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, October 31, 2010

Connecticut Headed For Philly NCAA Nostalgia?

By Mel Greenberg

Four unbeaten national titles, a talent-lode of all-Americans, and an all-time win streak are some of the highlights that have marked the University of Connecticut's rise to dominance of the collegiate women's hoops scene since the Huskies hit their stride in 1995 with the first of seven NCAA trophies.

Yet when pressed to list his favorite moments of a Hall of Fame coaching career with the Huskies, Geno Auriemma usually will quickly note two stops in Philadelphia near his Norristown (Pa.) home that are among his favorite memories.

One is the Cinderella run to the then-East regional in which UConn played in the fabled Palestra on the University of Pennsylvania's campus and pulled two upsets to gain its first NCAA Women's Final Four appearance.

The second was in 2000 when the City of Brotherly Love played host to the national finals and Auriemma made a celebrated homecoming guiding the Huskies to a title game win over Tennessee in what is now the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia that also houses the NHL Flyers and NBA 76ers.

Those moments are sure to be relived this season because all signs and the AP preseason women's poll points months down the road that if UConn makes the field and gets past the two early rounds it will host, then the Huskies will be heading for Philadelphia once more.

This time it would be the Philadelphia regional finals that will be hosted by Temple at the Owls' Liacouras Center with the winner advancing to the Women's Final Four in the NCAA headquarters city of Indianapolis.

Unless the tournament committee were to mess up an easy marketing opportunity for Temple -- and there is a history there so don't go thinking slam dunk -- using the principles and procedures that guide the pairings and placements Connecticut could fall of its perch during the regular season and still be headed to Philly.

Let's pretend that the first 16 in the preseason poll are the first 16 seeds voted upon by the committee for the 64-team field.

So line one would be Connecticut, Baylor, Stanford, and Tennessee.

Now in many respects even if the order were shuffled here's how it would work.

The Huskies' nearest geographical distance is Philadelphia. That would be an automatic placement as the overall top seed. But even if not, Baylor's near geography leads to Dallas, Stanford's leads to Spokane, Wash., and Tennessee is closer to Dayton (I think). So by default, it's cheese steaks galore though a slight ache would be felt by Germantown Academy's Caroline Doty, who is spending the season on the sidelines rehabbing from another knee injury.

Looking at the rest of the preseason Sweet 16, even if Connecticut fell from the top four, it virtually backs into the Liacouras Center on any of the next lines of four teams each because of its distance from the Liacouras Center.

But if the preseason poll held, and we know it won't, line two would have Xavier in Dayton, Duke potentially in Philadelphia, Ohio State in Dallas, and Texas A&M in Washington, though if the Aggies got ahead of the Buckeyes, they would stay home in the Lone Star State.

Oklahoma could also be Dallas bound as long as separation could be maintained among common conference teams such as the Big 12 influx with Texas and near-Texas identities.

Kentucky could could land in Dayton off line three, West Virginia in Philadelphia, Notre Dame would be stuck heading West. But if the Irish had the seed advantage, coach Muffet McGraw might have a Philly homecoming as could Ohio State coach Jim Foster whose seventh-ranked Buckeyes will open the season at Temple on Nov. 12.

Off line four, St. John's could have a shot at Philly, with Georgia Tech and North Carolina tossed to either Dayton or Dallas, and UCLA in Washington.

In terms of traditional programs in the East if they got hot, the only teams that could edge out UConn off the same line if the scenario occurs are Maryland, Rutgers or Penn State.

Out of all this is bad news and good news for Tonya Cardoza's Temple team, which has run into a similar problem that befell the University of California several seasons ago.

The circumstances are somewhat different, though.

Cal had won a bid to host a regional out West but afterwards the NCAA applied a rule to the women that was in place for the men in that you could only play at home in a regional if you play three games or less on campus if that is where the hosting will occur.

For example, if Temple had bid some other building in town then there is no conflict, but the Liacouras Center is the right size whether the Owls would be there or not.

In the case of Cal, the Golden Bears lived up to their hype as a Sweet 16 team but had to travel to Trenton, near Philadelphia, while administrators hosted four other schools back home in one of the other four regionals.

An attempt was made to move to another venue from Barkeley, but the NBA was reluctant to give up the building on the dates set aside for Golden State.

Now when it comes to Temple, the Owls also could not be put on a road to the Liacouras Cente.

True, this part of the discussion might be academic because no analyst is thinking Sweet 16 in terms of the Owls' long-range prospects though they certainly can challenge behind Xavier in the Atlantic 10 and earn another NCAA bid. Actually, come to think of it, the Guru needs to check out Dayton's situation since there are high expectations again for the Flyers -- not those Flyers.

Temple's home schedule calls for six games in the Liacouras Center, including several doubleheaders with the men, and seven games next door in McGonigle Hall across Montgomery Ave. on Broad St.

Several weeks ago the Guru tried to save the day, finding a way to yank three games out of the Liacouras Center until Temple officials made him aware the rule applied said the Owls can't play on their campus if they are the host.

Moving to another venue makes no sense in terms of what the marketing prospects mnight be, but considering the trade-off, the fan base for the Temple women isn't that huge right now to be a costly deduction, especially if UConn lands in the building.

Temple was aware of tne consequences but made the bid anyway in terms of what has been an ongoing commitment to support the women's collegiate game. Besides, chances are good that another team of geographical proximity could also head to Philly.

Penn State, for example, hosts the first two rounds and if the Nittany Lions finally bloom in Coquese Washington's fourth season, they have always had a tradition of drawing large crowds in Philadelphia.

But Guru, you said there was actually some good out of this for Cardoza.

Well, yeah.

If Temple makes the field, there is no chance to land in UConn's bracket for a third straight year if the Huskies are in the Philly bracket. An opening round loss to Florida two years ago adverted having to go against the Huskies on UConn's campus in Storrs.

But last year, Auriemma's troops routed his former assistant's team in the opening minutes of a second round game in Norfolk, Va., and played relentless in a lopsided result that would have been even worse had he not shown some compassion.

Still there was no reason for Temple's players to hang their heads considering most of the nation suffered the same fate until Stanford nearly pulled a stunner in the NCAA title game in San Antonio, Texas.

So if Temple makes the field and advances to the Sweet 16, it probably means a trip for the Owls to Dayton, an Atlantic Ten venue they've seen before. The game would be on opposite days from the games in the Liacouras Center so officials would probably host a big viewing party.

Again, it's a much longer shot for the Temple participation scenario to unfold than it was for Cal. But back in 2003, who knew Villanova could get that hot as to end UConn's former NCAA record streak and make it all the way to the Elite Eight in Knoxville against Tennessee.

Meanwhile, the Guru has lots of extra trivia notes off the AP preseason poll but since this blog has gone deep, that will give the Guru something to assemble in the next post.

-- Mel

Friday, October 29, 2010

Guru's Notebook: Childhood Dreams Become Reality for Rutgers Walk-on

By Mel Greenberg

On a crisp Autumn morning inside the Rutgers Athletic Center, sophomore Brittany Lapidus sat observing her teammates being approached Thursday from those making the rounds at the Scarlet Knights' annual media day.

Though Lapidus may not have been high on the interview list for those seeking to hear pearls of wisdom from those expected to do the heavy lifting this season for Hall of Fame coach C.Vivian Stringer, the 5-foot-7 guard from Marlboro, N.J., was just thrilled to be part of the contingent in a new role.

For one thing, though Lapidus' mind still wants her to dash for the container at practice inside the Louis A. Brown Athletic Center when a teammate yells out for water, it is not a duty that remains in her job description.

"It's been my dream," she smiled about becoming the 10th player on a somewhat depleted roster. "I started out in second grade going to games and being a ball girl. I was here when coach `P' (Tasha Pointer) and coach (Chelsea) Newton were playing.

"I had pictures of coach Stringer on my wall. It's just a dream come true and I'm just ready."

Lapidus had the inside track when auditions were recently held for walk-ons.

"It was kind of a unique experience. Coach Stringer pretty much knew she needed another body. I was a manager last year. I've been around the program. She's seen me shoot around a little. Pretty much she just asked me if I would be willing to work hard and be part of the team.

"One of the points coach Stringer said when she introduced me as a player. `We didn't want to bring in anyone new because we're all familiar with you.' My teammates have been great and supportive."

Stringer smiled over Lapidus' comments.

"That's good that she said that," Stringer said following her annual state of the team address.

"There was a comfort level. She knows her place and she is working hard. She's a former basketball player. It was an easy decision and she works out with the team, so I gave her a scholarship."

At Thursday's session, Lapidus was also watching the media members pursue their craft considering that she is a communication and sports management major in the classroom.

Lapidus noted how she pretty much has been around for all the lows and highs over the years at Rutgers since Stringer took over the program in the summer of 1995.

"I wish I could give you some good stories," Lapidus said with a sheepish

She does hsve nice memories.

"I remember sitting behind the bench when we beat Notre Dame when they were No. 1 in the country (2001)," Lapidus related. "It was incredible when Tammy Sutton-Brown blocked a shot at the end to win it."

"I was here when UConn ended a winning streak. I remember (former Missouri State star) Jackie Stiles beat us (in the NCAA tournament). But watching her play was just incredible."

Stiles was an all-time NCAA scorer whose team built on that upset all the way to the Final Four in nearby St. Louis that season.

Lapidua talked about being on what is basically the scout team when Rutgers prepares for the Scarlet Knights' annual challenge on a grueling schedule both out of league and in the rugged Big East conference.

Asked who she might portray this time for Rutgers' annual tilt against two-time and twice unbeaten defending NCAA champion Connecticut, Lapidus gave a little giggle and said softly, "Maybe Maya Moore? I pretty much wait until the coaches tell me what they need.

"Actually, I'll play the role of pretty much any point guard or two-guard on the other team," Lapidus said.

In an irony, the event was held during the same moment that former team spokeswoman Stacey Brann had loaded her car and headed West to the University of Pittsburgh for a similar position.

Though an ongoing romance factored into Brann's decision and associate head coach Carlene Mitchell has been bemoaning the loss of a shopping buddy on road trips, Stringer last week at Big East day said in terms of losing her chief organizer, "When an affair of the heart is involved, there's no discussion needed."

Hasim Phillips, who will fill the job this winter, did seem to get off the good start -- Stringer's outlook, which can stray at times, was concise and to the point.

"This time, our players know what they don't know," Stringer said of practice, which for those who have covered the team meant Rutgers could be several weeks ahead of schedule.

Usually by Game 3, she has come into the postgame press conference claiming of her squad. "They don't know what they don't know."

Stringer also said there was value in a tough start on the road when Rutgers will visit California and then NCAA runnersup Stanford.

She noted that it is better to get the right guage early than "getting a bunch of easy wins and then what does that tell when you have to start play in the Big East?"

Fun and Work at ACC Media Day

The Guru found a cheap airfare enabling him to drop by the annual media day for the women of the Atlantio Coast Conference, who are expecting big things this season.

