fourth in the East and the final playoff spot, coach Pokey Chatman expressed a desire to do an action usually associated with nausea.

The finish made it a perfect 0-for-7 in terms of Chicago attempts advancing to the postseason.

"I guess you might say I'm feeling a lot better tonight," Chatman laughed over the phone while talking to the Guru on her way to spending some time at her home in Louisiana before heading overseas for her other coaching gig.

"To be in the mix with those players is exciting. And for them to have elevated themselves to that level is a tribute to them."

There had been speculation among observers whether Chicago's future as a franchise might be endangered with another failed run at a playoff berth.

But with Delle Donne or Griner, depending on the Phoenix pick, look for everything to upgrade, including media coverage. And the Sky, with a talented roster that already includes Swin Cash, Sylvia Fowles, and former Rutgers' scoring star Epiphanny Prince, will draw on the road, if team marketing departments have their act together.

"I think a lot of travel plans for everyone in the league is about to happen," Sky assistant Jeff House said about checking prospects for the draft, especially in the deeper rounds.

Chatman's feeling is similar to Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve, unhappy in 2010 with being edged out by Los Angeles in the last week for the playoff only to turn around several months later and luck out with the right to pick UConn great Maya Moore.

The Lynx were second in line with the odds prior to that draft, the Sky's odds were even longer at fourth, making them even more of a winner.

In 2010 it was Tina Thompson's shot at the buzzer in the last week of the season for Los Angeles against Minnesota that made the difference between a playoff participant and one in the lottery.

Though in close games, losing players and coaches say it didn't necessarily come down to a deciding play, certainly key moments down the stretch can be sited for New York's position as a playoff starter at Connecticut on Thursday night while Chicago sits on the outside, but with a brighter future.

"Considering the injuries they have suffered, getting a scorer like Delle Donne, if Griner is taken, really helps them," said Doug Bruno, the DePaul coach whose nationally-ranked collegiate group shares the Chicago sports landscape with the Sky.

So, as the Guru as been citing, Chicago got a top prize because Kristi Toliver missed an open trey and Candace Parker missed two foul shots, enabling New York to rally for an unlikely win.

The Liberty, courtesy of the WNBA schedule, went 4-1 against Washington, while Chicago went 3-1. But it should have been 4-0 but for Matee Ajavon's trey to force overtime and Jasmine Thomas' trey in the closing minute in the extra period giving the Mystics their only win in post-Olympic phase of the schedule.

One can also add a narrow loss to Phoenix as part of a 2-15 slide that also included, right after the loss to Washington, a second straight collapse, this time at Tulsa, in which Chatman can look at the film and figure out which players on a leaky defense now deserve thanks upon further review.

4. Phoenix Mercury -- Odd how life works out.

It was last April in Denver at the Women's Final Four that Meyers-Drysdale showed up to present Baylor representatives Griner's national player award from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) that several days earlier announced would now be presented with the former UCLA great and Basketball Hall of Famer's name as part of the plaque.

Minutes earlier, however, word was received about the ACL injury to
Australian Penny Taylor, an integral part of the Phoenix attack, that would likely sideline her for the season.

Say what you will about all the ensuing events that followed, including Taurasi appearing in just eight games, when Taylor has been missing, Phoenix has struggled. You could look it up, and if you don't want to, the Guru will go to the newly-married Big Ben of the desert to provide the answer.

Thus, in light of the mishap, the Guru quipped to Meyers-Drysdale in Denver, "Who knows? You might be seeing Brittney a lot more down the road."

For all the tanking suspicions, the reality is that with Taurasi playing more, Phoenix still wasn't going to win that many more games and make the postseason, where it has usually resided.

It still took a while after Taurasi came into the league in 2004 before Phoenix won the first of its two titles.

But now with Griner or Delle Donne, even Diggins, Phoenix next season, could join the past clubs of Minnesota, Seattle, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Houston with dominant runs if everyone is healthy, including former Temple star Candice Dupree.

5. Tulsa Shock -- One can say if Tulsa had not rallied against Chicago in that overtime or gained the 84-80 triumph at Atlanta when the Dream were in turmoil, or beaten Phoenix in either of the two wins, the Shock and Phoenix would have been in exchanged places going into the ping pong ball bounce.

But at No. 3, considering they sat at No. 3, Tulsa looks at the likely possibility that the addition of Diggins is a major addition to help get the franchise back to winning times when it was known as the Detroit Shock.

Expectations were mixed and, at least, Tulsa didn't land at No. 4, which is a drop below the elite status of the first three picks.


1. Washington Mystics -- Though not Jewish, looking at all of Mystics executive Sheila Johnson's comments in ESPN's Graham Hayes' story prior to the actual revelation of picks makes it ironic that on Yom Kippur she was attempting to atone to the fan base for past sins by the Washington front office.

It looks like the remarks fell on deaf ears in terms of redemption and some of those still dismayed by the dismantling of a coaching-front office combination of Julie Plank on the sidelines and Angela Taylor as GM after the landmark 2010 season are whispering that in getting the No. 4 pick after having the worst record, and one of the worst ever in WNBA history, the Mystics got what they deserved.

It's a major setback, though holding No. 4 isn't terrible. But whereas landing any of the top three would have produced a treasure trove of interest in either the coaching or GM vancacines or both following Trudi Lacey's ouster Monday, some might be having second opinions.

In re-visiting the candidates list suggested the other day for Washington, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to reunite former Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors, as the GM, and Dream assistant Joe Ciampi, the former Auburn mentor who is a Women's Basketball Hall of Famer she hired prior to the season, as the head coach.

"Marynell knows how to put a team together," said DePaul's Doug Bruno, who served with her as assistants this summer to UConn's Geno Auremma on the USA-winning Golds Medalists in London.

At the time of the Plank-Taylor ouster, as part of the famous Johnson teleconference with local and national reporters announcing Lacey's elevation, in discussing economics, she managed to ruffle feathers in the WNBA home office as well as other places at team level in suggesting everything was going to financial hell.

Coming when the league was already making cutbacks, including reduced roster size, her remarks fueled WNBA naysayers who were forecasting impending collapse.

Right now, to hear Johnson say it in Hayes' story, until the Mystics get over the disappointment, someone should put safety ropes along the banks of the Patomac.

Given the right combination, though it may now take longer, the Mystics could still find their way back but as of now, Washington has entered a modern day version of Valley Forge.

2. New York Liberty -- OK, here's the flip side of the Chicago/New York finish in the East.

If things had gone in reverse, the Liberty would have been in the Sun's spot, hence they would be looking at -- you guessed it, landing Elena Delle Donne.

"That surely would have saved her family a lot of travel money this summer," one follower of the league quipped.

Not to worry. The Delle Donnes always find a way.

But New York, especially if the Liberty doesn't get to the second round, should worry because if Chicago becomes a force, unless the playoff field expands, it's going to be tough to get return a third straight season.

Maybe Indiana's aging process accelerates, which could help. Otherwise, do the math here.

If Chicago looks to be inside the playoff loop next season, who is the most likely to be replaced?

Actually, that was suggested for this season back in April and it was headed that way but was halted moreso by Chicago's mis-deeds than New York heroics.

With one more summer playing in the arena named for a piece of the rock in the Prudential Center, a way has to be found to close the Grand Canyon of attendance on most dates at New York home games.

Delle Donne could have meant an instant attendance spike and return of the old days of media coverage out of the New York market.

Fortunately, if she lands in Chicago, there could be a three-game value when the Sky comes for visits.

But with Griner and Diggins likely in the West, that's only two more visits ny the heralded rookie class.

Of course a trip to the finals this time around, or winning the whole shebang could be helpful, but the odds on that right now are worse than Chicago's before the lottery.

There might be another path to redemption, though, and it could cure the major rebounding deficiency.

Perhaps Tulsa may want to offer second-year pro Elizabeth Cambage for value in return.

She might be willing to play in the environs of Manhattan, but the Liberty can't get away with sending the Shock a string of beads.

Since Tulsa learned to live and grow without Cambage this summer, post players may not have to be in the equation.

But Essence Carson and New York's No. 5 pick position just might do the trick.

There is the matter of the defensive demands of Liberty coach John Whisenant.

"Listen, it isn't all complicated," Meyers-Drysdale said. "You just have to play hard and he has been able to get players to buy into his system."

If nothing else, just show Cambadge the bright lights of New York.

That has been known to close deals before.

Just ask Pondexter, who left the desert of Phoenix to return near her alma mater.

Otherwise in the short term, Pondexter, a Windy City native, may be as close to Chicago as New York might ever get when the summer of 2013 comes calling next June.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Washington Seeks Top Lottery Prize Besides New Coach and GM

By Mel Greenberg

After playing second fiddle all summer to the Washington Nationals' drive to baseball's playoffs and the arrival of rookie quarterback and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III (RG3) out of Baylor to the NFL Redskins, the WNBA Mystics have found their way into both the local and national news cycle after concluding with the second most woeful record (5-29) in the franchise's 15-year history.

