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.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Auriemma Leads Six Inductees Into Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

By Mel Greenberg

_ Thirty years after Geno Auriemma first became involved in coaching female players as an assistant Bishop McDevitt High in suburban Philadelphia, the successful Connecticut mentor led a group of six inductees Saturday night into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown and took the McDevitt job under Jim Foster in 1976, will also be enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in September.

The group of inductees in Saturday night’s ceremony at the Historic Tennessee Theatre became the eighth class to be enshrined since the women’s hoops hall opened its doors here in 1999.

Three former all-Americans _ Texas’ Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, Georgia’s Katrina MClain Johnson, and Louisiana Tech’s Janice Lawrence Braxton were among the other five honorees that also included Bentley coach Barbara Stevens and former international sensation Paula Goncalves da Silva of Brazil.

Auriemma, whose Huskies have won five NCAA titles, was escorted to the podium by former UConn athletic director John Toner, who hired him in 1985 when Auriemma had been an assistant women’s coach at Virginia.

Meghan Pattyson-Culmo, who starred at Central Bucks East and played at Connecticut for Auriemma in the early 1990s, introduced him in one of six video presentations involving the honorees.

“The guy is incredibly, incredibly generous,” she said. “I’ve never met anybody who is more generous with his time, with his money, anything he can share with you, he will, especially with those people who have played for him.

“We’re always very thankful when Geno picks up the tab,” Pattyson-Cuomo quipped. “After all, he’s making big money these days.

“He’s incredibly loyal,” she continued. “He would do anything for those people who are close to him.

“And he’s also incredibly funny. He’s a great joke teller. He’s a fun guy to be around. And I think the one thing the players learn when you graduate from Connecticut you have one relationship with him as a player. And often times you don’t like what he tells you on the court. But when you come back and spend time with him, which we all do, and we spend lots of time telling jokes and telling stories and there’s nothing better.

“He said something once during my freshman year,’” Pattyson-Culmo recalled. “This team is a circle. We don’t let anyone in, we don’t let anyone out. And that remains true to this day. And the circle continues to grow.

“It’s spread across the country now, to different parts of the world. The Connecticut family is huge and very close knit, and that’s all because of him.”

Then Auriemma took the podium for his acceptance speech, mixing his well-known blend of humor with a sincere appreciation of the moment as he was visibly moved while making his remarks.

“First off, who’s ever in charge of those flowers, try to lower then,” Auriemma said of the massive display lined along the stage. “People looking up at me right now, I don’t want any eulogies when I’m finished. I don’t like being around all these flowers. Especially after spending a brief stint in the hospital.

Auriemma then praised the group of performers who sang and danced to Broadway tunes to start the induction ceremony.

“I would love to coach that team any day, anywhere, anytime that performed for us,” he said.

“It’s one thing to be nominated for the Hall of Fame and to have some sort of anticipation toward being inducted into the Hall of Fame. And it’s quite another to actually have to stand before a group of people and explain how it feels. Because it’s very difficult to put in words what goes through your mind at times like this.

“You could probably do a better job at the end of the night at midnight or 1 o’clock than you could right now,” Auriemma said.

“I’ll try to give you a brief synopsis of what has led to this moment,” Auriemma said.

“It is an incredible honor to be thought of in the same breath as
the people who have been introduced to you as former recipients, who I have had the pleasure and privilege of coaching against, and having lots of my career who I have tremendous, tremendous respect for who I have gotten to know as coaches and individuals, and who have made me a little bit better because I have gotten to know them and because I’ve had to compete against them in one way or another.”

Pausing for a moment, Auriemma then looked down at the audience and quickly added, “Especially you Pat,” noting the longtime rivalry with Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.

“Next would be the class I’m being inducted with,” Auriemma continued. “It’s appropriate I think that we have two coaches and four players. The four players, fortunately for me, I’ve had the opportunity to watch them play, and coach against them in some instances.

“Great players. There’s a reason coaches get to be Hall of Famers. Because there’s Hall of Fame players. And I’ve always said there’s two kinds of coaches in this world. Those who coach great players and ex-coaches,” Auriemma caused the crowd to laugh.

“The players that are being inducted are Hall of Famers because of what they did on the court. And it’s ironic that Clarissa’s coach (Jody Conradt) is also a Hall of Famer, and that Janice’s coach (Leon Barmore) is a Hall of Famer, and it’s only a matter of time, or at least it should be that Katrina’s coach, Andy Landers, should be in the Hall of Fame.

“And Paula was the coach of her team, so I don’t have to say anything about her.

“In reality, it’s the players who pull the strings. If you got players that peform the way they can perform and you got the right players, than you as a coach get to experience the rewards of their performance.

“That’s why I think a coach being inducted into a Hall of Fame is very difficult to fully appreciate what that means. As a coach you’re dependent on so many others,” Auriemma said.

“I wish I could stand here and talk about every single person that’s touched my life from the time I first picked up a basketball,” Auriemma said. “But time doesn’t allow for that.

“At this point in my life, time only allows for me to look back at the things that I’ve done and the people I’ve done them with.”

Auriemma concluded his remarks playing on the theme of the women’s hall.

“Every time I look at this trophy I’m going to think back to the past and the people that have touched my life, and that have helped me get here,” he said.

“And I’m going to look at the present and see where I am and know that I am blessed to be more fortunate than I ever dreamed of,” Auriemma continued.

“And look to the future and hope that I can have as much of an impact on people as the people that I thank every day have had on me.”

-- Mel

Women's Basketball Hall of Fame: Auriemma Induction Brings Introspection

By Mel Greenberg

_ A month of roller-coaster emotions had Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma in an unusual retrospective mood Friday afternoon here at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on the eve of his induction Saturday night along with five others as the eighth class to be enshrined since the hall’s opening in 1999.

The other five to go into the WBHOF with Auriemma are Bentley coach Barbara Stevens, former Georgia star Katrina McClain, former Texas star Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, former Louisiana Tech star Janice Lawrence Braxton, and former international star Paula Goncalves daSilva of Brazil.

It’s been a hectic time in recent weeks for the normally-energized Auriemma.

In recent weeks, his Huskies fell short of going into overtime against Duke, 63-61, at the Bridgeport Regional title game, he was announced as part of the induction class for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in September, he had to deal with the untimely death of his friend and Army coach Maggie Dixon, and then two weeks ago he became hospitalized for several days with what was characterized as a stomach disorder.

Now comes the first of two major Hall of Fame celebrations.

On Friday afternoon, Auriemma and the other inductees took a brief time out from a whirlwind of activities to meet with media representatives from the Hartford Courant, New Haven Register, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and ourselves.

Quite likely, between links on the internet at the various web sites leading to stories from those reporters, some of what you read here will be also posted elsewhere.

However, because space limitations in Saturday’s print edition of The Inquirer restricted what we could note, here is what the loquacious Auriemma had to say, especially for those of you who normally visit this site or arrived here via Philly.com links before seeing any stories elsewhere.

When it was noted that many previous coaching inductees who have lost to Pat Summitt’s powerful Tennessee teams here have characterized this weekend as one of their more enjoyable visits to Knoxville, Auriemma had a different take.

“Most of our visits down here have been under pleasant circumstances,” Auriemma smiled about his Huskies’ ability to handle Tennessee over the years. “Some have been unpleasant.

“One of the things that has been missing in women’s basketball that I would like to fix is that I would like every game to be like the games are down here,” said Auriemma, who was tabbed on his first eligibility for the hall after 20 years as a head coach at UConn. “If every game carried that much intensity level with that much passion attached, the games would be a lot more fun.”

Auriemma noted that the emotions surrounding the induction don’t really start to appear until the celebratory weekend arrives.

“It’s like the national championship game,” he said. “You don’t really get the full benefit of it until you actually play in the game or coach in the game to know what it feels like to have been in that game.

“Things like this force you to step back and look at the big picture. You’re forced to look back at how it all came about,” Auriemma said, his voice getting a little softer. “At least that’s the way it’s been for me so far.”


Auriemma, an assistant to Virginia coach Debbie Ryan at the time, talked about being hired for the UConn job in 1985 a year after he failed to land the women’s position at DePaul.

“That was more like what I was used to (in Philadelphia) _ Catholic school underneath the El (train) in Chicago. I thought, `Hey, this is pretty cool.’ When I didn’t get the job, and I didn’t know what that meant, I don’t why it didn’t work out, I’m just not the person that they hired,” Auriemma recalled.

“Had they, I don’t know what would have happened.

“The following year when I went into the interview at Connecticut, from what I understand, I wasn’t the No. 1 choice going into the interview process. They might have had someone else in mind,” Auriemma continued.

“But I knew if I got offered the job, I would take it. There’s no doubt in my mind about that,” he added. “But one of the ironic things is I didn’t know what job I was taking. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into.”

We noted to him that Connecticut officials had said Auriemma “blew them away” during the process.

“Well, I don’t know whether that says a lot about me or the other candidates,” he smiled. “Either way, I knew at the end of the day from the interview process that I was going to be offered the job.

“But to this day, I don’t know anything I did differently during the interview process than I did at DePaul the year before. Maybe I just said the right things. Maybe there weren’t too thrilled with the other applicants. Sometimes that happens.”


“My biggest thing is how you can’t plan for things,” Auriemma talked about the bends and curves the highway of life has taken him. “People tell you all the time how they planned their life out.

"`By the time I’m 21 I’m going to do this. By the time I’m 35, I’m going to do this. By the time I’m 50, I’m going to do this.’ And how absurb that really is,” Auriemma said before expounding some of his famous dry humor.

