Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

WNBA: Vintage Langhorne Helps Washington Snap Loss Streak

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON - Appropriately for Memorial Day Weekend, the secretary of defense was in the house Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center where the Washington Mystics came off a three-game losing streak -- all on the road -- and stopped the Connecticut Sun 69-65 in a WNBA game between Eastern Conference contenders.

No, not that secretary of defense. This was the one who helped nearby Maryland win the Terrapins' only NCAA women's basketball title in 2006.

That would be Crystal Langhorne, the third-year pro and native of Willingboro, N.J., outside Philadelphia who dominated the boards with a WNBA career-tying 16 rebounds and also scored 17 points for the Mystics who are now 4-3.

A week ago, Washington was dominated by Connecticut 80-65 , starting the three-game slide that included an 81-75 loss at the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.

The Sun, who fell to 3-2, came into Sunday's game off a red-hot 105-79 thumping of the Minnesota Lynx at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

"It felt so good to be back," Langhorne said Sunday. "We had a pretty rough West Coast stretch. But we're going to be pretty much home the whole month of June.

Washington gets a chance to make a playoff-contending statement with six of the Mystics' next eight games in the nation's capitol beginning with Saturday's visit from the Atlanta Dream.

The two trips will be visits to the Chicago Sky.

But enough of the future for the monent with Langhorne's performance on the boards to savor from Sunday.

"They said I was like a grown woman," said Langhorne who had to battle Sun rookies Tina Charles and Kelsey Griffin, the two first-round draft picks from UConn and Nebraska, respectively.

"I was just trying to hustle and get rebounds," Langhorne said. "It was hard for me to get the ball in other possessions. so when the shot went up I just knew I was going to the glass."

Former Duke star Monique Currie, who was an opponent of Langhorne in the 2006 NCAA title game won in overtime by the Terps, got 18 points.

Nakia Sanford, a former Kansas star, got 11 points, including a few key inside shots down the stretch, while former Duke star Lindsey Harding had 10 points.

Harding took a nasty spill midway through the fourth quarter but later returned.

Charles, the overall No. 1 pick of April's draft, had 13 points and nine rebounds, while Griffin and former UConn star Renee Montgomery each scored 10 points.

The Mystics controlled the action from the outset building a 10 point lead in the first quarter.

Washington, who was missing veteran Katie Smith, an Olympic gold medalist, due to back problems, extended the advantage to 12 points in the third quarter.

The Sun launched a rally in the third quarter fueled by a seven-point spurt from Montgomery that enabled Connecticut to pull within three points but the Sun could not get any closer.

Former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon had a key steal in the closing minutes to help hold off the Sun.

There were a combined 33 fouls assessed -- including 18 to the Sun, which also committed 20 turnovers, the same total of miscues by Washington.

Asjha Jones, the former UConn sensation and Sun All-Star who had not played all season because of Achilles surgery, saw her first action and scored three points and grabbed three rebounds in 11 minutes, 51 seconds of action.

"I had no expectations," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. "She's not going to be smooth for a while, you just have to go through it."

Despite Connecticut's second loss, both on the road, Thibault was not too upset over his team's performance.

"We hung in -- in an ugly basketball game where we didn't play well, but we had a chance," Thibault said. But our turnovers and our poor shooting killed us.

"I thought Washington made some great hustle plays. They hit a couple of key shots at the end. There were a couple where we messed up and a couple where they made some great shots at the shot-clock buzzer.

"We were just bad on offense today," Thibault added. "The good part was we got Asjha some minutes and a good start toward next week. From a coaching standpoint, I got some things on film I can work on.

"But we're going to have to learn to come out and play better on the road," Thibault said while also noting that there was benefit to this being the first close game the Sun had been involved with this season.

"It was good for us to play in a game like this. Because as a coach you can find out who remembers things, who does well from time outs, who listens, what combinations to play together.

"To our credit, we hung in and were in it even though we played not too great."

Connecticut will split 10 games in June with five at home and five on the road. The Sun begin with home games Friday against Eastern rival New York and then a visit Sunday from the San Antonio Silver Stars of the Western Conference.

-- Mel

Thursday, May 27, 2010

WNBA: Missing Lynx Hurting Minnesota?

By Mel Greenberg

It will be Lindsay Whalen's other homecoming night Thursday when the Minnesota Lynx visit the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Whalen, who quickly became one of the WNBA's better players after being drafted by the Sun, was dealt near her home town in the Twin Cities in one of the offseason's blockbuster trades that saw Connecticut acquire former UConn star Renee Montgomery and the overall No. 1 pick in April's draft. That second attraction enabled Huskies senior Tina Charles to make her pro debut less than an hour away from where she helped her alma mater to back-to-back unbeaten titles.

On the East Coast by the sea, the trade helped key a youth movement for the Sun, who missed the playoffs for the first time since moving from Orlando.

In the Midwest, however, it looked like Minnesota had all the pieces for new coach Cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle star, to challenge for a championship.

However, surgeries to former Stanford star Candice Wiggins and former LSU star Seimone Augustus have deprived Minnesota of their special talent.

Additionally, former Georgetown star Rebekkah Bruson, an acquistion in the roster dispersal draft of the former Sacramento Monarchs, just returned for a delayed season debut after playing overseas.

That arrival forced Reeve to waive former Drexel star Gabriela Marginean, a second-round pick who bvecame the first Dragons player to appear in the WNBA.

Marginean, the all-time scorer in Philadelphia collegiate women's history, played in four games before returning to the city this week in time for graduation ceremonies.

Minnesota has been competitive, but the roster subtractions has the Lynx at 1-3 going into Thursday's action in casino-land, an event the Guru will attend.

On one hand, it could be noted teams have quickly got into the mix before such as the Indiana Fever, which lost the first two games a year ago and then dominated the Eastern Conference and advanced all the way to Game 7 of the WNBA finals against the Phoenix Mercury.

On the other, if the Seattle Storm continues to surge, things could turn into a wild scramble for the other three spots in the West and those early losses could become a sticky thorn down the stretch.

Connecticut has managed to go 2-1 despite missing its two best players -- Ashja Jones (achilles surgery) and Sandrine Gruda (Europe) -- who are expected back in uniform shortly.

Of course in the Minnesota situation, a missed playoff spot -- not the way the Lynx are thinking -- gets the team in the draft lotto with the possibility of lucking into another overall No. 1 pick -- which would UConn senior-to-be Maya Moore.

Another ex-UConn star will return Thursday night near her alma mater with the Lynx -- Charde Houston, who has made a fine start.

Minnesota also has former Virginia star Monica Wright, the overall No. 2 pick of the draft who broke Dawn Staley's scoring record with the Cavaliers.

Speaking of Staley, who is now coaching at South Carolina entering her third season following eight coaching Temple, the annual black-tie and sneakers dinner run by her foundation which benefits inner-city youngsters in Philadelphia, will not be held this spring due to financial considerations.

Nebraska's Griffin Fortifying Sun

A separate deal also involving Connecticut and Minnesota will be highlighted with the Sun performance of former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin, the No. 3 pick of the draft by the Lynx who then swapped her to the Sun.

Griffin helped the Cornhuskers to go unbeaten overall and through the Big 12 until they suffered their first loss in the conference tournament.

While Nebraska seemed to be a mystery to those of us in the East leaving under the shadow of the UConn powerhouse and its twin perfect records, the Guru recently asked Griffin her thoughts about this part of the world while finishing college in the Midwest and what she has found since arriving here.

"I got a great taste of it when I went to the Final Four for the All-American awards and all that stuff," Griffin said. "I got a great taste of Connecticut fans.

"At the time I didn't know if I was coming here -- I was hoping I'd end up here," Griffin said. "They were very nice to me but I think that's because I wasn't playing. I know they are die-hard so I knew if I ended up here, there was going to be great fan support.

"One thing about this team is there's so many talented players -- there's so many scorers. We have so many options and so that's a part of our chemistry. We know who's ever on the court we have the ability to score the ball. On defense, we're getting that chemistry as well."