That performance has resulted in two things -- the first is anticipation towards Wednesday night's draft lottery announcement on ESPN's Sports Center at 6 p.m. EDT when the order of the top four picks going to the non-playoff teams will be revealed.

This determination by the ping pong system is getting extra attention because of three collegiate senior superstars whose names will be officially chosen in the overall draft next April: NCAA defending champion Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

Washington has the best odds to be in position to most likely go after Griner, the consensus No. 1 pick, though that slot has rarely worked out for the frontrunner in past lotteries.

Tulsa, last year, had an all-time WNBA worst 3-31 record but landed with the fourth overall pick for last April's selections.

Besides, in many other selections, Delle Donne or Diggins might be No. 1 so this is not really a case of Griner and the rest as it was last April when Stanford's Nneka Oguwmike, the overall favorite for rookie of the year, was picked by the Los Angeles Sparks.

The other result of the 5-29 was Monday's firing of coach/general manager Trudi Lacey after two straight off seasons. Assistant coaches Marianne Stanley, the former Immaculata star and collegiate coach of three-time national champion Old Dominion, and Jen Gillom, who was an assistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma on the USA gold medalists in London, were also let go.

Though one must be wary with that kind of record, Lacey might not have seen her ouster coming considering that on Friday night after the loss to Indiana in the final home game of the season at theVerizon Center she was letting the Guru know how to find her for reaction once the draft selections are revealed.

Credit the Washington organization for doing a rarity in their history -- something fair.
When asked on Friday by a colleague and some other Mystics regulars whether the Guru thought there might be a change, he responded that if such was going to happen, they should do it Monday or Tuesday before the lottery.

It would be unkind to be sitting there Wednesday night knowing a game-changing talent is heading your way and then get word several days later that you are not going to be around when that happens.

Once the draft lottery results are known, then aspirants to fill the vacancy will begin to throw their hats into the ring, though further down this post the Guru will discuss potential candidates.

But first the draft.

The final standings -- the two non-playoff teams out of each Eastern and Western Conferences -- determined the best odds going in.

Incidentally, as the Guru sat with WNBA president Laurel Richie during the second half of Saturday's Tulsa-New York game at the Prudential Center, he learned from a source close to the league's oval office that once the results are known they will be revealed in reverse order -- so whoever has pick No. 4, in Miss America broadcast fashion, will quickly experience the disappointment in missing out on the top three.
Then the team getting the third pick, etc., will be announced.

Standings-wise, the four lottery teams finished as follows:

Washington 5-29: GB --
Phoenix 7-27: GB 2
Tulsa 9-25: GB 4, GB for second 2
Chicago 14-20: GB 9, GB for third 5.

The Guru will revisit this finish in terms of unwitting helpers in determining who landed in the spot to get what pick.

It is now end-of-the-season lore of what happened in 2010 when a Tina Thompson shot at the buzzer for Los Angeles against Minnesota in the final week became the defining moment that put the Sparks in the playoffs and the Lynx in the lottery with the second worst record.

The Tulsa Shock had the worst record, but Minnesota won the top prize, getting the right to pick UConn sensation Maya Moore, who became of the key elements to the Lynx dominating run to their first title last summer.

But the Sparks previously had their day with Minnesota in 2007.

That year Minnesota was terrible but in the final weeks of the season, the Lynx started to win a few games, similar to Tulsa letting go of worst place during the past month.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, which was missing veteran all-timer Lisa Leslie because of pregnancy, saw Chamique Holdsclaw depart a month into the season and the Sparks dove and landed in a tie with the Lynx and had the goods to have the top odds going in.

In a rarity, being No. 1 prevailed and the Sparks were able to pick Candace Parker, the sensation out of Tennessee who, along with the Connecticut Sun's Tina Charles, are the frontrunners for league MVP.

The Guru will have to wait for the outcome to find this season's defining moments.

But there is one comparison to 2007 going into play that will stand up even further if the Chicago Sky, which is now 0-for-7 lifetime in playoff participation attempts, prevails after holding the longest odds of the four teams.

By all means, the New York Liberty, which backed into the playoffs, should be on playoff outside and lottery inside, while vice versa for Chicago.

And considering former Rutgers all-American, Cappie Pondexter, who recently re-signed with New York, is the one elite player on the Liberty, landing a top three pick this year would be better off long range, especially if New York gets bounced either 2-0 or 2-1 this weekend by Connecticut.

On the other hand, Chicago, which was bedeviled by injuries to Olympic center Sylvia Fowles and formerRutgers standout Epiphanny Prince, could be quite the unit next season if bad luck can restrict itself to hanging out with all the maladies which reside with baseball's Cubs and stay out of the Sky's presence in the suburbs.
So, with a one-game differential between lottery and playoffs, here's some of the keys as to how New York and Chicago finished:

--New York was able to go 4-1 against Washington, while, given the overall inequities of the league schedule, Chicago was 3-1.

--Former Maryland star Kristi Toliver recently missed a wide open three-point attempt for Los Angeles and Parker missed two foul shots and made a dumb turnover in the final minutes, enabling New York to rally from what had been a deep deficit and get a narrow win.

--New York also had a win in the front half of the season over Seattle, which had started to rumble even though Lauren Jackson was still away with the Australian national team preparing for the Olympics.

--The Liberty also got the softer teams on the back end of the schedule after the Olympics and won most of those contests.

But Chicago didn't need to do much otherwise to overcome New York's attributes. Had not the Sky gone into a 2-15 Sky Dive, fourth place would have been clinched in the beginning of the month.

--That plunge also featured a narrow loss at home to Phoenix, along with two excruciating overtime losses after holding leads -- one in Washington (the Mystics' lone win in the post-Olympic portion of the schedule) when former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon nailed a trey to force overtime and former Duke star Jasmine Thomas was equally skillful beyond the arc to win the game in the extra period.

--A few days later the same reversal happened in Tulsa when the Shock were still trying to get their act together.

Considering that Tulsa had the worst record -- a WNBA all-time 3-31 last summer -- and was relegated to the fourth pick, as mentioned here earlier, the Shock in the closing weeks decided to move forward and not worry about what pick they might land.

Phoenix, meanwhile, suffering from major injuries and limiting superstar Diana Tarasi's time after the Olympics and resting the USA and former UConn star beforehand, has drawn the ire of followers around the league because of the appearance of transforming from an offensive machine before the hurts into a bonafide Sherman tank.

"What they did is outrageous," said one player agent. "The league should punish them, either give them the No. 4 pick or at least bar them from getting No. 1."

Indeed, a healthy Taurasi, Penny Taylor, and Candice Dupree, who recently re-signed, along with one of the stud rookies and the vastly improved DeWanna Bonner, who benefitted from the increase playing time, will once again make the Mercury a fearsome force.

"Can you imagine (rookie) Samantha Prahalis with four options next summer?" Ohio State's Jim Foster said this week about his former all-American who graduated from the Buckeyes.

There's a sense in some Phoenix circles that Delle Donne might be a better fit for the Mercury in their high octane offense.

So, landing No. 2 will cause no regrets in the Arizona desert, even if the grumblings grow louder across the league.

Besides, Ritchie told ESPN's Mechelle Voepel that the league has not received any complaints about the Mercury's perceived intentions.

And Phoenix executive Amber Cox cited only the doctors can truly gauge who was able to play for the Mercury during the season.

Delle Donne: That Was Yesterday, This Is Now

But what about Delle Donne's past preference for being close to home, something that would help both parties if she is targeted for Washington, which is less than a two-hours drive from the Delaware campus?

Enough, already.

She told NBA-TV, when asked the question, that being away at school, though still not far from her home in Wilmington, and knowing the realities of the WNBA, she is prepared for the next step.

And besides, the summer offers time the family can travel to many of her games.
Meanwhile, there's a wild card involving the Tulsa story, especially if the Shock land Griner, who would play the center spot now held by second-year pro Elizabeth Cambage, the second overall pick of the 2011 draft who was highly coveted behind Moore.

She's the Australian who bypassed the front end of the season to train with Australia for the Olympics, and then, at the last minute, continued to do so afterwards, citing a need for rest.

Well, the sense is make a deal that would give value in exchange for value to surround Griner, or Delle Donne.

People who observed Cambage in all phases in London, besides the dunk in one game and the sensational first half against USA before the Americans rallied and shut her down, say she needs to be with other Australians, which suggests four possibilities: Los Angeles (Jenna O'Hea), Seattle (Jackson), Phoenix (Taylor), or Indiana (Erin Phillips).

But there is one other place, if return value can be obtained: New York, New York, even if it is across the Hudson River in Newark, N.J., for one more summer during the three-season Madison Square Garden renovation.

Adding a veteran/youthful mix, New York could package the No. 5 pick (which won't be terrible to hold), some replacement posts -- either Kia Vaughn (sorry, Rutgers fans) or Plenette Pierson -- and maybe Leilani Mitchell.

But there is an unknown in that it is not known if Cambage could fit coach John Whisenant's defensive-emphasized system, though the rebounding deficiency on the Liberty he always cries about might be diminished.