“The last thought in my mind when I was in college was, `Man I can’t wait to get out of here and start coaching women’s basketball. I got to hurry up and do that because time is awasting.’

“Or when I finally did take that job (assistant) with Jim Foster in high school, as you’re mopping the floor, you’re thinking, `Man, one day when I’m in the Hall of Fame I’ll think back … Man if keep doing this, something is wrong with my life,’” Auriemma grinned.

“I just don’t ever, ever imagine, which is probably a good thing because if it all goes according to plan, it takes all the excitement out of it,” Auriemma noted.

“When I think of all the twists and turns my life has taken since I was 20 years old, in the last 32 years, none of it was planned. None of it was scripted,” he said and then smiled again.

“It’s kind of like our (Connecticut’s) offense. One thing flows into another. When you got really good players, it flows from good to great. When you got not-so-good players, sometimes it flows into the ocean, sometimes it flows into the gutter.”


“I don’t know if I was as ever content about a loss, ever,” Auriemma said of his feelings after Connecticut lost to Duke. “I don’t ever remember, `Given everything, that’s the way it probably was supposed to happen. Maybe when we lost to Tennessee in the 1996 semifinal, I thought, `Yeah, this is where it ends for us.’

“So I thought, `Ok, it’s on to next year. Let’s move on.’

“And I’m at the (Women’s) Final Four, and I’m actually enjoying myself, and I get the phone call about the Naismith in Springfield, and I thought, `Wow, I can’t believe this.

“`You don’t win the national championship and then you get this (Naismith) and then this (WBHOF). Then, Monday night before the national championship game, I get back from Indianapolis (from the men’s Final Four for the Springfield announcement) and I’m in (DePaul coach) Doug Bruno’s hotel room with (Army coach and former DePaul assistant) Maggie Dixon, and a couple of other people.

“And at one point, it’s just the three of us, Doug, myself, and Maggie, and it’s 3 o’clock in the morning, and we’re just talking about basketball, and Wednesday at lunchtime, she’s dead.

{Dixon died suddenly at 28 after suffering an acute heart problem).

“And on the way out to California (for the funeral), you’re thinking the whole time … I’m not one of these guys that spends a lot of time thinking about the future. … Man oh man, it really put a lot of thoughts in my head that have never been there before, I’ll tell you that now.

“And scary thoughts, too. Someone in Indianapolis asked me while we were at dinner, how it felt to get into a Hall of Fame while you’re still working, and I thought, it’s kind of odd. Part of it I think, `You should wait until you’re not doing it anymore.

“But then the other part of it is, sometimes, you wait until you’re not doing it anymore and the guys don’t get to enjoy it. You have to put them in there after they’re not around. Or she’s not around.

“Here you’re talking about a kid (Dixon), maybe someday she would be put in the Hall of Fame, and she’s not even around for her second year as a head coach,” Auriemma said and then talked about his hospitalization, which quickly followed.

“And then all of a sudden I’m in a hospital and you look up and there’s all these tubes stuck in my arm, and I’m thinking, `Man somebody is trying to tell me something here.’

“It’s been a ridiculous three weeks in terms of my thought process. I even called Charde (Houston) and told her I liked her, that’s how bad I started to feel,” Auriemma quipped about his player he criticized in the media after Connecticut’s loss to Duke. “I don’t think I went that far.

“I would have had to feel really bad. I would have had to have the priest next to me,” he said.


“Plus, I got to tell you, all that time that was going on, there was a lot going on personally for me. I’m trying to sort out, `How long am I going to do this? Where am I going to go from here. What else am I going to do.’

“One thing being in the hospital for those four days did, it made me cancel everything I had for the next two weeks, except this (WBHOF). It’s really good. It’s the first time in 20 years that I just told everybody who wanted something from me, that I had plans. `No, I’m not doing it,’” he said before switching back to quip mode.

“To a point, it may become an annual event for me,” Auriemma noted. “You know how people go to Florida or Aruba … Maybe at the end of the season every April, just go to the hospital for four days, kick back, and say, `Look guys, just cancel everything for the rest of the month.’ I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, but it might not be a bad idea. Just make sure there’s a golf course near the hospital to sneak out.

“I made a lot of jokes, if I had known that not going to the Final Four, not going to the national championship, was going to be this miserable, all those years when we were winning it, I would have been a lot happier. I would have enjoyed it more.

"Now that I look back, in a lot of ways, I’m trying to take a whole different spin on it, try to look at things. Ever since I got out of the hospital, I’ve been going to my son’s AAU practices and actually had fun, if you call having fun is being around 17 years old who look at you like you have three heads. I’m actually enjoying it,” Auriemma said.

“I’ve had to do some different things. I haven’t had a drink for 12 days. I was going to kill myself,” Auriemma smiled again. “That would have been great, huh? You go to the hospital, you get healthy, you look great, you feel great, and then you commit suicide because you can’t drink. That would have been a hell of a way to go.

“The guy (doctor) said, `Look, with this medication, you better not take a drink for two weeks. Geesh. It’s worse than what I got. I’d rather have what I have and live with that.’”

Auriemma spoke a little about looking ahead to next season and another attempt to add a sixth national title to the UConn collection.

"I can say things from now until Oct. 15, yeah, I’m going to take a different plan of attack. I’m going to look at things differently. I’m going to treat things differently, have a different perspective. I’m going to keep it all in a proper balance and all that,” Auriemma said.

“Come Oct. 15 and all that changes -- Now just what I want to do is make sure you put the best team you can out on the floor, and if you don’t win a national championship, you feel disappointed,” Auriemma said.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do, but at least for the first that I can remember, I’m going into it with a different thought process than before.”


“I don’t have this burning desire to be the greatest coach of all time,” Auriemma said of his passions. “I don’t know why I feel that way. But that’s how I feel. I don’t get up every morning saying, `I have to win more national championships than anybody else. Or I got to be this, that, and the other thing. I just don’t have that. I don’t know that I ever have. But I don’t have that,” he said.

“It kind of gives me a perspective, I don’t know how to say it, but I’m not driven by that stuff. I’m not motivated by that stuff. I don’t have any of these demons driving me to be at a certain point in my life when I’m done.

“If I stopped coaching tomorrow, I’d be ok with it. I could walk away and say, `Ok, I’m good with where I am. I don’t need to do this any more,” Auriemma said.

“I think the Hall of Fame in Springfield made me realize some things. When they said, `You need a present Hall of Famer to kind of present you,’ they give you a list to choose from – there’s only some 120 people to chose from – in the world.

“That’s when it dawned on me. There are a lot of people in the Hall of Fame who are dead. So if you don’t enjoy the time when you’re doing the things you’re doing., if you go around all the time, saying, `I’ve got to get in the Hall of Fame, I’ve got win X number of championships, or I’ve got to do this, what good does it do if you die and you’re not happy doing what you’re doing.

“So, you think, `Hey, I’m going to try to win the national championship next year. But I’m not going to kill myself doing it. I’m not going to kill my players either,” he said acknowledging feelings could change again by October.

“Again, I say that now, but it’s just a lot of you really start to realize there’s a lot more to what we’re trying to do than winning games,” Auriemma philosophized. “Sometimes coaches get really, really caught up in winning games.”

Near where Auriemma spoke, there’s an exhibit video of him talking to his players (in 1999) before a game.

“I saw that and thought, `If I was my players, I wouldn’t listen to all that crap.’ You know,” he said.

“And then when I heard it was senior night, because I didn’t remember what game it was, I thought, `I hope I didn’t stand there and talk like that every game.’”

Former Connecticut athletic director John Toner, who hired Auriemma, will be his escort at the ceremonies, and Meghan Pattyson-Culmo, who played for him in the early 1990s, will speak in his video introduction before he takes the podium.

-- Mel

Thursday, April 27, 2006

ECAC tags Greenberg with award

By Kate Burkholder
Since Mel is currently headed to (or planning to head to) Knoxville to cover Geno Auriemma's (and five others') induction into the WBB Hall of Fame, I am going to be the one to inform the world about Mel's being honored as the 2006 Eastern College Athletic Conference-Sports Information Directors Association (ECAC-SIDA... say that one ten times fast) media award winner.

The award is to be presented to Mel on the evening of Thursday, June 8 at the ESPN Awards dinner in Oneonta, NY at the 2006 ECAC-SIDA workshop.

The award is given each year to a print or electronic media member who displays "outstanding coverage of Eastern intercollegiate athletes," and is selected by the ECAC-SIDA board of directors.

Past award winners have included Joe O'Gorman (Trentonian) in 2004 and Harvey Yavener (Trenton Times) in 1992, both of whom I know from covering the Rutgers women's basketball team, as well as other great contributors to college sports in the media.

Because Mel is en route to Tennessee, he could not be immediately reached for comment, but I am sure he was very happy to add this to his enormous list of other awards.

Mel's work from Knoxville will appear in the Saturday Inquirer and on Philly.com, and he will also be blogging.

(end of Kate's first attempt at marketing)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tribute to the Guru

Guru's Note: Two can play the revealing secrets game. Kate won't tell you, but word has arrived from the Banks of the Raritan that she received an "A" for making yours truly her class project in the work she shares below. -- Mel.

(Updated Thurs, April. 27, to reflect a few quotes that were significant, but arrived after my class deadline, and to clarify the chronological history somewhat in a few minor areas.)

Hey everybody... this is Kate... for my News Reporting class here at Rutgers I had to do a profile piece on anyone I chose, and I wrote about Mel. I spoke to several people and I feel like I put together a pretty good account of some of the things he has done. I know there are more and I obviously could have gone on forever, but here's what I came up with.

