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.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Guru Report: Tidbits From Hall of Fame Weekend in Knoxville

By Mel Greenberg

The Guru apologizes for not being more on the scene to you all from the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame festivities all weekend but between a bad server in the Marriott messing up wifi connections and his need to make the rounds, including his duties as a 2007 inductee, his time to actually post and tweet became limited -- and help was not needed from the alumni publication he worked for in Philadelphia in terms of other print coverage.

But having arrived back in his home area a little while ago there are things to report and more to come.

First, in the world of the WNBA, Maya was on the scene for Elena Delle Donne's game-winner for the Chicago Sky in the Windy City against the San Antonio Silver Stars and sent word she will be filing something Monday.

The Guru did some speech transcription, though most of the highlights were reported through the local paper in Knoxville and The Associated Press so the Guru has to determine how to avoid redundancy though he knows Jen Rizzotti fans in Connecticut would like to read whatever can be gleaned off the audio of the speech so the Guru will oblige.

He is also waiting until Tuesday when Willbill makes the photos available for posting on Philahoopsw.com.

The Guru can tell you that although there was no announcement of the Tennessee-UConn series, Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick and Huskies coach Geno Auriemma were warm and fuzzy to each other as cohosts of a reception Saturday night prior to the induction ceremony.

Warlick presented a bottle of Volunteer Wine from California that she found in a local store to Auriemma to salute his winning his eighth NCAA title in April in New Orleans.

After searching for evidence, though the Guru let you know about Auriemma in advance, he found another sign at a Big Five school that the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame did hold a press conference/luncheon Thursday afternoon to announce the group that will be inducted on November 7 at the Sheraton Society Hill.

Because UConn has a game to start the season that conflucts Auriemma won't be able to attend but he told the Guru Saturday night he appointed longtime Villanova coach and friend Harry Perretta to accept for him.

"I figure Harry may never get inducted so let him have his big moment," Auriemma quipped. The Guru, incidentally, will be doing the Auriemma bio for the printed program.

The class will also include the late Linda Page, the former Dobbins Tech and North Carolina State star who broke Wilt Chamberlain's high school scoring record with 100 points and died suddenly in October, 2011.

Tina Sloan Green, the former Temple lacrosse and field hockey coach who won three national titles with the Owls, is also in the class.

Auriemma and former Huskies teammate Rebecca Lobo did the video intro together for Rizzotti, who went into the Hall as a player but is also a successful coach at Hartford.

None of the UConn regulars from the media came down to cover Rizzotti's enshrinement so they missed a chance to see how the atmosphere has changed here toward Auriemma in that he is no longer perceived by more than a few as the arch enemy.

"I'm having a good time down here," Auriemma said. "I've met a lot of great people and everyone seems willing to do good things for the hall."

Tennnessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt, the longtime legend who stepped down a year ago in the wake of her ongoing battle against early onset dementia, Alzheiemer's type, did not attend most of the events but was at the Bijou Theatre for the ceremony and was acknowledged by several inductees, including new Chattanooga coach Jim Foster, the former Saint Joseph“s and Vanderbilt coach who was let go by Ohio State in March after the Buckeyes did not make the NCAA field for the first time in a decade.

Former Rutgers and WNBA New York Liberty star Sue Wicks did not have a prepared speech but impressed winging it from the podium. Foster, who usually is scene wearing just a sweater -- among his other clothing -- at many games and events wore a suit at the coaxing of his wife Donna.

Several longtime Liberty fans came down. The Guru did not notice formal WNBA representation but Anucha Browne-Sanders, in charge of the NCAA Women's Basketball championships, and her successor Sue Donohoe were on the scene.

Wicks said she did get a nice note from Kristin Bernert, who is in charge of Liberty maarketing on the business side.

Browne-Sanders said the Val Ackerman white paper had been turned in and its pronouncements will first be discussed with the committees who meet this month.

Saint Joseph's longtime athletic director Don DiJulia and his son Chris were here as was current Hawks coach Cindy Griffin and Marie Koch, supervisor of officials for the Atlantic 10 who worked games in the conference involving Foster and Wicks when Rutgers was in the conference.

In the small world department, referee Diana DePaul, who works many games in the region, had no idea of the weekend when she coincidentally checked into the Marriott while her daughter, who she drove down, was attending a camp at Carson-Newman.

