Womhoops Guru

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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Guru's WNBA Roundup: Chasity Melvin Cut By Mystics Was Golden Oldie

(Guru's note: Game quotes from team sources)

By Mel Greenberg

Unless another team is out there to grab hold either now or sometime during the season, a near-original American pro women’s basketball player could be making a career adjustment – possibly doing TV commentary work.

The Washington Mystics late last week released 12-year pro Chasity Melvin, the former North Carolina State all-American, who was expected to be one of the team leaders and was questioned recently at Mystics media day about filling that role.

Considering that both Washington coach Trudi Lacey and Melvin, a 6-foot-3 forward-center, have Wolfpack DNA out of the Atlantic Coast Conference member out of Raleigh, it had to be a tough decision for Lacey.

Quotes were not listed in the Mystics announcement, which also included the jettison of Angel Robinson, a former Georgia star picked last year in the draft.

Melvin was the second overall pick of the Philadelphia Rage in the 1998 draft of the former American Basketball League and she averaged 12.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in the shortened third season before the ABL collapsed under bankruptcy.

She then was taken by the former Cleveland Rockers in the 1999 WNBA draft that was packed with former ABL stars making the migration to the rival WNBA.

Katie Smith, now with the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm, was with the ABL at the outset in the 1996-97 season on what became the two-time champion Columbus Quest then coached by Seattle’s Brian Agler.

The former Ohio State star recently reunited in Seattle with Agler and his assistant Nancy Darsch who coached her with the Buckeyes in college. The move came as part of a three-team trade involving the Indiana Fever and the Mystics, whom Smith signed with last season as a free agent and helped lead them to their best performance ever in terms of record and as co-champions with the New York Liberty of the Eastern Conference along with earning the No. 1 seed in the conference section of the playoffs.

Melvin averaged 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in 393 WNBA games through 2010.

After Cleveland folded, Melvin was picked up by Washington in the dispersal draft of the Rockers and then was dealt in 2007 to the Chicago Sky for former North Carolina star Monique Currie but then returned to Washington for the final three games.

It was back to Chicago in 2008 and then back to the Mystics for the last two seasons.

Cambage Debut More Like McNabb

Speaking of reunions and Seattle, two Australian sensations got a chance to go at it stateside in the Emerald City and in the case of Tulsa Shock second overall pick Elizabeth Cambage, the youthful post player in her unofficial American pro debut performed like she was filming the WNBA version of the 1999 Oliver Stone movie Any Given Sunday in the preseason contest – the first for the Shock.

In that film Jamie Foxx plays third-string quarterback Willie Beaman, who is suddenly thrust to the action and in the process tosses more than footballs on the playing field while experience a bit of the butterflies, one might say.

Years later NFL all-pro Donovan McNabb gave a real-life performance in the Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles akin to the Foxx character.

Sunday’s 76-70 loss to Seattle, which is headlined by Aussie Lauren Jackson, among several others on the Storm, was the first action for Cambage, who wowed the draft day crowd in April at ESPN headquarters more with her outgoing personality.

However, on Sunday apparently she had a few more things outgoing besides scoring 10 points – eight off of foul shots – and eight rebounds after her arrival to Tulsa had been held up a few days due to visa problems. She was 1-for-7 from the field.

"I was so nervous. The first quarter, I was so sick and had to run back and get it all out of my system," Cambage said. "But even getting off the plane yesterday, I was just so nervous going into training. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me, but all of the girls are supporting me so much and all I can do is improve and get meaner on the court."

Tulsa’s Nolan Richardson, the former Arkansas men’s coach who became the Shock coach prior to the franchise’s move from Detroit last season, observed, "This was her (Cambage's) first pro game in the United States and she was going against one of her fellow Australians in (Lauren) Jackson, the MVP," Richardson said. "I thought she did settle down and became a force around the basket. They weren’t getting anything easy anymore and she was able to control the boards when she was in that area.”

Cambage said of her defending a familiar rival from Down Under, “”The last time I was guarding Laura she had 40 points on me, so this was a better day I guess.”

Jackson scored 15 for the Storm who got 20 from former UConn star Swin Cash.

Amber Holt scored 25 points as the Shock rallied from halftime to make the game more competitive.

Dream Gives England A Reality Check

The WNBA runner up Atlanta Dream played the league’s first competition overseas in Europe in an exhibition Sunday and beat Great Britain 82-51 in Manchester, England as former Georgia star Coco Miller scored 21 points. She was reunited with her twin sister Kelly on the Dream last season but Kelly was dealt last month to Washington, whom Coco once played for out of college after graduation.

Making The Cut

Whether the Minnesota Lynx win this season’s title with overall No. 1 draft pick and former UConn sensation Maya Moore remains to be seen, but the Lynx are quick to get down to business with Minnesota becoming the first of the 12 WNBA teams to reach the roster limit of 11 players after dealing former Virginia Commonwealth star Quanitra Hollingsworth to New York.

Final cuts are not due until later this week prior to Minnesota’s curtain raiser Friday night when the Lynx play the Los Angeles Sparks in Southern California.

The two then play again Sunday in Minneapolis so two of the five games on the season will be out of the way between the two Western Conference contenders.

A year ago, the two fought down the stretch to get to the last playoff spot and the Sparks’ veteran Tina Thompson, the last of the original WNBA players, hit a shot before the buzzer in the last week of the season that could be considered the key play that put Los Angeles into the postseason.

But Minnesota got the last laugh because the Lynx were thrust into the draft lottery and then topped Tulsa, which had the WNBA’s worst record, for the overall No. 1 pick which was used to select Moore.

Based on a look at every team’s website roster on Sunday night, and it is not known if all of them were updated, but making do, after Minnesota, Seattle and the Connecticut Sun need to slice one player each off their training camp rosters.

Next with 13 players listed and needing two cuts each are Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington.

Indiana and Chicago are three over while the Phoenix Mercury and Tulsa are four over the limit. New York has 16 players listed and San Antonio, which lost to Connecticut in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Friday night at the other Mohegan Sun operation outside New London, actually nearby Uncasville, has 19 players and needs to knock off eight.

-- Mel

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guru Report: Philly Summer League Rosters

By Mel Greenberg

The Philadelphia/Suburban Women's Summer League will begin play at the Kelly Bolish Gym in Horsham, Pa., at the home of the Renegades AAU team on June 16 and then continue Tuesdays and Thursdays until the playoffs, veteran commissioner David Kessler said Friday in a note sent around with rosters from Thursday night's draft.

The Guru will post the schedules of the 11 teams when the commish finishes putting it in play. Kessler said he probably won't schedule action on Tuesday, July 5, considering it is right on top of the conclusion of the holiday weekend.

There may be some adjustment to the rosters and Kessler is still accepting applications to bring every team up to 11 players, though a few that are under the max right now could probably survive without having to go deep into the lineup unless no-shows begin causing some problems.

Now, hopefully with a little cut and paste out of the email here are the rosters. Additionally, some of you journalistic or blogerette wannabes who would like to write features off the league for the Guru's blog send a note because there will be nights that the WNBA will be calling him away from the local summer action.

Attempts are being made to set up a system to provide coverage of the games, which will be one doubleheader and a singleton each of the Tuesdays and Thursdays with each team also having one bye along the way.

Teams listed as Draft Team I and Draft Team II will be assigned a color name to go with the squads by Kessler prior to competiton.

Now, here's the list as the rosters stand for now.

Team West Chester (Columbia Blue)
1- Carly Strickland 6’ WC’13
2- Shamyra Hammond 5’8 WC ‘12
3- Meghan Kerrigan 5’7 Wc ’13
4- Steph Keyes 5’9 WC ‘15
5- Alexandra Lennon 6’1 WC ‘14
6- Jessica Taylor 5’10
7- Zona Smith 5’5 WC ‘14
8- Tiffany Johnson 5’5 WC ‘15
9- Jen Owens 5’9 WC ‘12
10- Allison Hostetter 5’7 WC ‘12

Team Phila U. (Lime Green)
1-Victoria Arnao 6’ Phila U. ‘15
2-Megan Finn 5’4 Phila U. ‘14
3-Stephanie Agger 5’6 Phil U. ‘12
4-Samantha Morris 5’9 Phila U. ‘14
5-Kristen Blye 6’ Phila. U. ‘13
6-Carly Hazinsky 6’ Phila U. ‘15
7-Jaclyn Panichi 5’7 Phila. U. ‘14
8-Christine Wooding 6’ Phila. U. ‘12
9-Taylor Peltzer 5’10 Phila. U. ‘12
10-Najah Jacobs 5’6 Phila. U. ‘15
11-Kyra Holiday

Team Holy Family (Royal Blue)
1-Mary Ellen McCollum 5’9 HF ‘14
2-Carolyne Heston 6’1 HF ‘14
3-Erin Mann 6’1 HF ‘13
4-Ana Cruz 5’3 HF ‘13
5-Maggie Serratelli 5’8 HF ‘14
6-Meghan Gibson 5’9 HF ‘11
7-Grace Mirack 5’8 Del Val ‘15
8-Jenna Swope 5’9 Gettysburg ‘15
9-Megan Gallagher 5’7 DeSales ‘14
10-Christine Verrelle 5’8 Dowling ‘15
11-Rekik Worku 5’11 Dowling ‘14
12-Aubrey Howland 5’10 U. Mary Wash. ‘15

Team University Of the Sciences
1-Rebecca Ruggear 5’11 Uof S ’13
2-Kathleen Connelly 5’3 U.of S. ’15
3-Brianne Traub 5’8 U. of S. ’17
4-Carolyn Edwards 6’ U. of S ’13
5-Jessica Sylvester 5’7 U. of S ‘17
6-Sarah Hickman 5’8 U. of S ‘13
7-Kate Schmid
8-Jesse Carey 5’10 Villanova ‘13
9-Laura Sweeney 6’2 Villanova ‘12
10-Ryann Fiascki 5’8 East Stroudsburg ’15
11-Megan Decker 5’10 Lebanon Valley ‘15

