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.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sources: Immaculata Era '72-74 to be Named Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Finalists

By Mel Greenberg

The Immaculata national championship era of 1972-74 is about to be put on a path that, if successfully concluded, would feature a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction reunion this fall in Springfield, Mass., with the Mighty Macs and their coach Cathy Rush, who was enshrined in 2008 following several unsuccessful attempts.

The groups, who won the first three Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) titles, are one of two entries submitted by the women's screening committee as finalists to join the other nominees who will be announced on NBA-TV Friday shortly from New Orleans as part of the NBA All-Star weekend activities, several sources familiar with the selection process said.

The sources asked to remain anonymous giving way to the official announcement to be made by Hall of Fame officials in New Orleans.

The nominees who are named inductees to the class of 2014 will be introduced during the weekend of the NCAA Men's and Women's Final Fours in April.

Additionally the Hall has now undertaken the Nancy Lieberman point guard award which will be presented at the WBCA Awards Show in Nashville that weekend along with the Frances Pomeroy award.

If elected by the honors committee, the Immaculata groups, which include 18 players over the span besides Rush, would become the 10th team and second women's team to be named following the Redheads selection in 2012.

Some previous groups include the 1992 US Olympic "Dream Team" that consisted of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley, among others, and coached by former NBA and Penn coach, the late Chuck Daly; the Texas Western men's team that won the 1966 NCAA title with five African-Americans in the starting lineup, and the Harlem Globetrotters entertainment squads.

Immaculata officials had not heard from the Hall and declined to comment pending notification if and however it comes.

Reached before heading for a round of golf in warmer climates than the current blizzard conditions in the Northeast, Rush said she had not heard anything.

Neither had Theresa Grentz, the dominate player of her time who was on the first championship that was made into a movie The Mighty Macs several years ago and is now available on DVD.

Stanley is currently an assistant on the WNBA Washington Mystics and is currently scouting collegiate talent for the next draft.

Two other notables on the first championship team were Rene Muth Portland, who went on to coach Penn State, and Judy Marra Martelli, the wife of Saint Joseph's men's coach Phil Martelli.

The Immaculata contingent would continue a strong representation from the city and surrounding suburbs which follows last September's induction of Dawn Staley, the three-time Olympic gold medalist who was also a WNBA All-Star and coached Temple. She currently has South Carolina in first place in the Southeastern Conference and ranked No. 5 in the country in The Associated Press women's poll.

It's possible that Staley could get inducted again in the future with the 1996 US Women's Olympic team that helped the coming of professional women's basketball in the nation, especially the WNBA.

There have been efforts the past several seasons to get Grentz into the hall individually as a player and that could still happen in future.

In fact, among the nominees sent to the screening committee to add to those who were considered in recent seasons was Grentz's teammate Marianne Stanley, who also has strong credentials for individual enshrinement.

So it could be that rather than have Grentz and Stanley cancel each other out -- it's happened before with other contemporaries-- because the screening committee had a submission of the Immaculata era, then both could be packaged as part of era and have a better chance with the honors committee making the final decision.

The women are only allowed two, at most, nominees to move forward -- a problem since the long survival of the WNBA creates a new group who may have performed best after their collegiate careers.

Another person with Philadelphia ties who has been on the list in recent years is Muffett McGraw, the successful coach at Notre Dame, for which she would be considered rather than her playing days as a Big Five Hall of Famer at Saint Joseph's.

On the other hand, a new entry this year was Pittsburgh coach Susie McConnell-Serio for her stellar playing career at Penn State, in the Olympics, and in the WNBA.

Former UConn great Rebecca Lobo has also been on the list but it could be that with so many candidates from the Huskies in the future, the entire program may earn status. Coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, was inducted in 2006.

There have been multiple efforts in the past to get induction honors for Harley Redin, the coach of the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens in Plainview, Texas, in the 1950s who had a 431-66 record in 18 seasons and won six AAU titles.

He is considered instrumental in the transformation of the women's game into the modern rules that were used by the men at the time.

Some other names believed on the list that were considered are former Stanford star Jennifer Azzi, former Louisiana Tech and WNBA great Theresa Weatherspoon, former Techster and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith.

Stay tuned.

-- Mel

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