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, February 01, 2018

Guru Report: It’s Inauguration Day at the NCAA as the New VP of Women’s Basketball Takes Office

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

At mid-December, the NCAA announced the hiring of then-West Coast Conference Commissioner Lynn Holzman to become the new vice president of women’s basketball succeeding Anucha Browne, who left in August to work in engagement for UNICEF at the United Nations.

The position’s vacancy officially ends today, Thursday, Feb. 1, as Holzman, who was a team captain at Kansas State when the Wildcats played in the Big Eight, returns to Indianapolis, where she worked previously at the NCAA in various other levels.

Holzman emerged from a group of three finalists — don’t know the other two but its academic because from the minute the word went out with the pick ultimately made by Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball at the NCAA, the news of her hire was met with virtual unanimity in acceptance, filing in all the checkmarks people mentioned existed when the job became open.

“It’s a tremendous hire,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno, recently when the Blue Demons were in the area to play Villanova.

“I know when I was the president of the WBCA (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association), Lynn was tremendously helpful to us in terms of our legislative goals and in working with the NCAA.”

Holzman’s name was on the Guru’s list in his candidates story when Browne left as one of a few with previous NCAA employment who would make an outstanding catch if she was interested.

Few knew, though, or had any idea considering she had become head of the WCC in 2014.

“When it opened, I thought, ‘it’s the job of a lifetime,’” Holzman told the Guru in a chat the day after her hiring became public. “So I quietly began checking around and we went from there.”

Several NCAA insiders off the record who worked with Hozman applauded her return, one calling the appointment, “It’s the right person for the right time.”

Holzman played for WNBA Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler.

“I really enjoyed Lynn,” Agler recalls. “She was a great competitor and extremely smart and skilled player. She could play both inside and out and was extremely coachable.!

“She had great leadership abilities and was a tremendous teammate! Great ambassador for the program. I’m not surprised at all at her success.” 

During the hunt other good candidates were not interested because of either not wanting to move to the Midwest, were quite happy in their current jobs, or some fearful of things they had heard about “the NCAA culture,” though since Gavitt’s hire to oversee all basketball, that perception has somewhat diminished.

But in any event, Holzman and her desire erases all those strikes from other prospects.

As Big East commissioner Val Ackerman noted after the hire, “Great choice, knowledgeable and well respected, comes from inside the system, so no learning curve.

“Her basketball background is a huge asset and she’s sure to bring strong leadership and collaborative mindset to the position.”

Some senior women’s administrators see Holzman as a stabilizing force amid many changes that have been made in recent years from inside the NCAA home office to out on the court.

Holzman in a way acknowledged some of that, saying, her prime mission when she comes aboard is to “get all the stakeholders together and make sure we’re all moving in the same, unifying direction to promote the game.”

Sue Donohoe, who served in a similar NCAA position with a different title prior to Browne said, “One thing she does bring is she already knows a lot of people from various areas — administrators, coaches, and media.

“And she has people who she can draw on since she left who can help fill in whatever gaps, if any, exists.”