"There definitely is a difference in styles," Connecticut's Kara Lawson remarked Tuesday on the playoff teleconference about the strategy of Whisenant, who she played for on the former Sacramento Monarchs, and Sun coach Mike Thibault.

Draft Class 2012: Better Than Originally Billed

Meanwhile, before leaving the draft discussion, the Guru would like to observe that perhaps too much water was tossed on last April's overall selections which was labeled Oguwmike And The Others.

He, himself, had cracked at the outset at ESPN headquarters, where the draft was held, that it would be the first in which Mrs. Irrelevant was going to be the No. 2 pick.
As it turns out, Oguwmike was everything she was hyped and is running away with the rookie of the year mentions.

But other teams got some value also.

The Atlanta Dream may have had the steal, taking UConn's Tiffany Hayes, who went No. 14 overall and No. 2 in the second round and likely will make the all-rookie team.

Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen, the No. 2 pick overall to Seattle, was among the leaders in points, rebounds, and steals, while Notre Dame's Deveraux Peters, despite missing time with injuries, has been an added gem at No. 3 to Minnesota's roster of riches.

Glory Johnson, who went fourth overall out of Tennessee, helped Tulsa's improvement, while No. 5 Shenise Johnson out of Miami provided depth to the attack of the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Prahalis, who became part of the Mercury ER stars for a bit, has shined in Phoenix, while Notre Dame's Natalie Novosel, taken eighth, has had her moments in Washington, considering the challenges of the Mystics' season.

The jury is still out on No. 7 Kelly Cain, the former Tennessee player who left after her junior season and was taken by New York. But she can plead her case if she can help defend Connecticut's Charles in this weekend's playoffs, assuming she gets inserted into the action.

Georgia Tech's Sasha Goodlett, taken 11th of 12 players in the first round, has had to see increased minutes in the last week because of injuries on Indiana and has earned praise from Fever coach Lin Dunn.

Riquana Williams, another player out of Miami, was taken 17th overall and fifth in the second round by Tulsa, and has contributed.

April Sykes, another former Rutgers star, was taken 28th overall and fourth in the third round by Los Angeles and almost rescued the Sparks in their game at New York.

Lynetta Kizer, the former Maryland center who was taken fifth in the third round and 29th overall by the Tulsa Shock, was cut, but she landed in Phoenix, where she is still on the roster.

Briana Gilbreath out of Southern Cal was taken 35th overall, next to last, by Washington, who cut her, but she landed at Phoenix, where her three-point field goal percentage is tied for tops among rookies.

New York wrapped it all up taking Katelon Redmon out of Gonzaga with the 36th overall and last pick, then cut her but later re-signed her.

So, maybe the 2012 draft was not so bad after all, though it still will pale when the time comes to make the next picks in April.

Filling The Coaching Vacancy In Washington

So, you're Sheila Johnson, though maybe the firearms used to oust Trudi Lacey from her coach/general manager position were purchased by overall boss Ted Leonsis, who needs some value elsewhere in case the NHL season is totally shutdown and makes the Washington Capitals a hockey team in name only this winter.

Where to go in replacing Lacey? Because of the options involving how to deal the GM slot, this can be a little complicated.

Maybe Marynell Meadors, a WNBA veteran previously in the Washington organization, who guided an expansion Atlanta team to two Eastern playoff titles before being ousted last month in a dispute with star Angel McCoughtry, could be an easy choice for either the combo slot or one of the slots.

Her name is speculated in a lot of circles as a viable candidate.

If Marianne Stanley had been on another staff as an aide, perhaps she would be a candidate, though she previously coached the Mystics and actually led them to several decent seasons long before the super season of 2010.

But to make this simplified, for now, let's look at the coaching possibilities.

One former Mystics player, a longtime WNBA veteran, sent the Guru a note saying the team needs someone who has been around the horn -- the Guru's words, not hers.

Van Chancellor, who coached the former Houston Comets to the first four WNBA titles, recently told the Guru he'd like to return to the league and the Guru knows he has always thought the Mystics could be revived.

Chancellor could be a possibilty for the combo position.

There are two ex-collegiate coaches, besides Chancellor, who's last gig was LSU, who are on the sidelines following last season.

Gail Goestenkors, who left Texas and previously coached Duke to prominence, would be familiar with most of today's WNBA players, including the Mystics' Monique Currie, who played for her with the Blue Devils.

Jasmine Thomas is an ex-Duke star, while Goestenkors coached against Ajavon, former Maryand star Crystal Langhorne, as well as the Mystics' Michelle Snow, Ashley Robinson and Shannon Bobbett (Tennessee), and Noelle Quinn (UCLA).
Nell Fortner, who could fill both jobs or either or, just left Auburn, but coached the 2000 Olympic gold medalists and the Indiana Fever. So there is an experience factor.

The former Mystics player mentioned Anne Donovan, currently at Seton Hall, who coached Charlotte, Seattle, and New York, and the player referred to the Hall of Famer as a pro's coach.

But coaxing Donovan back into the league would take some doing, though she and Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve (then with the former Detroit franchise), were finalists for the Washington job when Julie Plank was hired and went on to give the Mystics their greatest success.

By the way, speaking of GMs, and just mentioning it before the screams start among some of the Guru fan base out of the Liberty crowd, but ex-Liberty vice president Carol Blazejowski is a name to consider for the GM role, if she was interested.

Incidentally, prior to Blaze's ouster by MSG's Scott O'Neil, who recently himself left the Knicks/Liberty, etc., in a flap with owner James Dolan, chairman of Madison Square Garden, Blaze had considered Carol Ross, now with Los Angeles and was an Atlanta aide, when beginning to search for a replacement for Donovan.

There's always the unknown element of interest from a person with an NBA background, which in WNBA history has had success (read Paul Westhead in Phoenix and Mike Thibault in Connecticut) and not success (a bunch of them).

Former New York Liberty coach Richie Adubato was one of those with more upside and previously had a stint in Washington, though he still cringes at the nightmarish ending which came on the heels of learning the organization traded one of his best players without consulting him.

Then there are current assistant coaches on WNBA teams.

The Guru left off for this exercise those with previous Washington head coaching history (Seattle aide Nancy Darsch) or those not likely to get in the mix.

Some on the following lineup might not pass muster before interviews begin but are worth mentioning for future reference elsewhere.

Remember, Gary Kloppenburg, hired in Tulsa last winter, had been a longtime aide in Indiana and has the Shock on an upswing.

In that regard, there's Connecticut aide Scott Hawk, who was involved during the Tulsa search.

Chicago assistant Jeff House has a long history with playoffs involved, as an aide to Adubato in New York and Washington. At the collegiate level he was also on the staff of former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan.

Indiana assistant Mickie DeMoss had been an aide at Tennessee -- enough said -- but maybe one year in the league makes her candidacy, if launched, fall short.

Still, you have to give props to a former lieutant of Lady Vols legend and coach emeritus Pat Summitt (might as well start getting used to make that reference with the college season on the horizon.).

Former Auburn coach Joe Ciampi is in his first year in the WNBA as an aide in Atlanta, but he has coached future Olympians and has worked around the league doing clinics, etc., so he has some familiarity.

Former New York and San Antonio star Vickie Johnson is now on the sidelines as an aide to Dan Hughes in Texas, but she may need a bit more seasoning in the league in her newer career, considering the challenges Washington presents.

The same goes for Tulsa aide Kathy McConnell-Miller, the former Virginia star as well as being the sister of Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, the former Penn State star, Olympian, as well as a WNBA All-Star and past coach in Minnesota.

Finally, Jenny Boucek, the fomer Virginia star now on Brian Agler's staff in Seattle, was an assistant to Darsch in Washington and also coached Sacramento.

Well, that's it for starters and that's it for this post, which the Guru is sure to be referred to as War and Peace by his tweeter followers at @womhoopsguru.
But before leaving some quickies from recent conversations.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, when asked if the draft lottery being announced sooner would get things out of the way in terms of Griner knowing her potential future:
"Right now, Brittney is just thinking about her senior season. We'll probably have to find her to tell her what happened in the lottery."

Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw, when asked a similar question about Skylar Diggins.

"What did you say they're (WNBA) doing? Oh, great. That's pretty neat."

Delle Donne's family will gather somewhere, though Elena, according to her brother Gene, might be involved in a class project at school and won't be with them when they learn where they'll be traveling in the summer of 2013.

Until later Wednesday night.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: New York Backs Into The East But Chicago May Get Last Laugh

By Mel Greenberg

Appropriately, the New York Liberty backed into the playoffs Thursday night, losing to the Tulsa Shock on the road while the Chicago Sky's last gasp at breaking a franchise lifetime goose egg getting to the postseason went out the window with a loss at home to the Atlanta Dream.

Though the two teams tied their season series at 2-2 New York holds a two-game edge in the won-loss column within the Eastern Conference over Chicago, thus holding the second tiebreaker should the teams finish out their season Saturday deadlocked for the fourth and final spot.

