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, January 09, 2015

Guru Report: More History From Penn-Princeton Includes Teams' Female Rookie Athletic Directors

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

When the annual first of two Penn-Princeton men’s-women’s doubleheaders this season is held Saturday afternoon at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym to launch the Ivy League basketball season, more history will pick up from the unprecedented action that occurred in March when the final chapter of 2013-14 was written.

Whether either is in the house or not, it will be the first time both programs will arrive under the stewardship of rookie athletic directors and both who are each the first-ever female appointees in their respective positions at Penn and Princeton.

Penn beat Princeton to the punch by a month last spring, naming Grace M. Calhoun, who had been in charge at Loyola of Chicago, before Princeton hired one of its own in handing the job to Mollie Marcoux, a former soccer and ice hockey star for the Tigers.

According to the Guru’s research, subject to any additional information, Calhoun and Marcoux are the third and fourth women to be in charge of an Ivy League school’s entire athletic department.

JoAnne (Josie) Harper, a former lacrosse coach at Penncrest High besides having other coaching positions, became the first Ivy female AD when she was promoted at Dartmouth in 2002 and served until her retirement in 2009.

This is the 10th season for Dianne M. Murphy, a member of the NCAA women’s basketball committee who had already announced she will be leaving Columbia this spring.

Likely to be a third Ivy female executive in Jadwin at Saturday's game, assuming the other two are also in the arena, is Robin Harris, a Duke law graduate who has been serving as the Ivy League executive director.

Ivy headquarters are located in Princeton in central New Jersey.

In launching league play the Quakers and host Tigers are heading to Saturday’s tip as the first-ever co-picks to win the league title based on a vote of selected media representatives who cover the Ivy women.

But that is the closest they are to each other in distinction with each having brand new qualities attached to their identities.

This week, other than the 2001 Penn men who started 28-0, Princeton is the second-ever men’s or women’s unbeaten squad to this date, going 16-0 for the Tigers’ entire non-conference slate that was completed Monday night in Virginia when Princeton outlasted host Hampton.

Princeton is also the first Ivy team to play in the pre-tournament season with a national ranking after returning to the Associated Press media poll Monday at No. 22 which occurred 24 hours before making their USAToday Coaches poll debut on Tuesday.

The Tigers previously earned a spot at No. 24 in the final poll of the 2012 season and then lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Penn comes into the game off last season’s notoriety and this past Monday night when the Quakers beat Temple to earn their first-ever victory No. 3 in the City Series round-robin to clinch at least a tie for the Philadelphia Big 5 title.

Coach Mike McLaughlin’s squad can win it outright later this month when Villanova visits The Palestra or otherwise the Wildcats will tie with the win.

Defending champion Saint Joseph’s can join the deadlock as a third group co-winner next month by beating La Salle at home February 4 in the first of two home-and-home games that will also count in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings.

Penn could be the last obstacle to an otherwise unbeaten season for Princeton, which returns the Quakers’ visit on the final game in league play at The Palestra when the men and women play their second doubleheader in March.

Of course Harvard can never be discounted and last season after Princeton wiped out Penn in the league opener indicating a fifth-straight Ivy title was in the offering, Harvard came along and beat the Tigers in Jadwin only to be crushed the next night by the Quakers at The Palestra.

And so it became a three-way race for a while but both handled Harvard the second time around though 24 hours later Penn’s New England road trip was disrupted by Dartmouth but as saved when Brown did likewise a week later to the Tigers in a game played in Rhode Island.

And so the two went lockstep to a historic matchup in Princeton when for the first time ever two Ivy squads – the league is the only conference with no postseason tourney – were in a first place tie meeting each other in the final game of the Ivy slate.

Penn won and went on to scare Texas with a halftime lead in the first round of the NCAA tourney at Maryland before the Longhorns rallied to advance but then fall to the host Terrapins, an eventual Final Four participant in the next round.

The Ivy runnerup gets an automatic bid to the WNIT and no Ivy squad has ever gotten an at-large bid from the NCAA committee, though one could make a case for Princeton this season.

After Saturday, Princeton will get a chance to move up in the polls doing nothing since the Tigers will hit their three-week hiatus for final exams before beginning league-only play the rest of the season starting with a road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth that Penn will also take that same weekend.

While Princeton is hitting the books the next three weeks, Penn has three more non-conference games at home, hosting Richmond next Wednesday, hosting Villanova on Jan. 21 and also somewhere in there hosting NJIT.