Held at the Greensboro Coliseum, the site of the annual conference women's tournament, the ACC used a bit of a different approach than in past seasons.

Rather than offer lofty presentations and expectations from the podium before the entire throng, the coaches and player representatives from each of the teams arrived at staggered times for two sessions (morning and afternoon) in which they sat at round tables for one-on-one and quasi group interviews.

"Having a taste of it, they want more," second-year coach Kellie Harper said of her Wolfpack which made a surprise run to the ACC title game and into the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

North Carolina, besides veteran coach Sylvia Hatchell, brought Jessica Breland, the feel-good story about her battle against Hodgkins Lymphoma, which caused her to miss last season.

"If we had Jessica, we would have won 25-30 games," Hatchell said about a slide that took the Tar Heels out of the rankings after a long stay, though they still made the NCAA field.

"I did feel we were playing our best basketball at the end, though, but all that is over," Hatchell said of last season's difficulties.

Duke, with a young squad, was picked first in the conference by the ongoing ACC blue ribbon panel causing coach Joanne P. McCallie to observe, "It's a beauty contest. It is what people's opinion are of you from their perspective.

"Now, we'll still embrace it but in terms of the top of the mountain, there is a bigger picture, one which our men have gotten pretty good at and we are trying to learn from them," McCallie said of the goal to win a national title.

Wake Forest coach Mike Petersen had some interesting comments about the Deacons' forecast of ninth after finishing fifth in league play last season.

"There's a difference between perception and reality," Petersen said. "We have 90 percent (or returning rebounding and scoring) so it is my job to (make people more aware of the program's progress).

Some Philadelphia-area players were in the room in North Carolina State 5-6 redshirt-senior guard Amber White from Coatesville High and 6-2 Virginia forward Chelsea Shine from Wayne and Conestoga High.

Maryland coach Brenda Frese talked about the influx of talent expected to bring the Terrapins back near the top of the glory days of several years ago when they won the national title.

"It's interesting because we have a lot of moving parts we are trying to fit together," said Frese.

Georgia Tech, which is hosting UConn early, is looking for the Yellowjackets' best season, while new Clemson coach Itoro Coleman, a former Penn State assistant who played for the Tigers, also drew attention in terms of soon adding a member to her personal family.

Florida State coach Sue Semrau on the potential that if Connecticut's win streak stays alive, the Seminole's would be record-breaking game No. 89 on the Huskies' path when Florida State visits Hartford in December: "Yeah, I noticed that when they made the switch (puting two Big East games into the December part of conference teams' schedules)."

It wasn't all work, however. The ACC also featured a celebrating shooting contest between the two sessions in which media members were paired with players who attended the event.

No, the Guru did not participate but there was a surprise media winner with some hefty three-point shooting. Prior to the shootout, the Guru was not authorized to praise the winner's attempt on the winner's behalf but one can find the individual mentioned in another new blog posted under this one.

X Marks the Musketeers Again In the Atlantic 10

The Atlantic 10 conference conducted its previews via media teleconference call Wednesday morning.

Xavier, which suffered a closing minute loss to Stanford in the NCAA regional finals, was picked again to win the conference ahead of Dayton and Temple, which means third-year coach Tonya Cardoza will need another motivational devices for her squad.

Picked fifth last season, Temple advanced to the conference title game, losing to Xavier at the finish.

St. Joseph's, whose Ashley Robinson's start to her collegiate career has been delayed again by a second straight knee injury, was picked seventh.

La Salle, under new coach Jeff Williams, a former Pittsburgh assistant, was picked last.

-- Mel

Guru Disqualified From AP Varsity

By Mel Greenberg

With Friday's release of the annual Associated Press preseason women's poll the Guru is aware of that when the accompanying list of print/online and broadcast voters is also published, it will be noticed that the Guru's name will be missing from the panel.

The reason is that when the Guru left the Inquirer last April it meant that he was no longer employed fulltime at a affiliated member of the national wire service.

Though there is a strong possibility he may have to replace himself at his old beat to handle local men's and women's coverage this winter -- it's just talk at the moment -- he would still be considered a stringer/freelancer, a category that remains, for now, taboo at the AP in terms of voting.

A high ranking AP sports executive in an amicable discussion told the Guru the issue would re-thought over the winner in terms of the qualifications for being on the panel next season.

Of course, if any of you know a sugar daddy/mommy who has the bucks to buy the Guru an AP affiliation for the blog you are reading -- just a joke.

Anyhow the Guru is putting this out there now to just to state a few things.

First and foremost do not start throwing verbal and email bricks at the Guru's good friend Doug Feinberg, the AP national women's writer who compiled the list of voters.

It is not his call -- the Guru was well aware this could occur when he departed his weekly paycheck last spring.

The Guru will still maintain the poll history and be ready at the drop of a hat to give Doug the readouts he needs each week. Also, the Guru will continue to report here on AP women's milestones in terms of the ranking.

In some ways, the Guru is actually enabled to look at some other projects as they arise which otherwise might also have created havoc with voting status.

And the Guru is already exploring the idea of returning to the poll business in early January with a special creative type of weekly rankings the rest of the way. So those of you reading this -- coaches, adminstrative types, even WNBA types along with other former collegians and former print writers -- who would like to become part of a small council of elders feel free to drop a line.

That said, the Guru returns you to his regular coverage and as promised last spring we will continue in the ongoing relationships and friendships we have developed over the years even if the way we do it becomes somewhat different.

-- Mel

Thursday, October 28, 2010

AP Preseason Poll Trivia

By Mel Greenberg

Prior to Friday's release of the 35th Associated Press preseason women's poll here are two more items of trivia. One lists total appearances 10 more more times of 34 previous seasons while the other begins with the 1999-2000 preseason vote through the vote of a year ago in terms of more recent total appearances.

Associated Press Preseason Polls All-Time Total Appearances

(10 or More Appearances)

Team Total-34 Yrs Last Preseason App.

1. Tennessee 33 2009-10
2. Georgia 28 2009-10
3. Louisiana Tech 27 2004-05
4. (tie)Texas 27 2009-10
5. Rutgers 23 2009-10
6. Maryland 22 2008-09
7. (tie) Penn St. 22 2004-05
7. (tie) Stanford 22 2009-10
9. LSU 21 2009-10
9. (tie) Vanderbilt 21 2009-10
11. Connecticut 20 2009-10
11. (Tie) NC St. 20 2005-06
11. (tie) ODU 20 2008-09
14. Virginia 19 2009-10
15. Purdue 17 2008-09
15. (tie) North Caro. 17 2009-10
15. USC 17 2006-07
18. Auburn 16 2008-09
18. (tie) Duke 16 2009-10
18. (tie) Miss. 16 2005-06
21. Texas Tech 15 2005-06
22. Long Beach St. 14 1990-91
22. (tie) Ohio St. 14 2009-10
23. Iowa 13 1997-98
23. (tie) Kansas 13 2009-10
23. (tie) SFA 13 1997-98
26. Oklahoma 10 2009-10
26. (tie) UCLA 10 2006-07

Associated Press Preseason Polls Since 1999-2000
Total Apperances
Team Total-11 Yrs Last Ranked

1. Connecticut 11 2009-10
2. (tie) Duke 11 2009-10
3. (tie) Tennessee 11 2009-10
4. Georgia 10 2009-10
5. (tie) LSU 10 2009-10
6. North Carolina 10 2009-10
7. (tie) Notre Dame 10 2009-10
8. (tie) Oklahoma 10 2009-10
9. (tie) Stanford 10 2009-10
10. Purdue 9 2008-09
11. (tie) Rutgers 9 2009-10
12. Texas 8 2009-10
13. (tie) Vanderbilt 8 2009-10
14. Baylor 7 2009-10
15. (tie) Ohio St. 7 2009-10
16. (tie) Texas Tech 7 2005-06
17. Arizona St. 6 2009-10
18. (tie) Louisiana Tech 6 2004-05
19. (tie) Maryland 6 2008-09
20. (tie) Penn St. 6 2004-05
21. DePaul 5 2009-10
22. (tie) Michigan St. 5 2002-03
23. Auburn 4 2008-09
24. (tie) California 4 2009-10
25. (tie) Iowa St. 4 2002-03
26. (tie) Minnesota 4 2005-06
27. (tie) N.C. State 4 2005-06
28. (tie) Old Dominion 4 2008-09
29. (tie) Virginia 4 2009-10
30. (tie) UCSB 4 2003-04
31. Arizona 3 2004-05
32. (tie) Boston College 3 2004-05
33. (tie) Florida St. 3 2009-10
34. (tie) George Wash. 3 2007-08
35. (tie) Kansas St. 3 2004-05
36. (tie) Louisville 3 2009-10
37. (tie) Texas A&M 3 2008-09
38. (tie) Utah 3 2005-06
39. Colorado 2 2003-04
40. (tie) Colorado St. 2 2002-03
41. (tie) Kansas 2 2009-10
42. (tie) Mississippi St. 2 2002-03
43. (tie) Oregon 2 2000-01
44. (tie) Southern Cal 2 2006-07
45. (tie) UClA 2 2006-07
46. (tie) Xavier 2 2009-10
47. Arkansas 1 2002-03
48. (tie) BYU 1 2006-07
49. (tie) Cincinnati 1 2002-03
50. (tie) Florida 1 2001-02
51. (tie) Georgia Tech 1 2009-10
52. (tie) Illinois 1 1999-00
53. (tie) Kentucky 1 2006-07
54. (tie) Michigan 1 2001-02
55. (tie) Middle Tenn. 1 2001-02
56. (tie) Nebraska 1 1999-00
57. (tie) New Mexico 1 2006-07
58. (tie) Pittsburgh 1 2007-08
59. (tie) TCU 1 2006-07
60. (tie) Temple 1 2005-06
61. (tie) Virginia Tech 1 1999-00
62. (tie) Washington 1 2001-02
63. (tie) West Virginia 1 2007-08
64. (tie) Wisconsin 1 2000-01

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another Poll Season Looms

By Mel Greenberg

With the 35th season of AP voting about to get underway with the release of the Associated Press preseason poll later this week the Guru presents from the history files for you people of CoSIDA and other stat freaks a few preseason poll categories.

Incidentally, poll No. 600 is only six voting weeks away.

Here we go and more will be rolled out, perhaps, from a Raleigh-Durham hotel near the airport in North Carolina Monday night to start a trip to media day in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In other quick loose notebook news, former Immaculata types such as Marianne Stanley and Theresa Grentz will be at the 76ers Wednesday night on a tie-in or sorts at The Wells Fargo Center. And you all thought LeBron was the attraction.

Also in world of WNBA, San Antonio general manager Dan Hughes said the organization will wait until after the league meets which begin next week in New York before ramping up the search for a new coach.

Penn State held auditions Sunday for a new public relations announcer for women's games at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Tina Hay, who had been there forever dating back to Rec Hall days, departed in a move amicable to herself and the school according to a source in the athletic department.