On final tally, depending what Chicago does at home against the Washington Mystics and what New York does with a second straight East-West crossover game with the rapidly improving Tulsa Shock, the Sky and Liberty will either be tied in the standings, or the Liberty will finish one or two games ahead.

For the moment, this development brings joy and excitment to what remains of the passionate Liberty base, who could be rewarded with an upset of the top-seeded Connecticut Sun in the Eastern semifinals.

A highly unlikely, but not totally out of the question, sweep of the best-of-three series -- the Indiana Fever will be rematching last year's conference finals with Atlanta in the other semifinals -- would appropriately make New York the new Devils, which would be useful considering the current Prudential Center landlords bearing NHL pitch forks on their uniforms have put the hockey season on ice for now.

New York coach John Whisenant, who has had experience guiding the former Sacramento Monarchs often to the Western Conference side of this postseason party, has kept saying, once you get to the playoffs anything could happen.

And in many ways advancement to the next round would be helpful because right now Chicago, which should be given a charitable tax deduction for donating New York's return trip, is in position of having the last laugh.

The Liberty crowd has never stopped seething over a three-team deal several years ago that involved New York giving up a first-round pick just before the start of the 2009 season that ultimately became the overall No. 1 pick of th 2010 draft.

Ironically, when the Eastern playoffs begin next Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, that selection, through a series of trades before being taken, will be wearing a Sun uniform and going by the name of former UConn star Tina Charles, the New Yorker who might very well be the WNBA MVP of 2012.

Understand, though, when the deal went down, few expected New York not to return to the playoffs. But their failure to do so made the spot one of the four lottery picks and when the ping pong balls did their thing, the Minnesota Lynx struck gold before dealing the previously acquired gem away, along with former UConn All-American Renee Montgomery, to the Sun for homegirl Lindsay Whelan.

That addition plus a few more prized talents coupled with a series of fates that enabled yet another ex-UConn sensation in Maya Moore become an overall 2011 No. 1 pick of the Lynx led the way to Minnesota's first WNBA title after years of ineptness.

But if the root of all that was excruciating to the Liberty crowd, then they better hope Chicago, which will be fourth in line, the odd number out for three prized choices, doesn't get lucky and move up when the order gets revealed on ESPN.

Because, unless New York turns things around for the next feew weeks, the Liberty would have been better off being where Chicago is.

This may be the seventh straight season of futility out of all seven in the Sky history, which is depriving WNBA great Ticha Penicheiro of a last hurrah on the way to retirement, but the streak could end.

Imagine a healthy Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince being joined on the floor next season by either Baylor's Brittney Griner, who would come via the No. 1 overall pick, or Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, or Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

To be sure, New York did not fight its way into the playoffs.

Even before the series of injuries, the schedule dealt the Liberty heading into the season suggested a struggle before the Olympics for Cappie Pondexter and friends, while it also offered a greased track afterwards.

There are few things New York did on its own -- the Liberty were 5-14 against teams .500 or better while going 9-5 against the rest with Saturday's home game in Newark, N.J., still to be played.

The squad was also helped by its own pork barrel dealing with Washington, getting fat off the woeful Mystics at 4-1.

In the end the difference from the Liberty side was a surprise win at the time at home over the Seattle Storm, which was without Lauren Jackson, a 2-2 effort against the Atlanta Dream, including a game the Dream lacked Angel McCoughtry in one of the wins, and a rally over Los Angeles 73-71 that featured Sparks sharpshooter Kristi Toliver missing an open trey in the closing seconds and MVP candidate Candace Parker failing to make two key foul shots in the final minutes.

The L.A. game may be revisted next week in terms of impact moment depending how Chicago fares in the lottery.

While those were the highlights, considering how close Chicago missed out, here's the autopsy on the Sky's failure to reach the playoffs, which didn't require all that much to be reversed on the following list.

Yes, Fowles' knee problems limiting her time and Prince's foot injury depriving her of 10 or more games were bad luck and unfortunate.

But the race would have been over long before this week for the last playoff spot had not Chicago, contending for first before the Prince injury, gone on a dismal 2-15 plunge before leveling out the last several weeks.

That dive featured come-from-ahead losses all in overtime to Connecticut, 80-78; at Washington, 75-71; at Tulsa 81-78, all of which will also be re-visited if luck smiles on the Windy City next Wednesday.

There was also a home loss in that stretch in the front end of the slide to the Phoenix Mercury 84-81.

Chicago was 6-14 against teams .500 or better and 7-6 against the rest with Washington's Saturday visit remaining. Those numbers are similar to New York, though one of the big hurts was going 0-5 against Indiana.

But, if it falls the right way, all will dissolve into smiles next Wednesday night.

The Draft Lottery Chase

With few games remaining, the lineup of the four teams for next week's drawing is coming into to place in terms best odds, and all positions are set when tiebreakers are considered.

The draft lottery chase standings as of now:

*1. Washington 5-27, GB -- hosts Indiana, Fri; visits Chicago, Sat.
*2. Phoenix 7-25, GB 2 hosta Minnesota, Fri; hosts Seattle, Sun.
*3. Tulsa 9-23, GB 4 vsits New York, Sat; visits Indiana, Sun.
*4. Chicago 13-20, GB 7.5 hosts Washington, Sat.
*-clinched odds position.

Washington can be first outright with either a loss to Indiana or Chicago, but the Mystics have clinched best shot at No. 1 because Phoenix can only tie.

If that happens, the two were 1-1 against each other, so in the next set of tiebreakers, Washington, getting just two wins against the West, puts the Mystics ahead of the Mercury, because Phoenix got three against the East, including one at the Connecticut Sun on a night Diana Tauarasi did play.

However, Phoenic and Tulsa could mathematically tie for second and if that happens, both would also be tied in conference performance in the West.

So, tiebreaker No. 3 would be worse record against teams .500 or better. (Everything gets done in reverse as to the way ties get broken determining playoff seeds or qualification).

Since New York has a losing record, that game is out the window for Tulsa, but the Indiana game Sunday is in play.

Right now, Tulsa has gone 4-15 against teams .500 or better.

Phoenix, which still has Minnesota in play -- Sunday's game with Seattle goes out -- has gone 2-16 with one game remaining.

So Phoenix has virtually clinched the second best shot because Tulsa, which began winning near the end of the season, can't have a worse record than the Mercury in the category.

Connecticut Still Has Something To Play For

Though everything is wrapped up in setting up the East playoffs, top-seeded Connecticut still has something to gained in Sunday's otherwise non-meaningful home game when Atlanta visits.

Los Angeles' win over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx Thursday night, the final game of the season for the Sparks, indicates that it may not be a given that coach Cheryl Reeve's group reaches the best-of-five finals for the second straight season.

Should that occur and if Los Angeles gets to the finals out of the West while Connecticut gets there out of the East, if the Sun beat Atlanta, they would get homecourt advantage against the Sparks because of a better overall record.

But if they tie, Los Angeles appears to have the advantage either way, through a sweep of the Sun 2-0 in their East-West series or the fact that Los Angeles, overall, was 9-3 against East, while Connecticut was 8-4.

Here's how the eight playoff teams would fare for getting a 3-2 homecourt advantage depending who they play.

1. Minnesota owns it over anyone from the East.
2, Connecticut would own it over anyone from the West except Minnesota, if the Sun wins Sunday.
3. Los Angeles over anyone from the East if the Sun loses to Atlanta or the Sparks would be over anyone else.
4. San Antonio vs. Indiana undetermined at the moment since they have the same record and two games, each, left.
5. Atlanta and San Antonio are also undetermined if they met since they both right now could have similar records.
6. Seattle or New York are at a disadvantage to anyone from the opposite conferences except, and the Guru will revisit as in the other undetermined situations, that Seattle and New York could have the same records if they reach the final, but each have games left right now.

And that's the report for now.

The Guru, if he can clear out early enough, will be heading to Washington, where the Mystics' Crystal Langhorne, who's been hurting, is being rested for the final two games.

Maybe some of these places should give out souvenir tank tops to get their fans in the spirit for Wednesday night's lottery drawing.

The Guru will definitely be at New York Saturday and Connecticut Sunday with tweeting at @womhoopsguru to occur atall locations.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Guru's College Report: Notre Dame's McGraw Homecoming Visits To Philly Hampered by Irish Move to ACC

By Mel Greenberg

Attention Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple, or, even La Salle!

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw needs one or more of you at a future date to host a homecoming -- her own.

One of the consequences of the Irish's move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference at a time to be determined is McGraw will no longer have the luxury of frequent trips back to the Philadelphia area where she starred at Saint Joseph's and also began a Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coaching career first at the high school level, going 50-3 in two seasons at Archbishop Carroll including a 28-0 run in 1978-79 that led to the Catholic League title.

"I'm going to start calling them all," McGraw jested with a tinge of seriousness here Wednesday afternoon at the New York Athletic Club prior to a press luncheon to preview the Carrier Classic against Ohio State in a doubleheader outdoors on Nov. 9 on the Deck of the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point Naval Museum in Charleston, S.C.