Mel Greenberg Profile

By Kate Burkholder

At the 2006 women’s basketball Final Four at the beginning of April in Boston, Mel Greenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer smiled and shook hands with everyone around him.

That may be because Greenberg knows just about everyone there is to know in the women’s college basketball world, and everyone knows him. This year – the 25th anniversary of the women’s NCAA tournament – was the 25th tournament Greenberg had covered, and he is believed to be the only media member to have seen them all.

As the founder of the Associated Press women’s poll, he is, according to many, the Women’s Basketball Guru.

Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia on a street mostly inhabited by females, the early years of Mel Greenberg’s life were not so focused on talking sports or playing in the street all hours of the day like many city kids.

Instead, Greenberg recalls trips to the movies and hanging out with the neighborhood girls as early childhood memories, while still developing a sense of obligation to love all the Philadelphia sports teams.

But with a passion for journalism and a handful of twists and turns along the way, Greenberg’s media coverage of women’s basketball has – in the last three decades – made him the sport’s biggest contributor, as he has built the women’s Associated Press Top-25 poll from the ground up and made it possible for decades of women to compete.

“People said I was nuts,” Greenberg said. “But this was just the game I knew, although it was being played by women, and I wanted to make it easier (to cover and follow) for everybody who came after me.”

As a student at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Greenberg took a journalism course and became interested in the different style of writing, and soon enrolled in the journalism program at nearby Temple University.

With his moderate interest in local sports, Greenberg and some friends decided to start a booster club to cheer for the Owls, and in his junior year at Temple Greenberg became a team manager for the men’s basketball team to “provide a connection between the team and the club.”

In 1969, Greenberg’s senior year of college, the Temple Owls men’s team found its way into the newspapers by winning the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) against Boston College.

Though Greenberg didn’t know it at the time, it was the same day that the local West Chester women’s basketball team was in the process of winning the first all-collegiate women’s tournament, and while the soon-to-be graduate was spending the day cheering for his victorious Temple team and planning to embark on a life devoid of basketball upon his upcoming graduation, his future life was unfolding about 30 miles away.

The summer after college, Greenberg waited patiently for a journalism job to appear. When he saw an ad for a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer in September 1969, he took the job and the very next day became an editorial assistant on the business page section at the paper in what he called “the fastest promotion in history.”

Still a regular at Temple men’s games in the early 1970s, the Owls Sports Information Director asked Greenberg to drive cheerleaders to games, what he jokingly considers his first introduction to women’s sports.

When the then-sports editor of the Inquirer asked Greenberg to bring a typewriter to games the newspaper wasn’t staffing, he slowly found his way into high school basketball coverage and then into the women’s college game with the uprising of local Imamculata University as a women’s basketball powerhouse in the early days.

Greenberg's early work was under the anonymous byline "Special to The Inquirer," although enough veterans at the paper will tell you that now as the second highest newsroom writer ranking in seniority, he really has been special, but that's a story for another day.

His first Inquirer byline with his name appeared in 1975 in the preseason baseball guide.

With the passage of Title IX in 1972, newspapers became more interested in covering the women’s game and when Greenberg covered his earliest games he recalled, “I certainly could follow the action, and the team was loaded with personality.”

In the Fall of 1975, Greenberg became formally involved covering the the women's game when Jay Searcy arrived from the New York Times to become the Inquirer's sports editor. (Ironically, Searcy is now retired and living in Knoxville where he frequently attends Tennessee women's games).

Having written a women's sports column at the Times, Searcy thought the young, boyish-looking Greenberg was the perfect foil to continue his own work in the Inquirer. In fact, Greenberg always says, the concept of starting a poll was Searcy's idea.

"Intially, I told him he was nuts because there was no source material to do one with any credibility," Greenberg recalled. "But he was insistent, and for a bunch of reasons, the following spring (1976), I decided, `Why not.' "

Greenberg worked all summer selecting coaches, setting up information streams, to produce the first poll -- initially a Top 20 ranking -- on November 25, 1976. The Inquirer headline over the rankings read: "Move Over Guys, Here Comes Another Poll." The weekly listings expanded to a Top 25 ranking for the 1989-90 season.

Two years after Greenberg's first rankings, The Associated Press approached him about using his work and soon thereafter the organization's name officially went on top of Greenberg's poll.

Meanwhile, other than inside the sports department, staffers in the newsroom had little idea that Greenberg was in the formative stages of making an important historical impact on the sport. However, when a story on Greenberg appeared in Editor & Publisher magazine at the end of the poll’s first season in existence, the young writer’s claim to fame began.

Before the advent of the internet, putting together the ranking system as he envisioned it was exhausting.

“Nothing about it was x’s and o’s,” Greenberg said. “I knew that good journalism was going to make this work, and not because I’m just some basketball fanatic.”

It was a process that required hours on the telephone with coaches all over the country, trying to get his hands on scores, schedules, and any other piece of information that would help put together a fair team ranking system while working with a voting board of coaches.

It was a way for the collegiate athletes to measure their success against others, and gave them something to play for. There was no internet and no one specific place all the information could be found.

That’s where Greenberg came in.

“Every Sunday night, we looked forward to the phone calls and the reports from Radio Free Mel,” said current Penn State head coach Rene Portland, a member of the voting board in the late-1970s.

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Greenberg’s poll had grown into a nationally recognized publication at the same time that better athletes were making their way onto the scene. The poll made it easier for newspapers to cover the sport as it began to grow.

Greenberg’s work called for the hiring of more and more Sports Information Directors on the women’s side, as the need for more expansive coverage was taking shape. He frequently appeared on radio shows and was the go-to guy for anyone with a women’s basketball question.

As technology advanced, compiling the weekly poll went from “a two-day to a two-hour” process, giving him more time for his writing.

In the summer of 1994, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) made a deal with USA Today to create another poll. According to Greenberg, the move made it impossible to continue in what had been an 18-year labor of love because he felt duplicate coaches polls would foul the waters.

At the same time, however, the Associated Press was ready to operate the poll in-house with writers. Greenberg helped the transition, became a voting member, and continued to remain in cahoots with AP because of his wealth of history, compiling weekly women’s basketball round-ups along the way.

“Actually, my groupies were more bent out of shape than I [was], because I was actually going to be free to go out and write on Sundays,” Greenberg said. “Besides, by then my reputation was established and I didn’t need to be known as a ballot-counter to maintain it. The SID’s were always going to be with me, whatever I did.”

All the while through the years, Greenberg was holding other jobs at the Inquirer in the sports department and in the features section. In the 1990s, his main task was filing Inquirer stories to the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. (Knight Ridder, whose chain of newspapers, including the Inquirer, was recently sold, had been the parent firm. At this writing the new Inquirer owner is unknown.).

"Of course, one perk in working with the KRT wire was I was also able to send my own stuff to the world, even when the Inquirer was chopping the same copy here," Greenberg said with a laugh. "It also made me popular among my colleagues since I was the main gateway to get their work distributed around the country."

Because of the attention the rise of Connecticut brought to the sport in the mid-1990s, Inquirer newsroom management realized the women's beat had to be its own animal for many reasons.

The WNBA was starting in the summer of 1997. The American Basketball League team in Richmond, which featured Dawn Staley, was being transferred to Philadelphia.

Most importantly, Philadelphia was going to host the Women's Final Four in 2000, so the advance tracking of the event in the Inquirer sports section had to have a full-time person paying attention to everything.

Besides, technology was such that editors felt Greenberg could now drop his 20 or so other jobs without fear of the paper going under. One of those jobs, incidentally, was driving the Inquirer's Pulitzer Prize entries at the last second every Feb. 1 to Columbia University in New York.

"I had more notoriety in-house for the Pulitzer dash than the poll," Greenberg laughed.

When the city hosted the Women's Final Four in 2000, it became known as The Mel Greenberg Tournament, accompanying the namesake Mel Greenberg Award (formerly the WBCA Media Award) that came about in 1991.

The award annually honors “a member of the media who has best displayed a commitment to women’s basketball and to advancing the role of the media in the women’s game,” according to WBCA.org. Greenberg was the first recipient.

Mechelle Voepel, staff writer for the Kansas City Star and regular contributor to ESPN.com, won the Greenberg Award in 2003, and is one of the many people who considers Greenberg a role model for what he has given to the sport and to people like herself.

“I can remember reading things Mel wrote when I was in junior high,” Voepel said. “He was such an influential figure because he was, for a while, the only one. His name was ingrained in my head from the first time I thought about the idea of coverage in women’s sports.”

Voepel said she read Greenberg’s work all throughout college and when she made the decision to become a sportswriter she knew there was one thing she had to do.

“In 1995 I finally went up to Mel and said, ‘I have to tell you how important your work was to me,’” Voepel said. “I told him I knew who he was all this time and when there was nothing else out there. Some people in this business aren’t very friendly to younger reporters starting out, but he was the opposite. He was always willing to help out, and that’s just indicative of who he is and how much he wants to promote this sport.”

In addition to his national reputation on the collegiate and pro women's beat, Greenberg is also locally reponsible for women’s basketball programs such as Temple, Villanova, and Rutgers during their seasons.

He has also been seen covering Drexel men's games. "My gender-equity training for the paper," Greenberg smiled.

In the summer, Greenberg travels along the WNBA seaboard cities, covering the New York Liberty, Washington Mystics, and Connecticut Sun, where he is more likely to be found in one of the casino's mega number of restaurants instead of at the slot machines and roulette tables.

“Mel was always armed with a smile and a great deal of passion for the game,” said Donna Orender, current president of the WNBA and former collegiate athlete at Queens College. “He derived personal joy from being the one in the know, and the one all of us players felt comfortable around.”