-- Mel

Sunday, May 23, 2010

WNBA: Sun Stops Mystics While Atlanta Stays Perfect

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, C onn. _ Having been crushed by an Atlanta Dream squad Friday that is now alone and unbeaten atop the WNBA's Eastern Conference, the Connecticut Sun had to get resilient real quick on their return to home to face a roaring Washington Mystics squad Sunday that had gotten off to a 3-0 start.

If Connecticut coach Mike Thibault had been shocked how badly his team played 48 hours earlier, he was all smiles again at the Mohegan Sun Arena where his team shut the visitors down and walked away with an 85-60 win.

"After Friday night, this was a real good win," Thibault said. "We dug in for most of the night and played good defense. We rebounded better, we only gave up two fast break points and we got to the free throw line (23-for-30). Those are all good signs when you're trying to build a winning team."

It's also a good sign when the bench performs well and a different player becomes the focus of postgame attention each time out.

On Sunday the media crowd in the locker room rushed to the seat occupied by former Mississippi State star Tan White.

The fifth-year pro had a team-high 15 points, grabbed six rebounds, and grabbed three steals to bring it to both ends of the court.

"Coming off the bench, bringing energy to my team, that's what's expected of me," White said. "I think now, being here in Connecticut, I'm a lot more confident in my shot so I don't hesitate to shoot the open three (4-for-5). Don't hesitate and just shoot and that
s what I've been doing."

Thibault said there was never a doubt that White was in the Sun's blueprints which called for major revisions in the offseason.

One of them will get attention Thursday when the Minnesota Lynx play here marking the one-game return of Lindsay Whalen, the All-Star guard dealt away to land former UConn star Renee Montgomery and ultimately recently-graduated Huskies sensation Tina Charles, courtesy of the No. 1 overall pick of the draft.

"I thought she did a great job," Thibault said of White. "She brings a high level of energy. We don't need her to be our leading scorer, but we need her to be a consistent scorer."

Charles had another double in scoring with 10 points as the Sun went to 2-1.

Former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin continued to impress, scoring 11 points off her first start after being acquired from the Lynx in a draft-day trade after she was picked third overall.

"The thing about this team is we are playing a bunch of players so whether you start or are coming off the bench you are contributing to the team. It's about having team wins and that's how I'll be successful this year."

The Sun connected on 9-of-21 three-point attempts. Other players scoring in double figures were Anete Jekabsone-Zogota with 14 points, and Kara Lawson with 11 points.

Willingboro's (N.J) Crystal Langhorne, the former Maryland star, had 16 points for the Mystics, while her former Terrapins teammate Marissa Coleman gave Washington 11 points and All-Star free-agent signee Katie Smith scored 10.

"Offensively, we never got into a rhythm," Smith said of Washington's struggles against the Sun. "They picked us apart. Give them credit."

Meanwhile, Atlanta in its third year in the league, is now 4-0 after beating New York a 100 miles South in Madison Square Garden 86-77 as the Liberty fell to 1-2.

Second-year pro Angel McCoughtry scored 21 points for the Dream while New York newcomer Cappie Pondexter, the former Rutgers star, also had 21 points.

On Friday night, New York was in Washington with a 61-61 tie before the Mystics ran away with the final 16 points of the game.

-- Mel

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Washington First In War, Peace And WNBA East

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON - When the WNBA needed to move things up to accomodate this fall's FIBA World Championships little did one realize how compacted the 34-game schedule would be over the next several months.

Friday was the home opener for the Washington Mystics and throughout the night at the Verizon Center attended by an announced lively crowd of 10,158 persons the public address system emcee sent reminders to vote for local favorites in the All-Star game to be played in early July at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

What's next?

Well the locals on the court rallied from an early deficit to break from a 61-61 tie, scoring the final 16 points to collect a 77-61 win over the New York Liberty.

That makes the Mystics 3-0, which is 30 percent of the wins in Washington's inaugural season, and tied for first in the East with the Atlanta Dream, which turned the Connecticut Sun's visit to the Peach State into a nightmare Friday night, winning 97-82.

After the Washington win, though the atmosphere was giddy, Washington Post WNBA beat writer Katie Carrera would not say whether her newspaper will begin counting down the magic numbers for clinching a playoff berth because she did not authorizaton to speak on behalf of her management.

The Mystics will be at Connecticut Sunday while Atlanta travels to New York to complete the weekend tussle in the East among the group that got off to quick starts.

Duke fans following their former stars in the league got a measure of revenge with Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding out-dueling the Rutgers alum trio on the Liberty -- Cappie Pondexter, Kia Vaughn and Essence Carson -- with memories of the Scarlet Knights' 2007 upset in the Greensboro Regional semifinals. Harding missed two free throws at the finish in that game for the top-ranked Blue Devils and Rutgers advance all the way to the NCAA title game.

The Blue Devils Friday night actually had a former Rutgers star help the cause -- Matee Ajavon who made some key baskets when the Mystics changed the momentum.

Presidential Appearance

That's right, it wouldn't be an opener in Washington without the president being in the house.

But no, Mr. Obama, nor Ms. Obama and their offspring were not around for the first jump ball in the Verizon Center.

But league president Donna Orrender was, as part of the traditional opening tour of the league, to take pre-game questions from the media, which had plenty of time since they no longer get fed by the Mystics (see tweeter item below).

Apparently Michelle Obama's campaign against obesity has quickly found a friend in the Mystics, though newspapers themselves are doing much to trim the size of their staffs.

Orrender made some interesting comments -- everything looking good, nothing to report on expansion or relocation with some prospective owners having interest but feel they would have a better business situation to wait a bit longer.

On roster sizes, Orrender noted teams can replace an injured player, but of course under the rules that would mean cutting the the injured players. She did say teams are doing a good job replacing minutes that might have been dominated by key players who are hurt.

"Last year was our most competitive season," Orrender said alluding to reductions that went into effect last time around.

Sun Eclipsed

Well Connecticut coach Mike Thibault had recently speculated how sensational rookie Tina Charles, the No. 1 overall pick out of UConn, would be tested going against the likes of Atlanta's frontcourt.

Charles did rather, well, thank you. The New York native had 22 points and 11 rebounds, except the rest of the Sun appeared in life form only.

Meanwhile, former Louisville star Angel McCoughtry, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago, had 32 points for the Dream and Sancho Lyttle had 27.

McCoughtry was on the losing end a year ago in the NCAA title game when UConn completed the first of its two recent unbeaten seasons.

And yes, unlike Charles' alma mater, whose win count won't resume until next fall, her personal win streak off the Huskies' success stopped at 79 straight, including the Sun opener last Saturday against the Chicago Sky.

Holdsclaw On the Move

Washington and Atlanta have something else in common beside first place and that Dream coach Marynell Meadors was once on the Mystics staff.

Former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw is now in the past tense for both teams.

Washington's woeful inaugural season yielding the rights to take her as the No. 1 pick of the 1999 draft dominated by players coming off the collapse of the American Basketball Season.

She was later traded to the Los Angeles Sparks. Holdsclaw left Los Angeles two seasons ago, a move that helped doom the Sparks to the bottom of the league, which put them in position to land the 2008 No. 1 pick -- former Tennessee star Candace Parker.

A year ago, the native New Yorker signed with Atlanta, helping the second-year team to the playoffs before being asked to be traded and not reporting this season to training camp.

The Dream cut her several days ago and Friday the San Antonio Silver Stars signed her.

Some see this as a twisted scheme to tarnish the Stars and get in the race among the WNBA worsts to land UConn star Maya Moore.

Holdsclaw's controversial WNBA history does not include disrupting locker rooms -- usually it's been her and herself against the world. General manager and former San Antonio coach Dan Hughes is reported to have once won in the casino at Mohegan on a road trip so he might qualify as a successful gambler.

Otherwise, the Stars can always bring country performer Dierks Bentley in to serenade Hughes at halftime with Bentley's early hit: What Was I Thinking?

The Guru Tweets

As many of you know, the Guru gave up his anti-tweeting policy at the start of last collegiate season -- had something to do with Elena Delle Donne's first game with Delaware -- and reached 200 followers Friday night.

Strangely, the Guru has been picking up more followers in recent weeks since using the retiring mechanism at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The address is http://twitter.com/womhoopsguru (which is not automatically linking but you get the idea -- maybe after it posts)

Here from fading memory are three tweets from the game Friday night in Washington.

