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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guru's NCAA Musings: Adding to Auriemma's Suggestions Changing The Women's Game

By Mel Greenberg

Funny. After nearly two weeks of practice with his powerful University of Connecticut team, Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, back at the collegiate level after guiding the WNBA/Olympians to a fifth straight gold medal in London, suddenly has ideas of changing the women's game.

For example, in an exclusive interview with the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla, one of the things drawing national attention that Auriemma suggested was lowering the women's rim a bit to make scoring easier.

Making his Courant-travel dollars bring in more value this time around, Altavilla got more out of the loquacious Auriemma in 20 minutes at Mohegan than he did his previous trip a little over a week earlier in twice as much time when the WNBA host Connecticut Sun were routed in deciding Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final by the eventual first-time champion Indiana Fever.

Auriemma didn't seem to have much problem with the pros playing overseas when he had the attention of the Olympic media brigade, when they bothered to arrive on the scene to watch the Americans mop up except for a first-half struggle in the semifinal against Australia.

Incidentally, a bit of an observation, the Guru notes that Auriemma got to make remarks as a guest on a weekly show, "Beyond The Beat," at Mohegan, featuring Hartford columnist Jeff Jacobs and New London Day Deputy Sports Editor/Columnist Mike DiMauro, that is carried by public station CPTV, the longtime telecaster of UConn women's games that was jettisoned last summer by the university after 18 seasons in favor of SNY.

Anyhow, as they say in sports talk radio show land here in Philadelphia when the hosts try to take a national news item and turn it into an exercise for listener participation, your Guru, off comments by Auriemma, decided to make his own list off coverage at local venues and elsewhere of what can be done to speed things up and make the women's game more enjoyable to those who have to provide coverage.

The list production is not ranking-specific so just consider the numbers as a way of organizing ideas and for those who need clarity, this is the Guru's ill-attempt at humor while working on a local initiative that will soon be announced publicly and it will be major when it comes.

Here goes.

1. One helper when deadlines are actually in play would be for friendly Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato, known for coming into the media room and shaking everyone's hand after the game -- a simple task at home but not so simple among the large contingent at UConn games -- to actually arrive and shoot the breeze with reporters before the opening tip.

2. A special line should be established at the tasty barbeque concession stand at Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center to speed things up. Believe or not, Elena Delle Donne is the next best thing making quick work of opponents, but she'll be gone next season while the cooking will endure.

3. Rutgers should figure out the most probable ways an outcome would occur against an opponent ahead of time and then before the tip provide transcribed quotes from Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer to cut the amount of time at the back end between the final buzzer and closing paragraphs from the coach.

4. UConn, on its video boards at the Hatford Civic Center while another blowout is under way, should provide a montage of past remarks made by Auriemma and former Huskies great Diana Taurasi, who currently is the top star of the WNBA Phoenix Mercury when she isn't trying out for the part in the movie sequel to Tank Girl.

Some pearls from the past to illustrate: For you youngsters not around when the Huskies made their mark in the early 1990s onto the 1994-95 first-championship season when Auriemma complained to the folks with TV cameras: "Do you know how difficult it is for me to be me?"

Or, early on before Auriemma worked his way to millionaire status winning seven NCAA titles with the Huskies, the women's job at Kentucky was open in Lexington, where Rick Pitino was coaching the nationally powerful men's team.

"Can't you see the two of us down there?" Auriemma said to a circle of reporters with a smile musing about going after the job: "We'd be great. It would Geno and Pitino."

As for Taurasi, during one late December game when UConn pulled its traditional act of being lethargic in the first outing after finals for the semester, even though the outcome was never in doubt, she was asked whether she found it remarkable that there was more media attention being paid to the Huskies' performance than a current scandal at the time involving the governor.

"Leave the governor alone," Taurasi shot back with her sly smile when she's about to top Auriemma in the quip department. "I like the governor. So what if he took a few extra cans of paint for his beach house."

In her early years in the WNBA, there was a game in Washington where Taurasi got into some physicality with DeLisha Milton-Jones, the current Los Angeles Sparks veteran who was at the time with the Mystics.

Responding to questions about the confrontation afterwards, Taurasi said straightfaced: "I tripped over her. I've been working out in the gym. I guess I don't know my own strength."

Anyhow, there's enough of those to fill a season-worth of viewing at UConn home games.

5. Auriemma talked about reducing the shot clock to 24 seconds and limiting play to eight seconds in the backcourt, a move that most media would agree with because it shorten any game with Villanova in which veteran coach Harry Perretta has his Wildcats milking every nano-second before finally attempting to put the ball in the basket.

6. When Temple plays in newly-renovated McGonigle Hall the next block after the Liacouras Center, the hot dog concession stand needs to be moved downstairs to save a little time at the half when one has to dart to the upper level.

The Guru will note, by the way, that pizza is usually served in the media room right behind the stands on the ground floor, but the media covering women's games in town do not live by pizza alone, though one can go through a study diet in a four-game stretch covering Temple, Saint Joseph's, La Salle, and Penn.

OK, Penn does have a hamburger option in the media room in The Palestra and other offerings.

7. Up at Penn State some things got faster and some things not when the Lady Lions moved out of old Rec Hall to the Bryce Jordan Center.

In the old days, one had to dash from high atop the stands in Rec Hall through the crowd to the floor and then head all the way back to a place in the gym for postgame interviews and then head back up the stairs to write the account of the game.

Today, the media and work area are in the same place, as is the pre-game meal.

However, the writers are not on the floor and hence, considering the crowds in State College, it is a small adventure to get downstairs after the game.

And yes, there is an elevator offeing a shorter route except the entire route is lengthened by the trip to the elevator.

8. Princeton can be an adventure in Jadwin Gym when the regular media room is in use located in some cavern several floors below that is believed to house a pair of Martians who went undected back in 1938 when they landed in nearby Grovers' Mill as described by Orson Wells in his War of the Worlds broadcast.

(Had to get a Halloween reference here, right?)

All Bets Off In Jadwin Speaking of Princeton, there's a rumor circling that considering tht the university is located in central New Jersey, Tigers women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart and others in the athletic department are no longer allowed to use phrases, such as "I'd bet on my team any day of the week," a statement that, given the recent news, might cause the NCAA to remove Jadwin from the campus.

And that's it for now. The Guru will be on the phone all morning on the annual Atlantic 10 preseason teleconference call that has grown into marathon status given the influx of new teams that have come into the conference such as Virginia Commonwealth and Butler and teams that are heading elsewhere next season such Temple and Charlotte.

The A-10 would not confirm or deny it is opening the session by playing a few bars of TheBeatles singing Hello/Goodbye.

But the Guru will be covering the call, in terms of locals here, for his alma mater newspaper -- as Jonathan would say, find it on philly.com and the Guru would say, win a prize if you find it quickly -- just kidding.

About now the Ivy forecasts are due -- the Guru hasn't checked if Wednesday's the day, but if so, he will add the news which will probably include Princeton being picked to win an unprecedented fourth-straight women's crown and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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