In addition, he has contributed to the coverage of USA Basketball – the national and Olympic teams at all levels – promoting women’s basketball internationally as well in the United States.

Former WNBA president Val Ackerman, now president of USA Basketball, recognized Greenberg's contributions to the wide spectrum of the game.

"He's almost sacred," Ackerman said. "He's our historian and almost an institution in this game because he has seen it evolve. He's an encyclopedia of knowledge."

"Nowadays there are many polls out there but at that time it was one, it was the Mel Greenberg women's basketball poll. If you were reading the sports pages no matter where you were, that was Mel's poll."

Ackerman's current USA Basketball colleague has known Greenberg for a shorter period of time, but has taken notice of his work at all levels.

“Aside from the poll and bringing a driving force behind the sport, he has promoted women’s basketball on the national level,” said Caroline Williams, Communications Director for USA Basketball and former member of the Sports Information Department at George Mason University. “He has helped keep the national teams at the forefront and in the spotlight at times when I have had to beg and plead to get things.”

As for his original claim to women’s hoops stardom, the Associated Press poll and others such as USA-Today and ESPN polls are still integral parts of the women’s game and its coverage.

The Inquirer’s current deputy sports editor, John Quinn, has only worked with Greenberg for the last couple of years, but as a long-time women’s basketball fan and media contributor, Quinn knows all about Greenberg’s impact.

“This is a guy who’s kind of just always there, he rubs elbows with the rich and famous and drives people like [Tennessee head coach] Pat Summitt to the airport and goes to parties with these people,” Quinn said. “He really leads two lives, because in this life he is a normal person putting out a newspaper every day, and in that other life he is a renowned hero to a lot of people who have a lot to thank him for.

“It’s not necessarily a given that today there are women’s basketball players and women’s basketball writers. There is a lot that we take for granted.”

Greenberg continues to work as a staff writer in his 36th year at the Inquirer, where he also appears at the paper's Philly.com internet site.

His work continues to be carried by the KRT News Service, and he now has his own blog ("Whether I like it or not," he laughs), appropriately titled Womhoops Guru and can be found at womhoops.blogspot.com, showcasing his awareness of the importance of the internet as an information source.

In the journey of encouraging the growth of the game itself as well as the media coverage that has fueled it, to be involved in women’s basketball today is to know Mel Greenberg for what he has done: building a sport and a family of those who love it, from what was once nothing at all.

“Sometimes I walk outside and think, ‘Wow, that was a really good story,’” Greenberg said of the simple day-to-day newspaper business. “When I started and looked at the years ahead, I just figured at some point I would do something else. When I asked my friend [New York Daily News writer] Dick Weiss if he thought I would be doing this 20 years later, he said yes.

“And here we are 30-something years later.”

Thursday, April 20, 2006

An Afternoon Chat With C. Viv

Good evening or whatever time you are reading this through direct access or linked from elsewhere :).

While we were stopping by the annual postseason Big Five women's awards reception in town Wednesday night, of which you can find an account at Philly.com, our colleague up North had spent the afternoon with coach Stringer.

A little while ago the "ding" of email notification in our office computer brought the following narrative published in Thursday's Targum. So I would be remiss to not be the first or one of the first to give you Kate's performance, considering her recently fine work with us in Boston.
_ Mel.

Sitting Down With C. Viv

By Kate Burkholder
Piscataway, N.J. _ C. Vivian Stringer has always had her vision of what basketball should be.

As a college-aged kid, Stringer showed up at Cheyney State University in the Philadelphia suburbs to do one thing - to become the basketball coach.

She didn't know how, so she asked.

"I remember being interviewed for the [teaching] position at Cheyney, and I asked the man if they had a basketball team and if I could coach them," Stringer said. "They were kind of surprised, I think, that I asked because they hadn't advertised for a basketball coach. They had advertised for an assistant professor."

So that's what she became.

As a physical education teacher at Cheyney, Stringer soon found herself in a department meeting in which a group of her co-workers were aiming to figure out the year's coaching responsibilities - and there came her big chance.

"They started with softball," Stringer recalled. "They said, 'OK, who wants to coach the softball team?' I raised my hand because I didn't want to be left without anything, thinking that as soon as they get to basketball someone's going to take that."

Next on the auction block was volleyball.

Stringer looked around. No takers.

"I'm sitting there thinking, 'These people are all just waiting for basketball. So when nobody raised their hand for volleyball, I thought I would take it again because I just want to coach something. Then they said, 'Who wants to coach basketball?'"

But when the room fell silent again, Stringer couldn't believe it.

"It seemed like a century must have passed and nobody raised their hand, and I'm thinking that these people are going to think I'm really greedy, that I just want to take over everything.

"When I raised my hand and I said that I wanted it, he told me it was mine and I just wanted to jump up and kiss that man. I called my husband, who was the admissions director at Lincoln University, and it was just a call for celebration. I was so excited. I was coaching the basketball team."

Stringer started off by coaching those three sports at the small university as a volunteer, before receiving tenure as a teacher at Cheyney and ultimately leading groups of women she admits were often older (and taller) than she was and not on scholarships to 11 years of national prominence.

Off an original plan that included reading stacks of basketball books and listening in on clinics, Stringer led the Wolves to the Final Four of the first-ever NCAA women's basketball tournament in 1982.

"I feel like learned in the trenches and I think a lot of coaches don't get to do that anymore," Stringer said. "I really cherished that, and I couldn't have worked any harder. I realized through it all that I better know what I'm talking about and I better be sure and be sharp. It probably made me realize what I needed to be at this time."

Not to say she was going in completely unprepared.

As a kid growing up before the days of Title IX, Stringer wasn't given the opportunity to play sports. So to stay close to what she loved, she did what she had to do - and became a cheerleader for football, wrestling, and basketball.

"I played [basketball] with the guys in our community because we didn't have a team or a schedule or uniforms," she said. "I learned by watching television, and I always wanted to ask he guy the guys, I mean, if you're going to play this game then play it with all your heart and soul and passion. I didn't understand how a guy that goes in for a tackle can just give up so easily. But I became a cheerleader to stay close to the game."

After putting Cheyney State on the basketball map, Stringer took her next coaching job at the University of Iowa. But this time, she wasn't splitting her responsibilities.

She would only be a coach, and she would get paid.

"I was being paid to coach, and it almost seemed sacrilegious. How could you ever get paid to do something that you love so much?" Stringer asked. "If I'm there I should be there to teach and that's my job. I felt like a sell-out like, do I really care about these kids or is it just about winning and making money. It just didn't seem right, but you just have to change with the times."

In her years at Iowa, Stringer found success on the court while dealing with difficult personal situations such as the unexpected death of her husband, Bill.

On the court, she led the Hawkeyes to the 1993 Final Four and won over the hearts of everyone who followed the black and gold.

Then came another relocation the year after that, and in the summer of 1995 Stringer found her way back to the east coast and onto the Banks of the Raritan River, poised and ready to put some of her painful experiences behind her and transform Rutgers into the "Jewel of the East" she envisioned it to be.

In the past decade, the coach has become a legend and a role model, winning her 700th game in December of 2004 and her 750th this past season. Now hers is a name that rings synonymous with women's college hoops.

After leading the Scarlet Knights to the Final Four in 2000, Stringer became - and still is - the only coach in college basketball to lead three different programs to the national stage.

She has coached national standouts like Tasha Pointer, Tammy Sutton Brown, and Cappie Pondexter, and helped the Scarlet Knights find their way late into the NCAA tournament with each passing year.

But for someone continually honored by assortments of organizations and forced to spread herself thin in a game that has transformed greatly since she started, Stringer isn't ready to forget her roots, and wishes that others would focus on keeping the game exactly that.

A game centered on a mutual love and one not preoccupied with money, awards, or newspaper headlines.

"If everybody else would, I think that I would want it that way," Stringer said. "It's like if you live in the mountains and you just have a family and you're the happiest person in the world and you fish and hunt and it's just about getting by. To really be at peace.

"The problem is that once you get involved with those other things it just gets so stressful. I think we have left a place we can never return to - where we are teachers first and coaches second."

And more than any awards or milestones, she says, she would rather watch the transformation of the young lives she now gets paid to touch.

"I want to know I did more than just the game on the floor," Stringer said. "I think sometimes we wonder early in life about if we did things right, and it really doesn't matter to me. I'm at peace with myself and I want some things that I can hold forever."

And with the 34 seasons and 750 wins behind her, while being named one of Sports Illustrated's 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports and becoming an Olympic gold medal coach and Hall of Famer, what Stringer wants most is to remember why she did any of it in the first place.

"I don't know how some people can go through their entire lives and then when it's over it's like the curtain came down and no one even clapped," Stringer said. "You realize that all along it was for what and for who? For what, and for who?"

Mostly, she hopes, it has all been for herself and those she loves.

"Whether I win 1,000 games or 700 or whatever, what is it really all about?" she asked. "What is important to me and to make me smile and feel good at the end of the day. It's amazing for me to be relived that I'm doing it for the right reasons.

"I love this thing."
© Copyright 2006 The Daily Targum

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

WNBA: It Seems They've Met Before

By Mel Greenberg

There's no Philly team in the WNBA, but there are a couple of Philadelphia stories brewing this summer.

One that had gone into play on draft day took on added twist on Tuesday with the news that former Temple backcourt star Cynthia Jordan was signed as a free agent with the Houston Comets.

That addition will send Jordan to training camp on a roster that includes her former coach at Temple, one Dawn Staley, the three-time Olympic gold medalist who will be making her farewell tour of the league this season.

"We've been a team before when she was on the floor and I was coaching," Staley said of Jordan.

