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 15, 2014

Guru's Musings: Draft Day Deal Bringing Tina Charles Home to the Liberty Comes Full Circle for New York

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA --
Due to a conflict in scheduling the Guru had to forego being present at the WNBA draft Monday night to attend the first-ever triple combination Philadelphia Big 5 postseason men's and women's awards event as well as the annual Big 5 Hall of Fame selection at The Paleatra.

But he wasn't far from keeping track of the wild proceedings at the WNBA draft, which he will get to shortly.

A year ago the Big 5 combined the men's and women's events, which used to be separate, into a unified event done in a classy presentation in which the men's and women's winners in each individual category were called up together.

Ths time around the Hall of Fame ceremony, which used to be held midseason sometime in January, was added to the back end.

The reception part of the night, instead of the sit-down following appetizers, featured just nibbles, which was fine because they were tasty as always and it allowed more time for mingling prior to the formal events.

Two reasons for the Guru to be in the house, besides a third of being on hand as a past Big Five honoree, were the inductions of former Temple classmate Dick "Dickie Hoops" Weiss, the men's Guru sportswriter, which makes you think how wild journalism classes were back in the Guru's and Dickie Hoops' collegiate days on North Broad Street.

Many came to honor Weiss, including incoming United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) president Dana O'Neil, one of the writing talents at ESPN who was a colleague of Weiss back in the days both were employed at The Philadelphua Daily News.

Dick Jerardi, who also works at the Daily News, presented Weiss, who spoke of growing up in The Palestra.

Boston Globe writer Bob Ryan, another of the top collegiate basketball writers in the nation, was on hand with his wife, as was former Immaculata great Theresa Grentz, who's championship era was just announced as a team inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Most of the specifics of Monday can be found in The Inquirer's Mike Jensen's report, which is also on Philly.com.

Additionally, Weiss and his wife Joan Williamson just co-authored a book with Grentz, Lessons Learned from Playing a Child's Game.

Thw Coyle sisters former Rutgers twin backcourt stars Patty and Mary, were alao in the house.

The post pizza after-party in Upper Darby in the city's immediate western suburb was almost like that show years ago on TV hosted by actor Jon Favreau, Dinner for Five, which featured a rotation of Hollywood celebrity friends.

On hand at the pizza parlor among others were Grentz, who is worthy of her own future individual Hall of Fame accolade; the Ryans, Villanova men's coach Jay Wright, Jensen, Joe Cassidy, the longtime men's coach at Rowan in Glassboro, South Jersey, whose collegiate days featured a two-year stint as the Saint Joseph's mascot The Hawk.

The other inductee involving the Guru wanting to be on hand was former La Salle great Crista Ricketts, who has played internationally and did play in the area's well-attended women's summer league.

When she was recruited, former La Salle coach John Miller predicted Ricketts would be the greatest women's player to wear a La Salle uniform.

The major local news of the day was the announcement that former Penn star Steve Bilsky, the retiring athletic director at his alma mater this June, would remain nearby as executive director of The Big Five, whose headquarters are in The Palestra on Penn's campus.

La Salle, incidentally, is the alma mater of WNBA Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, while Bilsky was once the AD at George Washington when he hired Joe McKeown, now at Northwestern.

As for the awards, unlike past times, the winners are now announced ahead of time so there were no surprises though returning to waiting until awards night would inject drama and suspense into the event.

On the women's side, it was like Oscar night -- Saint Joseph's senior Erin Shields won all the productions awards in the early part of the evening -- scoring, foul shooting, academics, while Penn'a dynamite finish enabled the Quakers to sweep best picture, actor and actress out of the Ivy champions with Mike McLaughlin winning coach of the year; Alyssa Baron taking best player; Syndey Stipanovich taking rookie of the year -- the fourth straight time a Quakers player won the award with a fifth a strong possibility next year coming out of Texas.

And but for a few minutes in the total City Series, Penn might have walked off with its first Big Five championship trophy which was acccepted by Saint Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin after the Hawks went 4-0.

WNBA Draft: Full Circle for New York Liberty

Now that the Guru held you prisoner through all that, in playing catchup on twitter to picks as they approached, rather than reading everything live or watching the proceedings, it was quite humorous to see the famed Media Horde out of Connecticut quoting each other on breaking trades involving Tina Charles, while AP national women's writer Doug Feinberg went head on with his own reporting with the rest of the nation quoting him.

