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, November 28, 2012

Guru's WNBA Musings: Is Washington's Luck About To Change? -- Or Not.

By Mel Greenberg

For those of you who may have wondered why nothing new has appeared here for a few days, it's because, for those of you yet to be informed, coverage has been divided, ala all the big organizations, and the Guru's 10-team local collegiate focus (some of which are both) is now over at the new PhilahoopsW in the Guru's new affilation with the fine gentlemen running Philahoops.

The Guru's teams -- a little more than the Big 5 and Drexel men's focus -- include those teams plus Delaware, Princeton, Rutgers and Penn State because of the large interest in the Philadelphia area.

The link is http://philahoopsw.com. Some days the same story may appear both places to make sure no one is deprived.

You can look for a major announcement in the next few days as an enhancement of coverage at the site.

Now to move forward, as noted in the Wednesday preview over at the local site, the word is that Delaware senior sensation Elena Delle Donne is likely not to play again Wednesday night when St. Bonaventure comes visiting the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

The Guru will be on the scene -- it's the only game home while three others are on the road at far away places.

Delle Donne, who is battling recurring effects of the Lyme disease that caused her to miss 12 games her sophomore season, appeared last week for the first time this season and scored 22 points in a win over Providence at home.

She had missed the three previous games -- all in the WNIT -- and Delaware's visit from early last season into the AP Poll has since, for the moment, become history.

Blue Hens coach Tina Martin and Delle Donne after last week's game, prior to the break in action until Wednesday night, both cautioned that the disease is very unpredictable the way it is affecting her and it could be a roller coaster play-not-play season.

But all this is background to get to the next point, which is, How lucky can the WNBA team with the worst luck get? -- which is those forlorn Washington Mystics.

The last two seasons have been like a curse from the basketball gods for messing up a good thing when they let general manager Angela Taylor and coach Julie Plank go following the most successful season in franchise history and aggravating a loyal fan base big time.

There are whispers going around that the baseball Miami Marlins consulted the book of Mystics before the front office's recent decimation of the franchise dumping players for salary and insulting that fan base.

But to get back to the point -- so here were the Washington folks, coming from slightly behind to finish with the worst record in the league but brimming with supreme confidence that the ping pong balls would surely bounce their way with a prize of one of the top three picks -- Baylor's Brittney Griner, Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, and Delle Donne.

But in a shock to the Mystics group predating by two months a similar surprise to the GOP losing a presidential election they clearly thought was in the bag, or at least said so, Washington landed outside the lottery loop with pick No.4.

This had a domino effect because a few days earlier, Washington had fired Trudi Lacey and the rest of the coaching staff, not necssarily unjustified, but also with the thought that landing one of the three prized numbers would have people all over America drooling and ringing the office phone off the hook with the desire to run the Mystics on the sidelines.

So how did that work out for them?

Meanwhile, it takes talent to put all the eggs in one basket and have them explode not once, but twice, in a three-week period.

While slowly coming back to consciousness -- they had to be in a daze when Sheila Johnson told Graham Hayes of ESPN.com that fateful night of the ping pongs that there was going to be transparency with the fans and Washington was going to let them in on the process moving forward.

What happened next?

Well, as they sat around thinking they could sign former Detroit Shock GM/coach bad boy Bill Laimber, as the Guru haa heard, the New York Liberty/MSG folks were already in an end game bringing him to the banks of New York or New Jersey.

The die was cast when Steve O'Neil, the MSG executive responsible for the ouster of long-time Liberty head Carol Blazejowski and the hire of John Whisenant as GM/coach, departed near the end of the summer in a tif with owner John Dolan.

At that point the Liberty babysitter from the Knicks et al became Laimbeer pal Allan Houston.

"Houston had Bill hired before they had John fired," said one league source recently. There was also some front office insider trading with an individual with past front office experience in Detroit in the glory days of Motown and we'll live it at that.

Meanwhile, move up the clock to current events in two places.

First, on the court. Depending on how the rest of the season goes at Delaware, Delle Donne's situation with the Lyme disease could quickly change the thinking among the WNBA frontrunners in the lottery.

For example, if you're Phoenix with the No. 1 pick and think Delle Donne is the better fit for your system, is it better to avoid a gamble and take the sure thing and expectation of Griner.

And then, if you're Chicago, maybe it's safer with the number two pick to take Diggins, who also has local value being in the backyard of South Bend, Ind.

And then, if you're Tulsa, maybe instead of risking taking Delle Donne you start to wheel and deal with the number three pick.

But if all this happens, hello Washington. What are you going to do? You have nothing to lose and it ends up working great for everyone because she is less than two hours from home and maybe the Mystics will return to having more fans in the Verizon Center than the summer tourists riding the Metro down below.

Incidentally in the middle of all this is the news reported in a Washington business magazine that Gregg Bibb, the number two under Johnson -- both are under Ted Leonsis in terms of the entire corporate entity -- is headed elsewhere to be part of a start-up operation.

Now there's event No. 2 which was the stunner that came out of the Connecticut Sun they were letting Mike Thibault and his staff go after leading the franchise to best of the East in the regular season but failing to put away Indiana, which went on to dethrone Minnesota's one-year reign and win the Fever's first WNBA title.

Mike DiMauro of the New London Day weighed in with a column that expressed the feelings of most of the media that has made either the long or short trek to Mohegan over the decade Thibault coached.

But here's what came up from many individuals around the league a little less than two weeks ago when the news came out of Uncasville: "If I was Washington, I'd be on the phone to Mike right now."

Time has moved on. Besides wondering to see what the Sun are going to do -- there are whispers they will be announcing something in mid-December (probably saves some payroll money that way per the way others have gone in the offseason) -- the other question is just what is Washington doing?

They promised transparency to the fans.

Here's how transparency works in major league baseball when teams are hiring managers.

Sometimes there are leaks to the media as to who is on the wish list. Sometimes they are actually up front with the same material. Applicants often will talk about how much they'd like to coach the team with the opening.

Two weeks since a coach suddenly dismissed from what is considered the gold standard, even if the icing has never been applied, and Washington hasn't picked up the phone?

Maybe they had and it can't work out. But it would be nice to know because Thibault could give the Mystics something they hadn't had since the Tyalor-Plank administration -- hope.

But whatever is going on, word will be sprouting soon. Next week the league winter meetings will be in Atlanta.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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