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, October 31, 2019

Guru’s PhilahoopsW: The Harry Perretta Era at Villanova to End This Season

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru


PHILADELPHIA – Early last summer in the lobby of Madison Square Garden in New York after the Big East formalities announcing Connecticut’s return to the conference next season were concluded, Huskies Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma was asked whether he had chatted with his longtime friend in Villanova’s Harry Perretta in recent days.

 “Harry?” Auriemma deadpanned. “I think we just sped up his retirement.”

 Indeed, the return of the nationally powerful Huskies would mean the freedom Villanova and its nine rivals enjoyed after the breakup of the old order where even frontrunners could be challenged on many nights might be over.

 Then several weeks ago in collecting schedules to produce the composite guideline for the season, it was noticed the Villanova slate includes games against Fordham, Manhattan, and Drexel, two of which are coached by former Wildcats stars Stephanie Gaitley and Denise Dillon, while the other is headed by former Perretta assistant Heather Vulin.

 “Gee, it looks like Harry is getting ready to do the farewell tour,” your Guru half-jokingly thought to himself.

 Certainly, several years ago it appeared some health issues might put an end to the long run the native of suburban Upper Darby has enjoyed on the Main Line, dating to his 1978 hire at age 22.

 But by the backside of last season the 64-year-old Perretta seemed like his old self, though a more tamed down version from his early days on the sidelines where his play-calling might be heard several miles away in Narberth.

 However, those little signals felt earlier here became reality late Wednesday afternoon when a call came from Villanova giving a heads up that within the hour an announcement was coming from Perretta saying his 42nd season in charge of the Wildcats would be his last.

 Who would believe that on the same day two occurrences people thought they might never see in their lifetime -- baseball’s Washington Nationals winning the World Series and Perretta stepping down from a second place he called hom — would both become historic within hours.

 In an interview Wednesday night with the Inquirer’s Joe Juliano, the Nova coach referred to health issues taking a toll, without going into a specific identity. 

 Furthermore, it has been a poignant year with the unforeseen death of longtime business colleague Cathy Inglese, who died soon after suffering a fall at Hofstra where she had been recently hired on the staff of Hofstra.

 She had coached against him when in charge of Boston College in the old Big East configuration.

 Earlier there was the sudden death of the likeable Reverend Anthony M. Genovese, “Father Mickey,” the women’s team chaplain who passed away on July 21 in his sleep after lying down on a weekend afternoon to take a nap.

 Along the way there have been the deaths of some former players and other notables, particularly the legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who in one of the better narratives in the sport befriended Perretta after hitting him up one summer on the recommendation of other coaches to teach her staff the nuances of his renown motion offense.

 Ironically, Perretta’s final season will begin at home next Wednesday in a non-conference game hosting George Washington, now coached  by former UConn star Jen Rizzotti, who helped break up a long domination of the Huskies by the Big East.

That’s the only game in D-1 locally that night.

 A note to the Guru from longtime UConn beat writer Carl Adamec stated Perretta’s 17 wins against the Huskies are the most of any opposing coach dating to the first one on Dec. 28, 1981.

 Of the triumphs, 11 came against Auriemma-coached teams, topped only by Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw, the former Saint Joseph’s star, who has 14.

 Aside from the coaching antics and humor, it is Perretta’s humanity which has drawn many around him, be they media types, the entire Villanova community, or those who deal with him in the sport.

 Indeed, in the famous year of 2003 when Villanova in the wake of upsetting UConn in the Big East title game ending the then-record Huskies win streak at 70 games, the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight game leading to the Final Four.

 However, the opponent was Tennessee in Knoxville.

 Notable on that weekend prior to the start of semifinals action against Colorado for Perretta’s group, Summitt had the Wildcats join her team for a cookout at her riverside home.

 “It was like a family reunion, except you had no idea who your relatives were,” one Nova player quipped of the experience.

 Then after beating the Buffs to advance against the Vols, Perretta joked about wearing one of Summitt’s gift ties she had sent.

 This love fest was totally strange to the locals in the room used to a culture of warfare in terms of opponent squad.

 Giving an instant symposium on the Big Five in Philly – a player said winning the title was bigger than what was happening – among other things, Perretta asked rhetorically, “Outside those 40 minutes, what is wrong with being friends the rest of the time.”

 Perretta once headed straight to Penn’s locker room first to give a pep talk after routing the Quakers in a game at home.