Team Keith Wood (Gold)
1-Ashley Wood 5’7 Kutztown ‘13
2-Brittany Greaves 6’ Kutztown ’12
3-Megan Bowen 6’3 Princeton ‘13
4-Becky Guman 5’7 Lahigh ‘13
5-Hilary Weaver 5’5 Lehigh ‘14
6-Victoria Mazzeo 5’6 Chestnut Hill ‘14
7-Lindsay Alexander 5’11 Chestnut Hill ‘13
8- Jasmine Elum 5’8 Bethune Cookman ‘12
9-Courtney Nyce 6’ Bloomsburg ‘12
10-Addie Micir 6’ Princeton ‘11

Team Ari Moore
1-Shayla Johnson 5’9 U. Rhode I. ‘04
2-Stacey Smalls 5’4 Temple ’03
3-Tynecia Pam 6’ Temple ’04
4-Ari Moore 5’10 Temple ’05
5-Lakia Stewart 5’10 Kent State ’07
6-Ashley Morris 5’3 Temple ‘08
7-Khadijah Bowens 5’9 Temple ‘06
8-Michelle Maslowski 6’1 Drexel ‘02
9-Kristin Guynn 5’6 George Wash. ‘08

Team Flynn (Black)
1-Alicia Hayes 5’7 King’s College ‘15
2-Emily Gratch 6’1 Lehigh ‘12
3-Andrea Notta 5’8 Phila. U. ‘10
4-Alyssa Isler 5’5 Gettysburg ‘14
5-Shira Newman 5’7 Millersville ‘13
6-Elle Larsen 6’ Swarthmore ‘15
7-Madeline Ross 5’8 Swarthmore ‘13
8-Kathryn Stockbower 5’11 Swarthmore ‘11
9-Jenn Prine 5’6 Shepherd ‘12
10-Calla Miller 5’9 Haverford ‘13
11-Courtney McManus 5’8 Salisbury ‘15

Team Kisha (Cardinal Red)
1-Kisha Thompson 5’5 Phila. U. ‘98
2-Chanta’al Hardy 5’9 Chestnut Hill ‘11
3-Lindsay Hoskins 6’ Lehigh ‘14
4-Alexa Williams 6’3 Lehigh ’12
5- Mary Jo Horgan 5’9 Lehigh ‘15
6-Kaitlin Cole 5’11 Holy Cross ‘13
7-Alex Smith 5’6 Holy Cross ‘14
8-Jenyce Woodruff 5’9 American U. ‘05
9-Alicia Papa 5’6 Xavier ‘07
10-Alicia Manning 5’9 Lafayette ‘13

Team Hagedorn (Kelly Green)
1-Devon Kane 5’7 Villanova ‘13
2-Katie Kuester 5’10 St. Jos. ‘12
3-Elle Hagedorn 5’10 Harvard ‘13
4-Emily Homan 6’3 Lafayette ‘15
5-Sarah McGorry 6’ Lafayette ‘12
6-Melissa Downey 5’7 Lafayette ‘12
7-Megan Pearson 5’11 Villanova ‘12
8-Katie O’Reilly 5’10 Lehigh ’15
9-Kelly Peterson 6’Lehigh ‘13
10-Marybeth Egan 5’8 Lehigh ’13
11-Lindsay Fluehr 5’7 U. Scranton ‘15

Draft Team I
1-Bianca Wombough 5’5 Penn State Abington ‘15
2-Trish Watson 5’5 Penn State Abington
3-Marisa Repasch 6’1 Lehigh ‘14
4-Aly Byorick 5’11 Lehigh ‘12
5-Gabrielle Vass 5’8 Lebanon Valley ‘14
6-Emily Leer 6’2 Villanova ‘14
7-Rachel Roberts 5’9 Villanova ‘13
8-Launa Hochstetler Valparaiso ’09
9-Cotelia Bond-Young 5’6 Wake Forest ‘07
10-Devin Gold 5’6 Caldwell College ‘15
11-Kimmy Green 5’8 Marywood U. ‘15

Draft Team II (AKA Weems)
1-Ashley Gale 6’ LaSalle ‘11
2-Nicole Curry 5’10 Goldey Beacon
3-MaryKate Serratelli 5’11 West Chester ‘11
4-Erin Shields 5’6 St. Jos ‘14
5-Mariah Lesure 6’ St. Jos. ‘15
6-Nikki Guynn 5’7 Temple ‘14
7-Amarra Boone 5’10 Susquehanna U. ‘14
8-Dana Albalancy 5’9 Connecticut Coll.’14
9-Shelby Smith 5’8 St. Jos. ‘13

-- Mel

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guru Report: Week's Events Show WNBA's Relevancy To Life

(Guru's note: There is another post under this in blogspot about the Philly summer league draft. If you are in melgreenberg.com, click on mel's blog to get the entire archives.)

By Mel Greenberg

As much as the WNBA was developed as a way to showcase the nation’s top women’s basketball players, as time has gone on the league has shown a relevancy to reflect life in all aspects both on the court and more importantly away from the sidelines as well.

The week is not over and besides featuring the preseason competition such as the one here in the Verizon Center Thursday in which the Washington Mystics completed a back-to-back morning sweep of games by beating the Chicago Sky 66-55 the league has been in the news by either leading or being in association with several other events.

On Tuesday, former CBS news anchor Katie Couric received the top honor in New York City at the WNBA’s annual Inspiring Women awards luncheon.

On Wednesday, the same day Washington helped New York open its new summer venue for the next three seasons at the Prudential Center across the Hudson River in Newark, N.J., with a morning win over the Liberty, one of the host team’s rookie hopefuls – Jessica Breland out of North Carolina – was named this year’s Honda Inspiration Award winner for battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a similar honor that went to former Drexel star Nicole Hester several years ago for likewise battling the disease.

Overseas the WNBA runner up Atlanta Dream is engaging in international diplomacy in England prior to Sunday’s exhibition in Manchester against the Great Britain contingent.

Sadly, as much as the focus has been on joy, triumph and survival, on Friday another one of those unfortunate moments struck with the news that former 7-foot-2 center Margo Dydek, the overall No. 1 pick of the 1998 draft for the WNBA’s second season, died in Brisbane, Australia, at age 37 from complications of a heart attack suffered a week ago.

Nicknamed “Large Marge,” while few stateside had heard of the native of Poland who was then selected by the former Utah Starzz, which later became the San Antonio Silver Stars, she proved her worth by being a shot-blocking demon.

Dydek, who was coaching in Australia and was pregnant with her third child, which also passed away, when she was put into an induced coma, later played for the Connecticut Sun and then the Los Angeles Sparks before retiring.

Though many print publications will probably only have a paragraph or two on Dydek’s death, though the Associated Press has a sizeable obituary, a photo display at the WNBA.com website offers a glimpse as to her skill and personality.

Actually, it may be safe to actually refer to Dydek as the first overall No. 1 draft pick in league history because prior to the WNBA’s launch the previous season several star players were delivered to teams based on local appeal, such as former Southern Cal All-American Lisa Leslie to Los Angeles, former Texas Tech sensation Sheryl Swoopes to the former Houston Comets, which won the first four titles, and former UConn star Rebecca Lobo to New York.

Tina Thompson, the last of the original roster players from the WNBA’s first season and who is now with Los Angeles, was a first-round pick by Houston after deciding to play in the WNBA at the last minute over the former American Basketball League.

The wonders of today’s technology through facebook, google, and twitter, allows those with interest to find a pretty accurate portrayal of Dydek’s contributions as a player and as a mom.

Though Dydek had been retired several seasons, the league has also suffered tragic losses of others who have performed, most notably Kim Perrot, a walk-on to the Houston team who became a key star in the backcourt and then had her life cut short several years later by breast cancer.

The league’s annual Sportsmanship Award is named in Perrot’s memory.

Fortunately, the WNBA’s moments have been more joyous as was the case here in which a school-age dominated crowd of 9,502 fans saw Washington perhaps in its best-ever shape going into a season, especially being fueled by the 2010 run to the Eastern Division co-championship with New York and acquiring the No. 1 seed in the conference for the playoffs.

Alana Beard, who is back on the court after missing last season because of an injury, agreed and disagreed with the premise based on the former Duke star’s eight years in the nation’s capital in the league.

“Just being here for eight seasons, I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the little time that we’ve had,” said Beard, who was scoreless in her near-24 minutes of playing time but still provided leadership for the Mystics.

“Credit a lot of that to the coaches and their coaching style,” Beard said of Trudi Lacey, who has taken over following a promotion from assistant to former coach Julie Plank.

“It’s huge advantage of her already knowing the players and personalities and how to handle each and every player,” Beard said. “She brought in players such as Kelly (Miller) and she’s familiar with her and knows how to coach her.”
Miller, a former Georgia star and whose twin sister Coco previously played for Washington, scored 12 points. Former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne picked up where she left off as one of the top developing stars. The native of Willingboro, N.J., near Philadelphia, had 15 points and nine rebounds.

Former Rutgers stsr Epiphanny Prince had 12 points for the Sky, while Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles scored 10 points.

Rookie point guard sensation Courtney Vandersloot from Gonzaga, the third overall pick in April’s draft, had seven points but also committed seven turnovers for Chicago.

Beard wants to quash the idea of last year’s success immediately translating to forward progress this season.

“Last year was last year,” she said. “Trudi is different. We still have a lot of new players and that’s a challenge but I think she’s done an unbelievable job helping everyone jell together and helping each other’s games.

“Yeah, we won two games, but we have a long, long way to go. But the sky is the limit for this team and I’m really excited to be a part of it.”

Langhorne also likes the chemistry that’s developing quickly.

“We’re still a little rusty but I think our young kids like (former Duke stars) Jazz (Jasmine Thomas) and Karima (Christmas) are going to keep getting better as time goes on and get used to the system, but I think we’re looking pretty good.