The Guru covered New York Liberty coach 6-8 Anne Donovan when she was a shot-blocking phenom at Old Dominion. Tonight she has already blocked the Guru's view of the game four times from press row.

Donovan has a bandage on one of her fingers. A Liberty insider said it hurts from getting snagged on a jersey. Last month she got snagged by New Jersey when Seton Hall signed her to be the Pirates' next women's coach.

Comparing pre-game media meals in three places: Connecticut - lavish and free: New York - $8 and inflationary; Washington -- (as previously noted) -- none served as part of Ms. Obama anti-obesity promotion.

The Philly College Scene

Former Drexel star Michelle Maslowski was the keynote speaker at the Dragons' annual salute to academic and athletic excellence which was held in the new recreation facility followed by a brief reception.

Maslowski held the career scoring title before Gabriela Marginean soared past it last season to become the all-time scorer in Philadelphia collegiate women's history.

Marginean is getting a brief dose of WNBA experience -- the first Drexel player in the league -- with the Minnesota Lynx, which drafted her in the second round but will probably cut her this weekend when Rebekkah Brunson returns from overseas.

The native of Romania was honored at the Drexel reception as the top female senior athlete. She led the Dragons to their first NCAA appearance a year ago courtesy of the Colonial Athletic Association championship, and this past season enabled Drexel to land a berth in the WNIT.

That's it for the moment. The Guru expects to be in Connecticut Sunday, though the other option was going to New York for the Atlanta matchup.

-- Mel

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WNBA: Weekend Tangle Ahead In The East

By Mel Greenberg

After the Connecticut Sun's opening win last Saturday at home over the Chicago Sky, coach Mike Thibault noted on the 17-point performance of rookie Tina Charles, the No. 1 overall pick out of UConn, that the big test will be the night-after-night opponents she will play against as opposed to that not always being the case at her alma mater.

On a previous conference call he rightly suggested there are no "nights off" in this league this season in terms of the competiton, made even tougher with the reduction of the former Sacramento Monarchs whose roster of quality talent was dispersed to the surviving 12 teams.

However, due to the spacious scheduling days at the outset there are plenty of nights off at the moment until the weekend arrives.

Then it will get interesting real quick in the Eastern Conference, which is not to say there are not stories of note in the West.

But with the Sun off to a 1-0 start, New York off the a 1-0 start, and Atlanta and Washington off to 2-0 getaways, it will look like amusement park bumper cars with all these teams colliding into each other.

The teams that don't hold their own will have plenty of time to decide their fates. But the ones that can keep the momentum going will be in good spots in terms of pocketing early conference wins that might mean tie-breaking perks for seed positions in the postseason or making the playoffs themselves.

Remember, last season Washington edged Connecticut and Chicago out in a three-way tie for the final Eastern spot. Things didn't turn out so bad for the Sun, however, in being able to negotiate its way to get in position for Charles.

So with everyone having sweep in their minds, a New York 2-0 at Washington, Friday night, and at home Sunday against Atlanta enables the Liberty to solidify their new look with the addition of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter and veteran free agent Taj McWilliams-Franklin -- the oldest player in the league with plenty of shelf life.

Washington sweeping New York and then winning at Connecticut Sunday, especially if the new-look Monique Currie continues her torrid scoring she showed last weekend, will say much for the Mystics being able to get to the postseason without the benefit of tiebreakers.

Atlanta, despite the apparent departure of Chamique Holdsclaw, beating Connecticut at home Friday and then at New York Sunday will show the Dream intends to prove the big jump to the playoffs in their second season in 2009 was not a fluke.

And, obviously, Connecticut winning at Atlanta before returning home to face Washington could keep the Sun on a running start with a youth group that still awaits the return of Ashja Jones from achilles surgery in February and Sandrine Gruda from overseas competition in France.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the line, the defending Eastern Conference champion Indiana Fever and Chicago have a home-and-home with each team heading into the weekend with 0-2 starts.

So in that little Midwest scrum fans will learn who wants a playoff spot and who wants to be counting losses that could ultimately lead to UConn's Maya Moore, undoubtedly the overall pick of the 2011 draft.

But, hey, that label may be unfair to Indiana, which also was 0-2 a year ago before dominating the East.

Given the competition, what probably will happen is that things may settle into the gridlock of last season with many of the aforemention teams unable to sweep this weekend.

But for the ones that do, they will earn the spoils of Week No. 2.


The league on Tuesday announced WNBA Center Court, a new apps for smart-phone users of such devices as blackberries and I-Phones.

In recent years, the Guru has been less than thrilled with internet searches and the WNBA mobile site accessed on his blackberry to keep track of the nightly battles.

So, with enough room to add more, the Guru went on a seek-and-install mission for his blackberry.

Although it may be there by now, he was unable to find WNBA Center Court in any of the BB Apps locations.

However, a search of WNBA did yield an available download.

It took a bit because it is a 5-plus meg apps but once installed what a pleasant surprise in the robust appearance.

Today's date at the top lists the action, but a click on the date enables one to then get a choice of any night of the current season for those that want to plan ahead, among other things.

One can also click on arrows alongside in either direction for the previous or next nights of action.

There are several menu entries on the bottom of the home screen.

On the immediate left, a click produces the games scheduled of the night with updated stats, etc. The entry level for each game gives start time and TV venue, if any. One then can navigate through each of the two competiting teams per game.

Word of advice here based on other experiences. Unless you absolutely need every second updated -- which is understandable in end-of-game and stretch-drive scenarios -- keep refreshing to a minimal to avoid having your battery chewed up.

The Guru already has to deal with this issue off twiter and facebook apps.

The league icon produces several choices.

Teams leads you to the obvious and then you can look at team stats or click on a roster. Then you simply click on a player to get their stats, though they have yet to appear as on 3:21 a.m. Wednesday. But that will probably be rectified shortly since the Apps was just launched.

News gives you stories of the day, mostly from the Associated Press, which will put those of you in non-team cities and even those in team cities -- where was the NY Times Sunday? -- on equal footing with readers of print publications that will rely more on the wire service then their own staffs, especially when teams go on the road.

Connect gives you the Tweets out of the WNBA.

The next main icon -- standings -- gives you exactly that in two formats one by conference and the other for the entire league top-to-bottom with breakouts of divisional records in both cases. That will be crucial during the stretch drive.

There is also a More incon for technical info.

The Guru had some server connection problems but that might be because of the high volume of apps on his blackberry.

As for nit-picks and they are nits, the Guru would like to see the coaching staffs added to the rosters -- short bios if possible but more for checking spellings on the blackberry while writing this blog on the laptop.

A search engine might be useful in the future to zero in on a particular player ala goggle, though one can switch out to a goggle search in quick enough operation.

And down the road once the playoff spots are being contested at the finish, it will be useful to see team records against each other -- perhaps that can be another icon just for the playoffs with all the tie-breaking info in one area.

But all-in-all a wonderful start to the season and for the Guru enough to end this blog for now.

-- Mel

Sunday, May 16, 2010

WNBA: Pondexter Lighting New Liberty Glory Days?

By Mel Greenberg

NEW YORK - WNBA Liberty fans got their official introduction to Cappie's World in New York's home and season-opening 85-82 win against the Chicago Sky Sunday in Madison Square Garden.

Now all that is needed is for word of mouth from the announced crowd of 12,088 to take effect to fill more seats and the women's pro league summer in the famous arena here might become similar to the early years of the franchise's existence when notables of the entertainment world could be seen courtside.

For the uniformed, "Cappie" is Cappie Pondexter, the former Rutgers star who most recently along with former UConn sensation Diana Taurasi helped bring a pair of WNBA championships to Phoenix Mercury, including one last season.

Having since expressed a desire to move elsewhere, the Chicago native got dealt here as the key player in a mega-three-team swap involving Chicago andPhoenix.

Pondexter was the goto player leading the way with 22 points and eight assists helping the Liberty to avoid a total collapse after blowing a 16-point lead New York built in the third quarter.

Veteran Taj McWilliams, a former member of the former Detroit Shock and several more WNBA teams, helped close the deal with key foul shots down the stretch as she finished with 20 points.