The Buckeyes men, who went to the NCAA Final Four, will meet Marquette, which went to the Sweet 16, in the other game.

"I got a lot if friends and family back there I get to see every year," smiled McGraw, who said she knew about the move to the ACC for several weeks prior to the public revelation. "I'm going to start with Penn, because they came to our place last year and it would be fun to play in The Palestra and also Saint Joe's -- after all, it's my alma mater."

One place that won't get a quick call in what would become nonconference encounter is Villanova.

No longer having to deal with the annual headaches going against Harry Perretta's motion offense is one of the luxuries the move offers even if Notre Dame has dominated the series with the Wildcats.

Ironically, McGraw, who is beginning her 25th season, was hired out of Lehigh by then-athletic director Gene Corrigan, a relative of former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan and a former commissioner of the ACC.

She succeeded Mary DiStanislao, a former Immaculata assistant to Cathy Rush and now in charge of women's athletics, among other duties, at Penn.

There's another irony because the game will match McGraw against Ohio State's Jim Foster, who is headed two years behind his former assistant coach to induction next June in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

Foster hired McGraw on his staff to return to her alma mater after his friend Geno Auriemma left the Hawks to become an assistant to Ryan at Virginia.

From there he moved on to the University of Connecticut where as head coach of the Huskies he built a nationally proiminent program collecting seven NCAA titles to date.

Last month six of his former UConn all-timers rejoined him to comprise half of the USA squad that won a fifth straight Olympic gold medal in London, England.

McGraw, who has yet to lose to a Foster-coached team at either St. Joes, Vanderbilt, or Ohio State, does not schedule against one of her former mentors and vice versa because of the deep friendship and admiration they have for each other personally and their respective successes.

But they will allow special set-up events to put them in the same contest, such as the Carrier Classic, but decades ago before they created their stipulation, in Foster's last season on Hawk Hill in 1990-91, he invited Notre Dame to join with Louisiana Tech as part of the school's annual holiday tournaent.

The Irish responded by making a major breakthrough upsetting the Techsters, who had resided seemingly forever in the Top 10 of the Associated Press women's poll, and then blasting the home team 72-53.

A few days later Notre Dame landed its first-ever AP ranking and the Irish began climbing to greatness that culminated in an NCAA title in 2001 and appearances in the national championship contest the last two seasons.

The Carrier Classic is run by the Morale Entertainment Foundation and will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network in what will be both the season-opening weekend and as well as activities involving Veterans Day-related events.

A year ago in the inaugural classic, Michigan met North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. This year's doubleheader, which through the Ohio State-Notre Dame game brings awareness to women in the military, will benefit the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Wounded Warrior Project, along with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

There is special poignancy in the women's game because Foster, a graduate of Temple, is a veteran of the Vietnam War, while Notre Dame's attachment comes from the story of former star Danielle Green-Byrd who joined the military and then had her arm shot off in Iraq.

Green will be with Notre Dame during the events in South Carolina.

This game becomes a rarity within the rarity in the coaching matchup because the other meetings involved either in-season WNIT encounters or NCAA tournament action.

"As the only veteran coaching in this classic, I've been given 10 points," Foster said from front of the room in his formal remarks. "Personally, I'm happy the game is being played outdoors.

"I watched my team shoot the other day and I hope there's a stiff wind in the game and even things up," he continued.

"I'm a Vietnam veteran. I can't think of anything that I would be more proud to be involved with relative to veterans and I just want to thank those folks who come up with ways to make their experience a significant one.

"That's the neatest thing. Seeing our players being involved with people who have sacrificed a great deal and have done things for their country that right now that the players can only think of.

"So thanks again. If we get it to 15, I'll be very happy."

McGraw related the experience the night she got the phone call about Green's injury.

"In 2004, my phone rang, it was about 3 o'clock in the morning and when I answered it, it was a friend of mine who happened to bea Notre Dame grad. And he's a doctor. He went to medical school.

"And he said, 'I got one of your former players with me right now.' They had just flown into Germany and she had lost her left arm.

"It was sort of God's way of taking care of her, him being there. And when he passed the phone over to Danielle, the first thing she said, was, `Coach, you always try to get me to work with the opposite hand.

"She's a remarkable woman. We're so excited to dedicate this game to her. And I think if it is a small amount of entertainment for the women warriors for just one night, we're just so obliged to do that.

"We're just so excited to be a part of it and our fans across the country will get to see us play."

Follow-Ups: McGraw, incidentally, was asked whether she was happy the draft lottery results in the WNBA in terms of order will be announced next week, considering that Irish senior star Skylar Diggins is projected to be one of the top three picks.

Well, as it turns out, McGraw was unaware but she thinks it will be a pretty neat night."

McGraw has had a busy summer. She was one of several coaches, as was Penn State's Coquese Washington, one of her former players, who were on the search committee that produced former Northwestern star and Buffalo senior women's athletic director Anucha Brown-Sanders as the new NCAA Vice President of the women's basketball championships for Divisions I, II and III.

Speaking of Saint Joseph's. Although the Guru tweeted earlier in the day at @womhoopsguru, for those of you yet to join the ongoing followers, the Hawks announced that Sue Moran, the all-time scorer for men or women in Saint Joseph's history, has been promoted by coach Cindy Griffin to associate head coach.

And speaking of Notre Dame, Penn State and Washington, the Lady Lions mentor has signed an extension through 2017 for undisclosed terms to continue coaching at Penn State.

Her last re-worked deal came two years ago after Penn State ended a postseason drought, appearing in the WNIT. Considering that the Lady Lions have since gone twice to the NCAA tournament, including the Sweet 16 last season as well as taking the Big 10 regular season title, and that conference rival Michigan attempted to do some poaching during the Wolverines' vacancy, the deal can be expected to be whatever the budget allows and more.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Connecticut Sun Collect East Top Seed On Maya Moore's Career Night Miles Away

(Guru's note: As similar terminology was once used on one of those celebrity poker shows, this post involves the winners' circle and playoff hunt.

But if you scroll to the post below, you will arrive in the losers' lounge, where the real winners might exist, in a discussion of where things stand in the great draft lottery race.)

By Mel Greenberg

A WNBA career night by former UConn sensation Maya Moore carried the Connecticut Sun to the top seed in the forthcoming Eastern Conference playoffs Monday night realizing a dream many Huskies fans once harbored during her collegiate days.

The only hitch is that Moore and the Sun were in different geographical locations.

The Connecticut squad (23-9) was returning home from a successful, but gritty, finish to a three-game road trip out West in which the Sun went 2-1 after a narrow 60-58 win at the end of regulation over the Seattle Storm.

Moore, meanwhile, torched visiting Indiana with a career-high 29 points to lead the defending WNBA champions to an 86-79 win over the Fever (20-11) in Minneapolis.

So credit Moore for enabling the Sun to walk on clouds after their cross-country flight landed while she also made the rest of the week somewhat simplier for Connecticut.

The Sun host the Fever at the Mohegan Sun Arena Wednesday night but instead of a battle to keep the East race at the top alive, it will be more about getting playoff ready, though Connecticut will still be looking to take the East regular season crown outright.

A year ago the two teams finished tied atop the East but Indiana got the No. 1 seed by dominating Connecticut in the season series.

The two could tie again -- the Sun finish Sunday hosting the Atlanta Dream while Indiana moves on to visit the Washington Mystics Friday night and then host the Tulsa Shock Sunday.

But in the worst case scenario for Connecticut -- being tied in both standings and conference record -- tiebreaker No. 3 is the charm.

Under WNBA procedures, if record or conference record doesn't do the job, the next move to b reak ties for the playoffs is comparing records against teams .500 or better.

When one breaks ties for the draft lottery, however, everything is done in reverse.

There are not many .500 plus squads in the 12-team league -- just four others besides the Sun and Fever, though if New York (14-17) wins at the San Antonio Silver Stars Tuesday night and then wins at Tulsa Thursday and hosting Tulsa Saturday in Newark, N.J., the Liberty become part of the equation at .500.

That run would certainly also put New York into the playoffs, opening the best-of-three first round affair against the Sun, which beat the Liberty 4-1 during the season.

It would also relegate the Chicago Sky (13-18), who are at Seattle Tuesday night trailing New York by a game for fourth, into the lucractive draft lottery but also making it 0-for-7 in attempts to reach the playoffs since joining the league as an expansion unit in 2006.

Indiana, which lost to Atlanta in last year's Eastern final, will have homecourt advantgage over the Dream in the other conference semifinal.

New York or Chicago would have to be extra lucky in the lottery because either team would have the fourth and least best chance at having the ping pong balls bounce in their direction to offer the three prized projected picks -- Baylor's Brittney Griner, likely No. 1 out of the defending NCAA champions; Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, right there alongside of Griner; and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

More about the lottery in which Washington (5-27) has clinched the best shot at the No. 1 pick is in a post below this one.

Back to the Connecticut-Indiana tiebreaker scenario, the Sun's record against the teams .500 or better, which means losing both games this week or we wouldn't be having this discussion, is 7-7 or 11-8 if New York finishes at 17-17.