“Alana will get back to her old self and that’s going to be good. Against New York we got off to a sluggish start but today we played a lot better, especially defensively in the second half.”

-- Mel

Guru Report: Princeton's Addie Micir Top Pick Of Summer League Draft

(Guru's note: There is a WNBA item above this post covering the week's events and the Washington Mystics' exhibition game).

By Mel Greenberg

Though he has kept trying to retire as commissioner of the prominent now-called Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s Summer League, David Kessler was at the helm of his 18th season as commissioner for Thursday night’s draft integrating some 114 players onto rosters.

Kessler, a former batboy for the Phillies, confesses to know little about the sport, which might be why he keeps getting asked to stay aboard.

The league is sanctioned by the NCAA, which, however, does not want its name used as part of the title. It is the continuance of the same one that used to be run under the umbrella of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation.

There is still room for more players to sign up before the league opens play the middle of next month.

The session was conducted at the Kelly Bolish Gymnasium, home of the AAU Renegades, where the league will play on Tuesday and Thursday nights for the second straight season in Horsham after previously being located at Northeast High.

The Guru will post the rosters here in the next several days considering the inexact science that was used to complete the draft made it impossible to keep up with the various nuances.

For example, Division II and Division III players can be on the same squad across the board from the same school but only two Division I players can be together, except additional ones can be added if they are incoming freshmen.

There also was the attempt to provide balance among rosters and also to make sure each team had some decent height and backcourt players to go hand-in-hand.

Completed rosters will each go under a color such as Red in terms of team names. But for the purpose of the draft, for example, Team Moore was allowed to request a whole unit.

Team Moore is actually named for Ari Moore, the former Temple star who has a bunch of former Owls stars from the Dawn Staley era such as Stacey Smalls – the former La Salle assistant and Cheltenham star – Tynecia Pam, Ashley Morris, and Khadijah Bowens. Former Rhode Island star Shayla Johnson is also on the squad.

“You can get this all close to perfect but it falls apart of players don’t show up, especially enough to cause a forfeit,” Kessler said.

“Some (college) coaches are more interested in other things than wins in requesting who they want playing together. Sue Troyan sent 10 of her Lehigh players and she was specific about how they should be paired.”

West Chester and Philadelphia University both have entire units, while Holy Family has a large portion of players who will be on the same team.

Just the way things worked out because one team needed to catch up in terms of numbers, technically, one could say recently graduated Princeton star Addie Micir was the No. 1 pick, but again don’t think of this system anywhere near as what you see in the pro leagues.

Tigers junior post player to be Megan Bowen will also represent Princeton.

As noted there are players of the past who will play such as former Drexel star Michelle Maslowski, who was the Dragons’ all-time scorer until Gabriela Marginean came along through her graduation in 2010.

Villanova has a bunch of players in Jesse Carey, Laura Sweeney, Rachel Roberts, Megan Pearson, Emily Leer, and Devon Kane. Recently graduated La Salle star Ashley Gale will return this summer.

St. Joseph’s offers Katie Kuester, the league’s top player last summer; Erin Shields, Shelby Smith, and incoming freshman Mariah Lesure.

Launa Hochstetter was a major star at Valparaiso.

Incidentally, Katie Rutan from Ambler and Springside High who has starred at Xavier, is not listed, but on Thursday Maryland announced she will be transferring into the Terrapins with eligibility for her final two years beginning a season from now.

Lafayette also has a large contingent on rosters.

-- Mel

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guru Report: Delle Donne And Hampton Are World University Finalists

By Mel Greenberg

LAUREL, Md. --
So whoever thought the Guru would begin the gateway games to the WNBA summer by staying in Laurel, Md., before meeting new WNBA president Laurel Richie?

Actually, the Guru is hold up here after coming down late Wednesday night to be on the scene to avoid the morning hassles to get to Thursday's WNBA preseason game at the Verizon Center in nearby Washington for the 11:30 a.m. matchup between the host Mystics and Chicago Sky.

And it is going to be a long day anyway considering the Guru will be on another scene Thursday night back up in suburban Philadelphia for the draft to fill rosters from applications for the NCAA Women's Summer League, which gets under way in Horsham, Pa., next month.

But first before getting on the business at hand with this blog, How long was that Phillies game Wednesday night won in 19 innings by the locals against the Cincinnati Reds?

Here's one way to measure it.

The Guru took off around rush hour to head in this direction and stopped at the wonderful revamped rest stop below Wilmington, Del., to do some quick computer work and also see what hotels at a reasonable price might be available.

Then about 9 p.m., the Guru jumped back into the auto, plug the iPad into the car electric and radio system, flicked the MLB apps and then pulled in the Phillies home radio broadcast, which actually sounded better powered by the iPad then the same broadcast in the Phillies market, which would fade out anyway under normal circumstances.

Want to know how many Jimmy Buffett concerts the Guru has been able to listen to, likewise, with his Sirius/XM apps?

Anyhow, the game was in the eighth inning as the Guru continued South.

At about 11:15 p.m., the Guru pulled into Little Italy in downtown Baltimore to stop at Sabatino's, his famous late-night restaurant stop in that city when not doing hardshells (Hi Tonya and Way!), and set up the the iPad on the table to track the game on the graphics presentation from the MLB apps.

The Guru finished about 12:30 a.m., the game was in the 14th inning and he re-plugged the iPad back into the car and continued with the idea of needing to find a hotel close to Washington that wouldn't break the bank (or glut the Marriott points pile if needed to do an extraction.)

Of course, back up in Wilmington the Guru grabbed several copies of the Room Saver magazine with discount coupons (to have spares for the Springhill Marriott in New London, Conn., for the month of June).

Inning number 17 came round when the Guru pulled into the I95 rest stop above Laurel and began checking what was available. Sure enough a Comfort Inn was doable and accpeting the coupon. So the Guru jumped back into the car and as he neared the hotel entrance a fly ball ended the Phillies game. -- Good timing and that's how long that game was.

Now that most of the original copy in this post has been authored to entertaining you, Delaware junior-to-be Elena Delle Donne and Philadelphia native Keisha Hampton, who will also be a junior, were two of the 14 players named as finalists Wednesday for the 12-player roster spots to become the United States entry in the World University Games in China late this summer.

Since the Guru was traveling and so was Delle Donne to return home, the Guru held off attempts to conduct his own interview until Thursday on the way back to Philadelphia.

Hampton, of course, raised her profile with DePaul last season and made the winning foul shots that completed a rally against host Penn State sending the Blue Demons into the NCAA Sweet 16 at Temple's Liacouras Center before losing to Duke in the semifinals round.

For Delle Donne, the selection is another giant step back to the international arena she was headed in the summer of 2007 before suddenly deciding to take a break from basketball while considering her collegiate choices, which, as we all know by now became UConn and then unbecame UConn and became Delaware, but for volleyball, and finally a return to basketball under Blue Hens coach Tina Martin.

So with all that said, and the Guru has gone this direction out of local consideration, though Delle Donne's name still gets goggled a bunch every day from everywhere, here is the Delaware release for now, with quotes, announcing her navigated hurdle. To make the team, which will be coached by Iowa State's Bill Fennelly and his assistants -- Duquesne's Suzie McConnell-Serio and Georgetown's Terri Williams-Flournoy -- Delle Donne will only have to survive a round of two cuts, if his math is right at this usual ungodly hour of the Guru's continued daily life.

So here's the press release from Delaware, which is also on the school's website by now:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Following three days of trails with some of the top college-aged women’s basketball players in the country, University of Delaware standout Elena Delle Donne was named one of 14 finalists for USA’s Women's Basketball University Games Team.

“I was definitely happy my named was called first on the list,” said Delle Donne, the first Delaware player to be granted a University Games trial. “It felt incredible, I got chills right away. I’m just so excited and can’t wait to get back here and start working with the team. It’s a phenomenal group of girls and I’m just really excited to be a part of this.”

The 6-5 Delle Donne, a native of Wilmington, Del., has the potential to become the first player in the Colonial Athletic Association since Adrienne Goodson in 1993 to make the USA University Games Team. With 14 players currently on the roster, and only 12 on the final roster, Delle Donne will resume training with the team from July 31 until Aug. 8.

The USA University Games Team will fly to Shenzhen, China for the 2011 World University Games women’s basketball competition, which is set to run from August 14-21. The squad will be lead by Bill Fennelly, current head coach at Iowa State University. Joining Fennelly on the bench are Suzie McConnell-Serio (Duquesne) and Terri Williams-Flournoy (Georgetown).

“Everyone involved with Delaware basketball is very excited about this great accomplishment by Elena,” said Delaware head coach Tina Martin, who concluded her 15th season at the helm of the program. “We are thrilled that she will have the chance to represent not only the University of Delaware, but also the United States at the World Games.

Courtney Hurt, who is a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, a member of the CAA, joined Delle Donne at the trials, but did not make the finalist roster.

Joining Delle Donne on the finalist roster will be Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame), Jacki Gemelos (Southern California), Keisha Hampton (DePaul), Shenise Johnson (Miami), Glory Johnson (Tennessee), Lynetta Kizer (Maryland), Natalie Novosel (Notre Dame), Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford), Nneka Ogwumike (Stanford), Devereaux Peters (Notre Dame), Odyssey Sims (Baylor), Shekinna Stricklen (Tennessee), April Skyes (Rutgers).

Delle Donne, who played in just 22 games after being diagnosed with Lyme disease, still had an outstanding season, leading the Hens with 557 points, averaging 25.3 points an outing. She set a new Delaware mark, knocking down 52 straight free throws, boosting her season percentage to a school record 94.4 percent, and hit 166 of her 177 attempts.

