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, June 27, 2014

Embracing the Chill: Calamity Idea Brings Windfall to a Cause

(Note: For those who missed it, the first action still of the Guru's drenching is below this post.)

By Mel Greenberg

While we all await the finished video production of the Guru's #Chilling4Charity -- incidentally, a transcript will be posted here later of the Guru's presentation prior to the drenching so you can follow in case the audio isn't loud enough -- the Guru begins this feature by first recalling a tale of yesteryear.

A long time ago when the Guru was running the entire show in terms of the Associated Press women's poll before the worldwide news organization took control in 1994-95 and switched to writers from coaches, he would try to smuggle extra information in the weekly story to go with the poll when it rolled out each week aross the wires.

And so it was when coach Theresa Grentz had her Rutgers squad on the way to new horizons that the following occurred.

During those days when the Guru was multi-tasking before the word existed at The Philadelphia Inquirer, on a particular night he would finish his day job, shoot the 65-mile trip to Rutgers and arrive a few minutes before the tipoff, easily grabbing a parking spot a few steps from the doors to the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center.

And so it was on a particular week that first on Monday, the Guru noted in his AP poll story that Rutgers the following Thursday was going to host Virginia, which, for the moment would determine supremacy in the East basically because in terms of the NCAA geographical assignments, the Scarlet Knights and Cavaliers were the top two teams in the sector as the game approached.

And then the Guru returned to concentrating on his day job for the next several days.

While that was going on, unknown to the Guru, all the papers, which were quite a few, in Rutgers land grabbed that sentence and started running with it ans hyped the game with all kinds of advance features.

It didn't hurt either that Virginia coach Debbie Ryan was a native from nearby Mercer County.

Grentz, meanwhile, a promotional/marketing whiz from the day she was born or maybe affected from the hoopla of the Immaculata era for which she starred, if you don't believe the first, was out doing her own buildup to the affair.

And Tbursday now arrives, the Guru is doing his usual last-minute zip up to Rutgers, when upon getting to the parking lot, there were more cars than usual, and the attendants kept waving him further and further back from the entrance, sort of like what the front part of a statue of liberty play looks like in football when the quarterback is heading in reverse.

It was at the height of that moment, that the Guru blurted out to himself in frustration, "Dear God. I'm getting killed by my own monster."

Furthermore, it was a tight squeeze on press row in what was suddenly a three-quarter filled arena.

Rutgers, incidentally, won the game to continue on its way to national power status.

Now why does the Guru tell you this?

Well meet someone else who has suddenly found out that her little monster creation is making her routine days anything but routine.

This is the time of year that in her role as recruiting coordinator for the Arizona women's basketball program that Calamity (great name in light of all this) McEntire is getting ready to help head coach Niya Butts and the rest of the staff know what the early part of July travel will be like.

But thanks to her monster, staying focused and un-distracted has become quite difficult.

Bccause it was McEntire's idea, fully credited by Butts in all the interviews she has given, that in a matter of a few days set off the "Chilling4Charity instant fundraiser that has quickly engulfed collegiate and WNBA women's baskerball and is now spreading to other sports.

Just Thursday, for example, among the nonstop creative highlights on youtube appearing all over the country, one could view WNBA Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault and his staff and a few star players outside the Verizon Center, or Delaware coach Tina Martin and her staff, getting deluged by giant containers of ice cold water.

And, yes, it was at Temple, that coach Tonya Cardoza and her staff gave the Guru a giant chilling shower, stinging at first, on what was a hot and humid day here in Philadelphia.

The video is expected Friday but one shot is already up on the Guru's @womhoopsguru Twitter account.

"I'll bet you never thought when you started writing about this that you'd end up in the middle of it," McEntire laughed over the phone after the Guru had dried out.

"I could have never, never imagined it would turn out to all this," McEntire said of the trend that is likely to give the Kay Yow Foundation that fights breast cancer an unforeseen financial windfall on top of its normal fundraising activities.

"I'll tell you, I'm a person that likes to think outside the box," McEntire explained the seeds out of her brain that has resulted in the support for the Kay Yow Fund named for the late North Carolina State coach and Hall of Famer who died in 2009 after a lengthy battle against breast cancer.

