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, March 24, 2014

Guru's NCAA Report: St. Joe Ties Bind With UConn Coach Geno Auriemma

( Guru's Note: Rob Knox will be advancing the St. Joe-UConn game later today with a feature on Hawks post player Ashley Robinson.

Meanwhile, at Monday's press conferences in Storrs apparently several of the horde zeroed in on the past ties between the Hawks in Philadelphia, where UConn Hall of Fame women's coach Geno Auriemma grew up and worked his first collegiate job.

Quotes appeared in several blogs but here is veteran UConn women's writer Carl Adamec's account off his notebook that he writes for SNY. :
)

By Carl Adamec

STORRS, Conn. —
Geno Auriemma didn’t have to go back to the Philadelphia area to feel at home.

Auriemma, who got his start in coaching at Saint Joseph’s University as an assistant to Jim Foster in 1978, will lead his No. 1 University of Connecticut women’s basketball team into action against the ninth-seeded Hawks in a NCAA tournament Lincoln (Neb.) Regional second-round game at Gampel Pavilion Tuesday night.

“I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Saint Joe’s, the school, and the people at the school,” Auriemma said. “There’s a lot of really neat stuff at Saint Joe’s, a lot of great people, and they played their butts off against Georgia. They were the better team from the opening tap until it ended. They lead the country in free-throw percentage, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, and they’re a typical Philadelphia team.”

The connections between Auriemma and Saint Joe’s run deep.

When she was a high school senior at Bishop McDevitt High, Hawks’ coach Cindy Griffin made an official recruiting visit to UConn in the Fall of 1986. Auriemma coached Griffin’s older sister when he was an assistant girls coach to Pat Knapp at Bishop McDevitt. Saint Joseph’s associate athletic director Renie Shields played for the Hawks while he was there and as a freshman scored 27 points in a win over nationally-ranked Penn State, which was coached by University of Hartford athletic director Pat Meiser. Saint Joseph’s director of basketball operations Katie (Curry) Gardler is the daughter-in-law of Auriemma’s high school coach, Buddy Gardler, and the sister-in-law of former UConn player Meghan Gardler.

Griffin turned down UConn for Saint Joseph’s.

“I remember the beautiful drive up,” Griffin said. “It was October and all the leaves were changing. It was just beautiful. Chris Dailey and Geno did an unbelievable job. I knew Geno from home, from Philadelphia, so that was a comfort level for me. They did a great job but I went with what I knew more, and that was Saint Joe’s. A couple of my family members went to Saint Joe’s and my first cousin, John Griffin, was the men’s coach before Phil Martelli. So there’s a lot of family blood in there and in that situation.

“What would have happened if I had come to Connecticut? I probably wouldn’t be the Saint Joe’s coach.”

Katie Gardler has known Auriemma since he successfully recruited her AAU teammates Meghan (Pattyson) Culmo and Debbie (Baer) Fiske.

“He’s a long-time family friend,” Gardler said. “He didn’t recruit me but I knew him then through AAU. We knew everyone and everyone knew Geno.”

With the Hawks playing in Connecticut has allowed her time to reunite with Culmo, the analyst for SNY’s telecasts, and Fiske, the analyst for WTIC-AM1080′s broadcasts.

“It’s so great to see them,” Gardler said. “Like last night, I mean, you literally hug for a very long time because of the memories that you have. You cherish their friendship because it has continued to today and nothing is lost. You pick up right where you left off. It’s great.”

She’s also enjoyed watching the back-and-forth between Auriemma and her father-in-law over the years. Buddy Gardler was Auriemma’s coach at Bishop Kenrick High in Norristown, Pa.

“Just the way they bust on each other is so precious,” Gardler said. “Mr. Gardler, if you know him, is so serious. He’s by the book. And Geno is one of the only people that can get him cracking up. They have a great relationship.”

Gardler also played at Saint Joseph’s and faced the Huskies in a game at Gampel Pavilion on Dec. 13, 1992. UConn had possession in a tie game and Pam Webber hurried down the court in a race against time. She made a turn and drove the baseline and then found Jamelle Elliott for a last-second layup that gave the Huskies a 53-51 victory.

She is over the loss but Gardler is convinced to this day that Webber stepped out of bounds.

“We were going ‘Don’t foul. Don’t foul,’ ” Gardler said. “But Pam Webber took it to the baseline and then to the heart of the defense. I still say that her foot was on the line but the referee, obviously, didn’t see it or call it and she made the pass that led to the layup. We lost by two. It was a great game, a phenomenal game.”

Gardler now has a daughter, Mackenzie, who will be a freshman at Cardinal O’Hara High in the fall and she is a basketball player.

“She said, ‘Can I go play for Geno?’ ” Gardler said with a smile. “I told her, ‘No, you’re going to Saint Joe’s.’ “

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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