Midway through the conference schedule, the sophomore became the fastest played in Delaware and CAA history to reach the 1,000-point benchmark, doing so in just 38 career games. She surpassed the 55-game mark set by James Madison University standout Dawn Evans, who made the World Games Team Trials in 2009. Delle Donne’s 38 game mark is the second-fewest games needed in NCAA history to reach 1,000 points.

For her efforts during the season, Delle Donne was named first team All-CAA while being selected as the league’s Player of the Week on four occasions. She was also selected as the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association John J. Brady Athlete of the Year.

-- Mel

Monday, May 23, 2011

Guru Update: AP Women's Poll History -- Changes In Latitudes

By Mel Greenberg

Well, since the Guru didn't make to Colorado Springs for the World University and U19 tryouts and since it is quiet for a few days in opting for some WNBA exhibition games this week, the Guru did some housekeeping on updating the AP women's poll history in terms of conference migrations and coaching movements for next season involving those who appeared in the rankings in the past.

This is more for the Guru's college media relations people who need to brag in their next media guides -- cyber or otherwise.But some of the rest of you have had interest in these matters as well as something to chat about so might as well the universal stop to give the updates.

First, for those of you who will need updated excel files from the entire AP polls here what was done. In terms of next season, Nebraska moves from the Big 12 to the Big 10 while Colorado moves from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10) along with Utah, which is moving from the Mountain West.

BYU also moves from the Mountain West but to the West Coast Conference if the Guru read the NCAA dialogue file correctly. Boise State moves from the WAC to the Mountain West, while Hawaii moves from the WAC to the Big West Conference, which isa return.

The PAC-12 will pick up 210 appearances in terms of current conference members with the arrival of Colorado and Utah, while the Big 10 picks up 63 rankings courtesy of Nebraska. A ranking of all those will come during a slow period later this summer.

The Big 12 loses a total of 221 rankings in the current members category. The Big West picks up 46 in the move from the Western Athletic Conference from Hawaii, while Boise brings 10 appearances from the WAC to the Mountain West.

BYU takes 18 rankings with its move from the Mountain West to the West Coast.

Next year, s in 2012-13, there will be more movement, notably for now TCU to the Big East.

Also, for now pending discussion, the Guru converted current membership rankings in the Pac-10 to a Pac-12 designation but left it the previous way in the Actual Conferences at the time of the ranking category.

As for coaches, everything is done rather someone who has had ranked teams being hired at Old Dominion to succeed Wendy Larry.

The Guru will run his tracking Microsoft word file, which comes from the Excel database file,at the end of this. But on quick notes, while they remain on the all-time list, Debbie Ryan (Virgina), Van Chancellor (LSU) from his second tour of coillegiate duty, and Wendy Larry depart from those in higher categories though Larry was just below the 25 cut-off on the all-time list. Obviously, there is an extending all-time list naming all those who had ranked teams in 35 years of AP voting history by first a coaching panel and from 194-95 on media members.

There had been a 50 cut-off list to name active coaches, so in that group people move up with the departure of Ryan, Chancellor and Larry. Additionally, Charli Turner Thorn, who is taking a one year sabbatical from Arizona is being kept in place, since she is expected to return, but without an active ranking number, though a footnote explains the situation.

Also, Dan Flanagan retired from New Mexico, where he had ranked teams. Three people moved into the 50 active coaches list at the bottom, though the ranking appearances are some -- Georgia Tech's MaChelle Joseph and Montana's Robin Selvig with 23 and, oddly, Nikki Caldwell at number 50 with 21 at UCLA, though she is listed with a footnote on the move to LSU.

So given that, here is some reading matter off the Word file of coaching appearances. The frontal information will be moved once activity begins next season but it stays for now as a matter of explanation.

AP Women's Poll Coaching Appearance History

By Mel Greenberg
Women’s Hoops Guru
(May 23, 2011)

Updated file post 2010-11 season heading into the 2011-12 season prior to first poll to account for coaching changes in Division I since end of the season.

All-time list of upper-ranked coaches remains the same other than footnoting those who are now at universities beyond those they guided to rankings and those not in collegiate competition because of moves to the WNBA, non-head coaching or their passing.

Teams in parentheses means coaches had ranked teams at all those schools with the last one being the current location or the last location when ranked and a footnote as to where they are now.

Those out collegiate coaching are removed from the active list but if they return in the future, as was the case when Van Chancellor came back from the WNBA to LSU, for example, they will be re-inserted with their totals in place from where they existed.

Additionally, with Tennessee a lock to appear in the preseason poll in October, the ranking of the Lady Vols will be the 600th for the school and Hall of Fame coach Pst Summitt.

And, of course, there will be updates if necessary for coaches adding last names through marriage or those who jettison through separation.

The next paragraph is the close-of-business header from last season but all coaching names will reflect where they are as of now on the as. There will be one more update, if necessary, depending on who lands the Old Dominion job.

Quick hits on AP poll (week 19 – for coaches’ appearances week No. 19 -- Final)
(This is 613th poll after week 19). (Records on pages through week 19 -- Final, 3/14/11)

Coaches With Three Ranked Teams
C. Vivian Stringer (Cheyney-85), (Iowa-155), (Rutgers-148), 388
Jim Foster (St. Joe-35), (Vanderbilt-164), (Ohio St.-147), 346
Gary Blair (Stephen F. Austin-79), (Arkansas-67), (Texas A&M-100), 246
Marianne Stanley (Old Dominion-141), (Southern Cal-24), (Stanford*-18), 183
Lin Dunn (Miami-2), (Mississippi-1), (Purdue-130), 133
Don Perrelli (Northwestern-52), (S. Conn.-20), (St. John’s-1), 73
Tom Collen (Colorado St.-34), (Louisville-17), (Arkansas-7), 58
Sharon Fanning-Otis (Kentucky-4), (Miss. St.-48), (Tenn.-Chattannoga-4), 56
Debbie Yow (Florida-2), (Kentucky-21), (Oral Roberts-1), 24

Kittie Blakemore, Scott Harrelson – West Virginia 8
Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore – Louisiana Tech 51
Jill Hutchison, Linda Fischer – Illinois St. 3
Jim Jarrett, Joyce Patterson – Georgia St. 1
Marianne Stanley, Amy Tucker – Stanford 18
Jim Bolla, Sheila Strike – UNLV 18

Coaches All Time Ranking Appearances
1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 599 (missed just 14 polls in entire AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 460
3. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 407
4. **-Jody Conradt, Texas – 395
5. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 388
6. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 367
7. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 346
8. **-Rene Portland (2 schools – St. Joseph, Penn St.) – 336
9. **-Debbie Ryan, Virginia – 328
10. **- Kay Yow, North Caro. St. – 326
11. **-Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech (51-shared with Sonja Hogg) – 325
12. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 312
13. **-Joe Ciampi, Auburn – 290
14. Gail Goestenkors (2 schools – Duke, Texas) – 287
15. **-Sue Gunter (2 schools – Stephen F. Austin, LSU) – 270
16. &&-Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
17. **-Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech – 264
18. **-Van Chancellor (2 schools – Mississippi, LSU) – 261
19. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 246
20. **-Chris Weller, Maryland - 227
21. **-Theresa Grentz (2 schools – Rutgers, Illinois) – 225
22. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame - 216
23. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma 193
24. **-Marianne Stanley (3 schools – Old Dominion, Southern Cal, Stanford*) – 183
25. **-Paul Sanderford (2 schools – W. Kentucky, Nebraska) – 182
26. **-Marian Washington, Kansas – 176
**-Not in college or not in as a head coach

Active Coaches-All Time AP Ranking Appearances

1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee – 599 (missed just 14 polls in entire AP history)
2. Andy Landers, Georgia – 460
3. Tara VanDerveer (2 schools – Ohio St., Stanford) – 407
4. C. Vivian Stringer (3 schools – Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers) – 388
5. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut – 367
6. Jim Foster (3 schools – St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio St.) – 346
7. Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina – 312
8. Gail Goestenkors, (2 schools – Duke, Texas) – 287
9. &&-Joan Bonvicini (2 schools – Long Beach, Arizona) - 267
10. Gary Blair, (3 schools – Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas, Texas A&M) – 246
11. Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame – 216
12. Sherri Coale, Oklahoma – 193
13. Kim Mulkey, Baylor – 169
14. Joanne P. McCallie (2 schools - Michigan St., Duke) – 147
15. Melanie Balcomb (2 schools – Xavier, Vanderbilt) – 145
16. Bill Fennelly, (2 schools – Toledo, Iowa St.) – 131
17. Kristy Curry (2 schools – Purdue, Texas Tech) – 124
18. Doug Bruno, DePaul – 121
18. Brenda Frese (2 schools, Minnesota, Maryland) – 121
20. %%- Joe McKeown (2 schools – New Mexico St., George Washington) – 116
21.)))-Chris Gobrecht (Washington) - 104
22.@@@@- Cathy Inglese (2 school, Vermont, Boston College) – 98
23. !!!- Jane Albright (2 schools – N. Illinois, Wisconsin) – 96
24. Debbie Patterson, Kansas St. – 91
25. Kurt Budke (2 schools -Louisiana Tech., Oklahoma St.) – 80
26. Pam Borton, Minnesota – 75
XX. Charli Turner Thorne, Arizona St. – 74 (On sabbatical in 2011-12)
27. ###-Joanne Boyle, California – 60
28. Tom Collen, (3 schools, Colorado St., Louisville, Arkansas) – 58
29. Sharon Fanning-Otis (3 schools – Tenn.-Chattanooga, Kentucky, Miss. St.) – 56
30. Sue Semrau, Florida St. – 55
31. ***-Kathy Olivier, UCLA 52
32. ^^^-Kevin McGuff, Xavier – 50
33. Mike Carey, West Virginia – 47
34. Bonnie Henrickson, (2 schools -- Virginia Tech, Kansas) – 45
35. Harry Perretta, Villanova – 44
36. Suzy Merchant, Michigan St. – 41
37. Jeff Mittie, TCU – 38
38. Agnus Berenato (2 schools – Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh) – 37
39. Lisa Stockton, Tulane – 34
40. $$$- June Daugherty (2 schools – Boise St.,Washington) – 32
41. Nell Fortner (2 schools – Purdue, Auburn) - 30
42. Terri Williams-Flournoy, Georgetown – 29
43. Lisa Bluder (Drake, Iowa) – 28
44. () - Dawn Staley (Temple) – 26
44. Connie Yori (Creighton, Nebraska) – 26
46. Sharon Versyp, Purdue – 25
46. Jeff Walz, Louisville – 25
48. MaChelle Joseph, Georgia Tech – 23
48. Robin Selvig, Montana – 23
50. ///-Nikki Caldwell (UCLA) - 21

&&-Active at Seattle; )))-Active at Yale; $$$-Active at Washington State.; %%-Active at Northwestern; () - Active at South Carolina; !!!-Active at Nevada; XX-Active at Seattle; @@@@-Active at Rhode Island; ()()-Active at Michigan; ###-Active at Virginia; ^^^-Active at Washington; ///-Active at LSU.