Speaking of behind-the-scenes, Rutgers media day will be Thursday morning early -- though some would say close to coach Stringer's bedtime -- as Hasim Phillips makes his debut for the year as the women's media contacgt in the wake of Stacey Brann's departure for a similar job at Pittsburgh, assuming someone actually has a live sighting that she has left the office.

Now here's some preseason poll categories. Remember to add one after the poll is released. -- Mel

Most Top 10 appearances in Preseason poll (thru 2010)

Tennessee 32
Georgia 20
Louisiana Tech 20
Stanford 18
Connecticut 17
Texas 14
Duke 11
LSU 11
North Caro. 11
Old Dominion 11
Long Beach St. 10
Rutgers 10
Virginia 10
Purdue 9
Auburn 8
Maryland 8
Penn St. 8
Iowa 7
North Caro. St. 7
Southern Cal 7
Vanderbilt 7
Ohio St. 6
Notre Dame 5
Texas Tech 5
Cheyney 4
Mississippi U. 4
Oklahoma 4
Steph. F. Austin 4
Western Ky. 4
Alabama 3
Baylor 3
Delta St. 3
Iowa St. 3
Kansas St. 3
Wayland Baptist 3
Arkansas 2
Immaculata 2
La.-Monroe 2
Michigan St. 2
Montclair St. 2
South Carolina 2
California 1
Cal-St. Fullrtn 1
Florida 1
Illinois 1
Kansas 1
Kentucky 1
Louisville 1
Mercer 1
Mississippi Col. 1
Queens 1
St. Joseph's 1
Tennessee Tech 1
William Penn 1

Top 5 Preseason Appearances (thru 2010)

Tennessee 27
Louisiana Tech 15
Connecticut 13
Georgia 12
Texas 10
Stanford 9
Old Dominion 7
Duke 6
Maryland 5
Rutgers 5
Southern Cal 5
Auburn 4
Vanderbilt 4
Long Beach St. 3
North Caro. 3
Oklahoma 3
Purdue 3
Virginia 3
Wayland Baptist 3
Delta St. 2
Iowa 2
Kansas St. 2
North Caro. St. 2
Ohio St. 2
South Carolina 2
Western Ky. 2
Alabama 1
Cal-St. Fullrtn 1
Immaculata 1
La.-Monroe 1
Notre Dame 1
Penn St. 1
Steph. F. Aust. 1
Tennessee Tech 1

Preseason No. 1s (Thru 2010)

Tennessee 12
Connecticut 7
Louisiana Tech 3
Duke 2
Southern Cal 2
Stanford 2
Texas 2
Delta St. 1
Georgia 1
Old Dominion 1
Virginia 1
Maryland 1

Tennessee and Louisiana Tech tied for No. 1 one seasson.
The Vols have been in 33rd preseason polls, missing just the very first one in 1976-77 and only 14 weeks overall.

More to come.

-- Mel

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rushdan's Hour At Rutgers

By Mel Greenberg

Sidelined by a knee injury in her rookie season, 5-foot-9 redshirt junior guard Khadijah Rushdan of Rutgers has had a crowd of talented players and future WNBA stars in front and alongside her throughout most of her collegiate career to date.

Though she was already on the bench with her injury as a freshman, Rushdan could cheer on the likes of Essence Carson and Matee Ajavon in the backcourt and Kia Vaughn and Rashidat Junaid in the post when the Scarlet Knights advanced to the 2007 NCAA title game against Tennessee.

She then had another crowd behind her in a star-studded freshman class though two have since departed leaving true juniors Chelsey Lee, Nikki Speed and April Sykes as the trio of survivors from the original fab five.

The mantle of leadership a year ago fell to Brittany Ray, who has since graduated.

But at Big East media day Thursday morning in New York City, Rushdan sat as the lone player representative along with Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer at the table reserved for Rutgers interviews.

"Time’s flying," Rushdsan smiled. "I can’t believe I’m at the end of my fourth season, especially in collegiate basketball. It’s been fun. I’ve learned a lot. But I’m excited for the season."

It will be a challenging one considering the Scarlet Knights are going with a reduced roster of just nine players.

But Rushdan, out of St. Elizabeth High in Wilmington, Del., has seen and endured almost every conceivable situation from highs to lows.

"I’ve experienced it all," Rushdan noted. "Obviously everybody’s ultimate goal is to play in a national chasmpionship game. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been able to play with a lot of great players, play against a lot of great players so it’s been a great experience."

Media members up in Connecticut, where the two-time both unbeaten NCAA champions are again the Big East favorite, envision a fun fantasy national tournament early round matchup in which the Huskies might meet Delaware if the Blue Hens won the Colonial Athletic Association.

Then UConn could go against Huskies-defectee Elena Delle Donne, the former national high school player of the year who returned her scholarship three seasons ago and decided to stay home.

Delle Donne actually will play with Delaware in the Nutmeg State next month when the Blue Hens travel to Yale.

But a Rutgers-Delaware matchup, if it came about, would actually recreate a rivalry that already happened when Rushdan and St. Elizabeth battled Delle Donne and Ursuline Academy annually for the Delaware state high school championship.

"Yeah, that one, if it ever happened, could be a lot of fun," Rushdan said.

What may not be fun for the fan base however is a preseason pick of seventh by the Big East coaches for Rutgers, which has usually been among the top choices over the last decade.

Rushan simply shrugged off the conference Big East ranking.

"We don’t necessarily focus and pay attention to the number that we get, it’s more of playing basketball," Rushdan explained. "Just because you have a number at the beginning of the season, it doesn’t mean you are going to have that number at the end of the season.

"It’s all about how one’s playing, how another team’s playing and the things you accomplish during a season."

The schedule is a little less arduous than in previous seasons but Rutgers will still see the likes of Stanford, Tennessee, and Texas A&M out of conference before meeting the mob of NCAA tournament contenders in the Big East.

"It’s tough," Rushdan said of the competition. "But that’s we’re so successful at the end of the season because of the teams we see at the beginning of the season.

"`Coach' makes sure we always have one of the toughest schedules so that prepares us. It won’t do us no justice unless we played the top teams because it prepares us for what’s coming ahead for us. So being able to play the top teams helps us a lot."

With Ray departed, Rushdan is enjoying her new role as the Scarlet Knighta' designated (or volunteer?) blogger from inside the team.

"It’s interesting," Rushdan said. "It gives me a chance to connect with everybody and how this team is and little things that a lot of people don’t know."

Villanova Stays Optimistic

The Wildcats finished 14-16 overall and 3-13 in the conference last season and the Big East coaches don't have high regard this time around, picking Harry Perretta's team at 14th as he begins his 33rd season.

But that's ok with 6-3 senior center Heather Scanlon, a Cardinal O'Hara graduate, and redshirt-sophomore forward Laura Sweeney of Cherokee High in Marlton, N.J., who came off the bench in a starring role to help lead Villanova to a 4-0 sweep of the Big Five.

"Harry likes to compare us to a couple of years ago – the team that was 8-21," Scanlon said. "It’s not because we’re a horrible team or anything negative, it’s just we’re so young. So a goal of ours this year is just to come together as a team and improve upon the young players while still striving forward and trying to win games."

As for playing in the Big Five, Sweeney enjoys the local competition in the City Series round robin in Philadelphia.

"Each season we take each game one by one but the big Five is fun because it always prepares us for the Big East and it’s good to get those games under our belts and get experience and hopefully win a couple so we have confidence going into Big East conference," Sweeney said.

Scanlon also spoke about one of Villanova's new additions -- three-point shooting ace Lindsay Kimmel, a junior forward and transfer from Temple.

"Lindsay brings a lot to the offensive end because she can shoot from so far and she has excellent range. She can create moves to the basket as well. I think it just takes getting used to the offense and fitting in."


Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, a Big Five Hall of Famer for her playing career out of St. Joseph's, was congratulated on her forthcoming induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., in June.

"That's still a long way away," said McGraw, who guided the Irish to the 2001 NCAA title. "I wonder if they'll still give it to me if we have a bad season.

"I have a lot of time to mess it up," she laughed.

The Irish, who return sophomore sensation Skylar Diggins, were picked fourth.

McGraw talked about the toughness of the conference.

"We lost four games in the Big East last season and looking back elsewhere, that still would have been good enough to finish either first or second in a lot of other conferences around the country."

Meanwhile Naismith and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Anne Donovan made her Big East media day debut as the new coach of Seton Hall, fresh off of guiding the WNBA New York Liberty to a resurgence and tie for first in the East in the regular season and a trip to the Eastern finals.

Donovan is still a little stunned at the surprise firing of longtime Liberty general manager Carol Blazejowski, the basketball legend out of Montclair, N.J.

John Whisenant, who was the GM-coach of the former WNBA Sacramento Monarchs replaced both Blazejowski and Donovan combining the two jobs.

"You know it should have been a sign when they wouldn't go for more than a one-year deal when I was getting the coaching job last winter," said Donovan, who had been the interim in 2009 after Patty Coyle, now a Pittsburgh assistant to Agnus Berenato in the Big East, was let go early in the season.

"But then we got (former Rutgers star) Cappie Pondexter and we did so well this season (franchise record of 22-12) that you thought things would be ok."

Donovan accepted the Seton Hall offer before the WNBA got under way last summer but was allowed to stay for the season.

Whisenant got a positive endorsement from Rutgers' Stringer, whose assistant and former player Chelsea Newton was with Sacramento when Whisenant guided the Monarchs to the 2005 WNBA title.

"Chelsea said the Liberty will do fine under him and called all our (former Scarlet Knights) on the Liberty to tell them things will be ok."

Newton was a surprise draft pick by Whisenant after her collegiate career ended and was a key player in his White Line defense.

Speaking of WNBA postseason transactions, the Washington Mystics have yet to replace former GM Angela Taylor whose contract was not renewed after helping turn the franchise around the last two seasons.

Assistant coach Marianne Stanley, the former Immaculata star and Old Dominion coach, checked in this week to discuss her induction next month into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

Stanley, who soon heads to coach again in Russia this winter, spoke briefly of the move by ranking Mystics executive Sheila Johnson, saying it was a surprise.

Asked if the ouster might have come because Taylor might have been contemplating trading Alana Beard, the Mystics All-Star who missed all season with an injury, Stanley said, "I have no idea what the reason was, but I do think a lot of people out there are running away with their fantasies if they think that was the cause."

-- Mel

Friday, October 22, 2010

UConn's Auriemma and Moore Drop Down to Greatness

By Mel Greenberg

For most members of the University of Connecticut contingent, heading into the 2010-11season off a current 78-game win streak and two straight unbeaten NCAA titles couldn’t be any better standing on top of the women’s collegiate basketball world.

However, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma and senior Maya Moore spent a large portion of the summer in a higher place winning a FIBA world championship and gold medal with the USA Senior National Women’s team that also had five former UConn stars.

That quintet and the rest of the squad, except Moore, spent the other part of the summer competing in the WNBA.

So some adjustment was necessary returning to Storrs to get ready to defend another title, right?

“Actually, yeah, a little,” Auriemma admitted Thursday at the annual Big East women’s media day in New York to preview the months ahead.