"I've taught her a bunch of my tricks, now she'll probably try to use them against me," Staley said.

Houston coach Van Chancellor is familiar with Jordan, because she has played for Comets assistant coach Kevin Cook's AAU team in the fall that has gone against colleges in preseason games.

"It'll be coach against player: Winner take all," Chancellor quipped of the training camp head-to-head matchup to come.

Staley already had one potential coach against former player angle in play with Temple senior Candice Dupree's first-round selection in the WNBA draft by the new Chicago Sky as the sixth overall pick.

Mark June 2 on the calendar when they all might tangle when Chicago visits Houston.

Coach vs. Former Player II

It will be a La Salle reunion in the WNBA's Western Conference with new Phoenix Mercury head coach Paul Westhead battling his former player Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant, who was formerly named on Monday as the new coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.

Bryant, of course, is the father of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers all-star center. After being an assistant to former Sparks coach Henry Bibby, the elder Bryant took over the Sparks the last five games of the regular season, guilding Lisa Leslie and friends into the playoffs.

Westhead coached Bryant in the early 1970s.

In fact, hard to believe for some of you (especially those of you who weren't born yet), but the Guru actually covered a tournament the two were involved in New Orleans.

In the real world at the time, the cost of sugar, a staple of the region, was escalating in the manner of what's currently happening at the gas pumps.

La Salle pulled two upsets to win the Sugar Bowl basketball tournament and in the lockerroom, Jelly Bean stood up on a table and proclaimed: "The price of sugar is up, and so is La Salle."

Not Missing in Action

In case some of you are wondering why a certain name associated with this sport does not have his name on a story at Philly.com involving a well-known name at a school in the middle of the state, our football writer, who speaks five languages, six counting his coverage of Geno when we hosted the Women's Final Four in 2000, happened to be on the scene some 200 miles away from here at Guru control.

In other news, the recent spouter of house secrets :) is well along in her project of becoming the Guru's new Boswell.

A little while ago, one of our top department editors passed by and proclaimed "I gave you up and didn't lie about anything."

That's it for now but feel to return later tonight to see some commentary from the new Phoenix coach about playing against his former La Salle person, if such Mercury GM reached such coach to send him in my direction.

-- Mel

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Musings from the college kid -- again

Because Mel has been very busy with traveling to West Point for the Maggie Dixon ceremony, and giving me his life story so that I can compile a profile on him for my News Reporting class at Rutgers... I am taking the reigns on the blog today.

Basically it's just because Mel would never tell anyone this himself, but it's his BIRTHDAY!! (I think I offended him yesterday by mis-hearing what year he graduated from Temple, tacking 10 extra years on -- oops!). But anyway... happy birthday Mel!

So, yesterday I got the scoop on Mel's creation of the AP poll and all of that for my paper. I've got a lot of contact numbers so I have to get in touch with some others to get quotes about Mel, but once that happens I should be able to have some fun with the assignment, also because Mel just sent me about 6 emails full of women's basketball history that I need to go sift through as I eat jelly beans (all but the black ones - they're gross).

And right now I've got to go write my articles for our school paper and actually study for my finals like Mel has alluded to, but once this semester is finished I should be around more and doing some WNBA things here and there over the summer. Thanks for reading and wish Mel a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

--Kate Burkholder

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Behind The News

By Mel Greenberg

My, my, my, there are times when even the Guru himself is fascinated at the speed of the internet in this technological age.

Having just returned to the home office here in Philadelphia from covering the moving and final farewell tributes to Army coach Maggie Dixon earlier in the day at West Point, N.Y., lo and behold, before I even have a chance to look into our publishing system to see how much of my story on the way to print survived the editing process _ essentially it all did _ I learn through the grand central station site from which many of you link here (can you say Sarah and Ted?), that you have already honed into some of the info I provided.

Well, caught you. I deliberately dropped a few pearls into the story about proposed actions to honor Maggie's memory to see how fast the rumour circuit would pick it up.
Pretty quick, apparently.

And for those of you who haven't seen this report at this hour of posting, good morning to you all down in Virginia and North Carolina at the annual talent harvests.

For the rest of you, here's how fast my printed copy that has yet to be in print went through the circuit.

At 8 p.m. Eastern time, our editors moved a copy of my story to the Knight-Ridder News Wire. Apparently, the San Jose Mercury, our soon-not-to-be or maybe still-to-be sister paper quickly posted the story at their web site.

It's not even up yet at our site - Philly.Com, at the moment I am writing this report.

Well, to get serious, though.

You all can take pride that your suggestions about ways to honor Maggie's memory inspired the Guru to take an existing situation to the next level at USBWA.

Your hearts were in the right place and the award you were suggestioning might appear under someone else's banner.

I already know the Patriot League has a really neat concept under consideration as their way of honoring Maggie.

As for USBWA (United States Basketball Writers Association), I can't spill the beans on our own deal ahead of time (look for early June when the Guru accepts an award at ECAC-Sida), but it will be appropriate and in synch with all that Maggie accomplished in a short time.

I can tell you, Army is pleased with the propposed plans, DePaul is pleased, and in speaking to Jamie Dixon on the side, the family will also be enthusiastically on board.

A few housekeeping items involving components need to be done.

A major co-sponsor is already in place (although we haven't done an official sign-off) because that sponsor helps pick up the tab at our annual brunch at the Women's Final Four. (If you have attended, other than eduring the Guru emceeing the event, you already have a clue).

But again, the point of this discussion is the guru wants you to know that you already in your own way had input and the guru does monitor your suggestions with serious consideration.

In fact, if any of you know a person with a few million bucks willing to invest in buying a major newspaper in Philadelphia, in fact, two newspapers (to make the folks who work on the first floor here happy), please pass that individual's name along.

I told coach Staley to save her money to buy a WNBA team, although I also offered to provide chauffeur service to her office for a small fee if disaster strikes here. :)

I did make a proposal to my good friend Michael Alter, the owner of the new Chicago Sky, while at the all-star game in Boston.

Apparently, the only thing he was interested in buying from this town, however, were the rights to Temple's Candice Dupree, showing you that despite your praise, Staley appears to have more leverage than the Guru.

That said, the Guru will be back in a few days after an annual major event (that he considers minor) in his life occurs Sunday.

I won't get into it, but the only other person who has the codes to leak those details is busy 60 miles away up north preparing for her final exams, while we get her administratively situated for the WNBA circuit this summer.

So, we'll see you in a few days unless a sudden stream of email causes commentary ahead of time. This week's postseason awards banquet tour stop will be the annual Big Five dinner Wednesday night.

-- Mel

Before going away, to get serious again, the impression given ahead of this morning's events by an overall West Point representative was that we would be viewing the ceremony from afar with no access.

As it evolved, the few of us (New York Times, Gannett being the other print publications), were allowed to be right with all of those who mourned Maggie and I was personally pleased to be able to subtlely talk with all the individuals who had been major interviews at the previous events since Maggie's tragic passing.

Those elements helped produce a much stronger and sensitive picture to offer to you in cyberland and to our readership here. I had a good friend of mine in the Army SID office fact check before I shipped to Philadelphia, and the only changes were a spelling of the arena, and a change of one word to make mess hall a more appropriate description than "dining area."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Finishing Touch

Boston-Philadelphia _ Hello all

Boston is now a memory and an exciting one at that in terms of the basketball.

It is also a horrific memory for the writing regulars who saw their worst nightmare come true after being conjured on the day the WNBA announced the it would follow the NCAA championship with its selections the next afternoon.

What we had was basically a new take on "the Boston Marathon" with the game going into overtime and ending right on top of East Coast deadlines.

My pal Voepel over the Kansas City Star, ESPN.Com, and whatever other venues she's connected with, never stopped and decided to write away into the sunrise and, unlike the rest of us, forego the media hospitality suite.

Then soon after the crack of sunrise, er make that, mild snowfall, it was off to the draft, with the NCAA wrap-up put on a quick hold.

Then it was back to the wrap-up, and over to the hotel to pack, and then a late-nite ride down the seaboard to get Kate back in plenty of time for class at Rutgers.

On the plus, the site for the draft was far more luxurious and workable than the usual cramped and sometimes (depending on the weather) chilly areas over at the WNBA Entertainment Headquarters.

But we can now say the rookie we brought along is no longer a rookie. Kate handled it well, the late-nite hangouts, the introductions to everyone who's anyone in women's basketball (completed with Ann Meyers appeared in the lobby Tuesday morning as we headed out to the draft), a file to her paper on Cappie, a file for here on the draft, and a game story to the Knight-Ridder Campus Wire.

That said, we have some projects for her in the future, and since she appears to have developed a following here, she has access to be a partner blogger (happy now that you'll find something new to read when I feel like taking a break :) ), and will join us on the WNBA trail this season (although all that is her option and we have to let the college types have a life -- unlike the rest of us :) ).

That said, here's Kate's game story that was carried on the KRT Campus Live Wire.
-- Mel

BC-BKW-FINAL-RECAP:PH _ sports, campus (760 words)

Terps turnaround shocks Blue Devils

By Kate Burkholder


_ After committing 12 turnovers in Maryland's semifinal win in the NCAA women's basketball tournament Sunday, Terrapin freshman point guard Kristi Toliver's inexperience stood out.

But with the national title on the line Tuesday night, Toliver was the most poised player on the floor as she drained a three-point attempt with six seconds left in regulation to send the Terps to overtime against Duke.

Toliver then hit both of her free throws with 34 seconds left in overtime to give Maryland a one-point lead. The Terrapins held on in overtime for the thrilling 78-75 win at the TD Banknorth Arena over a stunned Blue Devils team that led Maryland by 13 early in the second half.