-- Mel

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Guru's Mixed Report: Old Dominion, Delaware, Rutgers, WNBA

(Guru update: Since posting this report the Guru has learned in the Carlene Mitchell item below that UCF aide Courtney Locke who is a former Rutgers player who the Guru speculated might join C. Vivian Stringer's staff at Locke's alma mater is actually going to be on Mitchell's staff at UCSB. Right pew wrong church on initial speculation. )

By Mel Greenberg

This is one of those rare times that WNBA commentary will mix with the collegiate world here because of wanting to save a little time.

The Guru starts with Delaware's Tina Martin checking in on Thursday afternoon returning inquiries about her former coaching colleague in the Colonial Athletic Association -- Old Dominion's Wendy Larry, who announced Tuesday she was stepping down after a 24-year run that included 17 straight conference titles in the conference.

One of those came at the expense of Martin's Blue Hens, who beat ODU twice during the regular season -- a rarity in terms of winning in Norfolk, Va. -- but then in the CAA title game blew a second-half lead and lost to the Lady Monarchs in overtime.

"Right now, you don't see a lot of comment yet because I think people are stunned that this has happened and Wendy probably isn't quite ready to talk to people, yet," Martin said.

"You know I've always had the greatest respect for her not only for what she has done with Old Dominion, but the way she fought for our sport to make improvements as she sat on all those committees she's been on," Martin continued.

"It's just a sad time for a lot of us right now to see this happen," Martin said. "She had 20 wins this year -- in my world that is successful. And then you talk about the 600 wins and all those CAA titles and the way she conducted herself.

"We don't know yet if we've seen the last of Wendy on the sidelines but if we have, she leaves a tremendous legacy. I think she is definitely worthy of induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame," Martin added.

The statement announcing Larry's departure from the coaching ranks at ODU said she will be at the school next season in another capacity.

While on the phone with Martin, there was a brief discussion about her star sophomore, Elena Delle Donne, who is among a group of collegiate standout hopefuls heading to Colorado Springs, Colo., this weekend for the trials for the World University Games team.

"I saw her today and gave her a hug and all that stuff and wished her well," Martin said. "It's tough competition, but Elena will have nothing to lose from the experience.

"Right now she is in the best shape and condition she's been in since coming to Delaware," Martin said of the former high school national player of the year out of nearby Ursuline Academy in Wilmington.

"Elena came back at the end of the season and really helped us out despite not really being all herself after suffering with the lyme disease," Martin said. "But she toughed it out."

Delle Donne, who otherwise might have been the leading scorer in the nation with a 25 plus ppg average, missed 12 games during the season but returned to lead the Blue Hens to upsets of Old Dominion in the CAA quarterfinals and UNC Wilmington in the semifinals before losing to James Madison in the championship.

"She's done all the things she had to do to get better and now she really looks great. We're checking on what you can and can't do in the NCAA as a coach because I'd like to go to China if she makes the team."

Stringer Looks For Help Again

One problem with being a successful coach with a skilled staff of assistants is that the aides become ripe for the pickings to be head coaches in their own right and then the hunt goes on for replacements.

And so it is that Naismith Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer needs to fill a spot vacated with Thursday's introduction of former Scarlet Knights Associate Head Coach Carlene Mitchell as the new coach at UC Santa Barbara.

Actually, the departure is the last major ripple -- depending on who comes aboard at Rutgers -- from Hall of Fame Virginia coach Debbie Ryan stepping aside after a long successful run with the Cavaliers.

Ryan was succeeded by Joanne Boyle, who left California and was replaced by her former associate head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who left UC Santa Barbara.

Mitchell played at Kansas State under Brian Agler, who is now the coach of the regining WNBA champion Seattle Storm.

Agler predicted several years ago that Mitchell would one day become a head coach in her own right and had all the makings to be successful.

Several years ago Stringer lost former associate head coach Jolette Law to Illinois. She also lost Marianne Stanley previously to the WNBA, then as an assistant in Los Angeles. Stanley has since returned to the Washington Mystics as an assistant with the franchise she once was a head coach.

When Law left, Mitchell, who oversaw recruiting, was promoted to associate head coach.

Mitchell might bring more Rutgers blood to Southern California -- UCSB is quite the campus locale by the way -- in former Scarlet Knights player Heather Zurich as an assistant, according to a source who knows Mitchell well.

The comment, incidentally, was more in the form of speculation.

So who's out there to join a staff that might have a Rutgers women's squad ready to return to the form of the middle of the last decade?

Well, one person who could get an interview is former Scarlet Knight Courtney Locke, a native of Texas, who after graduation returned to the Lone Star State for a two-year stint as an aide at Texas-San Antonio before spending the last three seasons at Central Florida.

Locke's recent duties centered on recruiting and in two of those UCF surprised by winning Conference USA titles.

If hired, Locke would become the third former Rutgers player who was under Stringer on the roster, joining Chelsea Newton and Tasha Pointer.

Several years ago when Stringer was determining a hire, though she went elsewhere, she was enamored a bit of the work by Tory Verdi, who had been on the staffs of the WNBA Connecticut Sun and Columbia before moving on to Nebraska for five seasonns, including last season's all-time run by the Huskers.

Verdi just spent his first season as an assistant at Kansas to Bonnie Henrickson.

It's not known whether Stringer might try to snare Stanley back, considering how well the post players performed when Stanley was on the staff during the run to the NCAA title game in 2007. Nor is it known whether Stanley would be interested considering there's always the chance WNBA head coaching openings will occur at given moments in time.

Stay tuned.

WNBA: Sun Hits A Grand In Preseason Opener

On Thursday morning the Guru overslept and missed attending the New York Liberty media day in Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center, which will be home to the charter WNBA team the next three summers while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations.

For those who haven't been following the tale -- the Garden will take that long to get done because construction can't be executed in the winter while the NBA Knicks and NHL Rangers perform along with men's collegiate basketball and, yes, women's basketball in the form of a St. John's game or two and, of course, the Magggie Dixon Classic women's doubleheader in December.

Anyhow, there was still plenty of time, however, for the Guru to zip back to Connecticut for the Sun's first exhibition, which was against China, but more so not all the top players from the national team.

Somewhere there's an observation to be made in all this but what happens when you take one former Tennessee player and surrounded her with four other starters with UConn pedigrees -- you go on to a big lead and win the game easily 101-63 in the Mohegan Sun Arena before a lively crowd of more than 4,000.

Kara Lawson was the Tennessee alumna though somewhere there is a comment she has UConn blood in her DNA off her excellent work as a women's commentator and studio analyst for ESPN, which is located in Bristol, Conn.

The four ex-Huskies are Tina Charles -- last year's rookie of the year -- Asjha Jones, who appeared well healed from last season's sidelined injury, third-year pro Renee Montgomery and newcomer and second-year pro Kalana Greene.

The latter played for the New York Liberty, helping the team to a franchise-record 22 wins and a tie for first with Washington in the East. The Libs beat the defending champion Indiana Fever in the conference semifinals but then fell to the Atlanta Dream in the conference finals.

Next week the Sun will play the San Antonio Silver Stars twice -- once in Connecticut on Wednesday and then Friday at the Mohegan Sun's other establishment by the same name in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Greene talked about being traded.

"Yeah, it was great coming here knowing so many players and knowing the system, but it was tough leaving New York because, first of all, you're in New York, and we did a lot of great things last year."

Greene, by the way, was overseas when the trade came down on draft day with Sydney Colson of the newly-crowned NCAA champion Texas A&M Aggies being taken by Connecticut and then dealt for Greene.

The former Huskies post player said she was officially informed of the deal in a call from MSG Sports head Scott O'Neil, the person who ousted longtime general manager (actually her title was higher) Carol Blazejowski and replaced her with John Whisenant, who also became coach to fill the vacancy left by the departed Anne Donovan, who is at Seton Hall.

Whisenant held similar dual roles with the former Sacramento Monarchs, who he guided to a WNBA title in 2004.

Ex-CBS Anchor Katie Couric Named 2011 WNBA Inspiration Award Recipient

Katie Couric, who finished Thursday night a longtime stint as the first solo female news anchor at one of the major commercial TV networks, is the 2011 WNBA Inspiration Award winner and will be honored Tuesday at a lunchoen in New York at which former all-time WNBA great Lisa Leslie, who played for the Los Angeles Sparks and is now retired, will receive the CieAura Pioneer Award.

Past winners are former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (2006), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Good Morning America's Robin Roberts (ABC), political commentary Cokie Roberts and US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Contract talks between Couric and CBS broke down in April. Some reports have her heading to ABC, potentially to host a talk show next year.

-- Mel


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Washington Looks To Build On Landmark Season

(Guru's note: A blog below this one in blogspot has some react from Washington Mystics assistant Marianne Stanley, a former Old Dominion coach, on the departure of Wendy Larry, her successor and former assistant. If you got here in melgreenberg.com, click the mel's blog tab to get to the full list of posts).

