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.
Here is the first of two Guru-written bios -- this one of former Temple classmate and media colleague -- the famed Dick "Hoops" Weiss -- the one directly under of former Temple star Marilyn Stepens -- for the printed program of Thursday night's Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Will try to get his acceptance speech to save transcription time. Marilyn basically covered the same ground in her speech as what is in the Guru's contribution.
By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru
It is not true that Dick “Hoops” Weiss earned his nickname at birth because his umbilical cord got entangled with a basketball net and the doctors could not find a way to separate the two.
In fact, the longtime primarily collegiate basketball journalist out of Drexel Hill, now residing in Havertown in the city’s Western suburbs, did not see his first hoops contest in his beloved Palestra until 1959.
That night was to be the first of a lifetime of memories in the hallowed arena, so hallowed that its best quoted nickname stems from Weiss, who once referred to it as a “basketball cathedral.”
Halls of Fame inductions are not new to Weiss, a 1970 Temple graduate who wrote for the Philadelphia Daily News, also covering the NBA in a 20-year stint for the paper he always wanted to work for before landing a position as national college columnist for the New York Daily News from 1973 through 2013.
Among some of his honors are induction into the United States Basketball Writers Hall of Fame and, at the time, the youngest recipient of the prestigious Curt Gowdy Award for media excellence from the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
But tonight’s honor by the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame along with his 2015 entry into the Big Five Hall of Fame are likely his two special tributes for being presented in his hometown.
Also on the hometown front has been an induction into the Journalism Hall of Fame from Temple, his alma mater, where his undergrad days were spent in part as Sports Editor of the school paper and yearbook.
Renown local and national football scribe Ray Didinger tells of first meeting Hoops in the fall of 1966 when Didinger was the sports editor of the Temple News and Hoops came to apply for a job writing sports, specifically wanting to chronicle basketball.
“I still remember he was carrying his books in a Darby-Colwyn gym bag with a button that said ‘Hustle,’" Didinger recalled, also saying he couldn’t offer Hoops the beat because it was the most in demand.
So he offered swimming and said Hoops was excellent and his writing and enthusiasm was so great the next year he was co-sports editor with Ron Pollack.
“So that is my college legacy; that is, I took the most celebrated basketball writer of his generation and made him cover swimming,” Didinger grinned. “Talk about an eye for talent.”
Didinger also recalled Weiss being all bummed out because Eddie “The Shot” Stefanski, then a fifth-grader whom Hoops followed closely, had lost a CYO game. “’What was he supposed to do? They put three eighth graders on him.’ Of course Ed went on to star at Penn and become a GM in the NBA.
Weiss could also easily be nicknamed “Dickie Grid” for his coverage of football, which has also brought numerous honors as the Bert McGraine Award Award from the Football Writers Associations and the College Football Hall of Fame, the highest honor given to a college football writer.
It’s been said when Weiss shows up at a Final Four in any given year, he knows everyone in the room on a personal basis and everyone knows him.
And why not. He’s covered 44 of them to date along with 33 national title games in college football.
Three Big Five coaches: Villanova’s Jay Wright, Saint Joseph’s Phil Martelli, and Temple’s Fran Dunphy, go way back with Hoops.
Says Martelli, “Dick Weiss is the only person in the basketball world who has an absolutely perfect nickname - Hoops. From CYO to the NBA, from Pauley Pavilion to the sacred Palestra and from UConn’s women to the Narberth Summer League team, Hoops knows all - the players, the stories, the background.
Personally, he introduced me to my wife, Judy, by recommending me to (Immaculata coach) Cathy Rush to work her camps in 1975. Thanks Hoops!"
Adds Wright, "When I first met Hoops in the 1980s, he was already a legend. I saw the respect Coach Mass had for Dick and I quickly understood why.
“Not only were Hoops' columns in the Philadelphia Daily News and Eastern Basketball a must read, he has a respect for our game that coaches everywhere appreciate. It wasn't about him making a name for himself but telling the stories of the people who are a part of it.”
Dunphy notes: "No media member deserves a spot in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame more than Dick "Hoops" Weiss," said Dunphy. "He has documented Philadelphia basketball in a positive light for nearly a half century, and his coverage has been fair, accurate and inspiring. He is a media icon, a Philadelphia treasure and a friend to all."
Game and feature stories are just part of his penmanship.
Weiss has also co-authored 12 books on basketball Hall of Famers Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Dick Vitale, and Theresa Grentz, the last two of which were written with his wife and childhood sweetheart, Joan Williamson.
Married 25 years, he still considers her the best editor he’s ever worked with.
A new book in its finishing stages has Weiss writing on the impact of NBA players on the Olympics.
Speaking of international hoops, Weiss couldn’t possibly go through with retirement before expanding his vistas across the globe and following his departure from New York, Mike Flynn, the head of Blue Star Media Website, quickly snapped him up, sending Weiss to such places as
Prague, Dubai, Spain, the Bahamas, Crete and most recently Rio for the 2016 summer Olympics.
Grentz has had a longtime friendship with Hoops back to her all-American playing days at Immaculata and through her Hall of Fame coaching career.
“Personally, I couldn't be more pleased to see Dick be enshrined in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. The man is Philadelphia Sports. Our friendship goes back many years and I have cherished everyone of them.
“ Thoughts of late night rendezvous at "Cafe Grentz" after "Hoops" and company, made their deadlines at the Philadelphia Daily News... steaks on the grill at 1:00am... basketball plays being designed with salt and pepper shakers along with other spice jars...76er's Games...listening to Lady Knights basketball games from press row... celebrating the holiday dinners with Joanie and Dick these last few years.
“The man is a walking legend and so respected by ALL who are involved with the game of basketball. His knowledge is vast and complete!
“It is the absolute best to just call him my friend.”
Weiss also works for George Raveling-- Coaching for Success; the Big Ten Network, the American Conference and Basketball Times. He’s also worked for CNN and frequently gets asked to make guest appearances on radio stations across America, especially the heavily listened to WFAN in New York.
His colleague Mike Jensen if The Philadelphia Inquirer recalls, “The first college basketball story I ever wrote, I went up to Marist College in New York and just to break the ice, DaveMagarity, then the men’s coach, says to me in passing, `So you know Hoops Weiss?’ I’m just some college kid and he mention’s the top writer and I said, `Well, I know of Dick Weiss,’ but didn’t know him at that time and now we’re great friends, and that was a mere 31 years ago.
“And nothing has changed. Hoops is sill Hoops. I’ve seen him at Division II games, Conshohocken Summer League, Final Fours, and everything in between.”