“You felt it a bit at first, especially going back to work with the younger players,” Auriemma said.

With Tina Charles, the WNBA rookie of the year, and Kalana Greene graduated to star in the pro league, and Germantown Academy’s Caroline Doty suffering a third ACL that has sidelined her for a second in three seasons at UConn, some adjusting in keeping the machine humming is needed.

Moore, the prohibitive national player of the year and projected No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft next spring, will be asked to play a somewhat similar role performed by Diana Taurasi, who led UConn to a second and third straight national title in 2003 and 2004 after the Huskies had gone unbeaten in 2002. That squad sent four starters to WNBA teams as first-round picks, including overall No. 1 selectee Sue Bird and Swin Cash, who helped propel the Seattle Storm to the league title just before the FIBA competition began.

“That’s asking a lot, but she’s put herself into that position and she’s probably looking forward to that challenge,” Auriemma said of Moore’s added responsibilities.

Having a chance to watch Taurasi up close and personal on the USA team in Czechoslovakia, besides playing alongside the Phoenix Mercury star and 2009 MVP of the league, Moore said she took mental notes on Taurasi in action.

“I mainly just watched her and just observed how she led, how she carried herself on the court – the things she did, what she said and when she said them,” Moore related. “Those are a lot of things I am going to take back to provide leadership.”

Moore became the first individual at the annual Big East event to make opening remarks on behalf of the players. DePaul coach Doug Bruno, who was an assistant to Auriema on the USA team, spoke on behalf of the 16 conference coaches.

Connecticut was picked first again by the league coaches to win the Big East, an ongoing event with few interruptions over the last decade, while Moore was named preseason player of the year and Huskies newcomer Bria Hartley was named the top preseason freshman.

West Virginia was tabbed second, followed by Georgetown, a healthier Notre Dame squad, and St. John’s among the top five, proving that there is movement elsewhere in the Big East.

Rutgers was picked seventh and Villanova was named 14th.

However, many in the room at B.B. King’s Blues Grille on 42nd Street near Times Square noted how teams picked low a year ago such as Georgetown, St. John’s and West Virginia fought their way to the top and were among seven Big East schools earning NCAA bids.

Rutgers red-shirted junior Khadijah Rushdan from Wilmington, Del., was named an honorable mention. She is a senior by class but an injury her freshman season has enabled her to gain extended court time.

Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown and whose brash personality has at times found him referred to as a know-it-all, actually learned something Thursday he had been unaware of regarding the Huskies’ win streak.

Should UConn hurdle Baylor in the second game of the season and then Georgia Tech, and end up extending the win streak to Game 88, where a victory would tie the record of the UCLA men’s team, that contest will be against Ohio State and his good Philly friend Jim Foster in Madison Square Garden here in New York.

“Wow,” Auriemma remarked when your Guru noted the date to him. “I guess if you’re going to win a big game, Madison Square Garden’s good as any place to win it. You just told me something I didn’t know. I know who we’re playing, I just don’t know when. I know we got Holy Cross first and Baylor second.

“But if you ask me who’s your third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh game, I’d say I have no idea. And that’s the honest to God’s truth.”

Auriemma, a Hall of Famer who has made attention-grabbing statements over the years, was questioned about his recent remark at the Huskies media in which he predicted somewhere along the way the streak was likely to end.

“I’m realistic,” Auriemma explained. “Would you ask a guy in the NFL if they’re going to go undefeated? And what are they going to say, `Yeah we are.’ Nobody is going to say that.

"Number one, that’s disrespectful to the teams you’re playing against and No. 2, I just think it’s unrealistic,” Auriemma continued.

“But I said that the other two years. I said I don’t think we’re going to win them all.

“People say a coach thinks they’re going to win every game. Well you’re an idiot if you think you’re going to win every game. If it happens, you’re shocked, like I was.

“But at the same time, I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re so much better than Baylor, we’re so much better than Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke or Stanford.

"Yeah, we’re going out to Stanford == they have just about everybody back from last year except Jayne (Appel) and they recruited the best kid in high school. And we’re going to play on their home court. Are you kidding? We’re going to beat the s--- out of them.

“Really, if you want me to say that, you’re out of your mind. So I’m not putting it out there to motivate anybody, I’m not putting it out there because I’m trying for any ulterior motive.

I’m just trying to say what I think is the honest to God’s truth. If we go out there and win, or we beat Carolina at Carolina or anybody else I would say, “Damn we’re pretty good. I didn’t think we’re this good.’

As for spending the last 12 months being coached by Auriemma in two contrasting situations, Moore was asked if things were different playing for him on the USA team or did the she and the Huskies alumni get singled out at practice.

“I couldn’t notice it a whole lot,” Moore said. “If something needed to be said, he said it to us.

“ His expectations at that level are just as high as college,” she added. “It’s the world championship level. He’s going to say what he needs to say and I was ready to take what he needs to say but it wasn’t as much as here at UConn. Absolutely not.

“He didn’t have to harp on as many things as he does here at Connecticut,” Moore said and explained the reason.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of having a certain group you can do that with – at the pro level you don’t have them as long, you don’t know them as well, so he can say certain things to us (in college) and harp on us in a certain way because he knows us and has been around us.

“As far as style of play, we ran the same offense and it works.”

Though overseas after the fall semester began back in Storrs, Moore kept up with her studies through the wonders of modern technology.

Had it been two decades earlier, many devices would not have been available.

“That made it a whole lot easier,” Moore said. “I don’t know what I would have done without the internet to keep up with my classes so that was a huge help.

“It was a little bit of a sweat. It’s kind of how we make things look on the court. We make it look easy but it’s not.”

Moore is looking forward to a game on the front end of the season when UConn will travel to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech in her native state.

“I already heard of so many who said they’re coming,” Moore said. “So I’m excited and looking forward to get back there and see some familiar faces.”

At the moment Moore was interviewed by your Guru for this post, it was one of the few times she did not draw a crowd.

But that will change dramatically when the season tips off in less than a month.

-- Mel

In the interest of not burying some talks with Rutgers’ Rushdan and Villanova’s Laura Sweeney and Heather Scanlon, the Guru will offer a second installment in the next 24 hours.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Delle Donne and Evans Share CAA Preseason Honors

By Mel Greenberg

On a day that began with traffic choked in the vicinity of the nearby Pentagon because of a mysterious shooter (no one was injured), there was nothing requiring guesswork involving women's preseason player of the year honors in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Delaware sophomore center Elena Delle Donne and James Madison senior guard Dawn Evans were the CAA's top guns and among the nation's scoring leaders last season and as such shared honors Tuesday in a vote from the conference coaches who ballotted for the first time without involvement from media members who cover the CAA.

The coaches made the decision over the summer to go it alone in preseason and postseason selections.

Delle Donne, the 2008 national high school player of the year out of Wilmington, Del., made a spectacular debut averaging 26.7 points in leading the Blue Hens back to respectability while also being at or near the best in the CAA in several other statistical categories.

That earned her a rarity in the CAA -- player and rookie of the year honors.

The graduate of Ursuline Academy showed no sign of rust after having taken a year off away from basketball following a decision to return a scholarship to powerful University of Connecticut that shrugged off the loss of Delle Donne by going unbeaten on the way to two NCAA titles with a 78-game winning streak.

However, at UConn this season, Delle Donne's absence might be more noticed, especially if the Huskies get derailed prior to an attempted march on the 88-game win streak record by the UCLA men's team under the late and legendary coach John Wooden.

Tina Charles and Kalena Greene graduated to be among the best newcomers in the WNBA -- Charles earning a 39-0 vote from the media for rookie of the year. Furthermore Delle Donne's good friend Caroline Doty of Germantown Academy suffered another torn ACL over the summer which will cause her to miss a second season since joining the Huskies in 2008.

"Delle Donne is a level of talent we're proud to have in the CAA," said Hall of Famer and former WNBA superstar Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who is the new coach of UNC Wilmington. "We're going to try to double and triple team her, we might try to put something in her coffee. I don't know how we're going to stop her. I don't think anyone has stopped her."

Evans, who averaged 24.6 points, was last season's feel-good story in battling kidney disease while propelling James Madison to the CAA title prior to losing to Temple in the first round of the NCAA tournament in nearby Norfolk, Va.

Even had the Dukes defeated the Owls, the ride would have ended quickly in the next round considering UConn was on the other side of the bracket at Old Dominion University.

Evans' presence along with three other starters were enough to make JMU the conference favorite ahead of Old Dominion, Delaware and Hofstra.

Drexel, which graduated CAA all-time scorer Gabriella Marginean, the 2009 CAA player of the year, was picked sixth, the same spot forecasted for Bruiser Flint's men's team with the Dragons.

"It's flattering that your peers think you're the preseason favorite but after that, that's all that it's worth," JMU coach and prolific tweeter Kenny Brooks said. "We're going to go in understanding it's going to be very difficult to defend this title -- there are a lot of good teams and a lot that have gotten better. That's what makes this league so good."

Seven CAA teams went to the postseason, in part as elsewhere helped by the expansion of the WNIT.

As for Evans' health at the moment, Brooks said, "She's doing wonderfully. In laymen's terms, her numbers are better now than they were at the end of last year. The disease, it can take its course, it can do whatever, but right now we're monitoring the situation. She looks good. She's practicing well. We haven't had to hold her out of a practice yet and she's playing the best basketball I've seen her play."

Rounding out the CAA preseason selections, Delle Donne and Evans were joined on the first team by Hofstra sophomore forward Shante Evans, a resident of West Chester (Pa.) and graduate of Henderson High in suburban Philadelphia; UNCW senior guard-forward Brittany Blackwell and William and Mary junior guard Taysha Paye.

Old Dominion, which won every CAA title since joining the conference before Drexel felled the Lady Monarchs in 2009, had three players on the second team: senior guards Jasmine Parker and Shadasia Green along with junior post player Tia Lewis. They were joined by JMU sophomore guard Tarik Hislop and Va. Commonwealth junior forward Courtney Hurt.

Drexel junior forward Kamile Nacickaite was named an honorable mention.

"We're still going to be running the same offense," Drexel coach Denise Dillon said about life in the Daskalakis Athletic Center without Marginean. "We're just going to have different players taking shots. Gabby thrived in our system and was consistent. We will be working to strengthen the post because on any given night someone could step up and stop our three-point shooters."

Delaware, which still will be on the youthful side in the Blue Hens' lineup, doesn't need to gain many points to move up again after narrowly losing six CAA regular season games to the conference leaders in the closing minutes and a 50-49 setback to ODU in the conference semifinals on the way to an overall 21-12 record and a berth in the WNIT.

"Those games were great for the fans and tough for the coaches," said Delaware coach Tina Martin.

Delle Donne could get some help if former St. Joseph's freshman Sarah Acker, a transfer who was the top Big Five rookie several seasons ago, gaines eligibility prior to the Blue Hens' visit to Penn State.

"She's trying to get things done and if she can, she'll be an added help," Martin said.