By Mel Greenberg

If being in the red necessitated front office changes in the WNBA Washington Mystics over the winter involving the departure of former general manager Angela Taylor and former coach Julie Plank after the franchise’s best season in history, the color transformed into a positive approach Wednesday afternoon as players spouted new uniforms with a new scheme during the media day activities at the Verizon Center.

In a way to get closer to black ink in the ledger, the Mystics last month became the fifth WNBA team to have a sponsor’s name on its jersey, expanding the previously existing partnership with Inova Health System with the focus of the two organizations aimed at fighting childhood obesity and also highlight women’s health care services.

In a contentious teleconference last winter Mystics top executive Sheila Johnson, who heads the WNBA unit under the umbrella of Ted Leonsis that includes the NBA Wizards and NHL Capitals, discussed the economics consideration in announcing the promotion of assistant Trudi Lacey, a former North Carolina State star, to fill both coaching and general manager positions.

Though the moves did not sit well with the fan base at the time when it seemed that the Washington revolving door over the years might have finally found stability, Wednesday was about a roster, which also included key changes, ready to move forward and build on last season’s success when the Mystics tied the New York Liberty for first place in the East and earned the No. 1 seed.

“Everything is wonderful,” Johnson said when asked about the recent hire of marketing expert Laurel Richie to become the WNBA’s third president.

Richie officially went on the payroll Monday.

And actually, in terms of the roster, there is much reason for optimism.

Though Katie Smith and Lindsey Harding have moved on to other teams and Monique Currie won’t see action this time around due to an offseason knee injury, the color Blue is subtly entrenched as in Blue Devils, the nickname for Duke University, one of the traditional women’s collegiate basketball powerhouses.

If it’s Currie’s turn to sit out, another former Duke star – Alana Beard – is ready to go following her year on the sidelines.
“You want to be out there and be part of it but they did an amazing job,” Beard said of the way the Mystics were able to perform despite her absence.

“You know sometimes it takes situations like that for everyone else to blossom. Of course, you want to be out there but you understand you can’t.”

Though it seemed surprising that some of the local media referenced the Mystics’ current notoriety as “flying under the radar,” considering their 22-12 run across the regular season after years of mostly sub-.500 ball, Beard could buy into the perception.

“There’s so much parity in this league – we’re a target, we’re the defending champs and we’re a target – but everybody’s gunning for that same position.

“We had a lot of changes so maybe we are flying under the radar and people aren’t expecting us to do as good as last year but every night in this league is a war.”

Other newcomers from the Duke family are Jasmine Thomas, who came in a trade involving Smith a few weeks after being picked by Seattle in April’s draft, and rookie Karima Christmas, picked in the second round by Washington.

It’s an extra homecoming for Thomas, who lives in nearby Fairfax, Va., and was an intern with Washington last summer.

And how does this Duke accent sit with former nearby Maryland star Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro, N.J., outside Philadelphia, who rose to all-star status and helped beat Duke for the NCAA title in 2006 with Mystics and former Terrapins teammate Marissa Coleman?

“That’s all history,” Langhorne smiled. “We’re actually an ACC team overall,” she referenced others in the organization with backgrounds from schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Lacey played at North Carolina State as did veteran Chasity Melvin, who was a rookie with the Philadelphia Rage in the former American Basketball League before moving to the WNBA and appearing with several organizations.

Melvin talked about the numerous coaching changes over the years in Washington, jokingly saying that accusations of inconsistency in her performance might have had to do with the difference systems in the Mystics game plans.

Kelly Miller, who helped destroy Washington in the first round of the playoffs with Atlanta, has now been dealt to the team her twin sister Coco once dwelled. Both are Georgia grads as is second-year pro Ashley Houts and rookie Angel Robinson.

Victoria Dunlap, a defensive ace from Kentucky, was Washington’s first round pick to fortify the frontcourt. Her brother King Dunlap is an offensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL.

Former Xavier star Ta’Shia Phillips was picked by Atlanta in the draft and then dealt to the Mystics.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Phillips said of the hectic activities on draft day at ESPN’s headquarters at Bristol, Conn.

“I was actually sitting at dinner with my family and got a text message from a friend: `Congrats, you’re going to Washington.’ I said, `I’m going to Atlanta.’ He said `You just got traded.’

“I’m telling my whole family and they’re like, `Wow, really.’

Nicky Anosike, a former Tennessee star, came to Washington in a trade just before draft day after playing last season with the Minnesota Lynx.

Former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon, who was a defensive force in the backcourt last season, loves the energy this team brings.

She is also one of the many around the league thrilled with the situation this year that has enabled more players to get to training camp earlier from playing overseas.

“The rookies are learning quick. Towards the end of the season, it was more of a `We belong’ type thing and now we want to get further in the playoffs then last year,” Ajavon said. “It starts here in practice with the little things and everything else will work out.

“It’s a great thing (earlier arrivals), it allows us to mesh more and quicker. I was one of the ones who came late from Turkey last year so it was pretty tough just getting into things and figuring things out but this year everyone is in camp and everyone’s working hard.”

Ajavon will play even closer to home at times this year beginning with next week’s preseason game with the New York Liberty, who will play the next three summers at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations.

Though Taylor is gone, the attempt to remain fan friendly continues. Front office executive Greg Bibb said the Mystics are making a concerted effort to provide daily training camp coverage via the team’s website.

-- Mel

Guru Report: Marianne Stanley In Praise Of Former ODU Coach Wendy Larry

(Guru's note: A blog above this one covers WNBA Washington Mystics media day. On to the Liberty event in Newark, N.J., on Thursday and back to the Conn. Sun for the exhibition with China.)

By Mel Greenberg

A day after longtime Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry stepped down, a tribute was paid to her here by WNBA Washington Mystics assistant coach Marianne Stanley,who preceded Larry at the Norfolk, Va., school, and who just returned from helping to coach overseas in Russia.

The remarks came during sessions with reporters during the annual media day at the Verizon Center.

Stanley did not want to comment on the actual move at ODU, saying she wanted to talk to Larry and having had been overseas was unfamiliar with the recent controversy when first-year athletic director Wood Selig refused to pursue a contract extension to Larry’s deal, which expires next season.

It was Stanley, a member of the Immaculata AIAW national champions from suburban Philadelphia in the early 1970s, who brought Larry, a former ODU player, into the fold on the staff when Stanley was coaching the Lady Monarchs in their heyday of three national titles – including 1985 in the NCAA.

“Wendy has demonstrated a tremendous love for Old Dominion University first and foremost for all the student athletes that have come through the university,” Stanley said. “She’s also shown her tremendous experience and capability as a coach. No one is more loyal to ODU than Wendy Larry.

“Of course, I join all her colleagues and friends in wishing her well in her next endeavor. It’s nice to know she will still be a careful steward of Old Dominion basketball in her new role in the university,” Stanley added.

“I don’t know if anyone else has the record than Wendy in terms of conference championships (17 straight CAA and several others in the Sun Belt) throughout her career. She’s demonstrated over and over again at being successful while making sure the student athletes still get a great experience.

“She was invaluable as an assistant when I was there and no one could have been a better steward of the program throughout the years that she was there. I wish her all the best.”

Larry succeeded Stanley in 1987 after Stanley returned home to Philadelphia and begin a brief stint coaching Penn before moving to coach Southern Cal, where she recruited future WNBA great Lisa Leslie.

-- Mel

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guru Report: Wendy Larry Steps Down At Old Dominion

(Guru’s Note: There is a WNBA blog under this from Connecticut Sun Media Day on Monday. If you are reading this in melgreenberg.com, just hit the mel’s blog tab on the left to get to blogspot and the entire group.)

By Mel Greenberg

The NCAA women’s basketball offseason coaching shuffle ramped up again Tuesday afternoon with the announcement that veteran Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry was stepping down and taking another job at the Norfolk, Va., school.

Larry will assist the Office of Institutional Advancement at ODU for athletic fund raising projects, and Alumni events, according to the official release by the school’s athletic department.

The move by the 56-year-old Larry, a former player for the Lady Monarchs, adds to wild revolving door among Division I schools in Virginia that has been swinging since the end of the season, all not without controversy.

Larry’s departure comes after a recent public scrum with first-year Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig, who would not go to the Monarchs board to support a contract extension requested by Larry.

One of the disputes is Selig’s claim that next season would have been the last year of Larry’s current contract, though she claimed she had two years remaining under the deal that was negotiated with former longtime athletic director Jim Jarrett.

Though Old Dominion has missed the NCAAs the last three seasons, one of Larry’s incoming recruits – Kaneisha Atwater, a guard from Florida (Palm Beach County) – was just named a Parade High School All-American, the first for the program since Allie Spence in 1999.

The school said a nationwide search would begin immediately, which now makes two openings in Division I along with the one at UC Santa Barbara to replace Lindsay Gottlieb, who returned to California replacing Joanne Boyle, who left the Golden Bears for Virginia.

The Gauchos on the West Coast late Tuesday night denied a report earlier in the day that Westmont College coach Kirsten Moore had been offered and accepted the UCSB job. Apparently Rutgers associate head coach Carlene Mitchell was also on campus recently for an interview.

Meanwhile, Boyle’s return to the state where she had previously coached Richmond before heading to the West Coast was part of a series of changes at Division I schools in Virginia.

Her arrival marked the replacement of Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan, a longtime coach of the Cavaliers who will remain at the university but whose exit did not appear to be totally voluntary on Ryan’s behalf.

Unlike some, but not all, other departures raising eyebrows over the past year of notables in both the WNBA and in the NCAA, Larry was at least given a 21-gun salute by ODU in the school’s press release.

She was one of the first to women to receive an athletic scholarship at ODU, was an assistant to Hall of Famer Marianne Stanley with the Lady Monarchs and later returned to replace Stanley in 1987 and remain at the helm through this past season.