Foster said he and his wife Donna had always liked Chattanooga is discussing the appeal of taking the job. When the Guru informed him that if he got his new team ranked, he'd be the first coach to lead four different teams into into The Associated Press women's poll, Foster smiled and said, "Thanks. Now I have a goal."

DiJulia, Griffin, former Hawks senior women's administrator Ellen Ryan, and Saint Joseph's men's basketball coach Phil Martelli all spoke as presenters in the video preceding Foster's speech.

He also did not write anything down in advance.

Wicks' Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz, who did her video presentation, was here as was current Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer.

Father Judge grad and current Northwestern coach Joe McKeown did a humerous home--movie type presentation for Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, who surprised by clocking in with his speech between 10-12 minutes, far less than anticipated.

Blair revealed that McKeown would have been in the house but McKeown's daughter, who plays for the Wildcats, had been in an auto accident last week but is expected to be allright.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno was on the scene as was USA Basketball women's executive Carol Callan, who is head of the WBHOF board.

Though the re-vamped Big East of which DePaul and Villanova will be members do not have a commissioner yet, it is known that the women's tournament will be held in Chicago at the Allstate Arena that is also the home of the WNBA gym.

"It's a great place," Bruno said in answering why not his own arena, which soon will be replaced by a new facility at McCormick Place by Lake Michigan. Allstate is located in suburban Rosemont hear O'Hare airport.

"You have a lot of hotels and restaurants nearby and a casino," Bruno said, which in a way would make the setting similar to the projected Mohegan Sun Arena site expected to go the other women's tournament amalgamation out of the old Big East, which on July 1 becomes the American Athletic Conference -- also to be known as The American.

Temple is part of that mix but its former conference the Atlantic 10 recently announced that all members will participate for the first time in the next tournament.

Last season the lead-up rounds to the championship were held at Saint Joseph's and then the following Saturday the title, won by the Hawks, was determined as part of a tripleheader with the men's tournament at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

DiJulia said some other schools wanted to be so the actual dates and location for the early rounds won't be known until after July 1 though the Hawks' hosting last season was well received.

Looking ahead, Callan said by next May a coach will be in place for at least the FIBA World Championship next year, if not the Olympics for 2016, and the first of three training sessions will be held.

As to where the first ones occur in terms of an exhibition, she said "everything is on the table" in terms of ideas.

In that regard, the Guru would say followers in his home region should stay in touch though decisions are still a ways off.

Annette Smith-Knight, the former Texas star, who was also in the six-member class along with former Mississippi star Peggie Gillom-Granderson, talked about her senior year when the Longhorns became the first NCAA unbeaten champion in 1986.

"Everyone was focused to win that year as seniors because of all the bad luck had had before with injuries and unpset losses in the tournament," Smith-Knight said.

Former teammate Fran Harris did Smith-Knight's intro and jokingly referred, "she had a butt the size of a zip code."

When the Longhorns star took the podium to begin her remarks, she first admonished the theatre crowd, saying, "I know you all were looking at my butt."

Gillom-Granderson's sister Jennifer is a previous inductee making them the only sister act. She is also an assistant with the WNBA Connecticut Sun and made the flight here after Friday's home loss to former Sun coach Mike Thibault, now with the Washington Mystics.

She jokingly referred in her speech to former Mississippi coach Van Chancellor, who also coached the four-time champion WNBA Houston Comets and 1984 USA Olympic gold medalists, as "the luckiest white man alive."

In chatting with Wicks during Friday's media session, held before former Rutgers star Essence Carson was lost to the Liberty with an ACL that night in Atlanta, she said New York seemed to have a new spark and energy under new coach Bill Laimbeer. "More aggressive. More focused."

She called her brothers "my first competitors and a big part of my basketball."

Looking back to Rutgers days, "For me a lot of it was a blur. As well as I played and did so simple things like scoring, I had to learn so many things.

"And I always laugh how patient Theresa had to be with me -- the things I didn't know. It sticks in my head more now. What you don't know, you don't know.

"It's all about relationships and people and how you know them over the course of time." She saluted the Rutgers faithful who came to her games.

During her speech, she told a story of how n opponent team mocked her group, saying they're so dumb they only know one play.

And then Wicks said her response to the foe was, "And you can't stop it."

More to come.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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