The Terrapins went undefeated (6-0) in overtime this season as they picked up the dramatic come-from-behind win for the silver anniversary year of the NCAA women's championship.

"Everyone's game should come out in the tournament," forward and tournament MVP Laura Harper said, before proclaiming her happiness in Joakim Noah form. "The Maryland girls are hot right now _ we're hot right now!"

The overtime win was only the second in the 25 years of the championship. The other occurred when Tennessee beat Virginia, 70-67, in 1991.

For a second-seeded and third-ranked Maryland team (34-4) that came to Boston just wanting a little respect, the Terrapins turned heads all over the place in picking up their first national championship in school history.

The outcome also kept Duke (31-4) winless in four appearances in the Women's Final Four, including the 1999 championship.

The one-seeded Blue Devils had plenty of chances to put the game away late, but it was right as Maryland came on at the end that Duke began to slip.

Maryland tied the game at 58 with 5:22 to go in the second half.

Monique Currie, however, picked up a couple big points for the Blue Devils late to push Duke back up by four.

A Toliver jumper-cut that put Maryland ahead by one with 57 seconds to play, but when Maryland fouled Duke sharpshooter Jessica Foley, the guard hit both free throws and gave Duke the three-point advantage, setting the stage for Toliver's clutch three-pointer to send it to overtime.

"I've seen it too many times," Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "Every time their (Maryland) games go to overtime, they win every game. I've seen many instances where the pressure is on where they come through."

In the extra period, neither team scored for the first two minutes before Currie stepped up to hit a jumper that gave Duke the lead again.

With Duke up one with 47 seconds on the clock in overtime, Toliver nailed both of her free throws to put Maryland up one.

Coleman also hit two free throws to put the Terps up three with 13 seconds left, while Maryland attached itself to Duke's best shooters Waner and Foley.

Under heavy pressure, Foley's desperation three-point attempt fell short as time expired and the Terrapins became national champions.

"I'll tell you, no team deserved to win this game," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. "Duke played a heck of a game and it was a game that I always had dreamed it would be. It was super. We've got kids that believe in each other that got it done together. It was just a great win as a team."

Duke had led by as many as 13 in the first as Maryland's biggest weapons struggled early, and the Terrapins trailed by 10 at the end of the first half.

Terps forward Crystal Langhorne was held to only four first-half points after scoring 23 in the win over North Carolina. She ended with 12.

A combined nine players reached double figures last night between the top two teams in the nation in scoring (Duke 87 ppg, Maryland 84).

For Maryland, Toliver, Laura Harper and Shay Doron each scored 16 to lead the way. Coleman's 14 blocks was good for a game-high as Toliver and Langhorne combined for eight assists.

The Blue Devils were led by center Alison Bales' 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Last night was the 62nd meeting between the two teams and the fourth this year.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Burkholder, associate sports editor for the Rutgers University Daily Targum, is covering the NCAA Women's Tournament with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

© 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer's World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Augustus Leads WNBA Draft Day Parade

By Kate Burkholder

BOSTON — With the first pick in the 2006 WNBA draft at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center Wednesday afternoon, the Minnesota Lynx selected Louisiana guard and two-time National Player of the Year Seimone Augustus.
The Lynx finished 14-20 — sixth in the league — under head coach Suzie McConnell Serio in 2005.

Augustus’ 19.3 career scoring average led LSU to back-to-back Final Four appearances, including this season as LSU fell to Duke in Sunday’s national semifinal game.

“I can relate [this] back to freshman year where you aren’t the star player,” Augustus said of her No. 1 pick and venturing to the WNBA as a rookie. “You need to get into a comfort zone, need to learn your teammates, their personalities, see where you fit in — and mainly just find out what you can do and what you can’t do and what is good for the team.”

Rutgers’ Cappie Pondexter was drafted second by the Phoenix Mercury. Pondexter became the second Rutgers player taken in the first round (Sue Wicks, sixth, 1997) and the highest Scarlet Knight selection ever. The All-American guard’s 22 ppg led the Knights to the Elite 8 a season ago and the Sweet 16 in 2005-06.

Pondexter will join a Mercury team led by coach Paul Westhead, with emphasis on fast-breaking and high scoring, in addition the strict defense that Pondexter is used to from playing under defensive master C. Vivian Stringer.

“I definitely think me going to Phoenix will be a smooth transition,” Pondexter said yesterday. “Knowing the fact that I’m coming from a program where Coach Stringer definitely stresses defense and knowing that the new coach I have is the same way, I think it’s going to be great.”

Selected third by the Charlotte Sting was Duke University guard Monique Currie.

After dealing with the heartbreak of the Blue Devils’ loss Tuesday in the national championship game, Currie will join a Sting squad that is looking to recover from a 2005 campaign that pitted them dead last in the WNBA at 6-28.

Currie’s smooth outside shot and ability to control the floor will supplement a Sting team with a need for backcourt help.

“There are definitely a lot of mixed emotions going on,” Currie said. “I am still disappointed about [the game] but at the same time I am extremely excited about going to Charlotte and making one of my ultimate dreams come true.”

Currie will get the chance to stay in North Carolina after four years in Durham, while originally hailing from Washington, D.C.

The fourth went went to the San Antonio Silver Stars, who selected Baylor’s Sophia Young. Young was an integral part of the Bears team that won the national championship in 2004-05, averaging 18 points for her career while pulling down 10 rebounds for the career double-double.

San Antonio barely snuck in before Charlotte with a record of 7-27 that put them second to last in the standings last season, and Young will look to supplement a team with a lot of question marks and issues with depth.

It will also give Young the opportunity to stay in Texas.

“That’s very exciting and I’m sure my Baylor fans are really excited because before I left they were hoping I would come to San Antonio, and now I’m there,” Young said. “It’s great that I get to stay in Texas. I’ve spoken to some of the girls on the San Antonio team and they seem like really cool people.”

Rounding out the top five in this year’s draft was the Los Angeles Sparks, who allowed another college athlete to stay close to home by selecting UCLA’s Lisa Willis.

Willis averaged 14.2 points in her career — including 18 her senior season — to lead UCLA to an upset in the Pac-10 tournament over Stanford.

She was a member of the All Pac-10 first team in 2005 and 2006, and will look to add to a Sparks team that finished an even 17-17 last season. The finish was LA’s worst since 1998 as the team was plagued with injury throughout the 2005 campaign.

Temple’s Candice Dupree went sixth (Chicago Sky), while other top picks included Utah’s Shono Thorburn (Minnesota), Miami’s Tamara James (Washington), UNC’s La’Tangela Atkinson (Indiana), and Tennessee’s Tye’sha Fluker (Charlotte).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Terrapins Slow to Get Respect

Hello again.

While some of us were busy socializing after the 25th anniversary party of the NCAA tournament with the likes of Cheryl Miller, Nancy Lieberman, and a few 100 other greats of the past, the worker bee on this trip was busy giving her take in a column for the KRT Campus Live Wire.

My advance is over at Philly.com or in print in Tuesday's Inquirer. Here's the Katester's latest real world transmission that posted late Monday night for college and high school papers.

Now I have to run and write a few speeches for breakfast and luncheon events I'm involved in here in Boston.

And whatever time is listed for the blog post, it's actually later than that.

-- Mel

BC-BKW-BURKHOLDER-COLUMN:PH _ sports, campus (910 words)

Terps faced tough competition to make NCAA championship debut

(EDITORS: Resending to correct slug.)

By Kate Burkholder


BOSTON _ Everybody in the women's basketball world suddenly loves the word "parity."

The time for an even playing field full of good competition seems to have arrived in the sport, certainly not to its potential and certainly not to the level of the men's game (George Mason is exhibit A), but this Final Four is showing more than anything the growth of women's basketball.

"I think we're continuing to keep growing this game just like the men have done," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. "We're obviously getting closer in terms of our depth, and this year you're seeing where we could have had a handful of teams here in the Final Four _ I mean 10 or 12 teams had that possibility."

Frese understands the need for this kind of growth in the women's game in order to raise the level of competition in a sport often overshadowed by the men's side of things.

"I think you're really starting to see the resources and the support being put out there by the administrators and we're just going to continue to grow the game. I can't tell you how far away that's going to be but that's where we're at and I'm excited. Parity has arrived."

While Frese's Terrapins weren't too much of a long-shot coming in as a two-seed compared to No. 1 seeds of the other three Boston participants, Frese feels her Maryland team is deserving of much more respect than it has already gotten _ which isn't much.

With a record of 33-4 (12-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), the Terps advanced to the ACC tournament title game with a win over the same Duke team they will face at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday for the national title.

While Maryland is the third-ranked team in the nation and Duke the fourth, Frese's bunch are still the presumed underdogs.

It will be the Terps' first trip to the NCAA championship in school history, but Maryland was in a title game once before in 1978, losing to UCLA in Los Angeles under the former Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).

"I know these players in their hearts understand they're playing for the national championship game," Frese said, "but I think that from anyone's end when you put in the kind of hard work and the time and energy that you do in your sport, it's nice to be validated and respected in your sport.

"That's the one last kind of final stamp of approval that they're looking for."

Maryland took a big step toward approval Sunday night, knocking off the tournament's top overall seed North Carolina 81-70 to advance to the finals.

The Terps used a combined 47 points from post players Laura Harper (career-high 24 points) and Crystal Langhorne to shut down Ivory Latta and the Tar Heels and end a UNC run many expected to finish with the title.

For a Terrapins team with no seniors in the starting lineup, junior guard Shay Doron has been a steadying force alongside inexperienced freshman point guard and turnover-prone Kristi Toliver.