Larry’s record is 608-234 overall and was 559-203 in 24 seasons at her alma mater, including a string of 17 straight Colonial Athletic Association titles after ODU joined the conference – a run that was snapped in the CAA semifinals by Drexel in 2009.

This past season the Lady Monarchs were 20-11 overall and 14-4 and a second-place tie with N.C.-Wilmington during the regular season.

“When people sit down and actually read over Wendy’s accomplishments, they will truly appreciate what she did,” said James Madison coach Kenny Brooks, who’s team beat ODU for last year’s CAA crown and Delaware this past season.

“To win those titles 17 straight times is truly remarkable,” Brooks added.

Several more of Larry’s coaching colleagues couldn’t be reached after the official announcement but updates will occur when comments are made.

Under her guidance, ODU appeared in 20 NCAA tournaments, highlighted by an upset of championship-favorite Stanford in the 1997 national semifinals before falling to Tennessee in the title game.

That team featured one of ODU’s all-time women’s players in future WNBA All-Star Ticha Penicheiro.

Larry, who paced the sidelines with a towel over either of her shoulders, has also served as president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and been a voter in both the Associated Press women’s poll when coaches were on the voting panel and also with the USA Today/ESPN poll.

This past season, in which ODU was given its earliest CAA ouster ever when Delaware won in the quarterfinals, Larry became the 20th all-time coach to reach 600 victories, right behind Philadelphia University’s Tom Shirley at the Division II school.

Villanova’s Harry Perretta will begin next season two wins away at 598, all with the Wildcats.

“Wendy and Lady Monarch basketball are synonymous,” Selig said in the statement. “Wendy has been a consistent thread, as a student-athlete and coach, throughout much of our program’s national success. So many people I have met associate ODU with our highly successful women’s basketball program. We can all thank Wendy for the role she has played in helping with the national branding of our women’s basketball program.”

Selig was previously athletic director at Western Kentucky and served on the NCAA women’s basketball tournament committee. He also has worked in Virginia’s athletic department.

Larry, who has loved residing at her home in nearby Virginia Beach when not involved with her sport, is a native of Bloomingdale, N.J.

It’s conceivable she could rejoin the coaching ranks elsewhere after next season.

“I was truly blessed to have coached hundreds of student-athletes who wore the Lady Monarch uniform with pride during my tenure at ODU,” Larry said in a statement in the school’s announcement. “I am forever grateful that the late President Marchello and Dr. Jim Jarrett took a chance on me and brought me home.”

As for her replacement, if Old Dominion stays in-house, assistant Nikita Lowry Dawkins, a former Ohio State star, would be a leading candidate.

Hall of Famer and fabled former Lady Monarch all-American Nancy Lieberman, who made more history as a woman coaching the Texas Legends near Dallas in the men’s NBA Development League, is always after a new challenge and might have interest.

Selig has been appreciative when at Western Kentucky of the work by Hilltoppers coach Mary Taylor Cowles, whom he hired at her alma mater by promoting her from associate head coach.

Former assistant Karen Barefoot had success at Elon this past season.

Besides the University of Virginia, there have been other changes throughout the state – Virginia Tech let go Beth Dunkenberger, a move widely expected but the Hokies surprised with her replacement tapping former Boston U. men’s coach Dennis Wolff from the men’s side at the school.

Beth Cunningham stayed put at Virginia Commonwealth but her name was mentioned as a potential candidate during the searches at Atlantic 10 school Charlotte and Xavier.

-- Mel

Guru's WNBA Report: Connecticut Sun Offers New Wrinkles With Youthful Faces

(Guru Note: There is a blog above this one on the Wendy Larry resignation from Old Dominion.)

By Mel Greenberg

In terms of differentiation, Monday’s WNBA Connecticut Sun media day was more about the new floor at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The floorshow will come later as coach Mike Thibault spends the next three weeks preparing for a run that hopefully means breaking the two-season playoff drought.

There will be two sneak previews however, Thursday night against China four days into camp, and next Wednesday against against the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Actually, there will be a third in Wilkes/Barre in upstate Pennsylvania in the Poconos at the Mohegan Sun’s other casino-entertainment establishment.

“We thought about doing it a year ago but it’s just another way of extending the brand,” said general manager Chris Sienko, a front office executive veteran dating back to the days of the American Basketball League in Connecticut.

Sienko, incidentally, called new WNBA president Laurel Richie a “great hire and I believe she’s going to do great things,” he said of the former marketing honcho previously with the Girl Scouts.

A year older overall, the Sun is still one of the youngest in the WNBA, though when it comes to savvy in the front office the staff under Sienko, Connecticut is among the league leaders.

But even there mistakes can happen, such as one in which the rights to Australian guard Erin Phillips, who starred several years ago before suffering a knee injury, slipped away over the winter due to a technicality.

“Let’s deal with it, tell people we’re sorry, and move on to the next thing,” Thibault explained during an interview session in which he said it is not worth trying to hide what went down.

(Read Mike DiMauro’s Tuesday column in the New London Day for the nitty gritty).

Phillips ultimately signed with the WNBA defending champion Seattle Storm and then was sent to the Indiana Fever as part of the three-team deal involving Washington in which veteran all-star Katie Smith moved from the Mystics to Seattle.

Explaining to one reporter not familiar with Sun personnel, Thibault explained Phillips would not likely had been here this season but until the error occurred she was being discussed as part of a trade Connecticut was working on.

Thibault didn’t say what the bubbling deal was, but the Guru wonders whether it might have been with Tulsa, owners of the No. 2 pick who used the premium choice to select young Australian post player Elizabeth Cambadge to join the Shock.

The Guru had heard from elsewhere in the WNBA during the winter that Connecticut might be trying to get the pick from Tulsa.

That aside and, as Thibault suggested, moving forward, the statistics off last season tell the story of the Sun’s near-miss from making the Eastern Conference playoffs after finishing 17-17.

“How we mature in the (past) offseason and throughout training camp will determine our fate,” said Thibault of a squad consisting of four former UConn stars – Tina Charles, the rookie of the year last season; Asjha Jones, back from an injury; third-year pro Renee Montgomery; and forward Kalana Greene, a second-year pro obtained on draft day in a deal with the New York Liberty that sent rookie Texas A&M Sidney Colson off the NCAA champions down to, well, you know where.

Another new face, picked in last year’s draft from Kansas, is Danielle McCray who was sidelined the entire way because of a knee injury her senior season with the Jayhawks. There’s more in a bit on McCray, but back to the coach.

“Seven players trying to learn to play together last year – we’ll have a couple of new ones but the majority of our team now had a year to figure things out,” Thibault said.

“I don’t like excuses but I know there’s a reality,” he continued. “And when we got Tina Charles (picked number one overall) in the draft last year, the excitement was, `Boy Tina Charles is going to make them one of the best teams in the league.’

“Well, I think back to when (former UConn all-American) Diana (Taurasi) went to Phoenix. Well, it took her four years to make the playoffs,” Thibault explained.

“When you’re the first pick in the draft, you’re the first pick for a reason, you’re going to a team that needs help,” he went on. “And it’s not perfect. We just need to grow up.

“My sense is talking to our players in the offseason, going to see them overseas, and doing all that is we’ve done that. But it has to translate on the court,” Thibault said. “We need to be a better road team. Up until a year ago, we’ve always been a pretty good road team.

“Our lack of being a good road team killed us last year. You have to be in the ballpark of .500 on the road if you are a good team. And we won only four games. We lost five games on the road on the last possession or next-to-last possession.

“Those are killers. Turnover here. Most of them were on turnovers or a bad foul or something and those things kill you. You win two more of those, you’re in the playoffs and everyone says, `Wow what a great year.’

“The good part of that is we couldn’t hide it. When you don’t make the playoffs you are forced as an organization and as players to self-exam.

“And I think that it has been a long offseason and the players all known they have to take ownership for us to get better. Staying healthy – Asjha and Kara (Lawson) – Asjha is a crucial part of that,” he said also agreeing with the comment that having a core group back is also quite helpful.

Sandrine Gruda, however, will stay overseas in preparation for next year’s Olympics as will Anete Jekabsone-Zagota.

“Knowing where somebody wants the ball, knowing you can’t take a chance in this kind of situation late in the game,” Thibault pointed out some of the measuring sticks.

“I think there’s a heightened importance on making every possession more valuable – road games, in particular, have to be played more like playoff games. You can’t have throwaway possessions on both ends of the floor and I think that when you sit down with players and say, `Here’s what happened,’ and you say, `You’re right and I, me, we, can’t afford to make the same mistakes.”

Thibault wants to bring Jones alone cautiously.

“Training camp is not killing everybody and do all your conditioning the first two days of camp because all you’re going to be is sore and then you can’t get things done the next couple of days.

“I just want to make sure at the end of three weeks we’re headed in the right direction and not be all beat up.”

One thing Thibault likes is the later start to training camp this year allowing more players returning from winter competition overseas to offer a more cohesive start at the outset.

“It’s a huge help. When you have players coming in every three or four days into training camp or into the season, you have to re-teach. I don’t think I’m going to have much of that this year. You kind of can go forward.”

Thibault is thrilled with McCray’s addition.

“If it wasn’t for the knee injury last year, she would have been the second or third pick in the draft,” he said of the choice Thibault got to make further down the line knowing she wouldn’t play in 2010.

Griffin Ahead of the Learning Curve

Former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin who led the Huskers to a landmark season in 2009-10 arrived to Connecticut as a rookie a year ago via draft day trade with the Minnesota Lynx for the Sun’s 2011 first-round pick.

For a while that deal caused much angst in these parts because when the Sun failed to make the playoff it became a second lottery pick for Minnesota and two shots at UConn senior Maya Moore.

However, the Lynx got the number one with their own lotto pick but were able to use the Sun pick to take Xavier’s Amber Harris as fourth overall.