Newly-arrived Nicole Powell, the former Stanford standout picked up in the disperal draft of the former Sacramento Monarchs roster, scored 11 pointx as did Essence Carson, yet another former Rutgers star.

Sylvia Fowles had 23 points for the Sky, who lost their second straight game on Chicago's opening road trip that began with a lop-sided setup at the Connecticut Sun Saturday.

But the story was Pondexter, who actually got Liberty coach Anne Donovan mildy upset for a moment early in the fourth period when she tossed a pass in the direction of a teammate.

Funny, it seemed that was a complaint at times in the middle of the last decade from Pondexter's college coach across the Hudson River down south a little bit in New Jersey.

"Cappie has the ability to shoot anytime she wants to and score anytime she wants to," McWilliams said after the game of her new teammate.

"What Anne wanted her to do was instead of just passing and watch, she wanted her to still be in the offense with us because we need her. She draws people, she passes well, but her with the ball in her hand is better than her watching someone else with the ball in their hand."

It's been a while since the Liberty fan base has had that individuals that caused them to return night after night instead of heading to the beach.

Former Lousiaiana Tech star Teresa Weatherspoon, a charter player in 1997, and famous non-draftee signee Becky Hammon, now with San Antonio, were two such individuals.

Donovan wouldn't right out say last year's team would have lost a game drifting out of control, but she did offer that this squad had the ability to right itself to emerge with the victory as opposed to the one that would have found that difficult 12 months ago.

Pondexter is the main reason for that.

Donovan took responsibiity for the loss of momentum due to still figuring out rotations in the offense.

But the light to the immediate future was clearly apparent.

"I have a lot of experience at the highest level and if I can bring that consistently to this team, I think that will be great for us," Pondexter said of the three newcomers to the Liberty. "Nicole is a great player, everybody kinows that. She's won a championship. Taj has won a championship, we all have championship experience so I think, with us, we just have to keep getting better with each other, that's they key."

There was a time on the Liberty's NBA brother Knicks that the masses came to the Garden to view the exploits of Patrick.

That would be Ewing to those of you with short memories.

But Cappie's World may become just as delightful in the months ahead.

-- Mel

Saturday, May 15, 2010

WNBA: Thibault's Moves Give Sun Winning Hand in Opener

By Mel Greenberg

When a sports franchise uses a casino as its place of establishment, it is helpful to have a wheeler-dealer coach running the show.

Fortunately for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, Mike Thibault is just such an individual.

Judging by Saturday afternoon's season opener in the WNBA, the Sun management group knew what they were doing this week in giving him another contract extension.

Thibault appears to have made all the right moves in the offseason because each player involved in a the group of transactions came up the equivalent of dropping sevens on the slots as Connecticut topped the Chicago Sky 74-61.

The 13-point spread doesn't tell the real story of the outcome because the Sky were able to close with 16-2 run in the final minutes, an act of carelessness that was the only downer to cause Thibault a bit of unhappiness over Connecticut's performance.

Tina Charles' official rookie debut as the overall official No. 1 pick of the WNBA draft picked up where the former UConn senior left off last month with a second-straight unbeaten NCAA title.

The New York City native of had 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The old 1-2 Husky punch was still in top shape with former UConn star Renee Montgomery reunited with her former teammate post player in Charles.

OK, it was a 1-2-3 punch counting Maya Moore in the Mix.

Montgomery and Charles became Sun acquisitions in the offseason in the blockbuster trade that sent All-Star Lindsay Whalen home to the Twin Cities as a member of the Minnesota Lynx, which held the rights to making the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Minnesota was also part of another Sun transaction in which former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin was picked No. 3 on draft day by the Lynx and then dealt to Connecticut.

Griffin's debut off the bench produced eight points and 10 rebounds, including some spectacular board work that featured her keeping the ball alive with several offensive rebound tips until she kicked the ball to Tan White for an outside shot.

In the free agent department, former Tennessee star Kara Lawson, who had played with the former Sacramento Monarchs, connected for 10 points, including a 49-foot three-pointer at the end of the first quarter as time expired.

Meanwhile, Anete Jekabsone-Zogata, a Latvian spending her second season with the Sun, had a game-high 18 points, connecting on 4-of-6 three pointers to provide torpedo power to an offense that was busy tossing shrapnel at the Sky from the inside.

DeMya Walker, a former Virginia and Sacramento Monarchs standout that the Sun acquired in the Sacramento Monarchs dispersal draft, may not have had stellar statistics on Saturday, but her presence is giving even more toughness to an inside game that is still waiting for the return of Asjha Jones (Achilles injury) and Sandrine Gruda (playing overseas) and will provide even more options for Thibault.

"The opening games can be ugly at times -- we tried not to do that until the last five minutes," Thibault said in his postgame assessment. "I like to feel good about the entire game when I walk out."

However, as the media questions flowed, it was apparent Thibault can save stress medication for another day.

"We did a lot of really good things, being short-handed," he said. "We had a lot of people contributed."

He was delighted with the inside play of Griffin, who showed no fear in throwing her body up on the boards against the likes of former LSU star Sylvia Fowles, who had 16 points and nine rebounds for Chicago.

"She's done it her whole life, she's not going to change," Thibault said. "She just has great timing, great instincts for helping people -- she did it all through college. I think she led the country taking charges this year as a senior.

"Everybody on this team is out there for a reason -- hers is for the extra possessions that she gests you."

Shameka Christon, the former New York Liberty All-Star dealt to the Sky in the three-day mega deal that sent former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter to Manhattan from the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury and former Temple star Candice Dupree from Chicago to Phoenix, had 11 points as did Jia Perkins.

Rookie Epiphanny Prince, the former Rutgers standout who bypassed the Scarlet Knights her senior season to play in Europe, made her rookie debut with the Sky as the fourth overall pick and had seven points and two rebounds.

Chicago will stay on the road and head just South to help the Liberty start its season Sunday afternoon in Madison Square Garden.

Sky coach Steven Key credited the Sun for shackling his team from the outset.

"We were out of whack from the beginning," he said. "I give Connecticut credit."

Fowles has played against Charles in college and in intersquad scrimmages with USA Basketball.

"Tina has always been a powerhouse," Fowles said. "She makes you better. You know nothing is going to be easy."

The outcome Saturday was just one game among 34 to determine playoff participants and positions in the seeds.

The road ahead is not going to be easy -- Thibault pointed out that Charles will be facing a superstar every night which certainly was not the case at Connecticut, where the Huskies pulverized their way through most opponents.

However, on this particular afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Arena to the delight of a near-sellout crowd of 8,072, with Thibault dealing the cards, the house ruled big time.

-- Mel

Friday, May 14, 2010

WNBA: Drexel's Marginean Opens With Minnesota

By Mel Greenberg

When the curtain goes up Saturday on the 14th WNBA season, another page in the Drexel women's basketball history books will be written by recently graduated senior Gabriela Marginean.

The native of Romania who became the all-time scorer in Philadelphia women's collegiate basketball last season with 2,581 career points will be in uniform as a member of the Minnesota Lynx, which will open Saturday night on the road visiting the local debut of the Tulsa Shock, formerly housed in Detroit.

Already the first Drexel player ever drafted by the WNBA -- Marginean went in the second round -- she'll be the first Dragon on an opening day roster.

If the WNBA was not in a bit of a down-sized situation at the moment with roster sizes holding at 11 per team wth little leeway for injury replacements, Marginean would be joining former Temple stars Candice Dupree and Kamesha Hairston as Philadeelphia Division I standouts who stuck around for a while.

Dupree was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft by the then-expansion Chicago Sky. She was recently traded to the defending champion Phoenix Mercury in the mega-three-team deal that sent former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter from the Mercury to the New York Liberty.

The Florida native has gone on to become a league all-star and is in contention for a spot on the U.S. senior national team for this fall's FIBA World Championship and the Olympics in 2012 in London that will be coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma.

Hairston was a first-round pick of the Connecticut Sun in 2007 and was on the roster for the entire season, though she is no longer with the team.

