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.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Guru Report: Memorializing Ginny Doyle

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was one year ago this week that a grieving period in women's basketball circles had begun following the tragic loss on the evening of Friday, May 9, of longtime Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle and operations director Natalie Lewis when the balloon they were riding at a nearby festival in Virginia struck power power lines attempting to land.

Pilot error was eventually ruled as the cause, citing Donald T. Kirk, who also died in the accident.

Lewis, of Buffalo N.Y., was known more to the immediate Richmond sports scene as a star swimmer while Doyle was more known nationally because of her travels on the recruiting circuit as well as being a star performer at Archbishop Ryan and the Philadelphia Belles AAU squad in her native city before going on to become one of the all-time players with the Spiders.

Specifically, Doyle, nicknamed "Deadeye,"was a prolific foul shooter who set an NCAA mark for men and women in making 66 consecutive free throws in 1992.

"It's been a tough year," said Doyle's brother Joe, recently, about the close family coping with the loss, still attending Richmond games at which several the two Spiders staffers were remembered as they were also at last winter's Atlantic 10 tournament in Richmond, Va.

Joe said the family planned to get together last weekend and he did tweet pictures from a family barbeque.

In the wake of their loss the Spiders was able to have a decent season finishing in the second round of the WNIT with an overall record of 19-14 under coach Michael Shafer, who is also the chair of the NCAA women's rules committee.

However, this team was not far off the mark from an NCAA tournament appearance, considering that in regular season play through the conference, there were these narrow losses, all on the road, 64-63 at Fordham, 49-47 at Penn and 61-59 at Saint Joseph's, ironically both in Philadelphia, 58-51, in overtime at Duquesne, and again to Fordham, 46-45, in the conference tournament.

In the WNIT, after a one-point win in the first round, back at Duquesne, the season ended on a 48-47 setback to the Dukes.

Vic Dorr of the Richmond Times, the dean of Virginia women's basketball writers, had a nice one-year remembrance of the team during the past week on his Facebook page.

A source who worked under Shafer on the rules committee cited him for doing an outstanding job this past year and really being focused.

One never knows how a team may be affected. There was a player death in a car crash this season at Easterrn Michigan, which continued to fare decently, and a few other tragedies elsewhere.

Several years ago after Oklahoma State coach Kurk Budke and one of his assistants were killed at the season's outset in plane crash while on a recruiting trip, the Cowgirls went on to win the WNIT.

Budke, incidentally, is one of the inductees headed for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, June 13, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Teams don't always rally, however.

Arizona was a budding powerhouse in the middle of the last decade under veteran Joan Bonvicini, now at Seattle, until it suffered the loss of star center Shawntince Polk, who died suddenly September, 26, 2005, while in the McHale Center.

Polk was a three-time Pac-10 (pre-expansion) team member who held the school career marks for with 222 blocked shots and 46 double doubles.

"After she died, the team just went with her emotionally that's how much they were effected by her loss because she was the center in everything about our squad," Bonvicini said several years later.

Besides using the blog here a year ago for people to write remembrances -- you can use the search box if you've never been to this site -- the Guru has attempted to launch two initiatives in Doyle's memory.

One would be to have one game in Philadelphia each season -- preferably when Richmond is visiting -- to be declared the Big 5 Ginny Doyle Game and the Guru will be making a presentation to the athletic directors next month at their seasonal meeting.

The second, though everyone got too busy to act on, came as the Guru was approached about coming up with some award in Doyle's name to add to the WBCA lineup.

That may take a while but until then and maybe thereafter the Guru had this idea, which the family endorsed -- because Ginny was about fun and because of her skill -- why not during the WBCA convention during the Women's Final Four, have a Ginny Doyle foul shooting tournament.

It could either be open ended or there could be categories beyond the coaches' participation for media members, maybe referees attending the finals, and collegiate players who decide to attend.

Those that the Guru approached all loved the concept.

"I know I'd sign up in a heartbeat," said Providence's Susan Robinson-Fruchtl, who is one of Penn State's all-time stars. "The year that she set the record, I was right there with her and then I missed a shot and she kept going."

So any one you who are on board, feel free to comment below in the area and we will see what the response is.

In closing out, the Guru actually bumped into a writing clip from back in his Inquirer era that was authored in 2003 in which the main focus was La Salle's Jill Morano, who was on a foul shooting tear.

But in the same article he interviewed Doyle about what it takes to be that good and he closes this post with that segment:

"I get asked a lot about technique and mechanics, but at the same time, there are people who have some really unorthodox shots but shoot free throws well," Doyle said. "I just think it's a matter of repetition. It's a lot of focus. It's very mental shooting, more so than the actual skill. It's doing the same thing over and over again."

Doyle spoke of the defining moment of being on the free-throw line when the outcome of a game is in the balance.

"It's the inner game you play within yourself that makes you successful in those situations," Doyle said. "The people who are strong and mentally tough and can handle that kind of pressure are the people you see succeed at the free-throw line."

After Doyle passed 64 straight foul shots, she topped the men's mark and found herself involved in a shooting exhibition at Richmond against TV basketball analyst Billy Packer, who had made disparaging remarks about the achievement and the women's game.

Both used the men's ball, which is slightly larger than the women's. Packer made 12 of 20; Doyle made all 20.

"There were 1,200 people there to watch," Doyle said with a grin. "It was a really neat atmosphere."

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


Anonymous doni said...

thank;s your information,,

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the information you've shared about Ginny. She and I only met briefly years ago in Richmond but I never forgot her. Great blog here about WBB! Keep up the great work!

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