 Memorable was the time he accepted a Big Five Hall of Fame honor for the immortal Shelly Pennefather and noted, “You never know how many lives you are eventually touching from what you do in a given moment.”

 Perretta has touched a whole bunch, given the mass reaction of notes sent to the Guru to share here given the longtime association with the Villanova mentor.

 Because he will still be around the next several months on active duty, the profile numbers of his accomplishments can be found in the release at Villanova’s website and need not be repeated here until the books close next March or early April.

 And the school announced that he will be around the following season serving as a special assistant to the athletic director, who in the release said Perretta would have input on his successor.

 Several years ago, a former coach of a Southeastern Conference school here to play in the area, in a routine conversion told the Guru he thought Villanova whenever it would open would be an opportunity to be at the best job in the East.

 Wednesday night, a note came from the same individual after hearing the news, commenting “what I said to you several years ago about ‘Nova, I still believe.”

 So before relating the reaction notes and knowing you’re here like many times to read speculations, without going outside the loop, the obvious names are Drexel’s Dillon, who has made the Dragons a force in the Colonial Athletic Association in a stay long enough to be associate dean of the local D-1 group slightly behind Saint Joseph’s Cindy Griffin, who becomes the Dean off a run on Hawk Hill that begins her 19th season at her alma mater.

 “Wow, really?” Griffin quipped in a text Wednesday. “We’re not even that old.”

 Asking a Drexel administrator after the news of Perretta broke, whether roads and ramps from the Main Line to the Daskalakis Athletic Center would be closed until further notice, the administrator quipped back, “probably.”, 

 But one would also have to determine if associate head coach Joe Mullaney Jr., who has been with Perretta 23 previous seasons after stints as a head coach at Providence and St. John’s, would have interest, while others wonder about assistant coach and former star Laura Kurz.

 Certainly, Manhattan’s Vulin is worthy having had a hand in the Wildcats’ successful recruiting before taking the Jaspers vacancy three seasons ago.

 That said, here is what many, many administrators and coaches have commented on Perretta’s news.

 Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman:

 "Every college conference should be as fortunate as the BIG EAST has been in having Harry Perretta in our midst. 

 " The Wildcats have benefitted not only from his great proficiency on the sidelines, but from the immeasurable impact he's had on the hundreds of young women he's mentored and the many administrators and coaches who've had the privilege of working beside him to lift women's basketball to the great heights it enjoys today. 

 “Harry's coaching successes in our league -- which span 37 years -- are rivaled by few, and he deserves much credit for helping build the BIG EAST into one of the most respected conferences in college basketball history.

"We've been endlessly inspired by Harry's passion for what he does and for never passing up the chance to speak his mind.  

“He's truly one of a kind -- as a teacher, a colleague, a source of wisdom and a friend -- and our conference simply won't be the same without him. 

 “We look forward to celebrating his storied career at many intervals during the upcoming season and wish him the best of everything life has to offer when his well-deserved retirement begins next year."

 Former Atlantic 10 Commissioner Linda Bruno, who also worked in the Big East:

 “I really cannot imagine Villanova, the Big East, or the game without Harry. 

“He has made so many contributions and always cares more about his players off the court than on. 

 “He has certainly earned the right to retire, but it is a great loss to basketball. Congratulations Harry.”

 Former Temple and La Salle Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw: 

 “Harry was unique in the world of women’s college basketball. 

On offense, his teams drove other kids crazy trying to chase them around the half court with pinpoint passing, ball handling, high percentage shots, screens, and blocking out.

 “He was especially skilled at preparing his teams for heavily favored opponents. 

“Might be a long time before men’s or women’s coach lasts as long at one institution. Anyway, there will never be another Harry!”

 North Carolina and recently former Princeton coach Courtney Banghart:

 “Harry is an institution in our game and we will sure miss him. His offensive system was among the most difficult to play against as he taught his players to share the ball and move off one another in every conceivable way. 

 “If you were even half an inch out of position, they’d punish you every single time. 

“We scheduled them every year for the defensive challenge and I know it made our teams better each time. 

“Harry meant so much to Villanova, to Philadelphia women’s basketball, to the Big East, and to the entire sport. 

 “I wish him the best in his retirement.”

 Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw:

 “I enjoyed our time together in the Big East and have tremendous respect for him both on and off the court. 

“He was a great representative of our game, always did things the right way and he will be sorely missed by the entire coaching community – everyone loved Harry and we wish him the best in his next phase of life.”

