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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Guru on the Dinner Circuit: Drexel Women Among John Wanamaker Award Nominees

By Mel Greenberg

West Philadelphia was the scene of two events within several blocks of each other Monday night with the Philadelphia Big 5 for the first time ever combining its men’s and women’s postseason basketball awards dinner, which was held at The Palestra.

Meanwhile, several blocks away up the stairs on Walnut Street the Drexel men and women held their basketball honors gala at the World Café with the Dragons women’s group also celebrating its winning the WNIT – a first ever national title for either a men’s or women’s team from the Colonial Athletic Association.

So first a quick timeout because the clock is running on the campaign that has the Drexel women competing with several other worthy candidates for this year’s John Wanamaker Award given to an individual or team which has put the City of Brotherly Love in a positive light.

To cast a vote for Drexel, the Guru suggests going over to the Drexel athletics website and click on the women’s basketball subpage and then link onto the ballot for the Wanamaker Award.

Do this on a regular laptop or desktop computer because the link using smart phones or tablets is somehow linking to the parent Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau home page and not the ballot associated with the Sports Congress.

The award began in 1961 and only three times has women’s basketball been involved and two of those feature local legend Dawn Staley, who won in 1997 with two other locals from other sports for their Olympics participation in 1996, and then Staley won it individually again in 2005 for the 2004 Games and as coach of Temple.

Staley, of course, is headed for more honors this September as a member of the next class of inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The Villanova women’s team, the alma mater of Drexel coach Denise Dillon, was the other winner in 2003 for its advancement to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament and also the famed upset of Connecticut in the Big East title game that ended the then-NCAA women’s record streak of 70 straight games that the Huskies later surpassed with 90 wins (2008-09 to December 2011).

That business taken care of here, the Guru resumes the coverage in this blog by telling you he managed to make both events, starting in the Palestra and arriving at the back end of the Drexel dinner at the important moment when Dillon presented senior Hollie Mershon with the team MVP award that was followed by Mershon’s farewell address as part of both the men’s and women’s senior classes.

The Big 5 dinner, emceed by local sportscaster Don Tollefson, was not long but was classy as the men’s and women’s winners in each category were called together to accept their awards.

Check the Guru’s PhilahoopsW site for the previously announced Big Five honorees on the women’s side and check Drexel for all the awards at the Dragons’ postseason dinner.

Katie Lowe, the CAA assistant commissioner for women’s basketball, was a special guest at the Drexel dinner and afterwards learned that in planning for events involving the Dragons often means one needs to factor in several additional hours for post-event sociality.

This one at the restaurant establishment that is part of the Drexel athletic complex involved members of both the men’s and women’s coaching staffs.

Some nuggets from working the room at The Palestra: The Big East is about a week away or slightly more from announcing the commissioner of the group that is the breakaway contingent of the seven Catholic schools in the existing structure plus the additions of Saint Louis and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 and Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference.

The search is being done at the presidential level and athletic directors other than hearing some of the candidate names tossed around are out of the loop, or so they say.

Once that is done with the naming of the commissioner, the conference will begin putting together the rest of its headquarters and staff in a location to be determined.

Temple, part of the former Big East football group adding all sports for next season in the newly named American Athletic Conference, in terms of the women’s squad, will play both newly-crowned NCAA champion Connecticut and runnerup Louisville in the Liacouras Center next season.

The teams in the AAC will –play home-and-home, which means Temple coach Tonya Cardoza will be going against her former boss Geno Auriemma at UConn and her good friend and former sister Huskies member Jamelle Elliott, the coach at Cincinnati.

Saint Joseph’s senior Chatilla van Grinsven, who will be going to the WNBA Connecticut Sun training camp in a few days, is looking forward to the experience and was impressed that the Guru noted her native Netherlands on Tuesday (today) is changing Queens in terms of royalty over that nation.

Villanova senior Rachel Roberts said she will head home to Connecticut after graduation and will not be playing in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Basketball Summer League that again will use the AAU Renegades’ home courts at the Kelly Bolish Gym in Willow Grove Business Park in Horsham, Pa. not far from the Route 611 exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Commissioner Dave Kessler is already working on launch plans and saying that if demand is huge once the application forms are returned he may have to add another night to the Tuesday and Thursday schedule.

The draft will be held Wednesday, May 29, and the competition gets under way Tuesday, June 18.

The Guru plans to switch summer league coverage from here over to the PhilahoopsW site because of the ability to use photos, etc.

That is all there is for now, though real soon the Guru will be part of news announcement currently in the works. Look for his tweet at @womhoopsguru and from elsewhere once the go-ahead to go public is made.

-- Mel

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