"I happened to be reading about some of these coldwater challenges and they seemed fun. But then I saw one that was event for a charity and it seemed to be working well," McEntire related.

"So we're going to the car, recently, Niya, our operations director, and myself, and I say, 'I got this wild idea but you will never like it.'

"And we do a lot of things out here. We've embraced social meeting and are doing all kinds of things with it," McEntire said.

"But they liked it from the first mention. And then we talked about what we could do, but we looked at it as a little fun for a few days within the Pac-12 before we all hit the recruiting trail in July.

"And of course, we would create a little benefit for the foundation," McEntire contined.

"But then the Pac-12 coaches started challenging their colleagues in other conferences, though it still wasn't that big a deal for a while.

"In fact, we had this great idea for a graphic -- we were going to have a map of the United States and everytime a coach took the challenge, we'd put them on the map.

"Guess what. It is abslutely impossible to do that now -- we got to 400 coaches real quick and that was it."

Let foundation head Sue Donohue, the former head of NCAA women's basketball, explain what it has been like managing information at her end.

"You know, we've had the metrics people working for us, telling us how many times the #Chilling4Charity hashtag has been used and all the other measurements," Donohue said.

"But we just have to wait till this dies down, if it ever dies down, to get a true handle on it. When we got the first readout, the totals were astounding and I gave them to the folks from the media and other places who were asking," Donohoe said.

"But then a few hours later, those numbers were totally outdated, and less time after that, those new totals were no longer accurate and it has been just wild, but at the same time, so much fun."

The Guru, himself, has been stunned looking at the computer programs giving him the reports of all-time pageviews on the blog and those numbers are not just edging the prevdious ones -- their leaping over them.

Two weeks ago, the Guru had never seen 3000 pageviews attained until one of his associates asked to do a feature on WNBA rookie and former UConn star Bria Hartley.

The number soared all day after the post hit the internet but it was discovered a big source of viewers were coming from the UConn message board, which has a few people who monitor the Guru's reports here.

Then it got a little quiet until the Guru posted his comprehensive report Monday on the Arizona staff's initiative and through Thursday there have been four straight days of 3000 or more page views, imcluding the site 24-hour cycle record of 3,859 that was reached Wednesday.

And actually, when the next cycle started, there were 150 new page views in the next half-hour.

News organizations who had not paid a lot of attention, initially, are trying to catch up to the challenge phenomenon.

ESPN sent the Guru a note early Thursday asking if he was keeping track or knew who was of how many of the sports network giant's personalities had been challenged.

One thing the Guru has noticed. In the past coaches have been told to get more involved in the marketing of their programs but many have resisted, saying their jobs are the game strategies and recruiting players for winning programs but leave the other stuff to the sports information and marketing departments on campus.

But just look at all the productions on youtube right now and many of them are being done primarily just from within the basketball offices, since most places have their own video co-ordinators who have editing skills.

For example, when the Guru arrived at Temple, which has a growing campus industry in terms of multimedia, he expected to see many of those folks ready to shoot and direct the action.

But that isn't what came down. The entire shoot was done with Cardoza's staff with cell phones.

Of course, some big time expertise exists with the Owls. Stacey Nasser, for example, is a former women's basketballmanager in her undegraduate days, on Geno Auriemma's powerful Conneticut staff.

So as the Guru, who brought hia own script since he was the only one to fill the time, readied, it was Nasser, telling the crew, which coach would do the side angles while she shot the main focus, and another at the same time would take the still shots for twitter, and of course, there were the two who had the honor of standing behind the Guru and lifting the container and letting loose.

Meanwhile, back in Arizona, McEntire was telling the Guru later in the day of one sport that might get in the mix big time.

"Our football people embraced it the other day and they are shouting out to other football places, so we'll see where this goes."

But McEntire can wait a while for the results to come so she can move on to take care of the regular business at hand.

After all, you never know what new monster recruiting will bring in terms of court success.

Just ask UConn coach Geno Auriemma who applied his ideas in a place in the middle of nowhere to see his staff and players a few decades later sit down for their soaking by opening the segment with a shout, "Welcome to Storrs (Ct.), The Basketball Capital of the World. And we're Chillin' for Charity."

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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