Doron is ready to lead Maryland to the championship against a bunch of Blue Devils they've already proven they can hang with.

"In the past obviously I just think Duke was better," Doron said. "Right now I think it's pretty even with the teams and that's why we're not nervous. We know we can play with this team."

For Duke (31-3, 12-2), posts Mistie Williams and Alison Bales will look to counter the hot Harper-Langhorne tandem, while All-American Monique Currie guides the Blue Devils on the perimeter.

Bales has swatted away 27 shots so far in the NCAA tournament, the most blocks in its history.

In Duke's 64-45 stomping of Louisiana State Sunday night in the Final Four, four Blue Devils reached double figures as the team shot 50-percent from the field. That's something Currie feels separates her from the other Final Four teams she's been a part of in her career _ those that failed to win a title.

"It's mainly our depth and our balance," Currie said. "We have players coming in off the bench who could very well be starting and who contribute a lot. Our bench definitely makes a difference. When we came to the Final Four when I was a freshman, we only had eight players."

Before the ACC tournament, Duke had won 14 straight games over the Terrapins and 17 of the last 19 meetings between the two, but Maryland still holds the 32-29 edge in the teams' storied history.

"The Duke win, as the players have mentioned, kind of was the monkey off their back, so to speak, given the history and tradition that Duke has had against Maryland," Frese said. "But let's not forget the tradition that Maryland has had in the past against Duke. I think people forget since it was the '80s, but Maryland still owns the most ACC titles and has done some pretty special things."

A win Tuesday night on the grandest stage would certainly be one of them.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Burkholder, associate sports editor for the Rutgers University Daily Targum, is covering the NCAA Women's Tournament with the Philadelphia Inquirer.


© 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer's World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Monday, April 03, 2006

USA Basketball -- Women in Transition

Here's another public service performance from yours truly -- Kate's story to the KRT Campus Live Wire Service involving Sunday's USA Basketball Training Session at Boston College -- Mel

BC-BKW-USABASKETBALL:PH _ sports, campus (1300 words)
Professionals mentor, compete with elite college women
By Kate Burkholder
BOSTON _ Candace Parker calmly dribbled the basketball by her side, trying to use her 6-foot 4-inch frame to post up under the basket.

Met with pressure, the Tennessee redshirt freshman instead stepped back and unleashed a fadeaway jump shot from the right corner that fell gracefully through the hoop.

On her way back down the court, Sheryl Swoopes gave Parker a congratulatory pat on the backside.

Swoopes may be 15 years and one month Parker's elder, but the two donned identical jerseys as part of a USA Basketball national squad practicing at Boston College's Conte Forum Sunday morning.

Swoopes and Parker represent the oldest and youngest members of a USA team that will head to compete in Australia at the Opals World Challenge later this month _ a team uniquely woven with the fibers of both seasoned WNBA veterans and the ripest collegiate talent.

"This is huge," Parker said as she took a seat on the bench after practice. "This is a great experience and I just came into this thing wanting to learn and wanting to grow and to take everything in. This is a really great experience for me and I just want to learn from it."

With only one collegiate season behind her in which her 17 points- and 8 rebounds-per-game led the Lady Volunteers to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, Parker is now known in the collegiate basketball world for being "the girl who can dunk."

But when she showed up in Boston to practice with the national team and was met with players toting armfuls of Olympic medals, Parker learned she was a small fish in an ocean-sized pond.

"The older players have taught me that I just have to play hard all the time," Parker said. "I think sometimes in college, maybe you can take if easy in a game but you definitely can't do that here because there are so many great players.

"I think it's huge for us and huge for me, and I want to continue to take everything in."

In attendance Sunday to watch her own budding star practice, Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said she expects Parker to embrace the new pressure and improve heading into next season.

"From my perspective of Candace, I know she would look at something like this as a valuable learning experience and I don't think she'd back down or be intimidated," Summitt said. "This is a smart move on the part of USA Basketball to have some obviously outstanding veterans but also to think about the future of the game and get these young players involved.

"It's like in the college game if you have your juniors and your seniors, but you also have your freshmen and the players you continue to bring in that will allow you to have continued success at the highest level."

Among the mentors for the younger players like Parker, Rutgers' Cappie Pondexter and Ohio State's Jessica Davenport _ the three babies of the team _ will, in fact, be Swoopes.

With three Olympic gold medals and four WNBA titles _ not to mention an 8-year-old son _ in tow, Swoopes may have one of the best perspectives on the USA Basketball scene.

"I think in the past it was typically one group of players and we were all pretty much the same age with the same type of experience," Swoopes said as she tended to a wrapped knee after practice. "But now this is different, and in a way I think it's good and in a way I think it's bad. The bad part is that the younger players don't have that experience that we're going to need when we get to the world championships and with playing against international competition."

Finding a way to inject that experience into the younger players is one of Swoopes' goals after having played on the world stage since 1992 _ a time when Parker, Pondexter and Davenport were in grade school.

"The good thing is that we have some veterans like myself, Katie (Smith), Tina (Thompson), and Sue (Bird) _ players who have been there before and are able to take the younger players and help them and try to reach them from a different standpoint than maybe a coach would."

In the days leading up to the WNBA draft, Pondexter is one player with more than her fair share of eyes focused on her every move. But after recently wrapping up her collegiate career in a Scarlet Knights' uniform, the Chicago native and 2006 Women's Basketball News Service National Player of the Year is just here to learn.

"It's great because we can learn so much from (the veterans)," Pondexter said. "You want to go into this like you don't know anything so you can take as much as possible and you really want to be like a sponge.

"They are Olympians, they've been to the places where we want to go and they have to show us the way, because of the experience they have and the experience we lack."

USA Basketball's head coach Anne Donovan _ also the head coach of the WNBA's Seattle Storm _ said that while at first some of the younger players may come in over-confident, the time they spend around the veterans helps them to quickly realize what they need to do to compete at this level.

"I think sometimes with the new generation, there's just not an understanding of the veterans and everything they've done and accomplished," Donovan said. "We went back today and made sure they knew who the Olympians were."

Donovan coaches USA Basketball player Bird on Seattle's team during the WNBA season, and will look to players like her to guide the talented team throughout the course of international competition.

"Sue came today for the first time and right away she was talking to everybody along with Katie and Sheryl," Donovan said. "There's just so much to learn from them, and more than anything it's from an intellectual standpoint _ how to keep composure and how to communicate."

The USA roster also includes current ESPN analyst and Tennessee graduate Kara Lawson, former Connecticut phenom Diana Taurasi, and two-time Associated Press Player of the Year Seimone Augustus of LSU.

"I'm excited that I'm still able to hang around and run up and down the court with these young players," Swoopes said. "It seems like the talent just keeps getting better and better every single year, so for me, any time I get an opportunity to put on a USA uniform and represent my country, I still take a lot of pride in this."

Swoopes also can understand what it feels like to come off an outstanding college career and then find oneself hidden among other great players on the professional and international stops.

"I've been there," she said. "When I played against some of the older players when I was young, I thought I was `it.' I thought I was a great player and it took me out there the first day of practice getting my butt kicked before I said, `You know, maybe I'm not as good as I think I am.' It's okay to have that confidence to a certain degree as long as they know that now it's not about what they've accomplished in college or who they are.

"Now it's about representing your country."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Burkholder, associate sports editor for the Rutgers University Daily Targum, is covering the NCAA Women's Tournament with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
© 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer's World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.com/
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Kate's Take On the Scene - Day 2

I'm on the print-ony trail tonight (Sunday late).
So here's Kate's view on the latest rounds through the semifinals. -- Mel

By Kate Burkholder

BOSTON _ Sitting here in the media room after the Final Four games, it’s time for another Boston update.

Sunday (actually, it's early Monday, very early Monday) and Saturday were both busy days.

Saturday things started off at the ESPN morning press conference, where the media members offered their thoughts on the Final Four and everything else going on.

Stacey Dales-Schuman, Kara Lawson, Trey Wingo, and Doris Burke were the analysts who spoke.

Then we rushed to the room next door to the WBCA/Kodak All-America presentations, where Cappie Pondexter was among the ten players honored. That was just before LSU’s Seimone Augustus took home her second straight State Farm Wade trophy. (We stayed put for that announcement). That made her only the second player ever to win the prestigious award twice — along with Nancy Lieberman.

After that we came here to the TD Banknorth Arena for the press conferences with the four teams.

Back at the hotel later was the Associated Press awards — Coach of the Year going to UNC’s Sylvia Hatchell and Player of the Year going to Seimone.

Then we went to watch the WBCA “Night of the Stars” where I got to see Rutgers’ recruit Epiphanny Prince live in action for the first time and talk to her after the high-school game.

That was followed by the seniors game, which Cappie played in, and I got to talk to Rutgers’ associate head coach Jolette Law and senior point guard Courtney Locke in the stands, as they were there to support Cappie in her last go-around in the scarlet jersey.

Then Saturday night was the coolest part of the trip so far, the WNBA party at the Mariott Hotel.

Rebecca Lobo and Sue Bird talked to everyone, and I ended up getting my picture taken with SDS (Mel was in that one) and Suzie McConnell Serio (the Minnesota Lynx head coach).

I also met what felt like every WNBA coach and/or owner and saw a few players I recognized walking around.

I definitely didn’t feel like I belonged but it was a great time.

The music was good, even though Mel didn’t know any of the songs (FYI: “Grillz” was a popular selection for those of you out there who get that).