Delaware has beefed up the schedule, which a year ago had been lightened somewhat prior to the knowledge that Delle Donne would leave the volleyball team after a year on Bonnie Kenny's conference power.

Besides visiting Penn State, the Blue Hens will host Villanova, which was one of Delle Donne's original final four choices prior to her nod to UConn; St. Joseph's and Ivy League champion Princeton while meeting Vanderbilt in Virginia Tech's tournament.

There is also a visit to Yale, marking Delle Donne's appearance in the state of Connecticut. Besides St. Joseph's and Villanova, the Blue Hens will take a road trip to play a third Big Five team at La Salle while also meeting CAA rival Drexel in a home-and-home encounter.

"It just makes sense to play the Philly teams -- they're good competition and of course it certainly makes traveling much easier being able to stay in the area," Martin said.

"And the conference is so good with seven teams going to the postseason, we felt we had to step up our schedule. We're going to have our hands full but I think it will be good for the kids.

"I think our freshmen last year learned from all those close losses -- some were real heartbreakers -- and it probably helped their confidence knowing they are able to challenge all those powers. They'll be better for it."

As for Delle Donne in year two following her saga the last several seasons in the natonal spotlight, Martin said, "I think she didn't realize how much of a pounding she was going to take throughout the year.

"Everybody double- and triple-teamed her. A lot of people were real physical with her. Actually, Elena doesn't mind that but her body is more equipped to handle that this year than it was last year.

"She's in better condition. She's gotten into the weight room. She's a lot stronger and I think she'll continue to work on that these next three years. I think she's more prepared going in this season than last year as far as her body goes."

As for the overall scene at Champps Restaurant in Pentagon City, the lay of the room was much better organized than the space in the ESPN Zone where previous media days were held in recent years across the Potomac in the nation's capital.

The CAA was a world of Star Tech, with live streaming, online chats, and TV appearances involving the men's and women's coaches in attendance.

There were some familiar faces in new places with new Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig replacing longtime AD Jim Jarrett, who retired.

"It seems a bit strange being here today knowing the committee is meeting," the former Bowling Green AD said.

His reference was to the NCAA basketball committee, of which he was a member in recent seasons.

One item on the agenda was the discussion of expanding the women's tournament to perhaps as much as 96 from the present field of 64.

Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry favors an increase in the field.

"You just get that much more interest in women's basketball from schools that have a new stake in the tournament," she said. "One thing is that in several conferences it might be good to take both teams when one wins the regular season title but doesn't go because it lost in the conference tournament.

"But you certainly don't want to glut the field with more teams from weaker conferences," she added.

"This conference is worth three or four teams and that might give us more respect because the way we play, especially against each other in the CAA, I certainly don't think the term `mid-major' is the right way to described our competition."

The Lady Monarchs, who have maintained a tough non-league schedule in good times and bad, will be seeing the likes of Tennessee, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Florida along with nearby Richmond.

However, it appears that the traditional state rivalry with Virginia has gone by the boards for now at least.

Preseason forecast
James Madison
Old Dominion
Va. Commonwealth
William & Mary
UNC Wilmington
Georgia State
George Mason

-- Mel

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Temple Legendary SID Al Shrier Turns 80

By Mel Greenberg

On Friday night longtime Temple sports information director Al Shrier was honored with a roast at the Doubletree Hotel in Center City Philadelphia to mark his 80th birthday.

Shrier, whose is also known for the baggy briefcase he has carried stuffed to the gills over the years, is Temple's longest existing employee even though he actually retired several years ago.

A member of five halls of fames and honored earlier this year by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) with the Arch Ward award, Shrier has received other tributes over the years including the media room which bears his name in the Liacouras Center, which this season will be a regional finals host site for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

Your Guru is one of the many media types who were educated at Temple's school of journalism and became associated in different ways with Shrier over the years.

Some others are New York Daily News writer Dickie "Hoops" Weiss, who is the men's collegiate basketball guru; longtime Philasdelphia Daily News NBA writer Phil Jasner, whose son Andy has often strings games for The Associated Press; The Inquirer's Joe Juliano, who is on the Penn State football beat among others these days; to name a few.

The Guru has told a tale over the years of evolving from Shrier. As a student worker in South Hall -- if you're not old enough, don't ask -- the Guru had to take Al's press relesases after they came off the mimeograph and stuff them into envelopes which them got mailed to all the media locales except the ones in town which Shrier delivered personally.

Then when the Guru was hired at The Inquirer, one of his first jobs involved pulling out the press releases from Shrier that the Guru had stuffed in his previous

So much for moving up the food train.

Shrier and his wife Ruthie in later years became fans of the women's game and are often on the scene when the Owls are at home either in the Liacouras Center or McGonigle Hall.

On Friday night comedian Bill Cosby, a Temple alum who played football back when the team was -- well you've heard the routine -- anyhow he got things started and then an array of present and former athletic directors, famed Big Five TV broadcaster Al Meltzer as former football coach Wayne Hardin were among the roasters.

Incidentally, Temple's Larry Doughtery is actually the current president of CoSIDA.

The Guru is still doing some transcription and won't be able to offer every word but will have the highlights of a fun night that ended with popular local comedian Joe Conklin, who does voice impersonations, and Shrier's response.

Anyhow the Guru has to jot off the the Women's Big Five annual basketball clinic in a few hours at St. Joseph's, but he'll be back.

-- Mel

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Manhattan Clam Chatter At Jimmy V Dinner

By Mel Greenberg

It was media day for the royalty of women's collegiate basketball up at the University of Connecticut Wednesday. However, having to make a choice and trying to avoid quick burnout from too much Huskies coverage too soon the Guru opted to attend the annual ESPN-hosted Jimmy V dinner Wednesday night here at Chelsea Piers along the Hudson River Waterfront.

The event, with several auctions designed to help raise funding to fight cancer, sets the December stage for the women's game at one of the campuses of the competing schools while the men play in a doubleheader here at nearby Madison Square Garden.

The V foundation is named for the late North Carolina State men's coach Jim Valvano, who also had New York ties. The effort -- more than $40,000 was raised Wednesday -- has become more poignasnt on the women's side in recent years with the January 2009 passing of North Carolinna State coach Kay Yow, who succumbed to breast cancer after a lengthy battle.

Allied efforts in Yow's name are ongoing to battle the disease.

Several local women's coaches were in attendance, including Hofstra's Krista Kilburn-Stevesky, who played for Yow with the Wolfpack; NJIT's Margaret McKeon, who played at St. John's; Fordham's Cathy Andruzzi, who played at Queens College, and Marist's Brian Giorgis.

New Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan, formerly with the WNBA's New York Liberty, wasn't on the scene, though nothing should be read into that.

Plenty might be read, or maybe not, from the absence of Donovan's former employers in the WNBA and the Guru will get to that in a bit.

Former Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno was in the house as was Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference comissioner Richard Ensor, a member of the NCAA women's basketball committee.

The Jimmy V women's classic this year will feature host Duke against Texas A&M at Cameron Indoor Arena. Both Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie and Aggies coach Gary Blair were on the scene and made some brief remarks along with the men's coaches who will compete.

McCallie noted that the number 95 is stamped around the team's locale in Durham, N.C., marking the number of points Texas A&M put up against Duke in a game last year.

The Duke entourage included senior women's administrator Jacki Silar, a past chair of the NCAA women's basketball committee, and sports information director Lindy Brown.

Earlier in the day, Duke's Atlantic Coast Conference and Blair's Big 12 Conference were joined by the Pac-10, Big East, Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences to announce a Super Six Series in which two schools from each conference will compete in a two-game challenge within the group.

Duke will play Auburn, a game that was on the schedule, though both McCallie and Blair seemed to be taken a bit surprised about the announced arrangement.

Considering who is involved from the major majors, so to speak, let's call it what it really should be named -- The BCS Challenge.

Ensor told the Guru that expansion of the NCAA women's tournament will be discussed by the committee next week. Blair later voiced his objection to any tinkering with the 64-team field, noting, "As it is, ESPN doesn't have enough announcers to go around and pronouce our names right when they air the tournament."

Meanwhile Fordham's Andruzzi spoke of her recent hire, plucking operations director Jack Eisenmann, the boyhood friend of coach Geno Auriemma, off UConn's staff to be an assistant.

"Jack is tremendous, I've known him a long time and I went after him because I knew he wanted to move up and get into coaching," she said.

"I wanted someone who could bring the perspective he has from all those years with Geno and the program."

As mentioned earlier, one thing missing from the past was the usual array of officials and staff from the WNBA New York Liberty who have been regular attendees at this event.

Considering a day earlier the team announced John Whisenant, the coach-GM of former WNBA Sacramento Monarchs to a similar two-fold position in New York, one would think that, his schedule permitting, Wednesday night would have been a perfect opportunity to bring him to mingle with what is essentially the social set of basketball in the Metro area.

For that matter, having former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter on hand as the face of the Liberty revival wouldn't have hurt, either, though she might have already gone overseas.

But then again, though MSG Sports, in hosting the men's doubleheader in the Garden, has an imprint on this event, the Liberty is devoid of handlers at the moment.

Casey Sherman, the day-to-day media representative for the Liberty, left two weeks before the playoffs began, though the Guru heard she had desired to see the end of the season through.

Amy Scheer, the vice president of communications and marketing, reportedly resigned on Friday, though she is still listed on the Liberty/MSG's web site which also quickly has Whisenant listed in the corporate fold.

Longtime former general manager Carol Blazejowski, the singular face of women's basketball in the metro area (depending on how geography is applied to Rutgers), was not here. The Guru did speak with one source who had spoken with her and, yes, the move from MSG president Scott O'Neil to oust here was a total blindside.

There's also been a buzz in league circles that New York began chasing former Washington GM Angela Taylor, who's two-year contract was up after reviving the Mystics. Supposedly Sheila Johnson, the top executive of the team, got wind of the move and then ended negotiations on Taylor's contract renewal.

The Guru has not talked to Taylor recently but Johnson has been said to make similar moves in other similar situations in her business deals.

As for Whisenant's hire, the Guru was actually close to learning he was the one last week in talking to the Guru source who gave a profile of the type of person in play.

Whisenant certainly fits the profile off that discussion but the conversational waters got fouled when the Guru mentioned the Chicago dual GM-coach opening.

That led to the short-range speculation about former Miami Sol GM-coach Ron Rothstein, who is now an assistant with the NBA Miami Heat.

One source who has had dealings with Whisenant was surprised at the hire, saying, "he is not an East Coast guy."

Looking down the road the source noted that if the temporary housing of the Liberty next summer -- the first of three while the Garden is renovated -- does not go well in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., that perhaps Whisenant might become part of an ownership group to take the Liberty across the country to the Bay Area in Northern California (San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose) where a vibrant women's market awaits.

That indicates what could be problematical about the Liberty from a WNBA home office perspective on what would be worse -- No team in New York, the nation's top media market, or one that might be under-achieving and hurting in attendance that could reflect badly against the other franchises.