Indiana, by comparison, which means winning all three games this week, is 6-9 against the .500 or better teams or 9-10 if New York is in the mix.

Here's the breakdown if a tie was reached by the weekend:

Connecticut vs.
Indiana 2-2 -- assumes loss Wednesday
Atlanta 2-2 -- assumes loss Sunday
Minnesota 1-1
Los Angeles 0-2
San Antonio 2-0
*New York 4-1 if the Liberty finish 17-17.

Indiana vs.
Connecticut 2-2 -- assumes win Wednesday
Atlanta 3-2
Minnesota 0-2
Los Angeles 0-2
San Antonio 1-1
*New York 3-2 if the Liberty finish 17-17.

So the deal makers for the Sun appear to be the win at Minnesota and the sweep of San Antonio.

Meanwhile, in completing the playoff cards, if San Antonio loses to New York Tuesday night or the Los Angeles Sparks win against the visiting Phoenix Mercury, Los Angeles gets the second seed in the Western Conference and homecourt advantage against the Silver Stars.

Minnesota, repeating as the No. 1 seed in the West after gaining a first-ever positive for everything during Moore's rookie 2011 season, will host Seattle in the other semifinal.

San Antonio could catch L.A. in a second-place tie if the Sparks lose both games this week and the Silver Stars after a needed win against New York go on and finish with wins over Seattle on the road Saturday and hosting Minnesota Sunday.

If that would occur, the Silver Stars get the home advantage because they won the season series over the Sparks.

Meanwhile, as New York nears a return to the playoffs, should the Liberty falter, Chicago needs to take Seattle on the road Tuesday, Atlanta at home Thursday, and then Washington at home Saturday.

With that said, please go to the post below this to read about the Bottoms Up Division, AKA, as the Sherman Tankers, and learn little nuggets you won't necessarily hear next Wednesday when the draft lottery order is determined and revealed on ESPN at 6 p.m.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Guru's WNBA Draft Lottery Musings: Washington Top Dog Chasing No. 1 Pick

(Guru's note: The post above this focuses on the playoffs leading with Connecticut clinching the East top seed thanks to Maya Moore's career night in win over visiting Indiana)

By Mel Greenberg

Not only has Lindsay Whelan been one of the impact players in leading the Minnesota Lynx to their first-ever WNBA title in 2011 as well as having them in the hunt again, the first-time member of the Olympic gold-medal winning USA squad is also making a difference for other teams.

Last weekend she hit a last-second shot that carried the Lynx to the first of a two-game sweep of the Indiana Fever that played a role in her former Connecticut Sun squad clinching the Eastern Conference top seed Monday night.

Early in the season, Whalen hit another buzzer-beater, this one came on the road at the Washington Mystics that rescued Minnesota after the Lynx squandered a huge lead.

But the Whalen shot may go into the lure of this year's lucractive draft lottery in which only one of the four non-playoffs teams will miss out on the bountiful riches offered at the top in defending NCAA champion Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

Though the ping pong system ultimately determines who gets the top pick, besides who gets the second, the third, and the fourth, there still needs to be a ranking of the participants in terms of getting the best shot at winning the No. 1 pick.

And thanks to Whelan, along with the Chicago Sky's Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash, Washington (5-27 with two games remaining) has clinched the best shot because it owns the tiebreaker in case the Phoenix Mercury (7-24) were to catch the Mystics when the regular season comes to an end Sunday.

It's already quite a sports year in the nation's capital with the Washington Nationals heading to major league baseball's playoffs and Heisman-winning rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III (RGIII) causing excitment with his play for the NFL Redskins.

But the second straight season of ineptitude might be the charm for the local WNBA affiliate, though the debut season of the Mystics in 1998 was also especially miserable in the pre-lottery days where the worst finish enabled Washington to land former Tennessee sensation Chamique Holdsclaw, though her offcourt mental health issues, from which she has since recovered, made her arrival a mixed bag.

The Tulsa Shock (8-23), which has suddenly begun winning, despite not having Australian Elizabeth Cambage show up after the Olympics, cannot catch Washington in terms of loss-won records (getting in the spirit of things with the lingo), but they can catch Phoenix, their bottom-feeding rival in the Western Conference.

Fowles and Cash are mentioned because the next game following Washington's home loss to Minnesota, the Mystics lost at the buzzer in Chicago, when Cash fed Fowles for a layup.

So those two wins help define the "Tina Thompson Moment," as it may play out for Washington in giving the Mystics the edge, if they get the No. 1 pick, though Nos. 2-3 won't be shabby, as previously referenced.

For those of you new to the Guru's musings, etc., a brief history of the Tina Thompson Moment.

In 2010, Seattle dominated a poor Western Conference filled with losing records below the Storm.

Still, as referenced by the records of teams that were chasing (perhaps not the right word) Seattle in the West, and this time around New York/Chicago in the East, someone still has to fill the fourth spot, no matter what the record.

Maya Moore, who became rookie of the year last season, was in everyone's sights as the 2010 season came to a close, the same way this year's draft is viewed, but even more so.

Minnesota met the Los Angeles Sparks the last week of the season running neck and neck the way Chicago and New York are currently in the running in the East.

(Truth be told, if Chicago didn't go on the long plunge following Epiphanny Prince's injury that had her out of action till after the Olympics, the East race for the last spot would be over.)

Anyhow, in that famous Lynx-Sparks game, Minnesota went ahead with seconds remaining. But Los Angeles then went length of court in those final seconds and Thompson, the former star of the four-time champion Houston Comets, nailed the game-winner.

Looked upon a few games later, everyone decided that was the difference maker that put the Sparks in the playoffs for their short-lived appearance, and Minnesota in the draft lottery.

Bummer at the moment for first-year coach Cheryl Reeve, the former assistant to Bill Laimbeer on the three-time champion former Detroit Shock.

But not bummer for long.

Minnesota was lined up No. 2 behind Tulsa for best chance at gaining the top pick, but the ping pong balls dropped in favor of the Lynx and the road to Moore was paved.

There are a slew other talented Lynx who were already on the roster so the addition of Moore was one of the final additions to mine WNBA gold completed with a 7-1 playoff run, including 3-0 over the Atlanta Dream in the finals.

Tulsa, which took Cambage with the No. 2 pick behind Moore, has not had good fortune at the bottom, which is why no one is using the "tank" accusations at a squad that was stuck with the fourth pick last April after finishing with a WNBA all-time worst 3-31.

That actually has worked out not too bad, considering that Glory Johnson out of Tennessee has been productive in Tulsa.

But to continue at this moment, with some issues to be decided, here are all the other "Tina Thompson Moment" gems lurking prior to next Wednesday when the draft lottery results are determined and announced on ESPN.

Here are the records in reverse order and what's left:

Washington (5-27) vs. Indiana, Friday, and at Chicago, Saturday.
Phoenix (7-24) visits Los Angeles, Tuesday; hosts Minnesota, Friday; hosts Seattle, Sunday.
Tulsa (8-23) hosts New York, Thursday; visits New York, Saturday; visits Indiana, Sunday.

New York (14-17) visits San Antonio, Tuesday, visits Tulsa, Thursday; hosts Tulsa, Saturday. (A little interesting: the Tulsa-NY juxaposition in the schedule, don't you think?)

Chicago (13-18) visits Seattle, Tuesday; hosts Atlanta, Thursday; hosts Washington, Saturday.

New York or Chicago will have the fourth worst record, either way, among the four draft lottery teams, so either will need even more luck than Minnesota had to leapfrog over Tulsa for Moore.

Since Washington and Phoenix could tie, here is how things get broken in reverse as to what happens on the plus side of standings and playoff seed designation or eligibility.

Because Washington and Phoenix are in opposite conferences, according to a league source, whoever has the worst record between the two against the opposition conference, gets the nod for a better percentage chance in the drawing.

Well, Washington was 2-10 against the West while Phoenix was 3-9 against the East.

If Washington wins out for the No. 1 pick, another Tina Thompson moment could be former UConn great Diana Taurasi playing for the Mercury when the Phoenix recently beat up on Connecticut on the road.

Phoenix has been injury riddled but has taken abuse as the chief intent-to-tank because of the resting of Taurasi, though a lot of it on the front half had to do with her wanting to be in top shape for the Olympic squad.

DeWanna Bonner had a big night against Connecticut in that game. There was the narrow early-season win at Tulsa.

On the other hand, there was the Kristi Toliver shot to give Tulsa a last-second lost to Los Angeles to go with the loss to Phoenix. And there was that near upset but still a narrow loss by Tulsa at Connecticut.

Once the lottery order is announced, the Guru will re-visit all this in defining the actual Tina Thompson moments in terms of the results. This exercise is more of a nomination to show how things got to where they are in terms of differentiating the percentage order.

For example, being No. 2 in line could be the winner instead of being first.

Phoenix clinches No. 2 by losing out its last three games.

But Phoenix and Tulsa could still tie for the second best lottery percentage at 8-26, and, if so, the first tiebreaker goes out the window because the teams were 2-2 after Tulsa's recent win in the final game of the series for this season.