The Return of Bad Boy Billy

Maybe that is how we should now refer to former Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys" NBA champion star Bill Laimbeer, who on Thursday was announced as the new old coach of the WNBA New York Liberty replacing half of himself, who was let go after last season also holding the general manager slot.

Winner of three WNBA crowns guiding the former Detroit Shock before leaving the league for a while serving as an assistant with the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves, in truth, Laimbeer should have never been released by the Liberty after the season despite New York missing the playoffs by a game.

Liberty senior Vice president of business operations Kristin Bernert, who will now wear the GM hat, made the announcement, though it is believed the hand that pulled the trigger to oust Laimbeer was attached to a body higher up the MSG organization chart that also is trying to cope with the disheveled NBA New York Knicks.

Laimbeer’s hire puts to rest the unfounded gossip in the New York Post but not in the sports section that owner James L. Dolan was actively trying to find a way to move the Liberty out of Madison Square Garden elsewhere in favor of better revenue producing events in the renovated arena or jettison the franchise altogether to another owner.

That could still happen in the future if the Liberty don’t show signs of forward progress, though they will be idle at next month’s draft having dealt away what became a lottery pick to the Connecticut Sun as part of the mega trade that landed hometown talent and former UConn superstar Tina Charles.

Ironically, current Liberty types stayed away from the Garden Sunday when the annual Maggie Dixon Classic women’s basketball doubleheader was held to avoid having to address the Post rumor and the coaching vacancy though their absence created a public relations hit with critics noting not having a coach to introduce during the games was not a good thing.

Since Laimbeer said he wanted to coach in the WNBA again, though perhaps negotiations were in place, the Liberty had to quicken the pace to reclaim Laimbeer in light of the Seattle Storm’s position being open following Brian Agler’s parallel move in the Western Conference to take over the Los Angeles Sparks squad.

With Bernert said to be the GM, though considering she and Laimbeer go back to Detroit Shock days working together, job titles aside, the working dynamic is likely to be the same.

Furthermore, at least the question as to who is running the Liberty is settled after doubts it wias still Bernert in light of Laimbeer’s departure.

The reference at the outset of this item here is with the late Billy Martin, hired five times by owner George Steinbrenner to manage the New York Yankees in baseball.

Of course, Laimbeer had another nickname “Trader Bill,” because of his ability to land such people as former Ohio State star Katie Smith, now a Liberty assistant coach, to build Detroit to championship level.

His acumen for wheeling and dealing which stood up last season when Charles was obtained will quickly be put to a new test with free agency in the WNBA about to begin.

Stay tuned.

The Games: Looking Back and Ahead

Since writing the Penn game off Monday’s Big Five win over Temple, the Guru was in the nation’s capital Wednesday night where Jonathan Tsipis’ year two of revitalizing former Atlantic 10 power house George Washington saw the Colonials get to 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the conference by beating struggling Saint Joseph’s 83-69.

The Hawks (5-9, 1-1) continue to get smacked by injuries, the latest being Sarab Fairbanks, who is out at least two weeks with a broken hand.

GW was coming into the game off an enlightening one-point road win at preseason favorite Dayton, but didn’t suffer an emotional letdown.

Caira Washington, no relation to George, had 23 points for the winners in the Charles E. Smith Center, while Jonquel Jones had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Hannah Schaibel scored 14 points.

The Colonials outscored the Hawks 50-20 in the paint.

Natasha Cloud, considered WNBA draft material, though not necessarily a first-rounder, had 26 points and seven rebounds for the Hawks while Ciara Andrews scored 17 points.

Saint Joseph’s next hosts Massachusetts 2 p.m. Saturday at Hagan Arena.

Fordham Ends La Salle Home Unbeaten Streak

On Thursday night, the Guru made the return trip fast enough to get to La Salle where defending champion Fordham improved to 10-5 overall and 2-0 in the A-10 beating the Explorers 70-59 as Samantha Clark scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Rams.

Emily Tapio scored 13 points while Tiffany Ruffin scored 11 and G’mrice Davis, a freshman and graduate of Girard College celebrated her homecoming scoring 10 points.

La Salle (10-5, 1-1) had a win streak stopped though Michaya Owens and Alicia Cropper each scored 11 points.

The Explorers next hosts George Mason on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Tom Gola Arena.

Drexel on an Early CAA Roll

On Tuesday, three of the Guru’s 10-team PhilahoopsW teams were all on the road, including the duo who are in the early phases of Colonial Athletic Association competition – Drexel and Delaware.

Drexel traveled to new CAA member Elon in North Carolina and came away with a 57-47 victory as Rachel Pearson scored 21 points for the Dragons (8-5, 2-0 CAA). Coach Denise Dillon forced the Phoenix (8-5, 1-1) into 25 turnovers while committing just 10 of their own.