As for what direction Whisenant might take the Liberty to improve on the franchise-record 22-12 season and run to the Eastern championship, he is dedicated to his trademark "White Line Defense" which helped Sacramento win a WNBA title and will surround himself with people he trusts and knows the system.

What that means in terms of the roster -- Nicole Powell, the former Stanford star played for him with the Monarchs -- remains to be seen.

Goodbye and Hello

Yet another significant move in the sports information business at the collegiate level is occuring with Stacey Brann's departure from Rutgers women's basketball and Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer to Pittsburgh and a much different personality of sorts in Panthers coach Agnus Berenato.

There is also, ahem, a social motivation.

Since her arrival for the 2007 season, Brann has had to work with a run to the NCAA title game her first year, the immediate fallout from the Don Imus controversy, and Stringer's induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

She also became the first known media rep with the Scarlet Knights during the Stringer era to get the coach out of the lockerroom quicker to accomodate deadlines for those on the print media side of things.

Hasim Phillips, who worked with Brann her first season in the department and has worked with the football program, will succeed her this season.

For Brann, it may be adios to her locals, but since the Guru deals in both levels, he also knows it is not goodbye and says, Welcome!!

-- Mel

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Philly Accent Returns To Penn State

By Mel Greenberg

Rising and maintaining its status as a national power from the late 1970s through the middle of the last decade, Penn State women’s basketball was accentuated by an influx of talent from the Philadelphia area along the way.

Two players – Rashana Barnes and Andrea Garner – were part of the Nittany Lions’ run to their only NCAA Women’s Final Four appearance when Philadelphia was the host city in 2000.

Some other Philly notables, including a few from South Jersey, through the years were Lynn Dougherty, Tina Nicholson, Jackie Donovan, Kahadeejah Herbert, and Annie Troyan.

Former Immaculata star Rene Portland from suburban Broomall was the architect of success as a longtime coach of the Blue and White until a slide began in 2005-06. The dive culminated in her departure after the 2007 season, highlighted during the downfall by a sexual discrimination charge from one of Portland’s players.

Former Notre Dame associate head coach Coquese Washington replaced her and began the rebuilding process that could result in a return to the NCAA tournament, of which Penn State is a host site for the first and second round next spring.

Furthermore, Washington and her staff have regained the ability to mine blue chippers out of Philadelphia with the addition of 5-9 freshman guard Maggie Lucas of Narberth and German town Academy and 6-5 forward center Talia East, a graduate of the Friends School.

That brings the total to four, including 5-10 junior guard Renee Womack from Lansdale and Methacton High and senior co-captain Julia Trogele of Devon and Villa Marie Academy.

“I credit all that to our assistant coaches and our players,” Washington said Monday at the annual media day inside the Bryce Jordan center for the Penn State women. “When kids come on campus they hang out with our players and they are a good bunch. They are a fun bunch and they are good kids so they help set the stage for kids coming in – the high school players for what kind of program this is going to be.

“It hasn’t been hard for those guys to build relationships with our future players,” Washington added. “And our assistant coaches do a good job getting down in Philadelphia and finding the talent, creating the relationships that bring kids up here, unofficially for a football game or whatever the case may be.

“But I just think we’ve done a lot of work and we have good kids and that makes it easy.”

Incidentally, a new assistant coach this season is Fred Chmiel, who was an aide to Dawn Staley her last two seasons at Temple and has spent the last two seasons at San Diego State.

Trogele, the lone senior on the roster, is the last link between the Portland era and the Nittany Lions’ efforts to return to glory.

As a recruit already committed to a collegiate career here in Happy Valley, Trogele got the word from Portland personally of the coach’s departure. Since then she has had to endure records of 13-18 and 11-18 as a freshman and sophomore. The first winning effort since 2005 came last season when Penn State returned to the winning side at 17-14 and an appearance in the National Women’s Invitational Tournament where the Nittany Lions fell at home to Hofstra in the first round.

A six-game winning streak carried Penn State to its first ranking in the Associated Press poll since 2005. But then came a loss to Purdue in overtime in a Big Ten game and a 2-10 record down the stretch after the ranking.

“I think we got a little bit too far ahead of ourselves starting with Purdue,” Trogele said Monday.

She went on to give a brief narrative of her career here that began with direct word of Portland’s departure.

“I do remember getting that call from Rene and finding out she was going to resign,” Trogele recalled. “At first, I felt like, er, `I don’t know how I feel about the whole situation.’ And Coach ‘Quese called me and I met with her. I was still a little doubtful.

I’m not going to say these past three years have been Cinderella stories,” she continued. “They certainly have not.

“But it’s all about maturing and growing and it’s made me not only a better person but also a better player from it,” Trogele said. “I’ve learned to overcome adversity from anything and it helps in that whenever any obstacle comes throughout the season, I’ve already probably been through it the past three years so I’ll be able to tackle that.”

Trogele went into a little detail on the change in emotions that occurred when the team looked like it might finish strong and do well in the Big Ten tournament.

“It’s definitely difficult to go from a six-game winning streak back down to something we’ve already been used to,” she said. “To pull yourself out of a rut like that is always difficult but I think that we have a new approach to everything this season and we’re looking to stay consistent and we learn from every game.”

Trogele noted the extra emphasis on reaching the NCAA tournament considering her team could be on its own floor in the early rounds. There’s also a chance to be placed in the bracket leading to the regional finals at Temple’s Liacouras Center.

“That’s a motivation,” Trogele said. “Nobody wants to sit in the bleachers and find somebody else’s playing on your home court. I remember some of the previous Rene players saying that it happened before that they had to sit through an NCAA tournament here and it was awful. So I don’t want to ever experience that. It’s certainly a driving force to be successful this season.”

Meanwhile, Womack is returning to active duty after a torn ACL on her left knee sidelined her for the final 17 games of last season.

Washington said the staff is being cautious about bringingWomack along.

“There’s no need to be putting on extra stress in October,” she said.

As for Womack, “I’m feeling good,” she smiled. “I did a lot of rehab work over the summer and I’m starting to work with the team in practices and I’m trying to go full speed.”

Asked if there’s any extra caution because of the recurring ACL injury that hit UConn’s Caroline Doty, a Germantown Academy graduate, Womack related, “I thought about that and my mom asked me if I was worried about tearing it again, but I’m not.

“But even if there’s people who tear it twice, there’s people who tear in once and they’re fine for the rest of their career,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll be that person.”

Lucas and East, both blue chip talents, became friends when they arrived on their official visit to Penn State.

Washington is counting on Lucas’ threat as a three-point ace on the perimeter to fortify Penn State’s offense.

“I told her when she’s on the floor I want her shooting the ball,” the Penn State coach said during her session with the media before the one-on-one player interviews began. “We’ve talked and I told her, `I would rather have you go 0-for-22 than 0-for-2. I just want you to shoot the ball because that’s what you do well.’”

That’s fine with Lucas, who became the first Penn State women’s recruit to win the three-point shooting contest at the McDonald’s All-Star high school game last spring.

“I’m honored that she has that confidence in me and it makes me feel better going into the season knowing that your coach has that trust in you,” Lucas said. “You miss five shots and she believes the next shot’s going in so that makes me believe ten times more the next shot’s going in.”

Lucas picked Penn State over Maryland, Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Boston College.

“I definitely just clicked with Coquese on a level that I didn’t with the other coaches I talked to,” she said of her decision. “I felt a really good sincerity when I talked to her. I clicked with the girls on the team. I just felt comfortable here.”

East talked about the budding friendship with Lucas after they met.

“We went to each other’s houses and ate cookies and became best friends,” she said and also mentioned why she picked the Nittany Lions over California and VCU.

“I would definitely say the coaches,” East said. “Just their passion for the game and I had trust they were going to take us far. Once I met Maggie, I said, `Oh, I’m coming.’

“Also, in terms of the program, knowing if we won an NCAA championship we’d be the first to win it here in women’s basketball,” East added with an eye towards a bunch of friendly arenas when March Madness arrives.

“We are saying, `Go hard, finish the season strong and you play at home. That’s our number one goal.”


Saturday, October 09, 2010

Debbie Black: "New York Would Be Fun."

By Mel Greenberg

Greetings everyone.

Now that some of you have been baited by the headline, the Guru will get to it in a minute since I am in talk-write-speak with you instead of the more predominately news-report-speak.

Although the Ron Rothstein item in the previous blog concerning the New York Liberty general manager/coaching vacancies seemed like a good guess and while no one called for hours after the post telling the Guru he was on the wrong street, the prime Guru source left a note at mid-day Friday saying that Rothstein was not in play.

Neither is former Liberty coach Richie Adubato.

The Guru posted a quick note at his twitter account @womhoopsguru immediately after the note was received. Perhaps you should become a follower because when the news breaks or changes in any aspect of the sport, the Guru will post there with a quick flash but, as was the situation Friday, it may take a while to write further and post of the blog.

While Rothstein may not be in play for the New York dual jobs, clearly, though, somebody is. The Guru has heard from someone well connected that supposedly James Dolan, the major domo over everything Knicks-Liberty-Rangers, approached Isiah Thomas about the dual positions and was quickly turned down.

If Dolan wants to go that route, to be fair, he should make the offer to Anucha Brown, the former Northwestern star and winner of the in-house harrassment suite in New York against Thomas considering she has both business and playing experience.

Before you start quoting the Guru, that last concept about Thomas and Brown was just a tongue-in-cheek remark to react to the idea of Thomas for the job.

The Guru has heard from several WNBA sources that another in-house survivor of the Blazejowski era -- few remain -- may soon be departing, though that person is not someone familiar to most of you.

The Guru did not have a chance to chase much on Friday due to a lot of incoming calls on some other items.

But just before the note received that said Rothstein was not in play, the Guru had a conversation with Debbie Black, the former WNBA All-Star who is now an assistant at Ohio State and played for Rothstein at the former Miami franchise in the early part of the last decade.

"I don't think he'd take it, in part because of his age and whether he would want to leave Miami," said Black, who played her college ball under her present boss Jim Foster at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia.

"But if he did, he would be great there. He would be just what they could use. I loved playing for Ron in Miami. And while I love everything here at Ohio State, the thought of coaching in New York would be a lot of fun, even if New York will actually be in Newark (N.J.) the next three years," Black said.

An associate of Black's told the Guru he had actually mentioned Black as a coaching candidate to Carol Blazejowski, the former longtime general manager before her recent ouster, but got a lukewarm response to the suggestion.

The Guru will try to stay on the case Saturday, although he is now in a little overlap because the collegiate season is nearing.

In fact he is in current discussions with someone on a potential collaboration that if it occurs will surely be to your liking in terms of enhanced coverage and presentation.

As for it being a busy day, the Guru is amused at the stack of emails he received from those of you who have interest in purchasing a Guru bobblehead doll that was presented Thursday night from Philadelphia area collegiate sports media representives.

Temple's Larry Doughtery, a longtime friend who is now the national president of CoSIDA (Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America), made the presentation.

Told of the emails, he commented that the Guru owned a one-of-a-kind collector's item. But if you really want one, then if enough of you contact Larry offering to pay middle dollar, perhaps he might find a way.

In other news, the sale of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, the Guru's former place of employment which had been under bankruptcy, became official Thursday and immediate changes in management were initiated.

It's all there at the Philly.com site in terms of the changes to date but Bill Marimow, who had been through the wars over the years with the Guru, was demoted as head of the newsroom, though his replacement as interim is also a friend and has a young daughter playing basketball so that speaks for itself.

Also the sports editor was dismissed and his interim replacement is also a Guru fan who upon his first day of employment at the paper told the Guru how much he liked watching former Stanford star Jennifer Azzi, the new San Francisco coach, play.

Right now, the sports department is deep into the coverage of the Phillies in the baseball playoffs and the ongoing soap opera that is the NFL Eagles.

But the college season is around the corner, the Guru was not replaced, so what all this means in terms of freelancing for the former mother ship remains to be seen.

To date, though, everything has run smoothly here in terms of being able to keep you all up to date with all the WBB events.

Coming up in the next post sometime Saturday, if certain subjects can be chased down -- Hi Tonya --, are some items on the collegiate scene involving Temple and St. Joseph's here in the Philly area but will interest many of you beyond the perimeter.

So for now, time to get some rest, perhaps even an early morning haircut, and then back to the hunt.

For you folks in the Penn State area, the Guru is heading up your way Sunday for Monday's media day, so if any of you want to gather and socialize somewhere, you know who you are, send some suggestions and the Guru will cross the mountains earlier in the day, but after the hotel prices plunge back to normal following PSU's football home game on Saturday.

-- Mel

Friday, October 08, 2010

WNBA: New Chatter On NY Coaching-GM Vacancies

By Mel Greenberg

Patrick Henry of Virginia back in the American revolutionary era asked for liberty or death.

At this moment several centuries later in the sport of basketball, another individual currently in the South could be deliberating from a choice between the WNBA New York Liberty or NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

That would be one Ron Rothstein, who turns 68 in December, and is currently an assistant coach with the Miami Heat but also guided the former WNBA Miami Sol in their brief three-year existence in the women's pro league from 2000-02.

In fact Rothstein could be involved in talks with New York at the present time to fill both general manager and coaching vacancies.

Longtime GM and president Carol Blazejowski, a Hall of Famer, was recently let go by MSG Sports after being the only chief executive in charge of one of the original eight WNBA teams the past 14 seasons. Anne Donovan, who guided New York to a first-place tie with Washington and the Eastern Division finals, losing to the Atlanta Dream, has left for Seton Hall, a head coaching job announced prior to the 2010 WNBA season.

Rothstein's name was not mentioned but he fits a profile of someone the Liberty could be targeting, based on clues about the vacancies from a league source with reliable contacts and thorough knowledge of WNBA operations.

The Guru's source did not know where discussions would be at the moment, but given that the WNBA meetings are on the horizon and MSG President Scott O'Neil recently returned from Europe, the pace might be picking up to get a new hire in place.

Additionally, Rothstein, a former star at Roosevelt High, was near Manhattan Wednesday night as one of several inductees to the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame.

Rothstein also coached the NBA Detroit Pistons. He was an interim head coach of Miami several years ago when Pat Riley underwent surgery.

The clues from the Guru's source indicated the potential candidate is someone who had been a head coach in the WNBA, is out of the league now, but would get both jobs and has experience in the dual positions.

The Guru was also told that none of the previous potential names recently speculated at this post were in play, though some could be worthy candidates.

Rothstein held the dual GM-coaching positions in Miami, guding the Sol to a 13-19 record, the best of four new franchises in 2000 that also included Indiana, the former Portland squad, and the recently-crowned WNBA champion Seattle Storm.

The Guru's source feels the candidate would do well with the Liberty, which faces an additional challenges the next three summers playing in Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovation.

Rothstein took Miami to the playoffs the second season with a 20-12 record but the Sol fell back into sixth and last place in the East in 2002 with a 15-17 mark before the NBA Heat dispense with the franchise the following winter.

Among Miami's first players was the tenacious Debbie Black, now an assistant at Ohio State to her former St. Joseph's coach Jim Foster. The point guard had been looking for now coaching opportunities after last season and it wouldn't be surprising to see her land in New York with Rothstein, if he gets the positions and has interest in the former Archbishop Wood star from suburban Philadelphia.

Black on the Liberty staff would be somewhat amusing considering her former role as an arch-villain to the New York fans base in her court duals with All-Star Teresa Weatherspoon.

Three other players on the intial Miami team were Sandy Brondello, who was recently let go as coach of the WNBA Silver Stars, former North Carolina State star Sharon Manning, and former Liberty star Elena Baranova from Russia.

In 2001 Rothstein chose former Notre Dame star Ruth Riley in the regular WNBA draft fresh off the Irish's NCAA championship run over Big East rival Connecticut in the semifinals and Purdue in the title game.

Another of his players was Iziane Castro Marques, who had been a key in the Atlanta Dream's rise from an expansion team in 2008 to their first playoff appearance in 2009. The team went 4-0 in two rounds to sweep the Eastern Conference before being swept 3-0 in a tightly-contested finals by the newly crowned champion Seattle.

Rothstein is also a good friend of former Liberty coach Richie Adubato from their days in New York and long career in the NBA. The rivalry between their two WNBA teams were one of the better ones at the time.

Veteran agent Bruce Levy, who like everyone else did not see Blazejowski's dismissal about to happen, had dealings with Rothstein handling negotiations for many of the players listed earlier.

He has no knowledge of Rothstein's potential involvement with the Liberty but did text Thursday night that if talks were being held and were to lead to Rothstein's return to the WNBA, he could be a good fit for New York.

There had been some speculation that MSG officials privately determined to oust Blazejowski at the end of last season when the Liberty finished at the bottom of the East. That obviously was before the revival this season that saw the addition of such talents as former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, a key player in the WNBA Phoenix Mercury's run to the 2009 WNBA title.

As in many situations in the current economic climate, New York was thought to not want to have an extra salary in 2010 during the final year of Blazejowski's contract. Thus, it's possible that MSG officials could have begun a search through back channels as they hold with the NBA.

It could be they originally sought to just replace Blazejowski until Donovan's move created the potential of dual vacancies.

Despite Rothstein's age being quite senior to the New York roster featuring Pondexter, a similar situation resulted in a title for Phoenix in 2007 under former NBA coach Paul Westhead, who also coached the La Salle men in Philadelphia and Loyola Marymount.

Guru Becomes a Bobblehead or Vice Versa

On Thursday night the Philly group of collegiate sports media representatives held a small reception for the Guru, marking his retirement last spring from The Inquirer after more than 40 years.

La Salle's Kevin Bonner presented a large mug from the Explorers. Temple's Larry Dougherty, the national president of CoSIDA (Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America), offered a bobblehead doll of the Guru, which the the Guru can't post here but a picture can be found on both his twitter account @womhoopsguru and facebook page.

Meanwhile, on a sad note after just receiving the information, condolences to former Villanova star and former La Salle assistant Mimi Riley, who's mom recently passed away.

The Guru always enjoyed conversations with both her parents, especially during Riley's era as a point guard for the Wildcats.

-- Mel

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Annual Big Five Women's Clinic Set

By Mel Greenberg

While some of the Guru's blogger friends are taking advantage of the short gap between the end of the WNBA season/FIBA World Championships until the start of the collegiate season, the Guru will keep going, though some days there will be nothing in the way of breaking news.

He remains on the WNBA watch and is checking with some moles who attended the seat-selection night Tuesday in Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center where the New York Liberty will play their home games the next three summers during the renovation of Madison Square Garden.

A request to take in the event and even pick out his own seat on press row was turned aside at Fort Liberty, officials saying it was a subscribers-only invitation and that perhaps something for the media will be held near the start of next season.

However, some subscribers are also correspondents for well-read blogs and websites so there will probably be some account of the evening at those sites by the time you are reading this Wednesday morning.


Tbe original intent of this post, besides a quick update of the lockdown mode at Fort Liberty in the wake of longtime general manager Carol Blazejowski's ouster, was to make people in the area here aware of the annual Big 5 women's clinic that benefits Coaches vs. Cancer.

All the Big Five women's teams and Drexel -- their coaching staffs and player roster -- are on the scene for several hours conducting drills and seminars.

The event will once again be held at St. Joseph's Hagan Arena, now in its second year since its sparkling renewal of the facility formally called Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.

You can go directly to the St. Joe's website for signup forms, but here is some information that the Guru has cut and pasted into here from the Hawks' internet home. -- Mel


PHILADELPHIA - The Saint Joseph's women's basketball team, along with coaches and student-athletes from the other Big 5 schools and Drexel, will host a "Players and Coaches Basketball Clinic" on Sunday, October 17 at the Michael J. Hagan '85 Arena.

Clinic Registration

The clinic, which will run from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., and is open to 300 girls from first to eighth grade. Student-athletes and coaches from Saint Joseph's, La Salle, Penn, Temple, Villanova and Drexel will be on hand to provide helpful tips and drills, as well as provide insight in how to balance academics and athletics.

A coaches clinic is also available for AAU, grade school, and high school coaches.

The cost for the clinic is $25, with the proceeds going to benefit Coaches vs. Cancer. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs until 9:30 a.m.

For more information, contact Katie Gardler at 610-660-1777 or cgardler@sju.edu

Guru's note -- Gardler is a former Hawk star who is a member of the Big Five Hall of Fame.

Monday, October 04, 2010

USA "Conn" Job Leads To FIBA Gold Medal And World Title

(Guru's update note to the original existing precede note. The Guru, usually aware of the dangers of writing of the top of the head and not making a second edit in the vampire hours of the night, appreciates some typos and mangled sentenced that were pointed out by the readership. They have since been corrected, in case you are confused by notes referring to the errors that were made prior to corrections. And now for those of you on first read of this post: continue. -- Mel)

(Guru's original previous note: First, attention Guru local followers. Way down below the Guru will have some highlights of Area D-1 collegiate home or nearby travel games for some early planning into the New Year portion.

Meanwhile, nothing new at the moment on WNBA stories involving employment or further unemployment in case that was the main reason you are dropping by. Just mentioning it at top of the post as a Guru public service. But the Guru will jump in through twitter and then here with a post when new elements or subject matters warrants attention. -- Mel)

By Mel Greenberg

With the Fiba World Championship gold medal reclaimed through an 89-69 victory over the host Czech Republic, the USA senior national women's team won't be put in the awkward position of having to go through the qualifying process toward earning a berth for the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

The domination of University of Connecticut types -- five former Huskies and senior Maya Moore under USA/UConn coach Geno Auriemma -- once again becomes a bragging point for the collegiate program with seven national NCAA women's titles, just one less than the University of Tennessee.

In a sense a new contingent of of former collegiate stars on the USA squad as well as others that were cut along the way, who never wore the Blue and White have gained admiration of the way Auriemma gets things done.