Two other prominent area former high school stars also made rosters in recent seasons with former Maryland standouts Crystal Langhorne (Willingboro, N.J.) and Laura Harper (Cheltenham) becoming first round picks respectively by the Washington Mystics and Monarchs.

Langhorne was voted the league's most improved player last season while Harper was claimed in the offseason by the San Antonio Silver Stars in the dispersal draft.

Incidentally, Drexel associate head coach Amy Mallon, a former St. Joseph's star, played on the Philadelphia Rage in the former American Basketball League.

Former St. Joseph's star Debbie Black was a WNBA All-Star after being likewise in the ABL, while all-time Hawks scorer Sue Moran was on the roster for at least one season with the New York Liberty when Richie Adubato was the coach.

Marginean's No. 44 was retired by Drexel at the Dragons' postseason dinner last month. She also finished with 947 career rebounds and 203 steals.

Minnesota's roster is currently at nine in terms of healthy and present players. Candice Wiggins and Seimone Augustus, who recently had surgeries and will be sidelined in the front end of the season, still count on the overall totall of 11.

Former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson, who was acuired in the draft dispersal of the former Sacramento Monarchs roster several months ago, is still competing in the European championships and her team is tied 2-2 with a fifth game to be played Sunday.

That allows her spot to be filled for the moment, enabling Marginean to hang around for at least two games or maybe three ot four, according to a person with the Lynx familiar with the roster which will be officially announced Friday along with those of the other 11 teams.

Marginean is currently a teammate of two other former top players in the Colonial Athletic Association -- Quanitra Hollingsworth (Virginia Commonwealth) and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba(Old Dominion).

Saturday's game in terms of Minnesota will mark the debut of coach cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle star from South Jersey, who had been an assistant coach to Rick Mahorn and was the general manager last season in Detroit with the former three-time champions.

She'll face her former team, though much of it revamped, which will be headed by former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.

"The league is funny that way," said Reeve in the irony of the scheduling.

Reeve and Marginean actually at close to each other four months ago at the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association annual awards dinner in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Marginean received the amateur athlete award after leading Drexel to its first CAA title and NCAA tournament appearance in 2009, ousting longtime champion Old Dominion in the conference semifinals before beating James Madison on the Dutchess' home court in Harrisonburg, Va. That was also a first for the Dragons.

Reeve was invited after the announcement of her hire to replace former interim coach Jennifer Gillom, who is now the new coach of the Los Angeles Sparks. She replaces Michael Cooper, who moved on after last season to begin coaching women in the college ranks at Southern Cal.

When Minnesota returns home Sunday, the spotlight will be on another Lynx acquisition -- former Connecticut Sun star Lindsay Whalen -- who returns to her native area where she starred for the University of Minnesota.

Whalen was part of another mega offseason deal in whicb she was dealt by the Sun and No. 2 overall pick in the draft to the Lynx in return for former UConn star Renee Montgomery and the overall No. 1 pick, which became another former Huskies top talent -- center Tina Charles.

The Sun opens at home Saturday against Chicago and the Guru will be on the scene.

He'll also see the Sky Sunday at New York's home opener.

Meanwhile in terms of some other local identities involving the WNBA, former Villanova star Laura Kurz, the 2009 Big Five player of the year, was cut this week by the Seattle Storm, while recent Rutgers grad Rashidat Junaid, a former Inquirer player of the year out of Camden Catholic, was trimmed by Los Angeles.

Former Immaculata star Marianne Stanley, an assistant last season in Los Angeles, is now an aid to Julie Plank with the Washington Mystics, which Stanley once ran as the head coach.

Needless to say there have been a myriad set of changes in the league since Phoenix topped the Indiana Fever in Game 7 of the most exciting WNBA playoffs ever laat fall and most of the moves have been and are being chronicled around the web.

That's it for the moment. The Guru will be tweeting and blogging out of Mohegan, as mentioned, this weekend.

-- Mel

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WNBA: Marathon Win For New York

By Mel Greenberg

The marathon came to Madison Square Garden Tuesday though the event had nothing to do with any of the famous indoor track meets held in the famous arena in central Manhattan.

Rather, this was the final tuneup before this weekend's WNBA openers and it was a good thing the game between the host New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun.

What began as a late breafast encounter between two Eastern Division teams that will battle five times in the next several months almost finished around the time thoughts of dinner begin to creep into the human appetite.

Actually, considering that the game did not count -- thus former UConn star Tina charles' official win streak is still alive -- the intensity displayed between the two teams was rather tasty entertainment.

When the third overtime concluded -- a game extended long enough to push the media out-of-towners into the next train fare zone -- New York emerged with an 89-84 victory.

By the third overtime, the Garden was playing Beatles music from the 1960s, suggesting officials had exhausted their supply from ensuing decades. Benny Goodman hits from the 1940s and '50s were rumored to be on standby if the game lasted any longer.

"They shoot horses don't they," New York executive Carol Blazejowski quipped afterwards delighted with the promise her team showed for the future.

The Liberty marked the debut of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, formerly with the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury, who has been with the team just two days after playing overseas in Russia.

The Chicago native finished with 14 points, the same total as rookie and former UConn star Kalana Greene who was a draft pick by New York.

Pondexter, who also had some nifty plays with former Rutgers teammate Essence Carson, also had 11 rebounds and eight assists, though she was 5-for-23 from the field.

"It was great, it was a great atmosphere, my teammates are awesome, it was a great experience overall, Pondexter said of the crowd of mostly school age children.

Most had to leave before the game ended becauses the buses were due to depart around 1 p.m.

New York coach Anne Donovan, who is also the new coach across the Hudson at Seton Hall in South Orange, N.J., expects things will be better once her new arrival gets acclimated.

"We just have to get our offense settled down," Donovan said. "Cappie was trying to do some things we just don't have some spacing for yet."

New York should even be better when former Stanford star Nicole Powell arrives from overseas. She was a draft dispersal pick by the Liberty after the former Sacramento Monarchs franchise dissolved in the offseason.

Veteran Janelle McCarvelle played her first game since arriving from overseas and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Leilani Mitchell added 12 points to the Liberty total, while free agent acquistion Taj McWilliams-Franklin grabbed 11 rebounds.

New York, which suffered a loss in Washington last week, will open at home Sunday against the Chicago Sky.

Connecticut also gets Chicago to launch its campaign in a home game Saturday.

Charles, the consensus collegiate playert of the year in helping to lead UConn to a second straight unbeaten season, had 22 points and 13 rebounds as the overall No. 1 pick of the WNBA draft made her first return to her native city as a professional.

Technically, Connecticut had an overall edge on the game after rallying from a 25-12 deficit at the end of the first quarter.

But Sun coach Mike Thibault was pretty much pleased with his team's performance short of not being on the high end of the final score.

"It was exciting and kind of fun," he said. "It was good for me in the sense that with a new team and a lot of new players, I can try some things and see who can do what and who remembers what."

Thibault noted that most of the players he had not coached for long after executing several major roster changes through trades and free agent signings in the offseason.

"We are kind of still learning about each other so from that standpoint, it was pretty good. We had a shot to win it at the end of regulation and a shot to win at the end of both the first two overtimes. The ball didn't go in but I thought we got good shots."

Pondexter blocked a layup attempt by newcomer Kara Lawson near the end of one overtime and then converted with a pass to Carson to keep the game alive for New York.

Thibault said Charles had to deal with a lot of double teaming defenses on her, something that she did not have to experience much the last several seasons in college with the Huskies.

Lawson, a former Tennessee star who had been with Sacramento but signed with the Sun as a free agent, had 16 points while Tan White scored 16. DeMya Walker, another former Sacramento player, grabbed 13 rebounds.

Next summer and perhaps several afterwards the Liberty will have to find a temporary home while the Garden undergoes a series of renovations.

So perhaps it could be said that Tuesday's marathon encounter was a good way to make up for future lost time before the Liberty play elsewhere.

-- Mel

Philly People Spicing Hoops News

By Mel Greenberg

Some of this has been out there but some of you don't read other key sites or links from such to the news of the day so the Guru provides the following as a public service.

West Catholic and Rutgers grad Patty Coyle has been named an assistant to South Jersey's Agnus Berenato at Pittsburgh.