 Quinnipiac coach Trish Fabbri:

 “I grew up in South Jersey following Harry’s teams and idolizing his players like (Shelly) Pennefather and (Lisa) Angelotti. 

“He was always one of the good guys from watching his ‘Nova program from across the Delaware River as a high school player in Delran, to playing against his teams in college and coaching against him on the sidelines.

 “So much admiration for what he has accomplished over four decades.”

 Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella:

 “It’s a sad day for women’s basketball but a joyous day for Harry and his family. He deserves a full year of acknowledgement and thanks for what he has done for women’s basketball, Villanova, and the Big East.”

 Carolyn Kieger, Penn State and recent Marquette coach:

 “Harry is a legend who has done so much for our game! 

“He has made so many people better along the way. I am thankful I was able to coach against him and learn from him in the process.”

 Fordham coach and former Villanova star Stephanie Gaitley:

 “When I reached out to Harry I thanked him for being kind and dependable. 

“You always knew Harry cared about you as a person. He also really knows the game. I will treasure my time and Villanova and am thankful he is in my life!”

 From Israel, former Villanova star Liad Suez-Karni:

 “No words describe what you mean to me and how you have affected my life. 

“I am sad and happy all at the same time but mostly grateful that I had the privilege to play for you, to play for Villanova. 


 Former player Diane Decker on Facebook:

 “My coach, my mentor, my friend. 

“Nothing but love for you Harry Perretta. You are truly a legend and can’t thank you enough for making me part of the Nova family. 

“Everything happens in life for a reason and I am so blessed that I get to spend your final season alongside of you.”

Look for more react as it arrives and tales of Perretta throughout the season.















Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Guru’s AP WBB Poll Triva: Historic Highs and Lows in Preseason Vote

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru


The Associated Press Women’s Basketball Poll launching the 2019-20 season and released at noon Wednesday from the organization’s New York headquarters can be called one of the more significant ones of the entire 769 weekly rankings dating to November, 1976.


That’s when the first one was birthed out of The Philadelphia Inquirer in the nation’s bicentennial city that year initially as a Top 20 list until the rankings expanded in the early 1990s to a Top 25.


 Coaches made up the voting panel through 1993-94 and then It became determined by a media representative panel.


The 28 members who have produced the 44th preseason rankings have made it historical as a new breed has broken through to reach the top while several traditional powers have been removed from what  have been the loftiest of heights.


For the first time ever in both the preseason and overall voting Oregon is No. 1 coming a year after starting third which was the first time the Ducks had ever landed inside the penthouse district of the Top 5.


Oregon is the third Pac-12 team to reach No. 1 behind Stanford and Southern Cal, though the Trojans in the Cheryl Miller era of the 1980s played in another conference prior to what was then the Pac-10 opening up competition for women several years after the NCAA began women’s championship events in 1981-82. 


Meanwhile, Tennessee, which missed the very first poll, had not been absent from any preseason tally in the ensuing 42 since then until Wednesday. The Lady Vols were in the 11th spot a year ago.


Another giant that toppled from the heights though still hanging on is Notre Dame which claimed the No. 1 spot 12 months ago on the heels of the Irish’s second national title


 However, after barely missing a chance to take Baylor into overtime to continue to attenpt to add a second straight trophy, Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw lost all five starters to graduation and the WNBA draft.


Ranked 16th following the previous launch position makes it the deepest plunge any team has taken between the two preseason rankings.


As for Connecticut, the record 11-time NCAA champs who own almost all the AP Poll glamor achievements, including a dominant total of 242 No. 1 rankings to Tennessee’s runner-up total of 112, find themselves in a spot that would thrill almost anyone else.


But not necessarily the Huskies, who are still in the Top 5 but in the last berth of that group at fifth, the lowest start since being ranked eighth at the outset of the 2006-07 season. 


In the 13 initial voting totals since then UConn was fourth in the 2011-12 preseason poll and no lower than third through the new preseason ranking.


Starting fifth is precarious from a stat standpoint in that the Huskies with what are now 186 straight appearances in a subset are the only team to be no lower than fifth the entire decade, which also makes then perfect in Top 10 totals.


The only other time since well into the previous decade the Huskies hit fifth was near the end of last season. There are eight more polls until January when the first rollout of the new 2020 decade balloting begins.


This is Connecticut’s 490th straight ranking.