That group includes Angel McCoughtry (Louisville), Tamika Catchings (Tennessee), Candice Dupree (Temple), Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota), Jayne Appel (Stanford) and Sylvia Fowles (LSU) on the gold medal winners.

Dupree, who shot 75 percent for the FIBA tournament, set an American record breaking the mark held by, of all people, her former Temple coach Dawn Staley (now at South Carolina), who shot 69 percent in 1994.

Except for Dupree, each of the "non-UConn others" on the USA team suffered defeat at the hands of Auriemma's Huskies in college with McCoughtry, Catchings, and Appel also having done so in NCAA title games. Whalen's Gophers squad lost out in the 2004 semifinals after a Cinderella run to the Women's Final Four.

Fowles' LSU team did knock out UConn in the West regional title game in 2007.

There even was a WNBA dash of Connecticut Sun on the USA squad in the presence of Whalen, an All-Star for the Mohegan Sun-based team in Uncasville prior to her trade back home to the Minnesota Lynx before last season.

There would have been one more in the presence of Kara Lawson, the former Tennessee star who was among the final cuts. The USA selection committee wanted to stack up on post players, though the Australian and Russian challenging threats at those positions were eliminated in stunning upsets in the quarterfinals.

Renee Montgomery, another former UConn All-American who plays for the Sun, was a in contention for a spot prior to her cut.

In a way the presence of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Tina Charles and Asjha Jones, along with Moore, recalls the regrets heading into 1980. That was when those followers of the sport in the United States thought the entire Old Dominion squad (Nancy Lieberman, Anne Donovan, except foreigner Inge Nissen) had a better shot at the then-dominant Soviets than a mixture of collegians in an era before the pro game was established in the United States.

Old Dominion had come closest in a 10-point loss to the Soviets at home in Norfolk, Va., during the Soviets' barnstorming tour of colleges the previous winter.

That all became academic, of course, when former President Jimmy Carter had ordered a boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980 as a political protest.

Meanwhile, this statistic off Sunday's result further puts a UConn stamp on where things are at the moment.

With the victory over the host Czechs, there are now six players who have been on champions in the NCAA, WNBA, Olympics, and the FIBA World competition. Four of them are ex-Huskies -- Cash and Taurasi joined Bird and Kara Wolters, now a broadcaster who also was on the roster of the WNBA Houston Comets during part of the glory days of the former Texas franchise. The other two are Cynthia Cooper-Dyke (USC and WNBA Houston), who is the new coach of UNC Wilmington, and Sheryl Swoopes (Texas Tech and WNBA Houston).

In other activity at a related FIBA Summit event that included discussions of new style uniforms and lowering the rim in women's competition, there were talks about moving the women's competition to a different time on the calendar, which would greatly help USA scheduling and avoid the crunch against the WNBA calendar.

Former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman, also USA Basketball past president, has been spearheading this effort. Current WNBA commissioner Donna Orender also attended the sessions, next scheduled for 2012, according to The Associated Press.

At this point in time, the Guru is unsure whether he can cut and paste the Associated Press coverage into the post because of situations that have popped up elsewhere on the internet involving similar issues.

But many sites are linking to the wire coverage by AP national women's collegiate writer Doug Feinberg, also a successful coach of youngsters. Congratulations to him now for two-time gold medal coverage including the Beijing games in China in 2008.

The Guru will check to see how many golds Feinberg needs to catch his predecessor Chuck Schoffner. And also congratulations and good luck to AP national WNBA writer Vin Cherwoo out of New York who is just seven days away from becoming officially associated with a woman in a Memphis merger down South.

In AP speak in order to send congrats, the Guru offered anonymity to the other principal party in the Cherwoo deal until given authorization to make her name public, though one can figure it out on his facebook page.

Time for Some Local College Advanced Planning

As the Guru said at his precede note at the top, the following is an early guide to plan for those of you women's fans in the Philly area and elsewhere who at times find days in town where choices have to be made because of several conflicts of games of special interests.

This comes off the Guru annual planning schedule, which will post when the first draft has all time starts completed. Keep in mind we just entered October so changes of dates may lie ahead because of TV skeds involving men's D-1 action.

Also, remember Temple's Liacouras Center is the host venue for one of four NCAA Sweet 16 sites, which are the regional finals leading to the Women's Final Four in Indianapolis.

We'll get to the action in the other divisions involving locals toward the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Penn has pulled off a coup in coach Mike McLaughlin's second year because it seems all four of the Quakers' Big Five games will be in The Palestra.

St. Joseph's will be home three times in City Series round robin action, while Temple will be home just once and La Salle, under new coach Jeff Williams, won't be home at all. Villanova is even at two visits and two home games.

In that regard, here are the Big Five games as they stand in this year's race for the title currently held by Villanova.

The schedule is such that no school on a potential 4-0 sweep will end the race early as Villanova has done and it may go real deep into the season before a champion or co-champions are determined.

Nov. 12 (season opening date) La Salle at Villanova, 4 p.m.
Dec. 7 St. Joseph's at Penn, 7 p.m.
Dec. 12 Villanova at St. Joseph's, 2 p.m.
Dec. 19 Temple at Villanova, 12 p.m.
Jan. 12 Villanova at Penn, Time TBA
Jan. 19 La Salle at Penn, Time TBA
Jan. 22 Temple at Penn, Time TBA
Feb. 12 La Salle at Temple, 2 p.m.
Feb. 19 La Salle at St. Joseph's, 2 p.m.
Feb. 23, Temple at St. Joseph's, 7 p.m.

Now here's the overall highlights and conflicts, as things stand now on Oct. 3, that also includes Rutgers, Penn State, Drexel and Delaware in the equation. Because of the late hour writing this, the Guru is not giving it a read for self-editing so apologies for any typos that might occur.

Nov. 12 Season opening date. La Salle at Villanova and powerhouse Ohio State at Temple, times to be announced.

Nov. 16 Drexel, playing all city teams early in the season, is at La Salle while Villanova is at Delaware, both at 7 p.m. Remember, Nova was one of Elena Delle Donne's original four final choices before deciding to go to UConn and then opting for the Blue Hens.

Nov. 18 Princeton, the defending Ivy champion, is at Rutgers at 7:30 p.m. Gave the Scarlet Knights a scare last season and still strong.

Nov. 19 Penn is Drexel in a neighborhood tilt but at moment time start has to be resolved because we have a 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. listing. If earlier time, then consider Buffalo is at Temple at 7 p.m. marking the homecoming of former Owls coach Linda Hill MacDonald.

Nov. 21 South Carolina is at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., marking a second visit in three seasons to Happy Valley by former Owls coach Dawn Staley, now with the Gamecocks.

Nov. 23 Lots of conflicts all at 7 p.m. Highlight is St. Joseph's at Drexel, but also St. Francis, Pa., coached by former Penn State star Susan Robinson Fruchtl, brings defending Northeast Conference champs to Delaware; Temple hosts Northern Illinois, and defending Patriot champion Lehigh is also at Villanova. Penn, incidentally, will be at Rider just up the road in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Nov. 26 Villanova at Drexel marking second time in two years Wildcats coach Harry Perretta faces his former star Denise Dillon and his first appearance on sidelines at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Nov. 28 Delaware at La Salle marking Delle Donne's first visit of the season to the city.

Dec. 1 Princeton, with several Philly kids, is at Delaware but highlight is Rutgers at Temple. Owls upset the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway last season.

Dec. 3-4 For those of you with sa few dollars who want to plan now, St. Joseph's is in New Orleans to play host Tulane Friday night and Detroit-Mercy Saturday.
Temple that Saturday will be at Auburn and Penn will be visiting Army. Drexel will be at Virginia. If not a road trip, perhaps Holy Family, Philadelphia U., or Cabrini or Gwynedd-Mercy will be home.

Dec. 5 Texas Tech is at Penn State, 2 p.m. Don't know how good Red Raiders will be but if this is the year for Nittany Lions, it's a key game. Incidentally a ton of PSU games will be televised on the Big 10 network or streamed on the internet by the conference.

Dec. 7 St. Joseph's is at Penn, 7 p.m.

Dec. 9 Georgetown, which made major strides, is at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m., and West Virginia is at Villanova, 7 p.m., in two early Big East openers.

Dec. 10 Pick your visiting coaching star. Jen Rizotti's Hartford Hawks at Temple against her former UConn assist coach when she played in Owls' Tonya Cardoza. Maine's Cindy Blodgett, a prolific scorer, brings her alma mater to Penn. Science fiction author Stephen King is a Bears fan and has traveled here before when Maine has been in Philly.

Dec. 11 Only game of schedule is La Salle at Lafayette, 1 p.m. with chance to check in on new Leopards coach Dianne Nolan of South Jersey. Also some nice restaurants up that way and, there's the still relatively new casino.

Dec. 12. Tough choice with 2 p.m. starts. Villanova is at St. Joseph's in key Big Five match while Seton Hall under new coach Anne Donovan visits Drexel. She once coached the Philadelphia Rage in the former ABL.

Dec. 15 Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer will be out to beat Kane in neighborhood tilt at 7:30 p.m. at home instead of trying to raise one.

Dec. 17 Drexel is at Princeton at 7 p.m. in only game listed.

Dec. 19 Delaware tested at Penn State, 2 p.m., Rider is at La Salle, 2 p.m., Temple is at Villanova, 12 p.m. (first to 18 points wins), Princeton will be at St. Joseph's, 2 p.m., but in Madison Square Garden in the Maggic Dixon Classic Rutgers meets Texas A&M before Connecticut meets Ohio State at 2:30 p.m. and if the Huskies have not been stopped by Baylor or Georgia Tech along the way this could be the game that ties the Wooden-UCLA record of 88 straight.

Dec. 21 Drexel visits Penn State 7:30 p.m. -- remember Gabriella Marginean is now a Dragons alumni; Florida State in Hartford will meet UConn in game at 7 p.m. that could break win streak record.

Dec. 22 St. Joseph's at Delaware at 6 p.m. Not only do Hawks have to face Delle Donne, but this will be second game of eligible for transfer Sarah Acker, who was Big Five rookie of year several seasons ago for St. Joseph's.

Dec. 28 If you can find a crab house open take a trip to College Park, Md. to say La Salle attempt to deal with hosts Terrapins in UMD's tournament at 12 p.m.

Dec. 28-29 St. Joseph's hosts tournament in afternoon both days including New Hampshire, Quinnipiac and Lafayette. Quinnipiac coach Trish Sacca, a local, played for Lafayette's Dianne Nolan at Fairfield.

Dec. 30 Connecticut at Stanford. If streak is still alive will it end here. Huskies almost upset last year by the Cardinal in the NCAA title game. Temple is at Duke that night and Rutgers will be at Tennessee, hopefully with a functioning clock this time.

Jan. 2 Marquee game is Maryland at St. Joseph's, 2 p.m.

That's far enough in advance for now to get you into the New Year of 2011 before the conference portions kick in. And since some dates are still in flux, the Guru will give you the rest of it between now and the start of the season.

-- Mel