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.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Guru’s Gowdy Award Speech - The Director’s Cut

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

The fact that such an unanimously positive response was received to the Guru’s acceptance speech Friday night at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., upon receiving the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s Gowdy Media Award for Print, becoming the first to do so solely for women’s basketball coverage, brings enormous joy that the combined remarks achieved the goals of reviewing the journey, offering as many thanks to groups and individuals, and, of course, spice it with Guru humor.

Several people were given inside access to the sign off version at this end to either make a suggestion or just send back a thumbs up or something else. 

Some others were purposely left out of the mix to cause surprise at the mention of their names. 

The words came back with “crushed it,’’ “little long, but honestly, where do you cut it,” “don’t change one word, it’s you.”

The sign off, by the way, was the 10th version, having written the initial version to make sure everything that had needed to be said was included.

The printer output was just three pages.

Then after the production meeting phone call before the sign off and the stated request of NBA-TV, saying 3 minutes, using the Guru’s skills from working the roundup desk, figuring it out as Jim Swan (still there) said l’d do on those shifts, tossing names of people who opted out, adding people who opted in, added a recall needed and jettisoning a quip (those outtakes are on one of the previous Guru Gowdy countdown posts) all holding to the three pages.

In crafting the original version, Hall historian Matt Zeysing early on suggested something that should be included, the Guru liked it, kept it around to be on hand when the actual writing would begin, decided it would be great at the close and as a tribute to our longtime friendship to make him feel part of it.

The reference to all the technology came later but thought it would be a neat turn, though during the rehearsal, TV asked to tighten the sentence.

I wanted to put more names from the Hall at the outset because they had been so helpful dealing on the ticketing, table seating, media confirmations for those waiting for acceptance, and guidance of the speech parameters, besides those the Guru has served under in various committees.

This was the Guru’s first use of the teleprompter, but like others who had a recent experience with their WBHOF speeches in Knoxville, the process was easy.

Plus, in reading the teleprompter, certain passages causing internal emotion to those of us who choke up on something like the reference to the day of the USBWA Pat Summitt presentation to the late Lauren Hill, the effort to get to the next line and keep going helps remove the onset of tears, though not always.

There was also the issue of last winter’s double cataract surgery - glasses, no glasses.  They enlarged the type, so it was no glasses.

Finally, last Tuesday, the test audience was given a look, then given their enthusiasm, the send button sent it on to Springfield (Mass.).

Upon arriving at Mohegan and running into the high command, they seemed to like the content and seemed to wink at the three-minute barrier, making the Guru’s confidence grow. 

Besides, the Guru’s media operative Temple senior broadcast major Lindsey Moppert was so engaging, drawing positive comments to the Guru from so many on the scene, that it was mindful of the time that President Kennedy opened a speech on a foreign affairs trip, “l am the man who has escorted Jackie Kennedy to Paris.”

Further, the director the Guru was going to work with was someone the Guru has conversed for years at WNBA and NCAA women’s press events.

However, (some of this which is covered online and in Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer sports section) and the Guru was steeled for it, the request to work together to tighten it brought a 40-minute exchange  not unlike the paper days between editor and reporter.

The process itself was healthy and the Guru still felt good about it, even if it was less robust, though during the dinner when the Guru glanced over Lindsey’s shoulder at the printed program, he suddenly learned he would be the first recipient, not the fourth, though the upside was the TV crowd wouldn’t have to wait long.

But there were go-rounds to save names — Guru upon greeting Dick Weiss and Mike Flynn — “You boys should know how many people were cut down this morning to save your appearance in the speech.”

At one point, having successfully tested the opening quip (designed to put the crowd in a good frame and calm the Guru opening internal jitters), knowing the glass ceiling line might draw reaction, the Guru said, “lf l get a two-minute applause, whose time is that against - mine or yours.”

Finally, in running into the director early at the festivities, a line had come to add to the ending, and he received the green light to say, “lf l have been your champion, you have been mine.’’

Having given you the backstory, here is the Guru’s full-length sign off version.

Guru’s Gowdy Media Award Speech - Director’s Cut

Thank you.

 

First, thanks to those who made this weekend happen  - the boss, John Doleva, our den mother Fran Judkins, Matt Zeysing, Chelsea Johnson, Ashley Orozco, and thanks to the Springfield staff l’ve worked with on various women’s awards.

 

Special thanks to the Gowdy committee for allowing me to complete the list of basketball media majors.

 

Until tonite, the closest I got to a grand slam was on the menu at Denny’s.

 

Back in 1976, I said if l’m getting into this, it will be to make it easier for every future women’s media individual. 

 

How humbling to join the likes of my Temple classmate, Dickie “Hoops” Weiss, my USBWA leader Malcolm Moran, both here tonight, among the other Gowdy winners, including Jackie McMullan and Doris Burke, who I covered both as players.

 

Congrats to all of tonight’s honorees, and to the new Hall of Famers, especially my Philly home boy Villanova’s Jay Wright, and to the women’s inductees, LJ, Yolanda, Pearl and Val.

 

Years ago, someone quipped, Mel, one day they’re going to make you an honorary woman.

 

Soon enough, Immaculata put me in their hall of fame, joining such Mighty Mac legends as Theresa Grentz, who’s here.

 

So tonight on behalf of the gender, I’m pleased to break another glass ceiling.

 

George Washington may still have had more firsts– but l do know I’ve been across the Delaware to Trenton more times then him, because that’s the way to Princeton, Rider, and Rutgers.