The deal, sending an unhappy Tina Charles -- not over the swap -- back home to New York for Kelsey Bone, first-round pick Alyssa Thomas out of Maryland, and a first-rounder next year, erases the long held unhappiness among the Liberty faithful that allowed Charles to land with the Sun in the first place.

Prior to Charles' arrival out of Connecticut in 2010, a three-team swap had been made involving New York that saw the Liberty first-round pick land in the hands of Minnesota.

At the time, though the value could have been better on the Liberty receiving end, the deal didn't seem that terrible in that most thought New York would be playoff bound that season but when the Liberty didn't make the postseason the pick, which had gone to the hands of Minnesota, went to Connecticut in the deal that sent Lindsay Whalen back home to the Twin Cities.

Monday's deal helps both teams especially since Charles had been unhappy over the previous offseason move a year ago in which Mike Thubault was let go and then picked up by the Washington Mystics, who ironically made the playoffs last season, and Connecticut did not due to a bunch of injuries.

Anne Donovan was hired to replace Thibault.

Last winter Donovan in a private call on another matter gave some indication that a former UConn type might be dealt somewhere and mused how the fan base would react.

Additionally, former Tennessee star and ESPN studio host Kara Lawson is now in Washington.

It was noted to her that the Sun fans, while also blue blooded UConn fans, have more of an emphasis on wanting their pro team to win a title and if a deal would fly with them, there would not be much unhappiness in losing Charles.

That appears to be the case beginning with the pick of Chiney Ogwumike out of Stanford at the top of the draft by the Sun and the deal bringing in value for Charles.

There were other offseason deals that brought in former Penn State star Alex Bentley out of Atlanta.

Donovan, in a public event down here last winter, in a speech, made an aside that the Sun locker room had not been a happy place last summer, though the remark in that audience was like a tree falling in the forest with no one from the Connecticut media crowd to hear it.

The only WNBA awareness in that group was former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne who went on to become rookie of the year with the Chicago Sky.

Donovan indicated the chemistry would be changed over the winter, which appearently has been the case.

Meanwhile, in Washington Thibault dealt Willingboro's Crystal Langhorne, the longtime Mystics star out of Maryland, to Seattle to bring in another Terrapin in Tianna Hawkins along with the draft rights to UConn's Bria Hartley, which enables her to reunite with rookie Stefanie Dolson, whom Tibault drafted head on.

Indeed, the Washington locker room could be the most entertaining for post game interviews, especially with the presence of former North Carolina star Ivory Latta, a factor last season in Washington's renaissance.

It also makes the coming preseason game May 13 at Delaware featuring Chicago and Washington that much more fun with Delle Donne home in the Bob Carpenter Center along with Sky teammate Swin Cash, the former UConn star, going opposite Dolson and Hartley.

Tickets are now on sale at the Delaware box office. Eleven -- count them 11 corporate partners are signed on for the event.

Considering that Washington, New York, and Connecticut are the Guru's prime stops on the WNBA summer tour, it will be an intriguing few months ahhead.

If Thibault can harness Hartley and Dolson the way Geno Auriemnma did at UConn, he might have a shot at landing on Auriemma's USA staff unless those picks are made before the season is well under way.

Two locals of interest went in the draft with Vanderbilt's Christina Foggie from South Jersey going to Minnesota, whose coach Reeve is also from the same general area.

And Narberth's Maggie Lucas, who became one of the all-time Penn State scoring sensations, was taken by the Phoenix Mercury, which once had Lady Lions all-timer Kelly Mezzante on the roster.

Return of Staley

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley returns home Thursday to present Baylor's Odyssey Sims the Dawn Staley Guard award at the Union League on Thursday.

If Staley has an extra smile and hop in her step, it could be over what will happen Wednesday before she gets back to town.

The Guru hears from sources outside Gamecock country that the highly coveted A'ja Wilson, who is down to choosing from Connecticut, Tennessee, South and North Carolina, will decide to stay home so Staley can be excused if she doesn't offer her annual Guru birthday greeting on Wednesday, when Wilson's announcement will be carred by ESPNU.

If Staley has already been given a similar indication she is not sharing it but one thing she and the Guru do share is accountants so time to wrap this up to head over and get something done known as taxes.

The Guru has been informed that he can go into overtime with his file.

More to come.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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