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 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


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