After the party I got stuck in the hotel elevator for about five minutes, but that’s enough about that. :)

This morning we got somewhat lost driving to Boston College to watch USA Basketball practice, but once we got there we got to watch Candace Parker, Cappie, and Jessica Davenport play alongside Sheryl Swoopes, Sue Bird, and Katie Smith.

I wrote an article for the Targum and the Knight-Ridder wire about the generational gap in USA Basketball which fascinates me (the oldest and youngest players are 15 years apart).

Caroline Williams, the communications director for USA Basketball, is the nicest woman ever by the way. One of the many business cards I’ve accrued so far on this journey.

After that Mel offered, who else, but Pat Summitt and her friends a ride back to Boston, which of course meant me squeezing four-across in the backseat of Mel’s Pontiac rental car next to the winningest coach in college basketball. Good times.

Then we headed right over here for both of the Final Four games.

The Maryland-North Carolina game was very entertaining. They could both honestly be vying for a national title, if the bracket would permit.

The fast pace and athleticism is something that really just sets them both apart from other teams I’ve watched, but it was Maryland who picked up the win because of the great post play from Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper, combined with the absence of Ivory Latta’s usual fire.

The point guard went down with a knee injury in the first half and returned but was never herself after that. Neither were the Tar Heels.

In the second game, Duke got the win over LSU while Seimone was held to only 14 points after averaging a national-best 23 ppg for the season. They brought it close a couple times but for the most part it was all Blue Devils, setting up the UMD-Duke ACC showdown Tuesday night.

I guess it’s time for me to go now. I still haven’t met two of the girls I’m staying with over at the Sheraton so maybe it’s time I go and do that.

Monday is the press conferences and a dinner at night, although I’m sure something else random and weird will happen along the way, and I’m probably forgetting something else important anyway.

Goodnight from Boston, everybody.

-- Kate

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Don't Let Your Wrists Do the Clicking: Massacred From Boston??


What do my print stories sent to Philadelphia from Boston have in common with Kate's attempt to get to her room in the hotel elevator Saturday night?

They both got stuck somewhere trying to reach their destination.

It took Kate two minutes to free herself from the lift that was going nowhere while I went to the desk for a little help. (She'll give you her version -- I'm sure).

It's taken me a little longer from Beantown to rescue my pearls that both should have been on Philly.Com by now where the sun has helped create a beautful view high above overlooking the Charles River towards Haavard.

Well, both the notebook and preview may have made it into print back home.

But here is the print story that I've pulled from the Knight Ridder News Wire that I know had to be launched.

That will be followed by another sushi special of raw copy from my laptop that was sent from the senior all-star game Saturday night in which Temple's Candice Dupree helped her team emerge victorious.

And so here I am with me followed by the notebook rescue. On Sunday afternoon, it's off to Boston College to watch the USA Basketball squad work out before getting to the arena for Sunday nite's games.

P.S. I'm glad Kate figured her way out of the elevator since her postings here have drawn more reaction -- all good -- in one weekend then I hear from you guys (good or bad) in a month. :)

And for the one comment I saw early this morning -- But of course Kate got to the WNBA party where Kate had her picture taken with a mentor writer and one Stacey Dales-Schuman.

Among other shots was all-star point guard photo of Kate alongside Penn State legend Suzie McConnell Serio, the Minnesota coach who will potentially making a No. 1 draft pick here later this week.

Yeah, I told 'Coach she was already standing next to a No. 1 pick. :)

Oh, and one benefit of the elevator disaster was the ability to see three different key WNBA team officials huddling together, possibly just socializing or maybe working a late blockbuster deal involving someone Kate covers for you R.U. fans in the Targum. -- Mel

It's the ACC women - and LSU
By Mel Greenberg

Knight Ridder Newspapers


BOSTON - Maryland basketball coach Brenda Frese has always been one of the regulars around the Women's Final Four.

Not like Tennessee's Pat Summitt or Connecticut's Geno Auriemma, two Hall of Famers who have nearly made an annual sideline appearance at this event over the last decade until now. She's been in the crowd.

"I'd sit in the stands," Frese reminisced on Saturday. "I always got teary-eyed when I thought that I would have the opportunity to coach a team and be able to bring them here."

Frese's dream is now a reality. Her Maryland squad is one of the ingredients that has transformed Boston's special tea party into an Atlantic Coast Conference extravaganza.

The Terrapins (32-4) will meet ACC-rival North Carolina (33-1) in a national semifinal at 7 on Sunday night (ESPN) at the TD Banknorth Garden before Duke (30-3) meets Southeastern Conference party-crasher Louisiana State (31-3) in the second game.

The championship will be Tuesday night, with the WNBA draft to follow the next day, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

The LSU Tigers have become regulars, hoping that their third straight appearance will send senior Seimone Augustus on to the pros with an NCAA title.

Maryland, which played in the first Women's Final Four in 1982, has not been to this level since 1989. Although the Terrapins roster, including sophomores Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro High and Laura Harper of Cheltenham High, is dominated by youth, Frese's bunch refutes the concept that their appearance here is like George Mason's shot to notoriety in the men's tournament.

"Who thought that?" challenged junior point guard Shay Doron. "Not in our locker room. We think that not only we're not the underdogs, but ... we could have probably gotten the No. 1 seed."

Maryland, which was 14th in the Associated Press preseason poll, joined the penthouse portion of the rankings on Feb. 13 at No. 4. The move into the Top 5 came off an upset of North Carolina, 98-95, in overtime.

That victory is the one blot of what would otherwise be a perfect record to date for the Tar Heels, who hold the overall No. 1 seed in the 64-team tournament field.

North Carolina took care of that miscue in the ACC title game, beating the Terrapins, 91-80, after Maryland had ended a 14-game losing streak to Duke the previous day in the conference semifinals.

The Tar Heels, under veteran coach Sylvia Hatchell, and the Terrapins are two teams built on speed. North Carolina's junior guard Ivory Latta, the United States Basketball Writers' Association player of the year, gives the same emotional edge that Diana Taurasi used to provide for Connecticut, which has been missing from this event since her graduation in 2004.

"I'm out there having fun and I'm going to keep doing it," Latta said. "My little dances, my smiles, my anything, I'm just going to have fun out there."

LSU and Duke are two teams loaded with Final Four frustrations. The Tigers fell to Tennessee in the semifinals two years ago in the last seconds off a turnover. They returned last season, only to blow a 15-point lead to eventual champion Baylor.

LSU has had a tough year off the court, dealing with the death of former coach Sue Gunter, and the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Duke, which has Laura Kurz off the bench, has also had Final Four miseries, losing to Purdue in the 1999 title game and to Oklahoma and Tennessee in semifinals in 2002 and 2003.

But coach Gail Goestenkors, whose team advanced by edging Connecticut, 63-61, in the Bridgeport Regional title game, has strengthened her bench and the Blue Devils post play with such players as 6-7 junior center Alison Bales, 6-0 senior Monique Currie, and 6-3 senior Mistie Williams.


© 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer's World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

(And now the notebook)

Doing It With Dupree

On Women’s Basketball by Mel Greenberg

BOSTON _ Temple’s Candice Dupree and Rutgers’ Cappie Pondexter were on display last night for WNBA scouts at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena in the senior all-star game sponsored by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).

Pondexter, who was alongside of Dupree on Team Bisque, is expected to be taken first or second in the draft here Wednesday by the pro women’s league that will celebrate its 10th anniversary season this summer.

Dupree is also expected to go early in the first round.

Team Bisque edged Team Chowder, 90-87, as Dupree matched Bisque most valulable player Sophia Young of Baylor with 24 points, each. Young grabbed 10 rebounds and Dupree had six. Pondexter finished with 14 points.

Connecticut’s Barbara Turner was the Chowder MVP with 19 points, a total matched by Tennessee’s Shanna Zolman on the squad.

The “Night of the Stars” also featured a high school all-star game earlier in the evening.

During the game, the Temple assistants were busy text-messaging head coach Dawn Staley, who was back in Philadelphia hosting the annual black tie event on behalf of her foundation.

“I was a little nervous but I was ready to play,” Dupree said. “My coaches told me to go out and dominate. I think this game was good for me since I’m not participating in a combine. I’m more nervous as to what number I’m going to get picked as to where I’m going. We’ll see on Wednesday.”

Dupree is already drawing praises from the Los Angeles Sparks and the new Chicago Sky, who hold the fifth and sixth picks.

“She’s a very nice player,” Sparks general manager Penny Toler remarked. “Do you know if she wants to come West?”

Former Boston Celtics star Dave Cowens, the coach of the Sky, also has Dupree as a potential target.

“She’s playing very well tonight,” Cowens said. “Does she like to play? Does she ever get mad?”

Pondexter gushed over the Temple center’s performance. “That’s my buddy. I love her to death. Somehow roommates keep being around together.”

The two played on the gold-medal winning United States squad last summer in the World University Games.

Awards Galore. Earlier in the day Pondexter was named to the WBCA’s 10-member Kodak All-America team. She previously has earned first-team all-America honors from the Associated Press, the Wooden Award voters, and the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

Joining Pondexter on the Kodak team were Duke’s Monique Currie, North Carolina’s Ivory Latta, Oklahoma freshman Courtney Paris, Stanford’s Candice Wiggins, Baylor’s Sophia Young, Lousiana State’s Seimone Augustus, Ohio State’s Jessica Davenport, Georgia’s Tasha Humphrey, and Tennessee’s freshman Candace Parker.

Augustus, Currie, Pondexter, and Young were the only seniors to be named.

North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell was named the AP’s coach of the year yesterday and Augustus repeated as the wire service’s player of the year.

The USBWA previously named Hatchell coach of the year and the Tar Heels’ Latta as player of the year.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.