Notre Dame’s plunge from an overall perspective snaps a streak of 163 straight Top 10 rankings dating to holding 11thon January 17th 2011.


Other teams in the upper slots held onto their profiles with veterans returning.


Baylor, whose Lauren Cox is a leading national player of the year candidate along with Oregon’s triple double diva Sabrina Ionescu, is ranked second picking up three first place ballots behind Oregon’s other 25.


Stanford and Maryland with loaded rosters are fourth and fifth.


Texas A& M, picked by the SEC  coaches to win the conference, is in the high ground again at sixth while Oregon State, the geographical and conference rival to Oregon is seventh.


 A strong recruiting class made 2017 NCAA champion South Carolina the conference choice of the SEC media and Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are also back with the poll elite while ACC-favorite Louisville is ninth and Mississippi State, which spent more time previously in the top five, is 10th.


The next five are UCLA, Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina State, and Texas.


Notre Dame at the aforementioned 16th spot followed by Michigan State, Big East favorite DePaul, Miami and Arizona State round out the Top 20 with DePaul and Miami tied at 18th.


The remaining five are Syracuse, Arkansas, and a Big Ten trio of Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan. 


Arkansas, coached by Mike Neighbors who guided Washington in the recent Kelsey Plum era, made a run in the SEC tournament and is in a renaissance mode in making the Razorbacks’ first preseason AP ranking since 2002-03 and first overall since Dec. 1, 2014.


The Big East with DePaul and American with UConn in its final year before re-joining the Big East are the only two non-power five groups with reps though the Big 12 has just Baylor and Texas.


The ACC leads the way with six teams and five each are from the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-12.


Missing from last year’s final poll are Iowa and Marquette, who were ranked all season, and Iowa State and Gonzaga who joined near the midway point, and C-USA champion Rice, which was in the last five polls..


Oregon coach Kelly Graves, who had previously made Gonzaga nationally relevant alongside the Zags men’s team, went on to take the Ducks to their first Women’s Final Four in Tampa, where they extended eventual champion Baylor to the closing minute of the semifinal.


After the game, star guard Sabrina Ionescu declared she would forego another year before going pro in the WNBA, to rejoin a seasoned roster that bolstered the overwhelming No. 1 choice.


Though the legendary and late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt missed the first poll, she became the all-time regular appearing in the next 92 before a four week absence occurred.


The consistency returned until a 10-week drought occurred in 1984-85 after leading the Olympic team to the gold medal in Los Angeles the previous summer.


This week’s non-ranking has Tennessee matching the program drought dubious record, though new coach and former Lady Vol star Kellie Harper is charged with just this one.


The previous nine closing out last season were under former Vol Holly Warlick, Summitt’s longtime assistant who took over after Summitt’s resignation in 2012 to battle Alzheimer’s Disease.


Sunmitt finished with 618 appearances, missing only 15 polls, far ahead of Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and UConn’s Geno Auriemma, who breaks a tie with retired Georgia coach Andy Landers at third with 523 rankings.


When Warlick took over she went on to gain 109 rankings but most were at the back end of the marathon under Summitt that finally ended after 32 seasons at 565 from February 1985 until February 2016.


It became bumpy after that and when paired with the inability to get back to the Final Four, though that drought started under Summitt, Warlick was dismissed at the end of last season.