And mathematically, they could tie for worst conference record. Tulsa is done at 5-17 in conference competition while all three Phoenix games are against the West.

The Mercury are 4-15 in conference standings so 1-2 this week could create an overall tie at 9-26 if Tulsa loses all three games to East squads.

That would make both teams 5-17 in the West so, in reverse manner to how the Connecticut Sun took the East, worst record against teams .500 or better, gets the better position.

Actually, it would seem more consistent if it was worst record against teams .500 or worse, but why quibble.

Anyhow to go through the drill as was done in the other post to show how Connecticut edged Indiana for East top seed, we start:

Tulsa vs.
Connecticut 0-2
Indiana 0-1 - 1R
Atlanta 1-1
Minnesota 0-5
Los Angeles 2-2
San Antonio 1-4
*New York 0-2 would have to do that for New York to reach .500

Tulsa total 4-15 plus 1R if NY doesn't get to .500 4-17 if NY gets there; or 5-15.

Phoenix vs.
Connecticut 1-1
Indiana 0-2
Atlanta 0-2
Minnesota 0-3 1R
Los Angeles 0-4 1R
San Antonio 1-3
*New York 0-2

Phoenix total 2-15 right now and 2-17 including NY. Factoring remaning games 2-17 plus 2-19 with NY; or 3-16 or 3-18 with NY; or 4-15 or 4-19 with NY.

Phoenix may have an edge right now on projections but the Guru will update as the numbers become more refined.

Whither New York or Chicago?

And getting to the last part of this exercise, the New York vs. Chicago discussion is closer to paralleling the actual Tina Thompson moment involving the Minnesota-Los Angeles game.

This will become super relevant if with the fourth best odds, whichever of the two lands the first or second position for the actual draft, or in a little lesser sense, the third, just as we looked at Thompson's shot putting Minnesota out of the playoffs, what might that moment be involving New York or Chicago.

Well, it's still a race with New York holding the edge. So maybe the real Tina Thompson moment has yet to happen. It will certainly have to go that way to knock out New York or put Chicago in.

If a tiebreak is needed, we'll deal with it on the weekend.

But for now, if it becomes a one-game differential, in terms of dropping Chicago in the lottery (and then the Sky might land a premium pick), credit the recent narrow win for New York against Los Angeles.

At the finish two key things happened when Kristi Toliver missed one of her patented three-point shots and Candace Parker missed two free throws.

And on the Chicago side there was the August 19th game in Washington, in which the Mystics won 75-71 in overtime. In that game, the home team's Matee Ajavon nailed a trey with 1.9 seconds left in regulation to force the extended period and former Duke star Jasmine Thomas' three-pointer in it in the closing seconds.

That's one, for sure, in terms of a Sky dive.

The other came a few days later at Tulsa -- an 81-78 setback in overtime after holding a 10-point lead during the fourth quarter.

Roneeka Hodges put the game in overtime with two foul shots for Tulsa with 9.3 seconds left in regulation. Then Epiphanny Prince missed a trey, but Swin Cash grabbed the rebound only to have Eshaya Murphy miss a trey in the final seconds giving Tulsa the win that was insured with rookie Riquna Williams scoring with 46.4 seconds remaining in the overtime.

Of course, on the other side, since Tulsa is in the lottery and if one game determines its order and it pays off, this will go into the Shock pile.

One thing is for sure: this time around there's as much anticipation in the Bottoms Up Division as there is among the playoff bound contingent.

And, because of the arrangement with ESPN to broadcast the lottery on the 26th, next Wednesday, this time the last shall go first and perhaps a year from now leapfrog right into the championship hunt.

Just ask Minnesota if it can be done. It just takes a little help from some unwitting situations and, oh yes, it doesn't hurt to have lady luck wearing your team jersey.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame -- I: Katrina McClain Biography

(Guru's note: The Guru hasn't transcribed yet or taking the easy way hadn't had a chance to see if Katrina McClain has an electronic copy of her acceptance speech. The All Americans Red Heads acceptance is under this post. Having found the draft copy submitted for the print program for induction night as requested by McClain to be written, what is in the program follows this note. Most of her speech hit the points in the bio though she also praised her high school coach and the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow. But here's what the Guru penned for the folks in Massachusetts. ),

By Mel Greenberg

Growing up in Charleston, S.C., Katrina McClain never met a team sport she didn't like, but the one that endured and brought her acclaim has now enabled her a year later to follow her prestigious Georgia roommate Teresa Edwards into enshrinement here in Springfield, Mass., at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Both Lady Bulldogs earned their inductions in their first years as eligible candidates, which longtime Georgia coach Andy Landers, himself a Women's Basketball Hall of Famer, said establishes their worth as all-time greats.
Former Georgia men's sensation Dominique Wilkins is also enshrined here in Springfield.

"I was just a tomboy and loved sports," McClain, a 6-2 forward center, recalled. "It wasn't just basketball. I played baseball, football with the guys. Whatever sports were being played, that was what I was doing."

But in playing at a good friend's court across the street, the sport with the hoop and McClain quickly became closely attached to each other.

"That was the place to be. I was always getting picked first and I was getting to be very good at it so basketball became the dominant sport."

From those moments McClain grew up to become one of the all-time dominant individuals as a women's player inside the paint, first as an All-State star at St. Andrews High, next as an All-American at Georgia, and then internationally.

By the time she graduated Georgia in 1987, McClain had become national player of the year. She went on to star internationally playing on three Olympic teams and winning two gold medals along with a bronze.

"Being at Georgia, working those games, her nickname was 'Tree' and she just grabbed everything," recalled Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Anne Meyers Drysdale, who broadcast many of McClain's games, including the fabled 1995-96 run to the Olympic gold medal at the Atlanta Games.

"She was always around the basket. It was always difficult to stop her. She had lots of terrific moves. She was one of the first post players we saw with that kind of footwork and athleticism," Meyers Drysdale added.

"And then when she played USA Basketball, she dominated the world. She was the best player in the world. And when you're playing with your collegiate cohort in Teresa Edwards, they knew each other so well, you enjoyed watching that, because you knew what was going to happen."

Edwards, who is the most decorated basketball Olympian with five medals -- four gold -- said of the Atlanta Games playing with McClain: "That was a special time for her and me. We were what people were calling the 'Old Ladies' and then you had people like Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie coming along big time with media coverage and the marketing you see today."
Edwards won Gold Medals as the youngest and oldest player at both ends of her career.

"We played with so much pride, Katrina and I, because we knew we were there when TVs weren't there and people weren't paying attention," Edwards related. "We knew all the hard work we put in would make women's basketball at its best. I think it changed the game and we were really around a long time to see all the changes that came in women's basketball.

"Katrina McClain was just a phenomenal player who was never seen by the American public. She was just amazing and how easy she makes the game look. She was dunking before we were talking about dunking. She was grabbing the rim and playing above the rim with guys we trained together with. We were always training with guys who were taller to make us better.

"I can't think of a player who can compare with her or even tie her shoes.

That girl was the absolutely best post player I ever saw. I played with a lot of great ones. I can't remember anyone else. She could grab a rebound, throw it halfcourt to me and still beat everybody down the floor and then next thing I know I'm kicking it back to her in the middle.

"She was unbelievable."

Edwards, incidentally, was the chef de mission for the United States Olympic Committee at the games in London this summer.

McClain, also an inductee to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, among five other Hall of Fame honors, torched the Georgia record books during a collegiate career (1983-87) that saw the Lady Bulldogs reside in the Top 10 rankings portion of the Associated Press women's basketball poll and advance to the 1985 NCAA title game.

Georgia's won-loss record was 116-15 during her era in Athens and in this year in the 40th anniversary of the landmark Title IX legislation, one can say that McClain was one of the original beneficiaries of the law that helped grow women's sports across the nation.

Though it has been 25 years since her graduation, McClain is still No. 1 in career field goal percentage (62.0), third in career points (2,195), second in career rebounds (1,193), second in made foul shots (449) and second in blocked shots (290), to highlight some of her accomplishments at Georgia

Her senior season in 1986-87 in which McClain earned her national player of the year award, she set five season team records that have endured -- points (796), points per game (24.9), field goals made (310), free throws made (176), and free throws attempted (240).

In the 1996 Atlanta games, McClain led in rebounds (8.3), was second in scoring (14.1 ppg), and shot 51-for-69 for a 73.9 shooting percentage.

"Katrina is one of the greatest players in the world that a lot of people don't know about," said WNBA executive Renee Brown, who was an assistant coach with the 1996 USA Basketball contingent.

"She's one of the most athletic basketball players I've ever seen in my life. She's one of the top players ever to play the game. She's one of the greatest rebounders ever -- great body control, she's a great athlete. She can catch in transition. Just throw it up anywhere and she has the ability to score. I can't say it enough about her place as one of the great players a lot of people don't know about."

Two coaches, who are both Women's Basketball Hall of Famers, recalled going against McClain.