 

Carol and Val, it’s amazing to share this weekend, considering how long we’ve worked together. And l’ve covered a chunk of Renee Montgomery’s career. 

 

By the way, Carol said I could use some of her speech time, but only if I use it to talk about her.

 

  Instead l wrote her bio along with Lauren Jackson’s in tomorrow’s printed program.

 

Several years ago, I had the honor of giving our USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award to the late Lauren Hill, a Division III freshman.

 

Though fatally ill with pediatric brain cancer, her love of the game carried her to a dream come true start that day in the season opener in which she scored in a matter of seconds.

 

Pat, herself, surprised, with one of her last public appearances before Xavier’s sellout crowd of 10,000.

 

In making the presentation, l noted there are times when we are not parceled into our own roles as media, players, coaches, referees, administrators, and fans, instead we’re just one big basketball family.

 

That’s true again tonight. 

 

Because this is actually a “we” award, even if only my name appears, let me offer the Cliff Notes version of the Guru’s timeline composed of working partners and great friends, some are here, who have made the Guru’s journey the joy it’s been.

 

And for those who keep saying this is a long time coming, if you’re checking your watches, if that’s true, l would have been off the podium ten minutes ago.

 

First, though, in case the music soon starts, my personal family who’s here – my sister Annette and brother-in-law Perry Swartz, my niece Neena Swartz, and my other niece Allison Greenfield and her husband Aaron.

 

To all of the nearly 50 Hall of Fame coaches, players, and contributors in women’s basketball l’ve covered — without you, there’s no me.

 

The ones here tonight are Sheryl Swoopes, Jody Conradt, Van Chancellor, Tina Thompson, Sylvia Hatchell and Barb Stevens while the locals who sent regrets are Cathy Rush, Geno, Muffet, C. Viv, and our gold medal olympic women’s coach Dawn Staley.

 

Being involved this long means l’ve covered some of your moms like Lauren Jackson’s Maree Bennie in 1977,  and now in the other direction — a growing number of daughters.  

 

 To the sports information directors – you have been my team – Rosa Gatti’s here – before ESPN, she was at Villanova and she was one of my three apostles along with the late Mary Jo Haverbeck and Joyce Aschenbrenner, who, at the 1976 CoSIDA convention, said .. we got this guy in Philly. 

 

My deep roots in all this began with a journalism course at Northeast High when I was a senior in the Class of 123.  


When this award became public, one alum said. “For someone who sucked in English and Math and never played sports, look how you turned out.”

 

Then it was on to Temple – attending one of the best journalism schools in the country and eventually becoming a basketball manager under Hall of Famer Harry Litwack and Don Casey.

 

Temple meant being in the Big Five and The Palestra. And we capped our 1969 senior year winning the NIT against coach Bob Cousy’s last Boston College team.

 

Noting the Big Five, retired Saint Joseph’s Athletic Director Don DiJulia is here and his successor Jill Bodensteiner, along with the retired women’s coaching dean, Villanova’s Harry Perretta, and his boss and former player Lynn Tighe..

 

From Temple, Jay, another bonus for you, Fran Dunphy —perhaps to see if l would reveal how l once beat him decades ago in a nerf ball shootout in a crowd of local celebrities at Shields Tavern.

 

The next stop was down Broad Street to The Inquirer – and though I arrived before him, which is 52 years ago yesterday, what a great and fun era in the newsroom of Gene Roberts. 

 

Eventually I migrated over to sports, filled with all star reporters and columnists, who owe their status to the backfield and copy editors who rescue us from ourselves.

 

One, who’s the current AP Sports Editors president, sent a recent congrats, saying, you made a huge difference in this industry.

 

My reply: you can thank me by giving me more coverage than Jay Wright this weekend.

 

To note some contemporaries here - two former sports editors – John Quinn and Jim Jenks — joined by the award-winning Claire Smith, ESPN executive Rob King, while Joe Juliano is on double coverage detail. 

 

Two who really wanted to be, are my Boswell, Mike Jensen, and Jonathan Tannenwald, known in the office as Little Mel when he was hired right out of Penn.

 

But it was back in 1975 when new sports editor, the late Jay Searcy, said to me, what do you think about a women’s poll, and l said, l think you’re nuts.

 

Besides, the AIAW leadership had proclaimed: women should not get involved in newspaper games like polls that will lead to the evils of men’s athletics.

 

Ultimately, Jay knew better.

 

 So did Dickie Hoops and his Blue Star Media colleague Mike Flynn, who’s also here, who, when I said, do you think l’m going to be doing this forever, they smiled, saying yes.

 

It really helped when Gene Foreman, the no. 2 editor in the newsroom, told me his daughter Sue was going to be the trainer on Debbie Ryan’s team at Virginia that had Dawn Staley.

 

As for technology, l’ve seen evolvement from typewriters to telecopiers, telerams, PSI’s with couplers,  thru Radio Shack TRS-80s to fax machines, desktops, laptops, smart phones and iPads into the internet, social media, and now zoom software.

 

Obviously, AP partnering with me was huge — the early days Terry Taylor, Chuck Schoffner and Paul Montella, and now for over a decade  – national women’s writer Doug Feinberg. He’s here.

 

To the NCAA, specific thanks to the vice presidents, the tournament committee folks, and the media reps such as Scotty Rodgers and currently Rick Nixon, and to the conference level staffs.

 

 To all in the USA Basketball staff, dealing primarily with Carol Callan and Caroline Williams and a mention to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

 

Thanks to all in the WNBA from day one, the league executives, all the media reps, Ron Howard is here,  and the team level general managers, coaches, and players.


 I know the league-leading Connecticut Sun and their president Jen Rizzotti have a table here.

 

I cant tell you how many times David Stern would grab me on enshrinement weekends to send a photo of us to Val and later Donna Orender.

 

Some other people here in a final group to be noted – Erin Semagin Damio, who was one of my original blogerettes, past CoSIDA president Rob Knox, former Rutgers media rep Stacey Hotchkiss, my USBWA photographer friend William Willbill Ewart from Tennessee, and a recent addition, my rising star media handler, temple senior broadcast major Lindsey Moppert, who is actually also a captain of the Owls cheerleaders, and her mom Jill.

 

So let me close by saying, I hope over my 50 plus years in this great game, that I helped propel the sport forward, made some sort of difference in the lives of those I have had the honor to cover, captured the game’s essence, and the essence of those in it. 

 

And if I have enriched your lives at even one percent of what you have given me, then I am by far the luckiest person here tonight. 


If I have been your champion you have been mine. 


Thank you.













Thursday, September 09, 2021

Guru’s Gowdy Award Countdown: Time to Head to Event Central Early in the AM

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

As the space astronauts years ago were first seen on the way to reach the heavens departing to ride the vehicle to the launch pad, in the early AM Thursday 9-9-21 on the 52nd anniversary of the Guru’s hire at The Philadelphia Inquirer down Broad Street from his alma mater Temple, he heads on the four-hour ride to the home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun at Mohegan in Uncasville driven by his longtime friend from the University of Tennessee and USBWA photographer William ‘Willbill” Ewart, who flew into here for the honor as final preparations are made to receive the Curt Gowdy Media Award for print.

The immediate family will be coming up later in the day.

Many of us Thursday night as previously  mentioned will hang at Tom Urbans open late with lots of space in the property.

Quinnipiac coach Trish Sacca Fabbri, a native of Delran, N.J., across the Delaware from the Guru’s longtime previous home in Northeast Philadelphia will be stopping by as well early arrivals, including those of John Bunn winner Carol Stiff, who couldn’t get enough in Knoxville, Tenn., several weeks ago when she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Incidentally, inductee Villanova men’s coach Jay Wright checked in a little while ago, apologizing for his delayed communication response, recapping his summer with the ending, “l’m a mess.”

TV COVERAGE

Finally, the answer to the question many have asking all of us.

NBA TV will air the entire weekend beginning Friday night.

The awards to the seven recipients and presentations of jackets and wings to the 16 Hall of Famers in groups of four runs from 8 p.m. till 10. The Guru is the fourth overall of the seventh  and final of the three Gowdy  recipients.

The day’s coverage begins 2 p.m. Friday with press conference for the inductees though the Guru and his executive producer/director Lindsey Moppert will be in the room considering four inductees are Big East Commissioner and founding WNBA president Val Ackerman, past WNBA stars Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson (being represented) who again as in the recent WBHOF ceremony was forced to remain in Australia because of Covid protocols, and early scoring sensation Pearl Moore. 

The Gala taped delay times are Friday 9 p.m. for one hour, then the full two hours Saturday at 4 a.m. and 12 p.m. and then 4;30 p.m. for 90 minutes.

Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. airing live as the scene switches to Springfield, Mass., and the home of the hall, the red carpet arrival - yes Lindsey and your Guru will be walking the red - to the Mass Mutual Center for the inductions airing between 7 p.m. and 10.

The Speech Topics

The guest list will be in the next post to avoid this going real long and there is a lot of sharing going on - yes Villanova’s Lynn Tighe and Harry Perretta will be in the crowd Friday.

The speech has been signed off at this end but there may be some trimming at Friday’s rehearsal with the teleprompter.

In print it’s three pages and the test audience for reading all gave enthusiastic approval.

The attempt was to time line and call out groups and representatives but there will be an event in Philly in the fall with more flexibility.

Here is the flow as of this hour.

Thanks to the hall staff 

Thanks to the Gowdy committee

A quip

Why l got into WBB coverage.

Noting the Gowdy company - shouting out tenple classmate Dickie Hoops Weiss, USBWA leader Malcolm Moran, Jackie McMullan, Doris Burke (the two women)

Congrats to the new Hall of Famers citing the four women and Jay Wright.

A quip leading into Immaculata snd Theresa Grentz (who will be there).

Citing being the first women’s winner.

A quip.

Noting working relationship with Val and Carol and covering Renee Montgomery.

A quip

Recalling Lauren Hill and noting Pat Summitt.

Transition and quip.

Immediate family.

The Famers from WBB - the ones in the room Van Chancellor , Sylvia Hatchell, Sheryl Swoopes, Barb Stevens, Tina Thompson, Jody Conradt (geno coming sat) - locals regrets rush, Muffet, C. Viv, and Dawn.

Quip.

CoSIDA - Rosa Gatti (in the room) Mary Jo Haverbeck, Joyce Aschenbrenner.

Northeast High  Class 123.

Temple - journalism school being manager harry litwack don  casey big five palestra beating Cousy’s BC team for 1969 NIT.

Big Five shoutouts in room Don Di Julia, Jill Bodensteiner, Harry Perretta, Lynn Tighe.

Fran Dunphy with a quip.

The Inquirer - Gene Roberts.

A quip.

Inquier in room - John Quinn, Jim Jenks and wife Kim, Claire Smith, Joe Juliano - regrets Mike Jensen, Jonathan Tannenwald.

Jay Searcy approaches about doing poll. My response. AIAW policy on polls.

Dick Weiss, Mike Flynn.

Gene Foreman,, Sue, Debbie Ryan, Dawn Staley.

Evolvement technology from typewriters to zoom.

AP - Terry Taylor Chuck Schoffner Paul Montella plus Doug Feinberg (hes there).

NCAA - Scotty Rogers Rick Nixon.

USA bb — Carol Callan, Caroline Williams. WBCA.

WNBA - Ron Howard in the room. Conn. Sun and Jenn Rizzotti have a table.

Quip involving David Stern, Val and Donna Orender.

A list of names keeping secret.

Sweet ending.

The guests the next 24 hours.






‘ 

.










Monday, September 06, 2021

Guru’s Gowdy Award Countdown: Odds and Ends and Updates as the Big Week Arrives

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Well, May 16 seems a long time ago and back then when the public announcement was made of the enshrinement class of 2021 to be in Springfield, Mass., Saturday night following Friday’s tipoff and associate awards dinner at the Mohegan Sun, home of the WNBA league-leading Connecticut Sun in Uncasville near New London and Norwich this weekend, it seemed real far in the future.

But like Hall historian Matt Zeysing said four months ago, it will suddenly catch up quick and it has.

But the hotel situations are settled, the ticket/seating is nearing completion, and the Guru’s acceptance speech for the Gowdy Media Award - print continues to be fine tuned before sending the latest version in a few days up to the teleprompter folks. 

On Sunday the Guru received his personalized itinerary so here’s the latest since last week’s initial post in the countdown.

First, not listed in the itinerary, but a reminder early arrivals will gather Thursday night beginning 7:30 p.m. at Tom Urban’s on the property beginning 7:30 p.m. to hang out and since our own dimes you are free to join, especially if you can’t be involved Friday, though it is appearing that since Urban’s will be open one hour later than the 1 a.m. close on Thursday, we’ll likely return.

Thursday will also be the 52nd anniversary of the Guru’s hire at The Inquirer. 

Friday morning 10 a.m. the Guru gets to practice an hour on the teleprompter.

The dinner awards ceremony, which starts at 8, will not be televised live but will be taped by NBA TV and likely air an hour before the induction ceremony around 6 p.m. on Saturday before live coverage of enshrinement at 7 p.m.

On Friday, the Guru will speak fourth following Bunn winner - recently retired ESPN women’s scheduling executive Carol Stiff, Gowdy Media - Electronic winner Mike Gorman, Gowdy Print  Media winner George Kalinsky, Your Guru, then the three Manny Jackson Human Spirit winners Ray Allen, Vinny Del Negro, and Renee Montgomery.

The Friday press conference under protocols - the Guru will be there but not as a formal interviewee as will his executive producer/director Lindsey Moppert - and Saturday media access will be very limited. 

The Guru got it confirmed The Inquirer’s Joe Juliano is accepted and will be doubling up covering yours truly and inductee Villanova men’s coach Jay Wright while Mike Jensen, who will not be there, will be writing columns.

TICKET PICKUP

All ticket pickups for Friday will be picked up at the convention center ballroom.

The flow is this - the prescreen proof of vaccination goes to the medical people who then send the name back to marketing to be matched with the ticket or you show your card at pickup. People not fully vaccinated or not all must take a test on Thursday Sept 9 this week resulting in negative.

THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR

To take you behind the scenes here are some lines from the speech now dropped for more humorous lines or meaningful stuff to stay close to the three minute requirement and within the original three-page draft.

“Look at it this way, if this award is long overdue, it’s their fault the speech didn’t end five minutes ago.”

A remark from a high school fellow alum - “For someone who sucked in Math and English and never played sports, it’s fascinating how you turned out.”

On some this weekend supporting three of us: “For those of you in that situation, you’re getting real value on your $600 dinner tickets.”

On Inquirer life: “One day they asked me to show a young sports hire from Brooklyn around the office because they figured l had notoriety. Still, if you think l’m going to take credit for launching Stephen A. Smith, someone else can claim that.”

“The paper used the NFL TV policy as it existed in how to play me: Nationwide but blacked out within 60 miles of my desk.”

“You should have seen the look on faces when Tony Ridder sent me a personal note from corporate headquarters after news of my USBWA Hall of Fame induction lauding me for keeping the company way ahead of other news organizations.

“The editor’s secretary at The Inquirer who gets copies of everything followed up: Mel, all our Pulitzer winners never got that kind of mail from Tony.’’

THE HIDDEN FUSE THAT ALTERED THE GURU’S ROAD

Former Inquirer sportswriter Frank Fitzpatrick on Sunday on Facebook brought back a story on 1972 how really bad the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers were that year and it rang a bell here.

What he didn’t say was in March Immaculata won the first of three straight AIAW championships but it went virtually unnoticed.

Even the late Penn State coach Rene Portland, one of the stars, always recalled “We flew out there on standby and came back first class.”

With the local pro teams so bad, the local paper managements said, “Hey, here’s something that wins.’

Meanwhile up in New York at the Times copy desk Jay Searcy, also writing a Women in Sports column, was on the other side of one of the Mighty Macs big rivalries - Queens College.

In 1975 he becomes the Inquirer sports editor and  wants your Guru to pick up his work and soon hits the ‘nuts” idea of starting a poll.

The speech addresses some of this.

This is not long after Title IX became law spawning scholarships, etc.

So the poll comes along just at the time to reflect the tsunami of the football schools overtaking the small-enrolled schools.

The Guru quips one day at that time “Yeah, Immaculata put it on the map so l can come along and  take them off the map.”

But the legacy lived on in the poll because Theresa Grentz, a glaring omission from Naismith, Marianne Stanley, who guided three national titles at Old Dominion and was a runnerup last election, and Rene Portland became three of the all time coaches in poll appearances.

And the path for all this dates back to the drek pro sports teams in 1972.

The countdown continues in the next 24 hours.

Enjoy your Labor Day.





 

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Guru’s Gowdy Award Countdown: Shoutout to the Naismith Hall of Famers in Women’s Basketball.

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Exactly one week from the date of this posting Thursday. Sept. 9, the Guru will be on site at the Mohegan Sun in advance of the next night’s start of  the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Enshrinement weekend for the tipoff and awards presentation dinner in which your Guru will receive the Gowdy Media Award for print, citing contributions to the sport.

Sept. 9 is also the 52nd anniversary of the Guru’s hire at The Philadelphia Inquirer beginning a run that ended on April 24, 2010.

If you are an early arrival or in the area and want to stop by, we will be hanging out at Tom Urban’s on the property from 7:30 p.m., on our own dimes at this hour, because it’s the one place open late (1 a.m.   that night and 2 a.m. Friday), and has lots of space.

Mohegan of course is the home of the WNBA league-leading Connecticut Sun, which is the lone game that night and tipping off at 10:30 p.m., which will be on the bar’s TV screens.

Special thanks to Coast Guard’s sports information director Jason Southard, who helps media operations at Sun games, for getting Urban’s management to give us our own area which may grow as the night extends.

Other awards being given Friday are the Gowdy honors in electronic media, the John Bunn award, which is the highest honor outside enshrinement, going to recently retired ESPN women’s programming executive Carol Stiff, a newly Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee two weeks ago in Knoxville, Tenn., and the Manny Jackson Human Spirit, of which one of the recipients is former UConn and WNBA star Renee Montgomery, now a co-owner of the WNBA Atlanta Dream.

On Saturday, the weekend continues back in the home of the Hall in Springfield, Mass., with the VIP reception, and induction.

Founding WNBA president and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, former WNBA and Olympic stars Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson, and scoring sensation Pearl Moore are the honorees from women’s basketball.

TV information will be coming.

Coming down the stretch the Guru has been involved in a lot of moving parts - submitting memorabilia and photos to NBA Entertainment for the intro video, by the way, the Guru’s executive producer/director Lindsey Moppert, also Temple cheerleader captain, will be on the scene gathering expanded material for a supplemental video for the Philly celebration in the fall.

Then there has been rescue work for people intending to buy tickets but hadn’t yet and ran into a rare public sellout, and with Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright also an inductee, there will be a large local Philly area presence next weekend.

Retired Villanova women’s coach Harry Perretta is coming to rep the area women’s coaches.

Added to that is getting Guru supporters seated together at tables though with Carol, Val and Renee sharing some in the audience with the Guru there are a lot of crossovers.

The press conference for the inductees is Friday afternoon at Mohegan and though the Guru will be in the room only the inductees participate.

Incidentally, the Guru wrote the Carol Stiff and Lauren Jackson bios for the printed program. Inquirer off-campus sports columnist Mike Jensen wrote the Guru’s. The paper’s Joe Juliano is covering though since the media does not have credential access to the dinner, he is on the Guru’s guest list dating back to contemporaries at Temple in the future-named Klein College of Media and Communication.

And of course the speech, which has been submitted for the teleprompter, which the Guru has never used.

The limit is three minutes plus a little spill over. There will be a rehearsal Friday afternoon so while the speech as it exists with last minute adjustments will post here, there may be some slight differences with the actual presentation.

Obviously, everyone can’t be named which is why the Guru is using his blog to provide as much detail as possible and while we are already way down from the above headline, in a little bit, because the speech references some past and new inductees, thanks to help from Hall historian Matt Zeysing, the Guru will list the entire group of nearly 50 from women’s basketball, commenting on all but a few that he has not covered.

But first so no one feels slighted, if you were classmates at Spruance Elementary, Fels Junior, Northeast High (55th reunion of 123 is in two weeks) or grew up on Akron Street or nearby in Northeast Philly, or classmates at Temple or part of the founding loyalist group and time when the Guru as basketball manager of the eventual 1969 NIT Champions was under Harry Litwack, Don Casey, Skippy Wilson, and the late trainer Ted Quedenfeld, and trainer Steve Baer. 

To all those men and women in CoSIDA, the Big Five, the WBCA, the USBWA, the NCAA, the WNBA. the ABL, the WBL, the AIAW, the Conferences, USA Basketball, the contemporaries in recent years at the all-nite diners, the current core of internet journalists, the Associated Press, the folks at eateries in Chinatown, those who contributed to the Guru’s blog, those who got to this blog direct or by following the Guru thru links from Facebook, Twitter, or Linkdn, the more recently acquired connections, all fellow snd sister inductees in the Women’s Basketball, Big Five, USBWA, Philadelphia Jewish and Philadelphia Sports, Temple Klein Halls of Fame, the Jake Wade winners from CoSIDA and ECAC Media winners, the philly women’s summer league, the Inquirer early esprit de core of clerks and copy boys, the rest of the paper through the Guru era - promised Garry Howard would name him somewhere, on a personal note my late parents Jack, who was prevented from being a writer because of the depression, and Roslyn, whose birthday (Sept. 12) and their wedding anniversary (Sept. 12) are upcoming, (existing family in the speech) the late Temple Sports Information Director Al Shrier, and his wife Ruthie, who in later years l ubered before uber to Temple WBB, and to anyone reading this not connected to any of the preceding but still crossed paths with me, know that l’ll be carrying all of you with me when I reach the dais next Friday night,

The Naismith Honorees I’ve Covered in Women’s Basketball And Few Before My Time

         Barbara Stevens - Dealt with her UMass teams in the A-10 and longtime Bentley teams playing the D-2 Philly schools like Jefferson, USciences and Holy Family down here.
     Kim Mulkey - Covered her as the pigtail blond guard and later associate head coach of her alma mater Louisiana Tech - then as head coach of her powerful Baylor teams. Late nite texts always fun.
       Tamika Catchings - Maybe the greatest Lady Vol of them all at Tennessee, then the superstar of the WNBA Indiana Fever. Was at her recent induction at the WBHOF in Knoxville.
  • Teresa Weatherspoon - Playmaker late ‘80s Louisiana Tech and on to the WNBA primarily with the NY Liberty
  • Wayland Baptist Flying Queens of 1948-1982 the back-end of the era
  • Katie Smith - Star at Ohio State, the ABL Columbus Quest, Olympian, snd WNBA star and cosch.
  • Tina Thompson - Though she starred at Southern Cal, first covered as star of Houston Comets in the WNBA
  • Rebecca Lobo - Was first to name her an All-American in a preseason magazine. UConn superstar. Loved talking to her parents especially late mom.
  • Muffet McGraw - Covered her at Saint Joseph’s as a player, then Lehigh and Notre Dame. Philly family when always seeing each other.
  • Sheryl Swoopes - Made her USBWA all-american breaking tie before the super F4 year at Texas Tech - then the Comets era in the WNBA and other teams.
  • Lisa Leslie - First Southern Cal, then WNBA snd Olympian.
  • 1972-73-74 Immaculata College - the back end where I came in - catalyst for start of poll. Three stars Theresa Grentz, Marianne Stanley, Renee Portland. 
  • Sylvia Hatchell - Her UNC teams snd the Charlotte Smith NCAA title game winner.
  • Dawn Staley - Philly ties - whole career to this day as player and coach after Dobbins Tech. I was in her Naismith speech, she’ll be in mine.
  • All American Red Heads Before ny time but got friendly with a bunch at their induction.
  • Lidia Alexeeva Coached Russians in an USA Friendly,
  • Katrina McClain Wrote her bio for induction snd covered as part great Georgia team.
  • Teresa Edwards Likewise McClain
  • Tara VanDerveer Stanford coach but best quote had when as poll voter at Ohio State said one night “l got a modem”  Me - We’re the only two. Also sushi near Stanford.
  • Cynthia Cooper-Dyke - Covered at USC on the Super teams then the WNBA Comets and as a college coach.
  • C. Vivian Stringer - Day one at Cheyney — need her around at Rutgers she’s older then me.
  • Cathy Rush - Immaculata coach. Best quote at sports bar planning future things - you take care of AIAW, I’ll take care of the nuns.
  • Van Chancellor - Mississippi, Comets, USA coach. Too much in our friendship but how about win WNBA that night go with family to bowling alley.
  • Geno Auriemma Best quote when lived off me from him - we philly guys gotta stick together, or me when walks into lobby at F4 when team snapped streak - l don’t recognize you without a police escort.
  • Sue Gunter - Gone before her time. Charter poll voter 1976
  • Hortencia Marcari - USA friendly.
  • Lynette Woodard - Best: l spoke at tourney early on in Detroit at luncheon. Snowy night team leaving. Am at concessions. She stops turns comes by; it was a pleasure meeting you. She was pre-Taurasi taunting me.
  • Leon Barmore - Always great late nite (was there any other) when he helmed the Louisiana Tech powerhouse. Made him USBWA co-coach of decade with Pat Sunmitt in 1990.
  • Kay Yow — Too many memories. Early on: “Mel, you’re our history. You have to keep records.” Today the poll file has 8,000 plus lines.
  • Pat Summitt - Most heartwarming when made her and Leon co-coaches decade starting USBWA Women. Mel you know how much you mean to me. You know that.
  • Billie Moore - Charter poll voter Fullerton then on to UCLA.
  • Jody Conradt - What fun in the ‘80s. Charter poll voter at Texas. Best- they come play Immaculata right after first ranking and were staying at school. Take her and Donna Lopiano to dine. Get back doors locked. Donna says we’re staying at your place. Jody says no, we just got ranked. It won’t look good. 
  • Joan Crawford before my time but wrote the recommendation letter on behalf subcommittee to big committee urging induction,
  • Denise Curry - star at ucla on aiaw champions 
  • Nancy Lieberman - first met when high school phenom hanging at wueens - friends since. Queens had my mel - ed jaworski - and cosch lucille kyvallos. 
  • Anne Donovan - did early story at that detroit tourney playing her sister mary at penn state, three days before she passed away spotted me first in lobby at wbhof came over gave bug hug, had nice conversation. Grateful that happened with the surprise news days later. Was in Seattle when won the wnba title.
  • Cheryl Miller - best of era at least top five all time. Tells me l got her started when sees me. Night she signed usc Mike Flynn hooks us on phone. She says why didnt l hear from you.  Me: you were in high school. Now you’re a woman so you’re mine.
  • Carol Blazejowski - the 52 in the garden was amazing, been friends forever,
  • Ann Meyers - another of the friends forever. Put her name in our usbwa national player of the year.
  • Uljana Semjonova - russian wilt chamberlain. Night they’re playing old dominion in friendly she heaves ball goes out of bounds press row to me. I bat it back to lieberman who turns and scores runs by and thanks me for the assist.
  • Lusia Harris-Stewart - always knew what she was going to do at delta state but couldn’t stop her. Just exchanged greetings in knoxville.
  • Nera White - before my time but another l wrote recommendation on behalf sub committee.
  • Senda Berenson Abbott - before me though rumors say otherwise.
  • Bertha Teague - before my time but wrote letter like others mentioned.
  • Margaret Wade - covered the delta state teams that ended immaculata’s championship run.
*The new inductees

Val Ackerman - We go back to days when sat on hof women’s subcommittees when she was one of David Sterns NBA lawyers and been friends ever since.
Lauren Jackson - Shocked her when told her covered her mom as a player out of LSU. 
Yolanda Griffith - Great WNBA star
Pearl Moore - Before my time but supported her on direct elect women’s veterans committee.

There you have it. On the entire list just four before my time two of which wrote recommendation letters on behalf of the subcommittee and one supported on women’s direct elect.

Just discovered if you press hard on each famer name you can link to the hall’s bio except the new inductees.

Much more to come.








Friday, August 13, 2021

Guru’s WNBA Report: Sami Whitcomb: Finding Opportunity - and Making the Most of it - in the Land of Liberty

By Andy Lipton

 

NEW YORK - During that last epochal period of New York City basketball - the exciting, albeit short-lived, Linsanity - I remarked to a co-worker that I bet there were 10 other players in the NBA, if given the chance, could also shine.  


He looked at me with some disbelief.  He must have been thinking that if a player was really good, he would get the opportunity.

 

But as in any walk of life, not everybody gets an opportunity to show prowess.  Opportunity does not always knock. 


And yes, even with an opportunity on the basketball court, how your teammates play on the court will impact how you play.  Who you hang with or are thrown together with, can impact what you do.  

 

For many NBA basketball fans, Jeremy Lin seemed to come out of nowhere in February 2012.  He had played Ivy League college ball at Harvard and was not drafted.  


Golden State signed him and he played sparingly for them during the 2010-11 season as well as playing in the D-League. 


The next season the Warriors waived him and then Houston waived him before he signed with the New York Knicks in December 2012.

 

In February 2012,  Knicks Coach Mike DAntoni was looking for someone to effectively play point guard.  


Coming off the bench in an early February game against the Nets, Lin scored 25 points, had seven assists and opened a lot of eyes.  


In the next 11 games, he averaged 22.4 points and 8.8 assists a game.  In those 11 games and beyond, Lin was a starter until an injury ended his season ln late March.  

 

During the first eight games in which Lin was a starter, the teams star Carmelo Anthony did not play due to injury except for about six minutes in the first of those eight games..  And during the first four of those games, the other teams star, Amare Stoudemire, also did not play.  


If those two stars had played, who knows what the team chemistry would have been like and if Lin would have flourished. 


 Anthony was known as a scorer who held the ball for long periods of time before shooting.

 

Sami Whitcomb - 11 years after graduating the University of Washington as an All-Pac-10 player, now in her fifth WNBA season and her first with the New York Liberty, during which she has turned 33 years old - has finally become a full-time starter in the WNBA, playing significantly more minutes than in her previous four WNBA seasons and is a vital part of a resurgent charter WNBA franchise that was out of the playoffs the last three seasons.

 

So far, after 21 games, the Libertys turnaround has been remarkable.  


They have played most of those games without an injured Natasha Howard and with a starting five that has three players who were not on the Liberty last season, and two players who didnt start last season (except for the three games that Sabrina Ionescu started before severely injuring her ankle and ending her season). 

 

The 5’ 10” Whitcomb, a guard, is averaging 29 minutes per game, leads the team in rebounds with 5.8 a game (Ionescu is a very close second), is ranked third among the guards in the league in rebounds, and is one the best three-point shooters in the game this season, if not the best, at 43.8%.  


Her overall shooting percentage is an outstanding 48.9%. She is averaging 12 points a game and is the teams second high scorer. 


She and Ionescu are the main ball-handlers who run the offense for the Liberty.  And Whitcomb has become an important leader for this fairly young Liberty team.

 

Dreams of playing in the WNBA started when Whitcomb was a middle-schooler in Ventura, California, and saw the Los Angeles Sparks play. 


 In high school, she became obsessed with basketball and knew she wanted to make it her professional career, 


 When she played at the University of Washington she was able to watch the Seattle Storm play and see a city that supported that team, and that further enhanced her dreams.

 

She was a three-year starter for the Huskies, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and assists in her senior year, garnering All-Pac-10 honors. 


She was twice a Pac-10 All-Defensive Team honorable mention.  Before she graduated she was the active leader in steals in the Pac-10 Conference.

 

After graduation, Whitcomb had a tryout with the WNBAs Chicago Sky. 


 And although she did not make the team, the experience was deeply meaningful for her as she learned what she needed to do to be able to play at the highest level in the world. 


She realized she was not ready for the WNBA.  


