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, July 09, 2013

Guru's General Musings: WNBA Cracking the Media Whip

By Mel Greenberg

In recent days routine conversations from different sources of the Guru within the WNBA ranks have revealed that the league is cracking down on its 12 team members when it comes to not following general media procedures.

For example the preseason favored team out of the desert in the Southwest with the number one overall draft pick in former Baylor star Brittney Griner was hit with a five-figure fine on its first trip to Minnesota, which resulted in a 99-79 setback to the Lynx followed by a long soul-search in which the visiting team was sequestered in a closed locker-room for at least an hour.

The Seattle Storm lost a couple of grand when Tina Thompson missed a TV interview on the trip to Atlanta.

Of course, sometimes things can happen inadvertently on the road because ever since the WNBA went into a downsized mode during cost-cutting several years ago not all team media relations officials, who might ensure their respective franchise doesn't get into trouble, get to travel.

So postgame handling duties go to different personnel, even trainers, who are tacked on with an additional workload.

In other media matters, the Connecticut Sun took heat from its own corps, perhaps the most numbered local contingent in the league, for not having some kind of pre-game video salute to former coach Mike Thibault, now with Washington, when the Mystics made their first visit to Mohegan last month.

Thibault has since become the winningest coach in WNBA history when he collected number 212 Saturday night to snap a one-week tie with former Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor, who held the mark a long time along with winning the league's first four titles.

In making remarks there were allusions to what the Boston Red Sox baseball team for former manager Terry Francona, who guided the club to two World Series titles, on his first trip to Beantown with the Cleveland Indians, who hired him last October.

After the first inning the Sox put a flashback of the Francona era on the video board in Fenway Park.

The Sun media felt the club could have done likewise for
Thibault, though several Sun players did appear on the Verizon Center screen Saturday night as part of a congratulatory salute after the Mystics held off Seattle to give Thibault the record.

But some defenders of Connecticut management in the league point out in conversations -- not on the record because the topic came up as an aside tht was not part of any interview -- the comparison with Boston is misplaced.

Francona was already gone several seasons, not ousted last winter as Thibault was after being the only Sun coach for the 10 years after the franchise was acquired from its former locale in Florida at Orlando.

And nothing was done when Francona returned to Boston as a TV analyst last season.

Furthermore, following the acrimonious parting of ways as a result of the famed 2011 late season collapse, Francona declined an invitation last year to attend the 100th anniversary celebration of Fenway, telling the Boston Globe, he wasn't about to return "... and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a bit hypocritical. ... Im' just not comfortable doing that."

Francona said that when Red Sox president Larry Lucchino called to discuss the event the two got into "an argument," though Lucchino said the invite was "sincere."

However, Francona, also a former Phillies manager, eventually talked himself into attending and received a warm ovation when introduced during the festivities.

Meanwhile, in another media situation, while some have started to criticize that the ongoing emphasis over the three standout rookies and "the three to see" promotion involving Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins, might becoming a bit much in terms of bypassing star veterans, the Guru has heard a response in places that the some critics who want some more attention on the veterans rarely take time to join conference calls from the league when the players are made available.

And amidst the carping, many have conceded that the attention on the rookies is definitely working in terms of more attention being paid these days -- Exhibit A is the remarkable feat of Delle Donne, the former Delaware sensation, becoming the first rookie to lead the overall All-Star vote.

The big deal will be if she is still on top when the final tallies from the fans are announced on July 18th. No more results will be announced between now and then, according to a league spokesman.

Phila U. to Visit UConn

A year ago local Division II power Holy Family got a special preseason thrill when the Tigers met eventual 2013 NCAA champion Conncticut in an exhibition game in Hartford at the XL Center.

After the game, Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown and who now has matched the legendary former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt with eight NCAA titles, said he was going to give all the Philly guys an invite.

"Tom Shirley is next," he said of the Division II Philadelphia University longtime athletic director/women's coach.

Sure enough, on Monday when UConn announced its nonconference opponents, the Rams were marked down for a visit Nov. 6, though the site and time are still to be announced.

The Rams, incidentally, compete in the Philly Summer League as Team Black in Hatboro, which will see three straight nights of competition tonight (Tuesday) through Thursday as part of a makeup for losing last Thursday because of the Fourth of July holiday.

Black at 8:15 tonight (Tues.) will meet the power Hunter Green coming off an upset loss to Gold and will get the nightly bye on Wednesday in the 13-team league before playing Red, mostly Division III Scranton at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

The games on three courts with doubleheaders are at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades iin Willow Grove Industrial Commons, a business park near Davisville & Byberry Roads. The entrance road is off Davisville, runnning alongside the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

On UConn's Schedule

Meanwhile, during the collegiate women's season UConn will visit Temple as part of the home-and-home slate in the new American Conference built on the football residue of the old Big East with the Owls being part of the new attachments in other sports.

The Huskies will also have a one-time visit to former Big East rival Rutgers, which is in a lame duck status before heading off to the Big Ten a year from now.

Louisville is in a similar mode, but Atlantic Coast Conference bound, after losing to rival UConn in the NCAA title game in New Orleans.

For all the talk of the Huskies being diminished by the breakup of the old Big East and maybe taking a big hit in the RPI formula that used to produce mathematical muscle out of conference competition, the nonconference matchups with such powerhouses as Maryland, Duke, Penn State, Baylor and California leads the Guru to ssy this.

If you temporarily park the RPI and just look at the basketball configuration on this slate plus getting Louisville and Rutgers, assuming the Scarlet Knights will be stronger, and UConn produces, baring upsets, that alone should take care of seeding.

Likewise would be the same way to guage placements of other teams if the RPI is not reflective of the talent and what is being done on the court.

We will get a better idea of how this shapes out by late December when the results of all these shifts will appear through competition. Remember, some teams perceived as strong may not be and vice versa so there will be a standard of teams to look at by the time 2014's calendar arrival gets celebrated.

In the past, the coaches and media polls have been close to what evolves in the RPI Top 10, but if not, maybe the polls need to be given more credence at least for this year as a measurement of eyeballing opponent strength on schedules.

Consider the previous statements part of the Guru's tablet paper.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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