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.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Inquirer Co-Owner Lewis Katz's Tragic Death Noted by Dawn Staley as The Loss of a Friend

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA --
Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz, who died in the plane crash Saturday night in Massachusetts, was associated with many pro sports but was never connected to women's hoops, per se.

There was, however, one exception -- South Carolina coach Dawn Staley when she was coaching Temple, which is Katz's alma mater and to which he has made several multi-million dollar donations.

Katz became enamored of the Philadelphia-born Staley's achievements in 2004 when she made her farewell appearance as an international player at the Athens Olympics in Greece and led the USA delegation carrying the American flag into the stadium during the opening ceremonies.

After Staley made her mark as coach in bringing the Owls into national prominence in the early part of the last decade, her name would come up in speculation when prominent openings occurred at BCS schools.

Other than the viable threat Virginia would pose if the job at Staley's alma mater ever came open -- she had already left for South Carolina when Women's Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan retired from the Cavaliers, Temple officials never worried about getting poached.

Being a school in the Atlantic 10 at that time, while Staley's salary was never made public until she left for South Carolina, people would muse how the Owls could stay competitive with the lucrative football schools.

But when Katz's regard for Staley became known, it seemed that here might be the safety valve to keep her on North Broad Street.

In a recent conversation with a source familiar with several Staley contract negotiations, the Guru was told that Katz never had to be involved in any rescue operations to help the financial cause though in the back of university minds, the existence of potential help certainly existed.

Then in 2006 Staley became part of the Katz bid involving Foxwoods for one of two casino sites in the city.

There was no problem for Staley running afoul of the NCAA because a sports book was not involved.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma had already preceded Staley in casino business involvement when he had announced plans to have a series eateries at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Staley did not speak on the subject to The Inquirer in December of 2006 when Foxwoods was awarded one of the sites to be in South Philadelphia -- which later fell apart.

But a year earlier in Decembr 2005 she told the paper that her part would be a vehicle to boost funding for her Dawn Staley Foundation, established after the 1996 Olymics, and which has had a great positive impact on helping urban school kids at risk.

"This provides an opportunity for me to put some significant money into my foundation," Staley told The Inquirer. "This casino will allow us to make a lot of these projects a reality and benefit kids in North Philadelphia."

Former 76ers general manager Billy King was also one of the celebrity investors in the group.

Staley's stake was reported to be $500,000, a little over 1 percent.

However, in 2010, Pennsylvania's Gaming Control Board revoked the license because of consistent delays and problems financing the project.

When the Guru first learned of the tragedy involving Katz on Sunday morning before heading to Washington for the WNBA game, he sent Staley a text in case she hadn't heard the news.

"Very sad," came the response, though it was unclear whether or not she already knew.

But at about the same time Staley put out a tweet on her twitter account, saying: Just learned one who I call a friend, Lewis Katz, a Temple U board member & a true giver to those in need, died in a plane craah. #RIPMRKATZ

-- Mel Greenberg



- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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