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, June 23, 2014

Guru Special Report: Women's Basketball Embraces The Big Chill

By Mel Greenberg

South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley and Penn State coach Coquese Washington had ice water in their veins in their playing careers in college and at the pro level.

In the past few days they've become acclaimed for not flinching one muscle while having giant buckets of ice water tossed upon each of their respective heads.

And Staley and Washington are not alone.

Perhaps not seen outside the women's basketball community because of the shadow being cast by Soccer's World Cup in Brazil, a phenomenon of getting doused by a bucket of ice has spread across the nation significantly like a Western wildfire with similar occurences happening beyond the collegiate level into the WNBA and outside women's basketball into other sports.

The Guru says significantly because the fad started as a small undertaking at the University of Arizona for a worthy cause by Wildcats women's basketball coach and former Tennessee star Niya Butts on behalf of the Kay Yow Foundation.

In the last several days with no letup in sight one can look especially on twitter, or facebook, or several other forms of social media and see elaborate video presentations of coaches at all levels getting soaked and then calling out colleagues elsewhere to do likewise.

Players have also gotten involved.

For example, on Saturday night the Guru made a routine phone call to DePaul coach and United States National assistant coach Doug Bruno, who has been busy running his annual camp and thus queried what were all these tweet messages coming to him with challenges delivered to his account.

Less than 24 hours later on twitter was a video of Bruno sitting talking on his cell phone while a group of youngsters quietly came up behind him and let loose a torrent of ice water.

He then issued challenges to other coaches.

"I have great assistants," Butts said on the phone late Sunday night, "and they approached me with this fun idea.

"Assistant coach Calamity McEntire approached Lisa Salgado, our director of basketball operations, and me and said, "I have a great idea Coach, but you're not going to like it."

(Butts has a blog with the full play-by-play of the origin at the foundation's site Kayyow.com. On twitter you can find plenty of activity searching with the hashtag #Chillin4charity)

"But it was for fun and for a great cause and everone wants to fight cancer. We thought we would start it going within the Pac-12 and then maybe it would spread to other some other conferences," she conceded.

"Am I shocked at what has since happened? Of course initially it was shocking to see how big it has become so quick," Butts said.

"But when you think about it, maybe it is not so shocking when you realize we're one big community.

"We tried to start tracking all the activity but it became pretty overwhelming," Butts said.

"I missed that Nancy Lieberman accepted the challenge and then passed it on to others."

The folks at the foundation, however, have been hard at work keeping track, but the Guru will get to them further down in this report.

The rules of the challenge are as follows -- if a challenged individual accepts getting doused, the act must occur within 48 hours and then the challenger donates $50 to the foundation.

"If the challengee does not take the challenge, that person must pay up $250 to the foundation.

"If a person gets challenged several times, they only have to complete it once and all the challengers have to pay up.

"There is a lower rate for assistant coaches but payments involving students and student athletes involve donating community service."

Since arriving at Arizona, Butts has gotten her players involved in community endeavors and has taught there that the court action is just one small part of the deal of being a Arizona Wildcat.

Her motto attached to her program is "More Than a Game: Inspire, Develop, Transform."

The Kay Yow Foundation, located in Carey, N.C., near Raleigh, works on raising awareness and battling the disease on behalf of the late great North Carolina State coach and multi-Hall of Famer Kay Yow, who guided the United States to the Olynmpic gold medal and later succumbed to breast cancer after a lengthy and courageous battle.

Locally, Saint Joseph's coaches have already put out two videos -- one with assistants getting drenched and then one individually of coach Cindy Griffin.

Princeton coach Courtney Banghart is taking her challenge Monday at her camp.

We have seen videos of completed actions or notices of acceptance or reports of such challenges made involving Rutgers, Drexel, Penn, Villanova (Bruno challenged all the Big East coaches), Temple, Lafayette, Lehigh, and Rider to name a few.

Some of the videos have been mini-productions with opening shots of notable campus scenes, shots of the water being prepared, and then the event taking place in front of some key building or athletic facility.

"Hey, you know, why not?" Butts laughed. "Might as well get a little recruiting done.

"The other thing happening here is many of these people are former players or even as coaches are very competitive. They see a challege getting done at one place, they're not going to sit still and not get involved on their campus."

Sue Donohoe, the former head of women's basketball for the NCAA who now oversees the foundation, can not express enough gratitude for how this has played out.

Normally, the Play-For-Kay Games in February in-season are the central endeavor of the foundation.

"The Arizona people called us with this idea and we went back and forth a few times and finally said, 'Let's just go ahead and see how this plays out,'" she said on the phone Sunday morning.

Donohoe is also the current head of the board of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

"Wow. It has been awesome. We'd like to put up a collage after it slows down though this doesn't look like it is going to slow down anytime soon," Donohoe said.

"Though soon the coaches are going to get busy with recruiting, it's spreading to softball and other sports," Donohoe said.

"Kay would just love this. This is the way she would like things to get done -- have fun and do it for a worthy cause," Donohoe said.

"You knew individually, you're talking about a few dollars here and there but put it all together and the total is going to be pretty special," she continued.

Donohoe, incidentally, has not been immune from a soaking.

"I've been challenged and the local news affiliates are coming by Monday," Donohoe said.

"I can just see Kay up there now," she referred to that great basketball facility in the sky. "She's probably in a room with Sue Gunter and Betty Jaynes and a few others having a good time watching all this.

"I bet she's classic Kay -- clapping her hand and stomping her foot when someone gets wet."

Over the weekend WNBA Seattle coach Brian Agler and star Sue Bird were among people needing a wet suit. Storm beat writer Jayda Evans reportedly also got pulled into the mix and issued some challenges.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma has been challenged.

Expect the Associated Press to be quickly on the case with coverage via national women's writer Doug Feinberg while David Siegal expects to air a podcast this week with notables involved.

Lots more posts to come this week with some catching up from the WBHOF inductions and other key news items.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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