Fomer Auburn coach Joe Ciampi, now an assistant with the WNBA Atlanta Dream, had to guide his Tigers against Georgia in the Southeastern Conference women's wars.

"She was an enforcer," Ciampi said. "She altered shots and more importantly brought a toughness to the Georgia team that is characteristic of coach Landers and more importantly characteristic of the McClain-Edwards era. They played with that toughness."

Marianne Stanley, now an assistant with the WNBA Washington Mystics, coached McClain on USA Basketball teams and when Stanley coached Old Dominion, her team had to deal with McClain and Edwards on Georgia in the 1985 NCAA title game won by the Lady Monarchs.

"She was a terrific power forward," Stanley said. "If you ask any coach who coached against Katrina during her days with USA Basketball and college basketball, they would probably tell you she is the best rebounder in her era. And just a terrific person.

"The Naismith is reserved for the elite of the elites and she is definitely one of the elites and very deserving of her honor."

But when McClain arrived at Georgia, despite her status as one of the outstanding collegiate prospects in the nation, she was a work-in-progress as Landers sought to develop her introverted manner into a force.

"First, I must say she and her parents possess strong, outstanding character," Landers explained.

He recalled the first time he ever watched her during the recruiting process.
"She was just an extremely talented and athletic basketball player," Landers said. "She made things look easier than they were."

It wasn't easy for Landers, who had to wait until the final moments of signing day until McClain made her choice of Georgia official.

Landers also did something else to develop McClain.

McClain had decided on Georgia, having become friendly with the players attending the Lady Bulldogs summer camps.

But when she had expected to room with someone else, Landers put Edwards, then a sophomore, and McClain together to have the ever-the-tough competitor Edwards be a positive influence.

"I didn't know her before I went there," said McClain, who still lives in her hometown of Charleston where she runs her foundation to raise awareness of childhood obesity.

One of three Georgia women's players to have her number retired, McClain, who will turn 47 later this month, has three children: Malachi, Emmanuel, and Genesis.

"I thought I was going to room with Susie Gardner. Being an introvert, it was hard to be around people, so being with the Georgia players gave me a comfort level that weighed heavy on my decision.

"When coach Landers visited, he said, 'If you want it easy, don't come to Georgia. You're going to have work for it to be what you want to be.' He was really honest and that helped, although I did think, 'Wait a minute. I wonder if I really want to go there if he's telling me all this stuff,'" she laughed.

"It was weird (in arriving at McClain's dorm). I walked in the room and saw Teresa's pictures all over her desk. I panicked and said, 'Wait a minute, I'm not supposed to be rooming with her.'

"It was crazy. I was always reading my Bible and she said she felt like the Devil because she was always on me. Teresa was so competitive. She'd tell me, 'I'm tired of you getting beat up in practice and taking all that stuff from him. You have to start fighting back.'

"She was really a mentor, though. She was a big sister for me."

Edwards continues to heap praise on McClain, saying "Teresa Edwards didn't make Katrina McClain, it was the other way around. Katrina McClain made Teresa Edwards or I would have been throwing passes 20 rows up the stands that she otherwise caught with ease.

"She came to Georgia as a frail, quiet storm and just ended up being a dominant post player with finesse out of this world. I don't know how you can be a finesse player and be dominant but she came to Georgia with the best hands in the business and helped make me an All-American catching my passes all over the place."

Landers said that his goal was to make McClain mentally and physically tough to become a great player.

He wasn't aware how much Edwards was helping the cause.

"The way I understand she went back every day to the room and worked out on (McClain). 'I can't believe you let that man talk to you like that,'" he said with a laugh.

"But she went from the most talented, passive player, in America as a freshman to the most dominant and physically aggressive player in America as a senior.

"Her senior year, she was the best practice player I ever coached," Landers said.

"I probably was on her for over a month when we first met and then one day she told me to shut up and then she just took off," Edwards said with a chuckle. "Once I knew she was doing that to me, her whole career changed overnight.

"She's the only one I would play with if she came out of retirement right now," Edwards said of her longtime friend.

Edwards and McClain also played together for the Atlanta Glory in the former American Basketball League.

Landers recalled laughing to himself over praise in a national sports publication of McClain as a budding superstar.

"I remember soon after we signed her, I'm reading Sports Illustrated and she was in their Faces in the Crowd," Landers related. "And it said her senior year she shot 83 percent from the floor or something crazy like that.

"And I remember saying to myself, 'Well, that's over.' And then as a freshman she shot over 70 percent from the floor. She had the best pair of hands that God ever created."

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame - II: All American Red Heads Acceptance Speech

Guru note. With a dark night on the WNBA card, time for a little catch up from last weekend's enhsrinement ceremonies in Springfield, Mass., as promised.

This was Tammy Harrison's acceptance speech on behalf of the All American Red Heads. On top another post that is the printed program piece on Georgia star Katrina McClain which covers everything, as it turns out, which was in her speech. She had requested the Guru to do her bio. -- Mel

Tonight I am honored to speak on behalf of the All American Red Heads. I would like to start by thanking the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for bestowing such a prestigious honor on such a special group of women and men. I would also like to congratulate the other members of the Class of 2012, too numerous to call each out by name, but we are thrilled to join you and the rest of the Naismith Hall of Fame family. A special thank you to John Doleva and his staff who are Hall of Famers in my book any day.

To be the first women’s basketball team inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame… Thank you for bestowing such a prestigious honor to a special group of men and women who have spent their entire lives honoring the name, The All American Red Heads.

Where does someone begin when summing up a journey that actually began more than 75 years ago and involved the collaboration, dedication, and teamwork of so many?

Before I get ahead of myself, let me introduce myself. My name is Tammy Moore Harrison and I am the daughter of Orwell and Lorene Moore. My parents owned and operated the Red Heads for more than 30 years. My dad coached. My mom played. He was a great coach, but as might be the case in any family, Mom was the real star. She ended up being the all-time leading scorer for the Red Heads. Over 35,000 points. Can you imagine? I am telling you, Kareem, you had nothing on my Mom!

If I had to guess where Mom and Dad would want me to begin, it would be with Ole and Doyle Olson, the original owners of the Red Heads.

But first, allow me to indulge you for a moment if you will. I would like to take you back to 1936 America. A time of dust bowls and depressions and unease and all the while…basketball. A game so simple in many ways. A ball, a hoop…all you really need. And the opportunity to play of course. During this time, the opportunities for women were incredibly limited. It was considered socially unacceptable and physically impossible to run up and down the floor, to sweat, to compete. Women’s place was in the home, (Ralph) not on the basketball court. Of course there were exceptions. Women rejected the notion that basketball was man’s domain from the very beginning and women always worked as nurses and teachers and hairdressers. Which brings me to the All American Red Heads.

It was widely viewed that a woman’s body could not withstand the stress of such activity and it would pose serious health consequences. Against all odds, in 1936 the Olson’s created The All American Red Heads.

Some of you are probably wondering…what’s with the red hair? Mrs. Olson was a hairdresser. Mr. Olson was a gimmick man from the very beginning. Do you know that Ole was the first to throw the behind-the-back pass? So Magic, Kareem had nothing on my Mom and you might just owe Ole a high-five for all those unbelievable passes you made. Olson loved the spotlight so when he started his Red Heads, he wanted the girls to stand out. He dressed his fireballs in shiny uniforms, taught the girls all the tricks in the book, dyed their hair red…and oh yeah, scheduled games against men’s teams. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Olson name. Ole and Doyle broke the ice, and gave women a future in sports.

To all of the women and men, players, coaches, and family members, who were bold enough to challenge the status quo and play basketball, this Honor is for you. Without taking that monumental first step, women’s basketball would not be where the game is today, and we would not be here to accept this honor.

My next acknowledgment is very special to me because it is to my parents. I will try not to get too emotional tonight but please forgive me as I CANNOT remember life without the Red Heads in it. Nor would I want to. My father Orwell “Red” Moore and his wife, my mother, Lorene, dedicated their entire lives to the Red Heads and their families. Thank you both for promoting, loving, living and respecting the game of basketball. Thank you for proving a passion combined with a good strategic business plan could tear the roof off of limitations.

The Red Heads thrilled fans with their fancy passing, crafty ball handling, deceptive play patterns, clever ruses, amusing routines and GREAT BASKETBALL. Demands for the team were so plentiful that some years there were two or three teams traveling the country.

The All American Red Heads broke the mold, and a number of these men and women who gave their lives to basketball join me on stage tonight. There are hundreds more who could not be with us.

We would also like to thank John Molina, who believed in Coach Moore’s dream and helped educate others and promote the dream. Thank you for being a friend to him and keeping his hopes and dreams alive. Also, to Matt Zeysing, thank you for preserving, in writing, the legacy of the All American Red Heads.

My father never gave up on the idea that the All American Red Heads would someday reach the goal of being enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He knew this to be the definitive honor in the game of basketball. We thank you for recognizing the work of the All American Red Heads and for celebrating our part in the game of basketball. Thank you. May God Bless.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad