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.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Guru Sidebar: Presser Wait Time Record Long Time Following Rutgers Loss

(Guru note: Be advised and understand some of this is tongue in cheek)

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Piscataway, N.J. – On average in 1 hour and 20 minutes, assuming on time performance, one can virtually go the distance between Hamilton (suburban Trenton), N.J., and New York City on the rails of New Jersey transit.

One can also watch the first five post time races go off at many tracks across the country.

In that time, many short-range regional flights can be traveled between metro areas in terms of wheels up and wheels down end-to-end distances.

Or on Saturday afternoon, one could have spent the same marathon clicks of the clock waiting here between the final moment of the Rutgers-Temple game at the Rutgers Athletic Center won by the visiting Owls 48-37 to snap a six-game losing streak in the series and the moment Hall of Fame Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer appeared in the media room for her  postgame press conference.

That span, based on compilations of similar type experiences over the years by veteran media on the Rutgers women’s beat, pro and college, eclipsed the previous record mark of 1 hour, 16 minutes set after the famed Duke massacre on the front end of the 2006-07 season that ended in the NCAA title game in a loss to Tennessee.

Another Duke wipeout here 68-32 on the first of this month now moves to third place at 1 hour, six minutes.

The 1 hour, 20 minute number was agreed upon the three media representatives in the room – yours truly, the student writer from the Daily Targum, and the crew on the combo R-Vision Big Ten Plus network to account for  the moments from a heads up “she’s coming” to seconds afterwards estimated as we prepared to get our digital recorders and camera equipment revved up.

Times change. The night of the previous record, the more crowded room included live coverage from the Newark Star Ledger, AP national, the Bergen Record, Asbury Park, the Trenton papers, and because of yours truly employment at the time, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

And unlike the other folks in the room on Saturday, yours truly did not have a deadline and spent the front end of the wait interviewing Temple elsewhere, in part, they were in the winner and knew it would be a while with the one team, and also because when these two play, Temple wins the Guru geographical proximity factor.  

Incidentally, a recent innovation allows members of the Cagers Club to attend these pressers win or lose and considering the age of some and wait time, one did briefly wonder whether a deal exists between the university and governor of New Jersey to come up with a way to eliminate some numbers who receive financial medical aid from the state.

  Furthermore, we know of a Rutgers alum who was at the game, who covered the beat for the school paper during the glory years in the middle of the last decade, who arrived home from here to South Jersey in the Philadelphia suburbs while the team was still being addressed in the locker room.

At least Stringer has some kind of sense of humor enduring the worst record at this season  stage in her career after the vastly inexperienced roster carrying the Rutgers banner fell to 3-10 and could easily be 2-11 had not Seton Hall self-immolated in the second half of a loss here Wednesday night.

“I hope they fed you guys,” Stringer smiled. For veterans of women’s pressers here players did not accompany her nor were they needed considering the hour and those present.

“Attitudes to be changed are difficult and it’s going to take a while because this group is not used to anything at the higher level,” Stringer said giving some sense of what the internal post game talk was about. “We hope to get there. That’s part of the reason we’re late here.

“Turning attitudes and mindsets and don’t think of yourself. Here’s the thing, the only way we’re going to have more confident is we have to perform in high pressure situations. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s  good when you’re winning, which is what we were doing (in the first half),” she explained.

“But as the big bad wolf starts to come and threaten, then we find .. we didn’t have that leadership and who we need to be as a team. So we didn’t have that leadership.

“That know what else to say. The difference was they were missing shots and we were missing defensive assignments. We asked the team, ‘Did anything happen that we weren’t prepared? Well no.’”

Stringer then spoke of anxiousness setting in as Temple got closer. “Everyone has experienced this. When things are calm you’re calm. When they say, `You got eight numbers and you got one more number to pick for $1 million lottery, does your hand start to sweat?

“It’s like a free throw. If you got a 20-point lead and you’re taking free throws that’s good. (Rutgers was 0-for-4 for the game). Oh my goodness, the championship is on the line so you’ve watched the greatest of them do that.

“Our problem is we got five people, none of whom are inexperienced. And all of them need each other. So we get enough leadership from the point, but we can’t get it from the two, the three, the four or anywhere else. It’s not just one mistake. You can’t say it’s lack of desire. We just have to work.”

Daring as yours truly was, he asked what he perceived as a simple throw-away perspective question about whether Stringer thought maybe some light was starting to click on after Rutgers beat Seton Hall with a second-half rally and win after the devastating loss last Saturday at Houston, coughing up an eight-point lead in the last two minutes.

Of course more than a simple sound bite came back in return as per the Guru experience over several decades covering Stringer and having a friendship dating back to Cheyney days.
“You said it right. Because I can honestly say that when you walk out thinking, `You know maybe we have something. Now maybe I can take us a little bit further.’ And so I didn’t want to let on but it’s interesting you said that because I didn’t say that to anybody. But that is my thought.

“So now I’m think that we had just blown a game in Houston with a lead eight ten points in 2 minutes and 11 seconds but I liked the way they came back. A lot of things were going through my mind but I can honestly say I didn’t communicate that to the team.

“Here’s what the situation is, wise, when they know they’re fortunate to be there, then they don’t take anything for granted. And they’re still on high alert for whoever the competition is.

“Then if we are not as wise as we need to be, then we can come in not as sharp and I’m telling the truth whether you like it or not. That’s a fact. So what ends up happening we’ve been having two days of bad practices. Am I surprised. Not at all. You begin to know and give warnings ahead of time. Guy, we have to pay attention to this because this is happen.

“There’s nothing (Temple) did. Nothing. But any game you enter into, you should have a sense of high alert. But it doesn’t matter if its Michael Jordan or Stephen Curry.

“Needless to say, Temple had just finished beating No. 17 DePaul. Are we smart enough to figure that out? No!! This is not Temple before. These guys have grown, matured, and gotten better.”

Just ahead after the Christmas break are nothing but Big 10 opponents the rest of the way starting with Michigan on the road and Penn State at home on New Year’s Eve.

 But who would believe that in year three of existing in the conference, the Scarlet Knights are more of an RPI killer right now than having their past traditional killing instinct.