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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Former WNBA Great Lisa Leslie Heads Six New Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees

By Mel Greenberg

Now Dawn Staley is reunited with her good friend Lisa Leslie in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, which is headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., and likely to be joined by the former Southern Cal all-American and WNBA All-Timer a year from now in the next class in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Leslie, who won four Olympic gold medals and played alongside Staley for three of them on the USABasketball squad, is one of six new inductees to the Women's Hall announced here Saturday afternoon during the annual WNBA All-Star game.

Ceremonies will take place on June 13 in Knoxville.

Additionally, the Immaculata championship era 1972-74 is having a pretty good year with another tribute in being named the lastest team honoree as a Trailblazer Award winner by the Women's Hall, following the 1976 USA Olympic squad, which was honored in June.

The Mighty Macs will be inducted as a team winner early next month into the Naismith Hall and in November will join the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame as inductees.

The Trailblazer winners are not part of the formal induction class but former Immaculata coach Cathy Rush and stars Theresa Grentz and Marianne Stanley, now an assistant with the WNBA Washington Mystics, are already in the Women's and Philly Halls as individual enshrinees.

"I'm not surprised that Lisa has been named," Staley said of Leslie, who is being inducted on her first eligibility after retiring from the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks five years ago. "I'm sure this is the first of many for her.

"It's hard to believe that it's already five years since she's played."

Leslie was the MVP on the Sparks' WNBA titles back-to-back in 2001 and 2002.

Her coach Michael Cooper is here coaching the East squad as a result of having the best record with the Atlanta Dream to date and also coached the West squad when he was with the Sparks, making him the only individual to coach both All-Star contingents.

Fred Williams won the East title last season but after not being retained by Atlanta is now with the Tulsa Shock.

Leslie was in familiar territory here having played on seven WNBA All-Star West squads.

The other five inductees are Los Angeles Sparks assistant Gaail Goestenkors, who had a distinguished collegiate coaching career with a longtime stint at Duke followed by a stop at the University of Texas.

Goestenkors also was an assistant on several USA Olympic gold medal-winning coaching staffs.

Brazilian Janeth Arcain was part of the first four WNBA titles won by the former Houston Comets and also earned two Olympic siver medals with her country's national team.

Janet Harris, who her earned accolades as the 1982 national freshman of the year at the University of Georgia, is the latest of four Women's Hall of Famers out of the Georgia proram joining coach Andy Landers, and former olympic stars Theresa Edwwards and Katrina McClain.

Harris, a prolific center, as was Leslie, was the first NCAA player to score 2,500 points and grab 1,250 rebounds.

The late Kurt Budke coached at Louisiana Tech and moved on to Oklahoms State, where his career was tragically cut short in November, 2011, when he and his assistant Miranda Serna were killed in a crash of a private plane while on a recruiting trip.

Budke also led Trintiy Valley Community College to a 222-16 record in seven seasons all of which resulted in conference titles and six trips to the NCJAA title games to earn four championships and two runnerup finishes.

The other inductee is longtime Oregon City High School coach Brad Smith, who in 27 seasons in the Northwest guided the program to three USAToday national championships from 1995-97 and 26 league titles compiling a record of 629-87.

After his East squad had edged the West in overtime 125-124 in the most exciting All-Star game in WNBA history, with all sorts of records being set for the event, Cooper took a few moments to talk about Leslie's entrance to the Women's Hall.

"I was so proud to see her out there today," Cooper said.

Leslie said, 'Coach Cooper, you guys got Shoni Schimmel,' and she took her head band out with the Schimmel 23 and put that on her and that shws that she still has fun with this game of basketball.

"But again," Cooper said, "with her being inducted into the Hall of Fame, what better player? I've never been around a young lady that really worked as hard as they could every single day to get better and was never content.

"She had an MVP season and wanted to do it again," he recalled. "She was always calling me and pulling me into the gym.

"It's funny, if you get a player of her caliber and her magnitude that wants to get better and not just settle for the level she's at, so kudos to 'Smooth,' she did it her way, she went out her way and I'm so glad and honored that I had an opportunity to coach her and still know her as a friend."

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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