Current Streaks of Women’s Teams in This Week’s AP Women’s Poll – Oct. 30, 2019



1-490 Weeks Connecticut across 26 seasons began Preseason 1993-94

2-300 Weeks Baylor across 16 seasons began January 5, 2004

3-233 Weeks Notre Dame across 11 seasons began Preseason 2007-08

4-175 Weeks Maryland across 9 seasons began Preseason 2010-11

5-129 Weeks South Carolina across 7 seasons began Dec. 10, 2012


6-95 Weeks Mississippi State across 5 seasons began Nov. 24, 2014

7-76 Weeks Texas across 4 seasons began Preseason 2015-16

8-69 Weeks Louisville across 4 seasons began January 11 2016

9-52 Weeks Oregon State across 3 seasons began December 19 2016

10-40 Weeks Oregon across two seasons began preseason 2017-18


11-28 Weeks Stanford across two seasons began week 13 of 2017-18

12-27 Weeks N. Caro. St. across two seasons began week 14 of 2017-18

13 Tie — 21 weeks Syracuse began preseason 2018-19

13 Tie — 21 weeks Arizona State began preseason 2018-19

15 – 18 weeks Kentucky began week 4 of 2018-19 


16 Tie – 10 weeks Florida State began week 12 of 2018-19

16 Tie – 10 weeks Texas A&M began week 12 of 2018-19

18 — 8 weeks Miami began week 14 of 2018-19 

19 – 5 weeks UCLA began week 17 of 2018-19

20 – 2 weeks DePaul began final poll of 2018-19


21 Tie — 1 week Arkansas began preseason poll of 2019-20

21 Tie — 1 week Indiana began preseason poll of 2019-20

21 Tie — 1 week Michigan began preseason poll of 2019-20

21 Tie — 1 week Michigan State began preseason poll of 2019-20

21 Tie — 1 week Minnesota began preseason poll of 2019-20


Recent Departed Major Streaks Primarily Previous Three Seasons


xx. Tennessee 565 weeks. Began Feb. 17, 1985 after 10-wk drought and ran across 32 seasons ending on 2/15/16.

xx. Duke 312 weeks. Began week 3 11/29/99 and runs across 17 seasons ending 1/11/2016.

xx. 312 Weeks Stanford across 17 seasons began Preseason 2001-02 ending 12/17/2017.

xx. Texas A&M 134 weeks. Began 11/16/09 2nd week and runs across 7 seasons ending final poll 2015-16.

xx. Kentucky 132 weeks. Began feb. 1 2010 and runs across 8 seasons ending 1/2/2017.

xx. 59 Weeks Ohio State across 4 seasons began March 9 2015 ending final poll 2018

xx. 35 Weeks Duke across 3 seasons began December 5 2016 ending preseason poll 2019


Gone from final poll 2018-19 – Iowa and Marquette who went 20 weeks wire to wire last streaks.

Gonzaga last 16 weeks. Iowa State last 12 weeks. Rice last five weeks.


Total Preseason Appearances (44 is max.)

(113 Teams Listed)

Louisiana Tech27
Penn St.25
North Caro.23
North Caro. St.22
Notre Dame22
Old Dominion20
Ohio St.19
Southern Cal18
Mississippi U.16
Texas Tech15
Long Beach St.14
South Carolina14
Steph. F. Austin13
Texas A&M13
Arizona St.12
Western Ky.12
Geo. Wash.10
Michigan St.10
Florida St.9
Kansas St.8
Iowa St.7
Mississippi St.7
Oregon St.7
West Virginia6
Oklahoma St.5
St. Joseph's5
UC Santa Barb.5
San Diego St.4
Tennessee Tech4
Boston College3
Delta St.3
Missouri St.3
Montclair St.3
South Florida3
Southern Conn.3
St. John's3
Wayland Baptist3
Colorado St.2
Georgia Tech2
Valdosta St.2
Cal-St. Fullerton1
Florida Intl.1
Iliinois St.1
James Madison1
Middle Tenn.1
Mississippi Coll.1
New Mexico1
Seton Hall1
Southern Ill.1
Virginia Tech1
William Penn1

Total Top 10 Preseason Appearances

 (64 Teams Listed)

Louisiana Tech20
Notre Dame13
North Caro.11
Old Dominion11
Long Beach St.10
Ohio St.10
Penn St.9
North Caro. St.7
South Carolina7
Southern Cal7
Texas Tech5
Mississippi St.4
Mississippi U.4
Steph. F. Austin4
Texas A&M4
Western Ky.4
Delta St.3
Iowa St.3
Kansas St.3
Oregon St.3
Wayland Baptist3
Michigan St.2
Montclair St.2
Cal-St. Fullerton1
Florida St.1
Mississippi Coll.1
St. Joseph's1
Tennessee Tech1
William Penn1

Total Top 5 Preseason Appearances

(41 Teams Listed)

Louisiana Tech15
Old Dominion7
Notre Dame6
South Carolina6
Southern Cal5
Long Beach St.3
North Caro.3
Ohio St.3
Wayland Baptist3
Delta St.2
Kansas St.2
North Caro. St.2
Western Ky.2
Cal-St. Fullerton1
Penn St.1
Steph. F. Austin1
Tennessee Tech1
Texas A&M1

Total No. 1 Preseason Appearances

(La. Tech/Tennessee once tied)

(15 Teams Listed)

Louisiana Tech3
Notre Dame2
Southern Cal2
Delta St.1
Old Dominion1