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, December 19, 2014

Guru Special Report: The Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach Race Has Surprises

By Mel Greenberg

With the annual Maggie Dixon doubleheader in Madison Square Garden in New York City only weeks away, its time to look at another entity that bears the name of the late young Army coach who made news when in her first season she guided the Knights to their first Patriot League title and ensuing NCAA tournament appearance only to die suddenly several weeks later of an undetected heart ailment.

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in her memory created an award every year to go to the top rookie coach in Division I as determined by a select panel.

Over the summer when jobs are changing and the Guru, among others, compile the list and also break out the hires who are first-time head coaches in Division I and thus become listees on those eligible for the award.

Going into this season, the count of candidates was 23, lower than recent years but the overall hires, including existing head coaches making the switch, were also much lower than the 73 or so individuals involved in switches two three seasons ago.

Technically, everyone is still alive since conference play will allow for those whose teams have losing records to make up for lost ground.

But for now here's a list of those who have compiled the best records through Wednesday games -- the Thursday updates weren't published yet when putting this post together -- with a few extras who might be .500 or better with the change of one or two wins.

Also listed is the Wednesday ranking from the Jeff Sagarin Ratings because the NCAA RPI, which now appears daily, doesn't show strength of schedule, while the RPIRatings.com goes public only once a week.

Besides, retired Princeton athletic director Gary Walters, a former chair of the NCAA men's basketball tournament committee, once told the Guru, the Sagarin system is a better predictor than the RPI.

Amazingly, in the slim group of frontrunners for the Maggie Dixon award, right now only three of their teams are withint the top 100.

OK, with that said, here's a look but remember we'll revisit this after the first go-round of the conference schedules that get played full-tilt beginning next month.

The list is going to go by won-loss records because it is not that large that you can't determine what it would look like if Sagarin would be the way to show the order.

1. Joey Wells, Indiana State, 8-1, 69. He was a promotion from the staff when the hiring took place for this Missouri Valley school.

2. Chris Boettcher, Southern Utah, 6-1, 208. A 2013 assistant at BYU, who was in Japan last season before taking the helm at the Big Sky institution.

3. Jimmie Dykes, Arkansas, 8-2, 40. Lot of controversy when hired st this Southeastern Conference school, his alma mater, with no prior coaching experience though he did broadcast the sport on ESPN. He did get the Razorbacks briefly ranked and is one of the few with a low or high Sagarin, depending how you list the number The SEC competition will determine whether he stays in the mix.

4. (tie). Lisa Fortier, Gonzaga, 6-4, 74. She was promoted when Kelly Graves left for the Oregon job from the one in which he claimed a slew of West Coast crowns.

4. (tie.) Kamie Etheridge, Northern Colorado, 6-4, 158 Former Texas All-American who was an assistant at Kansas State, whose former head coach is now Etheridge's assistant.

6. Jenerrie Harris, Mass.-Lowell, 5-4, 229. A former Navy assistant joins a school in the America East relatively new to Division I.

7. (tie) Tyler Summitt, Louisiana Tech, 4-4, 150. The son of legendary Tennessee coach emeritus Pat Summitt moves from an assistant at Marquette to his first head coaching job at the Conference-USA school that was a longtime rival of the Lady Vols.

7. (tie) Angel Elderkin, Appalachian State, 4-4, 234. Prim and trim from her last job as an assistant at LSU.

Honorable Mention

1. Carolyn McCombs, Stony Brook, 4-5, 212. Former Auburn assistant moves to the America East.

2. Ron Hughley, Houston, 3-5, 294. Former Florida State and Rutgers assistant moving to the American Athletic Conference.

3. Mauren Walseth, North Dakota State,, 4-6. Former Penn State assistant and star moving from her alma mater to the Summit Conference.

. 4. Kelly Cole, Northeastern, 2-4, 234. Former Harvard assistant moves to the Colonial Athletic Association.

Special Commendation

Daynia La-Force is not a rookie but moves from Northeastern in the CAA to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 and the Rams go to 7-3.

And that is the way it looks for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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