Coyle most recently had been head coach of the WNBA New York Liberty until let go by Carol Blazejowski during last summer.

She had been head coach for five seasons after being promoted from the assistant position when former coach Richie Adubato had been ousted.

Coyle and her twin sister Mary starred for the Scarlet Knights in the late 1970s and into 1981 when Rutgers captured the final Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) title at The Palestra on Penn's campus.

She also has been head coach at Loyola of Maryland and held several collegiate assistant jobs, including one to former coach Theresa Grentz at her alma mater and to former St. Joseph's coach Jim Foster with the Hawks.

The Guru had heard the move was in the works while attending the NCAA Women's Final Four in San Antonio, though Berenato would not comment at the time in a well-known restaurant where the Guru was dining with media friends near a table of the Panthers mentor.

Oddly, the move completes an intriguing turn of events.

Coyle had been a candidate for the vacant La Salle position after Tom Lochner was let go but also became involved with the opening at Seton Hall, according to multiple sources familiar with both searches.

The Explorers then went to former Pitt assistant Jeff Williams, who held the position Coyle will now fill.

At one point Coyle appeared to be the front runner with the Pirates in South Orange, N.J. until Seton Hall officials learned of Liberty coach Anne Donovan's interest and ultimately hired her.

Donovan is a former Bergen Catholic star who also coached the Olympic team to a gold medal in Beijing in 1988 and coached the WNBA Seattle Storm to a title in 2004.

She also had been Coyle's assistant and was elevated last summer to the top Liberty coaching job, which she'll hold to the end of this season, which begins Saturday.

Coyle's hire gives Berenato some quality seasoning with the Panthers as well as someone credited with being an excellent individual when it comes to strategy.

Black A Finalist

Vermont announced that former St. Joseph's and Archbishop Wood star Debbie Black is one of three finalists for the vacant Catamount position.

Black gained notoriety as a feisty point guard with tenacity on defense as she helped the Hawks to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 1985 under Foster.

She is currently serving as an assistant to him at Ohio State but told the Guru during the Final Four she thinks she is ready to get her own gig.

Ironically, if Black lands the job at the America East school she would become a conference colleague of Boston University's Kelly Greenberg, the former Penn coach and La Salle star, and would also be in the same league as Hartford's Jenn Rizzotti, the former UConn star who had many court duels with Black in the former American Basketball League and WNBA.

Black was an all-star in both pro organizations and last played with the Connecticut Sun, being credit of providing leadership and cohesion to Mike Thibault's early teams after the Sun moved North from being the former Orlando Miracle.

UConn Spice Continues at Temple

When former longtime assistant Tonya Carsoza succeeded her friend Dawn Staley in charge of the Owls two years ago, she said she would always have some UConn influence on her staff.

Apparently that will continue with the hiring of recently-graduated Huskies player Jacquie Fernandes who was on the other bench in Norfolk, Va., in March when UConn was adding Temple to its massacre list on the way to a second straight unbeaten NCAA title.

The two apparently had a discussion while both were in Virginia according to the Connecticut Post's Rich Elliott reported the hire on his blog Tuesday.

Temple may still finishing the paper work, which is why the news arrived first from the North. Things move slow adminstratively in the summer on North Broad St, according to a former athlete department official who in the past had commented on previous hires.

Cardoza also has former UConn star Willnett Crockett. Fernandes will fill the graduate position that had been held the past two seasons by former Huskies manager Stacey Nasser.

Geno Mouthpiece Search

Nothing new 24 hours after the Guru reported Connecticut has to fill the vacant assistant Sports Information Director position following the departure of Randy Press, who had been the media liason for the national champs.

Without regard to the so-perceived star women's SIDs at prominent Division I schools across the country who may or may not be interested -- see the previous post for a description of the daily job -- the Guru has two people in mind, one not at a school, who have UConn DNA in their careers, would probably be approved by coach Geno Auriemma, and have familiarity with the ongoing media masses who cover the Huskies regularly.

WNBA Sunrise Special

It will be a Big East special of sorts in the WNBA Tuesday morning with a 10:30 a.m. preseason game in Madison Square Garden when the host New York Liberty meet their Eastern Conference rival Connecticut Sun.

The game will mark the unofficial debut of the newest Rutgers alum on the Liberty -- former Scarlet Knights star Cappie Pondexter -- who was traded from the defending champion Phoenix Mercury and will make her first appearance with former collegiate teammates Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn.

New York also has rookie and former UConn star Kalana Greene who will be playing against former Huskies teammates for the first time when Connecticut's Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery play for the Sun.

Recent free-agent signee Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a WNBA All-Star, will make her home debut for New York.

And, yes, just as the Connecticut media are heading at the moment for trains South to the Garden, the Guru will sign off to do likewise in Trenton, N.J., for trains north.

And to answer the question ahead of time that's already been asked at Mohegan and in Washington, for those of you who might ask the Guru in the Garden, the Guru only retired from the Inquirer, not women's basketball.

-- Mel

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wanted: New UConn Mouthpiece For Geno

By Mel Greenberg

Do you have an expertise in journalism, media guide publications, and are also internet savy?

Are you ready to handle barages of phone calls, seemingly at all times around the clock, from print, online, and electronic media types?

Do you know where to keep the nearest headache remedies when you learn your high-profile women's basketball coach goes off, sometimes unintentionally, with some comment that creates instant controversy which can last for several weeks depending on the nature of the remark?

Can you keep your mind coherent in the middle of the night while updating the ongoing individual and team statistics besides revising a hefty package of notes reflecting the last game played and the next one that's just on the horizon.

Well, if you can answer all those questions in a positive manner and lots more to a search committee and the coach -- Geno Auriemma -- as well, you might become the next spokesperson for the nationally prominent University of Connecticut women's basketball program that will be making a return visit to the White House next Monday -- not today as the Guru wrote last week -- to celebrate a second NCAA straight title.

A vacancy for the prominent Sports Information Director assistant has occurred with the apparent surprise departure of the likeable Randy Press, who has been the Huskies' media liason since the 2004-05 season following a similar stint at Penn State.

Word of Press' aparent departure began surfacing going into the weekend catching many of his close friends in both the media and CoSIDA profession off guard.

Barb Kowal, one of the legendary UConn women's SIDS of the past who went on to Texas, had yet to post word of the opening on CoSIDA's tweeter account, which she runs for the national organization as part of her social media duties.

However, the position specs, which are listed at the bottom, appeared on a recent series of UConn's job availabilities on a listserve run by the University.

"I hope it's nothing bad," said one Big East SID colleague expressing shock at the report of the opening. "I love the guy. I had no idea. Usually when someone is moving on from a school, especially a prominent one, they send a note around making us aware of the impending vacancy."

USA Basketball's Caroline Williams, who is Auriemma's media liason for his duties as the women's coach for the Senior National Team heading into the 2012 Olympics in London, England, also was surprised with the report which she received before leaving on a weekend outing in the Rockies. USA Basketball is located in Colorado Springs.

Press' departure was also news to Temple women's coach Tonya Cardoza, the former longtime UConn assistant, in a brief facebook chat Friday night with the Guru.

"Wow. I hadn't heard anything like that," said Cardoza, who keeps in touch with events at her former place of employment.

Certainly, there didn't seem to be an awareness a week ago Tuesday when the Guru covered the WNBA Connecticut Sun exhibition game against the Atlanta Dream at home in Uncasville.

The only non-basketball topic in the media room was the Guru clariying that he "only retired from The Philadelphia Inquirer" and not from chronicling women's basketball.

A Division III SID who assists Sun home games said Friday night he heard the report but had no details. The Guru was not on hand and was unable to reach any of his friends among the vast Huskies womne's media contingent, the infamous group known as The Horde that the next UConn women's SID will get to know real well ready or not.

Press has been a close friend of the Guru's over the years dating back to the Penn State era.

Meanwhile, one of the Guru's young blogerette associates, not connected to UConn, received a copy the job posting on the internal university listserve announcing job vacancies primarily at the Storrs campus,

The university is located about a half-hour or more -- depending on traffic -- from Hartford through rolling countryside in the nice months and blizzard-like conditions at times in the winter.