It was a fast, quick, and physical league.


 She honestly self-evaluated herself knowing she had to learn to make better and quicker decisions on the court, to get off her shot quicker, to be able create her own shot, to be a better ball handler, to be quicker on defense, and to be physically stronger to absorb punishment.  

 

This was a pivotal movement as Whitcomb started on a course to get better.  


Although she didnt get any offers to play professionally overseas her first year after graduating, she played in local mens and womens leagues while working as the video coordinator for the Huskies’ womens team.

 

She got an opportunity to play professionally in Germany in the 2011-12 season.  She 


Whitcomb next played in Europe for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and received an opportunity to play in Australia for the Rockingham Flames of the State Basketball League (SBL) following the 2012-13 season.

 

She tore up the SBL, winning the MVP award three times in four years and being a very big part of two championship teams.

 

In 2016, Whitcomb got the opportunity to play for the Perth Lynx in the Womens National Basketball League (WNBL) in Australia, the preeminent Australian League.  She helped the Flames reach the championship finals and was on the All-WNBL Team (then called the WNBL All-Star Five).

 

In the following season with the Lynx, Whitcomb was again an All-WNBL player. 


 For the whole season, including the playoffs, she averaged 24.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.


Whitcomb  ranks second in the history of the WNBL for most points scored in the regular season.

 

In February 2017, more than six and a half years after graduating college, the WNBA finally beckoned.  


A few months after switching agents, she got an offer to tryout for the Seattle Storm.  Up until then, except for her tryout with the Chicago Sky in 2010, she had received no offers to tryout for a WNBA team.

 

This whole time Whitcomb was fueled by her love of playing the game of basketball and the idea that if you worked hard, you could continue to improve.

 

Sami Whitcomb made the Seattle Storm and the dream became a reality.  The Storm won the championship two out of the four years she was there.  She was an important backup player who scored 11 points in 22 minutes to help Seattle win a do or die Playoff Game 5 against the Phoenix Mercury in 2018 to advance to the WNBA Finals.  She played the last 14 and a half minutes of that game.

 

In 2019, the Storm lost Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart to injury and Whitcomb started 13 games and averaged 20 minutes a game.  


Her confidence and experience grew which led her to become a big contributor to the Storms championship team in 2020 playing an average of 16.5 minutes a game and averaging 8.1 points per game.

 

Her time in Seattle was marked by playing with some of the best players in the world, practicing against them, and being supported by them. 


 Whitcomb learned from teammate Alysha Clark the importance of studying film to learn the players tendencies so she could improve defensively.

 

At the end of 2020, Whitcomb became a restricted free agent and the New York Liberty got her in a sign and trade (the Storm getting the rights to Stephanie Talbot).  


The Liberty was in a rebuilding mode and saw a good fit. 


 For Whitcomb, it was an opportunity that most ballplayers want - the chance to play many minutes, although there were no guarantees of this.  She would have to earn it.  

 

The style of play appealed to Sami, fast paced, with a lot of outside shooting.  She believed she could get better if she played more.  


And there was an opportunity to help build a new culture, be a leader, play in and live near the Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, and practice in a beautiful facility.

 

Whitcomb has arrived in the city that doesnt sleep.  A city filled with people chasing their dreams, trying to find opportunities, and working hard to better themselves.  


Seems like Whitcomb fits in well.  


And after speaking with her for about 45 minutes, I sense a modesty which seems to belie her talents.  And, I may add, a very intelligent and articulate person.

 

At the age of 32, Whitcomb seized this new opportunity. (She turned 33 in July.)  


She has scored, defended, rebounded, helped run the offense, and is a team leader on a team long on youth.


 She has started every game and has played many more minutes than ever before in her WNBA career.  


Whitcomb is the oldest Liberty player, and arguably, the most experienced player on the team given all the years she has played professionally. She has earned the right to be a team leader.

 

She has been a vocal leader, speaking to the team as a group and to individual players.  


Making sure she speaks out when the energy level is not enough, when the team is not executing the plays or the game plan.  


She feels the players are willing to listen to each other.  


At different points in her career, starting in high school, Whitcomb has been a team captain or co-captain.

 

Whitcombs shooting percentages significantly improved last season and have significantly further improved this season.  


Last season her total field goal percentage was 44.3% with 38.1% from the three-point line.  This season they are 48.9% and 43.75%, respectively, putting her into elite status.

 

Whitcomb attributes the improvement this year to a number of factors. 


 Her teammates are getting her the ball in good positions to shoot. 


And the increased playing time allows her to know she doesnt have to shoot right away, as there will be more opportunities during the course of the game.  


There is an increase in confidence from knowing that if she has some misses, she wont be taken out of the game just because of that.

 

In recognition of her shooting ability, Whitcomb was one of four players selected to participate in the three-point shooting contest during half-time of this years WNBA All-Star Game.

 

The Liberty, who won just two games last season, now stands with a record of 10-11, sixth best in the WNBA.  


Its quite a turnaround, especially since their center/forward Natasha Howard, a tremendous player, who last played on May 24, has only played two games.  

 

Coming off the Olympic break the Libertys season resumes Sunday. Howard will be back.   


There are 11 regular season games left.

 

Whitcomb played with Howard in Seattle, and I expect that Samis knowledge of Howards game will help create good chemistry between Howard and the rest of the team.

 

The story of this WNBA season is far from over.  But today, looking back, its hard not to appreciate what Sami Whitcomb has accomplished.