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, January 16, 2011

Guru Early Report: Win No. 600 Still Elusive For Philly U's Tom Shirley

(Guru's note: The main report is or will be posted above this -- depending what time you are reading this. But the Guru is filing this one separately since the Inky went in a different direction than originally planned on the print assignment.)

By Mel Greenberg

Before Philadelphia University met District of Columbia Sunday in a Division II nonconference women’s basketball game at the Gallagher Athletic Center, Rams assistant coach Jim Munn was discussing his boss Tom Shirley.

“I’ve been here for five seasons and came when he got No. 500 but one thing I discovered is how hard it is to win at the collegiate level,” said Munn, who formerly coached the Kennedy-Kenrick High girls team. “Most nights everyone comes to play against you as well as they can.”

Munn’s words have been to the point in the last eight days.

The Firebirds topped the Rams 59-52, making it the third straight time the 56-year-old Shirley has been unable to hit the 600th career victory mark as the celebratory bubbly perhaps in the form of non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider remains in the cooler.

The loss delayed a ceremony planned for the Rams’ athletic director when he reaches the milestone.

Had he gained the achievement already he would have been the 20th coach to do so. But Old Dominion’s Wendy Larry tied him at 599 Sunday when the Monarchs edged host Delaware 62-59 in a Colonial Athletic Association game at the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

ODU will be idle until Thursday night when the Monarchs host Virginia Commonwealth so Shirley still has a chance to get to 600 ahead of Larry.

Lynn Agee at UNC Greensboro is at 598 overall.

Philadelphia University (7-6) previously lost a week ago at Felician College in overtime after rallying from a 17-point deficit that existed at halftime. The Rams then fell at Holy Family with both losses occurring in the Central Collegiate Athletic Conference (CACC).

In Sunday’s game they trailed most of the way having difficulty getting the deficit below seven points.

“I think their athleticism hurt us and our inability to shoot the ball,” Shirley said. “We just couldn’t put it in the hole.
“We got a little intimidated. We figured it out defensively but we couldn’t figure it out offensively.”

Stephanie Agger scored 17 points for the Rams, but Kate Brennan, the team’s leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, was held to six points and the Rams also shot a dismal 30.2 percent from the field. Christine Wooding scored 11 points for the Rams and Kristen Blye scored 10.

Lillian McGill scored 18 for the Firebirds (11-6) and grabbed 15 rebounds.

This is Shirley’s 30th season as a head coach, including eight at DeSales University, his alma mater which was previously known as Allentown College in Division III.

Shirley (599-275) will get his next shot at the milestone at home Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when Chestnut Hill College (3-10, 1-5) visits in a CACC game.

Ironically, Chestnut Hill’s athletic director Lynn Tubman was Shirley’s first all-American when he coached at Allentown College.

She had been his assistant athletic director until her hire at Chestnut Hill last season.

-- Mel



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