The one consolation is that though the area is considered socially-challenged for persons beyond collegiate age, there's scant time for a social life anyhow, escept among colleagues under similar circumstances, in handling the UConn women's job.

That said, here is the posting.

Though the Guru has been one of the persons usually consulted on past hires for the position, the paperwork should be sent to persons directed in the posting that now follows.

The Guru has yet to be named as a headhunter this time around. That said, those of you who are legitimate candidates with interest, feel free to drop the Guru a short note so he will be ready for any phone calls that may come from up North.

And no, the Guru himself is not throwing his hat into the ring.

-- Mel

Writer/Editor III (UCP V)
Assistant Director of Athletic Communications
Division of Athletics

The University of Connecticut is seeking applications and nominations for the position of Assistant Director of Athletic Communications. The primary focus of this position will be the performance of all necessary functions involved as the University media representative and day-to-day contact for the nationally-prominent women’s basketball program in addition to other sport programs as assigned by the Associate Athletic Director for Communications. The related duties of this position will include: the design, drafting and editing of press releases, game programs and all media guides – both printed and digital; the maintenance of records and statistics involving the assigned sport programs; the frequent review and provision of timely information for the Division of Athletics website; the supervision of student assistants and gameday workers and performing necessary responsibilities as the media/communication liaison with other offices within the University.

Minimum Qualifications:

1. Bachelor's degree in journalism, english, communications or related field or equivalent combination of education and experience.
2. 2-4 years writing experience in a Division I collegiate sports information office.
3. Advanced writing and grammatical skills, as demonstrated by writing samples; writing ability suitable for radio or video may be required by some departments.
4. Ability to meet deadlines, take initiative and work independently to carry out difficult assignments.
5. Advanced communication and interpersonal skills.
6. Basic knowledge of graphic design and awareness of graphic needs of publications.
7. Knowledge of pertinent NCAA rules and regulations.

Preferred Qualifications:
1. Two years of experience in a related media relations/sports communications position for either a professional or Division I college men’s or women’s basketball program.
2. Demonstrated proficiency in website utilities and desktop publishing as well as experience with in-game statistical computer programs.

This is a full-time position. Salary is commensurate with experience.

To Apply: Submit letter of application, resume, and names of three references to: Search Committee-Assistant Director of Athletic Communications, University of Connecticut, 2095 Hillside Road, Storrs, CT 06269-1173. Applications may also be sent via fax to: 860-486-3300 or email to: jobsinathletics@uconn.edu. Screening will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. (Search # 2010439)

Friday, May 07, 2010

Guru's Notes: UConn Nearly Residential at White House

(Note: Updating to reflect date which is not the 10th as implied in original post.)

By Mel Greenberg
Georgetown can relax when the Connecticut women return to the nation's capital on Monday, May 17.

The Huskies won't be in town for a Big East encounter with the Hoyas.

Rather, in what may become an annual event, Coach Geno Auriemma and his bunch are once again visiting the White House and President Obama to celebrate a second straight unbeaten NCAA title.

"We're baaack," former center Tina Charles, the top overall WNBA pick of the Connecticut Sun, shouted to the ESPN cameras toward Obama last month after UConn rallied over Stanford to continue the Huskies' NCAA record unbeaten streak to 78.

Actually Charles, if not several others with Huskies DNA in their genes, along with Auriemma could be making visits to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. under several different labels the next few years.

Besides another NCAA title or two, if they are acquired, one could expect Auriemma will lead a delegation later this year of USA Basketball types if his "other" team wins the FIBA World Championship this fall.

And in 2012, when Obama will be up for re-election, there's the possibility of celebrating an Olympic gold medal won at the London Games.

Rutgers' Stringer Getting Consolation Prize?

Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer has had bittersweet encounters in recent years when her Scarlet Knights have had to meet Iowa in regular season and NCAA matchups in recent times.

In fact, the Hawkeyes bounced Rutgers early out of the NCAA tournament at Stanford in March.

The mixed feelings are caused by mostly glorious times from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s when Stringer quickly built Iowa into a national women's power after her time at Cheyney University in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Since then, Stringer has kept Rutgers most of the time in the national radar while gaining Naismith and Women's Basketball Halls of Fame recognition and becoming the first men's or women's coach to lead three different programs to an NCAA Final Four.

Despite the Guru's late night attempt at humor in writing the headline to this blurb, Iowa will be offering more than consolation for this year's tournament setback.

Next Saturday on May 15, she'll return to Iowa City to reserve an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the university's College of Arts and Liberal Sciences at the annual commencement ceremonies.

Marginean Watch

Former Drexel senior Gabriela Marginean did not appear to play mutch -- about six minutes -- in the WNBA Minnesota Lynx's loss at the Chicago Sky on Thursday.

The Guru hasn't checked in with coach Cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle star, to determine whether it had to do with her staff looking at other combinations or whether a roster cut may be near.

Temple Staff Alums

Two former Temple aids to former coach Dawn Staley are involved in transactions this week.

Lisa Boyer, who actually was Staley's coach under the former ABL Richmond/Philadelphia Rage and who followed her to South Carolina, was promoted to associate head women's coach with the Gamecocks.

Fred Chmiel, who moved on as an assistant to Beth Burns at San Diego State the last two seasons, was named an assistant to Coquese Washington at Penn State, replacing Itoro Coleman, who became head coach at her alma mater at Clemson.


In moving the Guru's blog back to this address, he forgot if he mentioned his twitter account for those of you who want to follow breaking news of sorts and tweets from WNBA games.

Anyhow, pardon the repetition if he already mentioned it but the address is http://twitter.com/womhoopsguru.

That's it for now.

- Mel

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Coleman Shines in Mystics' Debut

By Mel Greenberg

This morning WNBA preseason games and short turnarounds are killing the Guru.

Other than that, the Washington Mystics topped the New York Liberty 65-60 in the Verizon Center in the first action for both teams prior to the WNBA tipoff May 15.

Several stars were still oversees precluding a Rutgers reunion such as the Liberty's newly acquired Cappie Pondexter and Washington's Matee Ajavon.

Former Maryland star Marissa Coleman had 15 points for Washington. Nakia Sanford added 11 points, while Kristen Mann and Nakia Sanford each scored 10 points.

Taj McWilliams, the free-agent signee previous with the former Detroit Shock, scored 12 points for the Liberty ands grabbed 11 rebounds. Former UConn star Kalana Greene, who was taken by New York in the draft, had 11 points, while Tiffany Jackson scored 10.

Donna Orender, the league president, was in the house because one of her children was part of a class trip to the nation's capital from Florida.

Louisiana Tech's Teresa Weatherspoon, who coaches her alma mater and was an all-star in the WNBA for New York was on hand to see her former player Shanavia Dowdell, one of the Mystics' draft picks.

Weatherspoon said she has yet to start work on her acceptance speech when she gets inducted to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., June 11-12.

"I just know there will be some tears," she smiled in looking ahead to the big weekend.

Liberty executive Carol Blazejowski was also on hand to evaluate the performance knowing she has to make some roster cuts in the next several days.

Blazejowski is also working on obtaining a building for use next season for home games while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovation.

Katie Smith, a former Detroit star who signed with the Mystics as a free agent, had a reunion with Liberty coach Anne Donovan, who coached Smith on the gold-medal Olympic team in Beijing in 2008.

More to come including train times back home.

-- Mel


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

WNBA: Charles Stars As Sun Eclipse Dream

By Mel Greenberg

The University of Connecticut's season has been completed for over a month but in the world of the WNBA that has a large dose of Huskies DNA in the summer pro women's league the UConn accent remains large.

And so the new fun story for a while at least will be how long can graduating senior Tina Charles keep her own personal win streak alive.

On Tuesday morning, the answer for the moment was one more than the collegiate team she is departing for a rookie life with the Connecticut Sun, which made Charles the overall No. 1 pick of the WNBA draft less than 48 hours after the Huskies reached win streak No. 78 with a second straight NCAA title.

Connecticut, the WNBA brand, fell quickly behind 11-0 to the Atlanta Dream before Charles helped the Sun rally to an 86-79 victory at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Charles, the native of Brooklyn, finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. The other two rookies -- former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin (11 points) and former LSU star Allison Hightower (10 points) -- also got off to a promising start that might be an indication of an exciting summer ahead for a Sun team that didn't reach the playoffs for the first time since moving here in 2003 following an earlier life as the Orlando Miracle.