Sarah Curran had 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Dragons in a key game Friday night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center at 7 p.m. hosts Hofstra (9-4, 2-0), which edged Northeastern 85-83 at home in West Hempstead, N.Y.

Delaware, meanwhile, fell at College of Charleston 55-49 as the Cougars (3-10, 1-1) in South Carolina got 17 points, eight rebounds and five steals.

The Blue Hens (5-8, 0-2) got 12 points and seven rebounds from Hannah Jardine while Courtni Greene had 15 points.

With the CAA moving the bulk of its conference front-end nights on the weekly schedule to Fridays, Delaware will be off to Towson down in Maryland.

On Sunday, Drexel will host UNCW at 2 p.m., the middle of a Guru tripleheader with Temple back in league play in The American hosting USF at noon in McGonigle Hall – the Bulls were picked second behind Connecticut in The American – then the Drexel game followed by a trip to Villanova, which hosts Georgetown at 5 p.m. in The Pavilion.

The Wildcats, also part of the Big Easts’ new Friday night similarity to the CAA schedule, will be at Creighton Friday night.

Delaware on Sunday will be at Northeastern in Boston.

Penn State Struggles Continue

Also, this past Tuesday, Penn State stayed winless in Big Ten action, losing at Wisconsin 65-46 as the host Badgers (6-8, 2-2) used a 16-0 run early in the second half to take control.

Lindsey Spann, a freshman, had 11 points for the Lady Lions (3-12, 0-4) while Candice Agee had nine points and seven rebounds.

Completing the Guru’s catch-up here Rutgers, which dropped from 16th to 24th in this week’s Associated Press poll, snapped a two-game losing streak in the front end of its inaugural run in the Big Ten by stopping Michigan 81-68 Wednesday night after yielding a 19-point lead in the second half at home in The Rutgers Athletic Center.

Betnijah Laney had her 11th double double for the Scarlet Knights (11-4, 2-2 Big Ten) while Tyler Scaife scored 20 points and Rachel Hollivay had 10 points.

Cyesha Gore had 23 points for Michigan (10-5, 2-2).

On Saturday Rutgers will travel to Penn State at noon as the former members and key rivals in the Atlantic 10 renew their longtime series now as Big Ten rivals.

However, the last time Rutgers ever visited Penn State the Lady Lions played in Rec Hall and not at the Bryce Jordan Center.

This now completes all PhilahoopsW games played this week and looking to those coming up the next three days and nights through Sunday.

Division II Action

On Thursday night Jessica Sylvester reached her 1,000th point scoring for the University of the Sciences of Pennsylvania in a 45-39 win over Chestnut Hill at home in the Bobby Morgan Arena for a game in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC).

The Devils (9-4, 6-1 CACC) have won seven straight while the Griffins fell to 3-10 overall and 1-5 in the conference.

Sylvester, now at 1,003, became the 16th Devils player in the history of the program to hit the 1,0009-point milestone.

Brianne Traub of USP had 15 points while reserve Sarah Abbonizio scored 11 and Isabelle Ross grabbed 11 rebounds.

Nationally Noted

In a wild night of action Thursday in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Pittsburgh upset No. 8 North Carolina 84-59 at home in the Petersen Events Center as the Panthers (11-4, 1-1 ACC) matched a December 2007 win over Maryland as the two highest ranked teams (both eighth) Pittsburgh has even beaten.

Brianna Kiesel had 22 points and nine rebounds and five assists for Pittsburgh while Monica Wignot had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and freshman Stasha Carey had 17 points.

Allisha Gray had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Tar Heels (14-2, 1-1 ACC).

Miami at home upset No. 4 Notre Dame, and Duke barely avoided a home loss to Syracuse.

In Conference USA, newly ranked No. 25 Western Kentucky, back in the rankings for the first time in several decades, beat Charlotte on the road f76-61 or the Hilltoppers’ 10th straight victory.

Illinois beat No. 17 Iowa 73-61 at home in the Big Ten as Charlotte White scored 22 points.

No. 7 Tennessee at home topped No. 9 Texas A&M 81-58 in Knoxville as the Lady Vols (13-2, 3-0 SEC) in a Southeastern Conference game beat their third top-10 opponent of the season.

The Aggies fell to 14-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference.

Isabelle Harrison had 21 points and eight rebounds for Tennessee while Cierra Burdick had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Ariele Massengale scored 14.

And that is the report until tweeting from the Drexel-Hofstra game tonight (Friday).

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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