Three prominent veteran newcomers to the Sun also saw action in Kara Lawson, who starred at Tennessee and played in the Olympics before signing as a free agent folllowing the collapse of the former Sacramento Monarchs; Renee Montgomery , the second year pro and former UConn star who was part of the blockbuster deal that enabled the Sun to land the rights to the No. 1 pick and Charles from Minnesota; and former Sacramento and University star DeMaya Walker, who will add physicality to Connecticut's frontal attack.

Atlanta second-year pro Angel McCoughtry, the former Louisville star, had 19 points, while the Dream got 10 each from Armintie Price, Shalee Lehning, and Brittainey Raven.

Both teams were missing players still finishing up their winter seasons overseas, a fact Sun coach Mike Thibault alluded to in discussing Charles' performasnce.

"She did a nice job, that's a lot of production in 27 minutes," Thibault said. "The one thing I caution everybody about, them included, those were (Atlanta) just players trying to make their team.

"It's good, but she is going to be playing against All-Stars every night. That's still to come. But it's a good confidence builder."

Charles was not awed going into her unofficial rookie debut.

She said she was more intimidated as a freshman playing for UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who will guide the national team through the London Olympics -- a squad that might include Charles.

Furthermore, the consensus national player of the year this past season already has some experience at this level after working with the national team last fall and again last month at a training session last month in Hartford and on campus in Storrs.

"This time I'm more comfortable playing with Coach T," Charles said. "The training camp where I was able to see if I can hang with WNBA players definitely boosted my confidence going into the season at UConn."

Montgomery was glad to be reunited with Charles, her former Huskies teammate with whom the two helped topped McCoughtry's Louisville tesm a year ago in the NCAA title game in St. Louis.

"All of have to learn each other," said Montgomery, who is one of the new floor leaders after the major trade sent all-star Lindsay Whalen back to her hometown with the Minnesota Lynx.

"Me and Tina, we're always going to have that, so that was easy," Montgomery said with a smile.

Guru Impressions: The Guru, along with the rest of the media, were surprised to find the arena somewhat stuffy in warmth upon arriving well before the 11 a.m. tipoff.

Though the press here has had time to make the adjustment to new faces, it still felt a little odd to walk onto the floor during the pre-game media availability and not get the usual automatic greeting from Whalen as she always made in the past.

The Sun dressing room has a new winter ambience with the walls painted in red brick motiff.

Had the bricks been real, it could be labelled the locker room that Debbie Black built, a reference to the uncanny shot by the former St. Joseph's and Archbishop Wood star out of Philadelphia who is now an assistant to her former Hawks coach Jim Foster at Ohio State.

Black, who retired from the WNBA several years ago, is actively seeking a head coaching position in the college ranks.

On one play Lawson and Charles combined for a score causing the Guru to muse that he'd bet no one thought that might ever happen -- UConn and Tennessee DNA combining on plays. Heck, Lawson, who used to get booed by the UConn faithful, now gives her cheers, a fact the Guru noted to Duke and former Tennessee assistant Al Brown, who does preseason evaluations for the Sun.

In the off season, Lawson does studio commentary on women's college games on ESPN.

That caused the Guru to note to her after Tuesday's game, that the camera will be after her all summer so they can sell the sound bites to ESPN, which is located an hour away in Bristol.

Apparently news gets around fast up here, even if it seems to be misinterpreted.

The most common question the Guru heard not related to anything involving Tuesday's action came from Sun executives, reporters and several fans was "I thought you retired."

Again, people: Only the 40-plus years at The Inquirer has ended. Next stop Wednesday morning in the nation's capital for a preseason game involving the Washington Mystics.

-- Mel

WNBA: Guru's First Dilemma

By Mel Greenberg

This dateline has nothing to do with Tuesday morning's exhibition game between the Connecticut Sun and Atlanta Dream other to show where this post is originating from in a very nice room in a relatively new hotel -- Hyatt Place -- a mile or little more or less from the Mohegan Sun.

The Guru was also told a secret from the hotel staff on how to get a cheap rate here during the summer except Fri and Sat.

Waiting out rush hour traffic to get up here from Philly worked out fine -- other than some construction work on I-95 on the bridge by New Haven -- wow they really are starting to build ramps and such.

Anyhow the reason the Guru called you all together after you have awakened is the WNBA is having a preseason teleconference call Friday afternoon -- an annual event which will feature select coaches and players.

In terms of the Guru soliciting you is this will be his first event -- not counting writing something Tuesday off the game -- since leaving the Inquirer ship after 40-some years almost two weeks ago. Technically, though off the payroll, the Guru is still electronically tethered through Monday. But after that, those of you who have not begun switching to poll@att.net for one of the Guru's main email addresses from mgreenberg@phillynews.com are going to start getting bounces like crazy.

Actually, what might happen is, in the event free lance is in the future, the email address will remain dormant but the Guru will have no access to it so anything you send will lie there and get periodically purged.

Now back from the digression, when the WNBA call begins, the instructions from the moderators will undoubtedly say -- "State your name and affiliation."

What is the answer to the second part of that if you were in the Guru's shoes.

Jonathan and the Guru have one idea, but that has to be run through the Guru's media friends in the WNBA oval office.

That aside, feel free to participate.

OK, time to go to sleep to wake up for an AM special, followed, Wednesday, by an AM attendance in Washington for the Mystics' game.

See you all sometime Tuesday afternoon.

-- Mel

Saturday, May 01, 2010

ESPN Promotes Carol Stiff

By Mel Greenberg

The ESPN release announcing the promotion of Carol Stiff has undoubtedly read elsewhere by now -- the Guru had been a little tied up on some matters but would like to post it here in that he has ties to her all the way back to the days of her arrival at the sports network.

Over the years she and several others at ESPN have been helpful to the Guru and Wendy Parker in hosting the annual women's division breakfast of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) at the NCAA Women's Final Four.

Here's the release:

ESPN’s Carol Stiff Promoted to Vice President, Programming
Carol Stiff has been promoted from senior director to vice president, programming & acquisitions, in ESPN’s programming department. Stiff joined ESPN in 1990.

Stiff’s responsibilities include the programming acquisition and scheduling for a variety of sports on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including women’s NCAA basketball, NCAA championships (the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, Frozen Four, College World Series and Women’s College World Series), WNBA, professional softball and more.

“Carol is a passionate and creative champion for women’s sports in general and women’s basketball in particular,” said Burke Magnus, senior vice president, college sports programming, ESPN. “We are fortunate to have her leading ESPN’s efforts in these areas.”

As a member of ESPN’s employee committee in support of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, Stiff has been a passionate leader on behalf of ESPN’s efforts to benefit The Foundation. She was instrumental in the development of Jimmy V Week and in raising awareness for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in partnership with The V Foundation.

Stiff has been a vital contributor to The Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund via the programming initiative “February Frenzy” on ESPN networks, among other efforts. February Frenzy makes for two of the biggest days of basketball in the women’s college basketball season on ESPN while helping to raise money for and promote awareness of women’s cancer research.

Stiff began her career with ESPN as a program planner in 1990. She received a promotion in 1997 to program planner II, and, in 2000, to senior program planner. Before joining ESPN, she gained experience in the college coaching profession.

In 1988-89, Stiff was the first assistant women’s basketball coach and recruiter at Brown University after serving as head women’s basketball coach and physical education instructor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., from 1985-88.

Stiff began her coaching career at Western Connecticut State University, where she served as head field hockey coach and assistant women’s basketball coach (1983-85). She also worked as a part-time elementary school physical education teacher.

Stiff was inducted into the Connecticut Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2005; was named the Top Advocate for Women’s Basketball by the Tampa Tribune in 2008; and in 2009, Sports Business Journal recognized her as one of the most influential executives leading the way in women’s sports.

Stiff graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education. While in school, she competed in both basketball and field hockey. In 1989, Stiff received her master’s degree in human performance/physical education from SCSU. She is a native of Bernardsville, N.J.

-- Mel