Griffin played well most of the way but coming into camp this time is a little less daunting having the knowledge and experience of a summer in the WNBA.

“Oh my gosh, the world isn’t spinning quite as quickly this year,” Griffin said. “I’m able to kind of not take myself so seriously and just kind of sit back, relax, and learn. Of course, it’s competitive, and it’s going to be challenging, as all training camps are and should be, but this year definitely, things are – instead of learning them, it’s re-learning them, which is nice.

“It’s not breaking college habits. It’s not trying to learn a new system. It’s like, `Oh, I remember doing that, I remember seeing that,’” so it’s a lot easier.”

Griffin is thrilled with Jones back in the fold after the former UConn’s star injury.

“She’s teaching me a lot of things and I’m really happy playing against her through training camp,” Griffin said.

The Coach’s Daughter

Though she liked Stephanie Gaitley who led Monmouth to one of its best season in years, Carly Thibault, the WNBA coach’s daughter who helps the Sun in the summer, is thrilled with new Hawks coach Jenny Palmateer, a former North Carolina State star and assistant to late Wolfpack great Kay Yow and who also assisted Hall of Famer Anne Donovan at Seton Hall last winter.

“She said she wants to run a lot so you know me, that suits me fine,” Thibault said, also adding she had know problems under Gaitley’s emphasis on defense.

Gaitley took the opening at Fordham after the season. Thibault is a junior next season at the central New Jersey school.

Philly Talk With DeMaya

Sun veteran DeMaya Walker is a former Virginia star who now lives in Texas but grew up in Mount Holly Township, N.J., near Philadelphia, and also starred at Rancocas Valley High.

Walker came to the Sun off the dispersal draft of the roster of the former Sacramento Monarchs.

“It’s funny, living in Texas, those folks have no idea what tri-state means,” Walker said, engaging in some Philly nuances.
“I mean, we know tri-state, right? Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware.”

After giving Walker a toll-saving way to visit her mom back home, the Guru asked Walker what she thought of her former coach Debbie Ryan’s departure from the Cavaliers.

“I didn’t even know when it happened,” Walker said. “I was down in Australia and when I’m there, I don’t know much about here unless someone tells me.

“But coach Ryan. Listen. I owe my life to the woman. She made me. She gave the scholarship offer and I wouldn’t be here today doing all this if it wasn’t for her.”

WNBA Gets Hotel Sponsor

Hotel Indigo, the upscale brand of Intercontinental Hotels, has become a marketing partner of the league.

The release said that part of the deal is WNBA teams will stay at IHG hotels for all games throughout the season.

Guru aside: This is kind of interesting in that WNBA visitors at the Mohegan Sun Hotel here have been given the perk of free rooms since the Connecticut Sun’s arrival in 2003.

But that said, let’s search the site and as a fan-friendly move of the Guru, here’s a guess at where WNBA teams could stay in each city in terms of closest to arena or airport:


Newark, N.J. – Holiday Inn (airport) or Crowne Plaza in Elizabeth
Washington – The Willard (1440 Pa Ave.), The Hamilton (14th St. NW), Crowne Plaza (Wash. Natl. Airport).
Uncasville, Ct – Holiday Inn – Norwich; Candlewood Suites (Hartford Airport)
Atlanta – Hotel Indigo (downtown); Crowne Plaza (Airport)
Chicago – Doug Bruno’s place (a little Guru humor); Crowne Plaza (O’Hare), Indigo – Gold Coast neighborhood.
Indianapolis – Crowne Plaza (Union Station or Airport) Indigo (Fishers Indys Uptown


Seattle – Jayda’s house (more humor); Crowne Plaza (downtown); Holiday Inn (airport)
Los Angeles – Crowne Plaza (Airport)
Phoenix – Crowne Plaza (Airport), Hotel Indigo (Scottsdale)
San Antonio – Hotel Indigo (at Alamo or Riverwalk) – Think All-Star HQ also.
Minneapolis – Crowne Plaza (downtown or airport)
Tulsa – It’s a Holiday Inn world.

In terms of Indigo, other than those listed: Closest California – San Diego; Closest Newark – Rahway or Baskings Ridge; Closest Uncasville – Boston; Closest Seattle – Vancouver opening soon; Closest Tulsa – Houston or Dallas; closest Minneapolis – Chicago; closest Washington – New Jersey.

OK, wil refine when more knowledge obtained. Off to Washington in the AM for afternoon Mystics media day.

-- Mel

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guru Report: WNBA Season 15 Eve Has Arrived !

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – A difference between Christmas Eve and the onset of the WNBA summer is that the one that occurs in December is an overnight experience in anticipation of the many gifts that will be opened at sunrise while in the other coaches have the next several weeks to immediately begin playing with their special delights in hopes of leading to success when the actual months of competition begin the night of June 3.

Training camps are under way and associated media days will be held, including the one here at the Mohegan Sun casino-entertainment establishment Monday afternoon, which will include rolling out a new floor in front of season ticket holders.

Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault hopes a year of experience added to the youthful presence of 2010 will mean snapping a two-season absence from the playoffs that had been an annual Sun event since the franchise was brought North after the NBA Orlando Magic organization jettisoned its WNBA sister Miracle prior to 2003.

Another former member of the UConn powerhouse family returns to the Nutmeg State in second-year pro Kalana Greene, who arrived via draft-day deal that sent Sun pick Sydney Colson off the NCAA champion Texas A&M Aggies to the New York Liberty.

To focus on the actual conference races in the East and West at this moment would only mean to cause a redundancy several weeks from now when the WNBA season is actually ready to takeoff from the launch pad.

Still, there are things to discuss in terms of overall storylines and individual team situations where camps will be about rookies trying to force their way into veteran-laden 11-player rosters beyond the newcomers from the first round of April’s draft with the best shots at making the grade.

There are also some golden oldies in Sheryl Swoopes and Betty Lennox who are attempting comebacks after signing deals with the Tulsa Shock.

With a series of exhibition games primarily next week, including one here Thursday night against the Chinese women nationals, the object will be to get everyone battle ready.

One special event will occur in England where on May 29 in Manchester the WNBA runnersup Atlanta Dream will play an exhibition against Great Britain a year ahead of the country hosting the 2012 Olympics.

Former WNBA All-Start Dawn Staley, retired but coaching South Carolina in the NCAA, recently made a trip to help promote the international meeting next week.

In a change, early action should be improved over summers past for no other reason than a later opening day this time around is allowing more players to arrive at camps closer to the start dates following their winter competing overseas.

Year 15 will mark special events at WNBA home office level, highlighted by the All-Star Game’s first appearance in San Antonio, Texas, in late July where the Alamo City is hoping to add another memorable women’s experience to one in April 2010 when the NCAA Women’s Final Four was held.

For the third time the WNBA has a new leader, in this instance straight from the business world where marketing wonk Laurel Richie was plucked from the Girl Scouts to succeed Donna Orender and undertake a mission aimed at keeping turnstiles spinning all the way to the title game in September.

Her first official day on the payroll happens to be today (Monday).

No question last season was the most competitive ever, though for a change it was the East that shone more. Still, though the West was a sea of mediocrity with losing records abound, the dominance at the top by the Seattle Storm continued straight to the championship and a second title after a hard-fought series with the three-year-old Atlanta franchise.

The Storm has all its mainstays back, including Australian star Lauren Jackson and former UConn great Sue Bird, but the West is expected to be much more productive than 12 months ago.

Eyes are always on former Connecticut star Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, perhaps the top player in the world, but after a winter of controversy that featured a suspension that was eventually recanted in the Turkish League over alleged use of a banned sleeping aid, the actual rest during her penalty may have done her well.

Taurasi was clearly the top player in the recent three-day USA Senior National Women’s Team training camp in Las Vegas, according to reports from those who attended the workouts at UNLV.

Training camp also means introductory time again in terms of new coaches and in the present go-round Dan Hughes hired himself back to the sidelines in San Antonio, former LSU coach Pokey Chatman is running the Chicago Sky, Trudi Lacey has been promoted at the Washington Mystics, and John Whisenant, former general manager-coach of the defunct Sacramento Monarchs, now holds the same dual roles with the New York Liberty.

When it comes to new delights, no one could be more giddier than Minnsota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, the former La Salle star in Philadelphia, who is expected to transcend her squad from 2010’s injury-riddled frustrations to a championship challenge.

Why not? In early winter the lotto ping-pong balls were nicer to her than the favored and forlorn Tulsa Shock in sending the No. 1 draft pick rights in Minnesota’s direction.

That meant Maya Moore, the Connecticut superstar, while a draft-day trade with the Connecticut Sun of a year ago also meant owning the fourth overall No. 1 pick and Reeve cashed in selecting former Xavier post player sensation Amber Harris after Chicago picked Gonzaga all-America guard Courtney Vandersloot.

“We would have still been happy if Amber had gone to Chicago and we picked (Ohio State all-American) Jantel Lavender, but it is nice to get everything you actually hoped for,” Reeve said.

Unlike a year ago, the Lynx have former Stanford star Candice Wiggins and former LSU star Semone Augustus fully healed to be in the lineup on opening night June 3 when Minnesota visits the Los Angeles Sparks, who have their own healed sensation in former Tennessee all-American Candace Parker.

That will be the only game that date before four others are held June 4, including a season-opener here with the Washington Mystics.

Despite not getting Moore, Tulsa did all right second in line on draft day in selecting Australian teenage comer Elizabeth Cambage, who’s effervescence on draft day stole the show at the ESPN studio headquarters where the event was held in Bristol, Conn., near Hartford.

Cambage’s arrival is being briefly delayed due to visa technicalities, according to the Shock, who are not worried about the situation.

Former Duke star Alana Beard missed all last summer but is expected to be ready to return to action with Washington, where a testy fan base has still not gotten over some of the front office changes after the team’s best season ever.

Washington tied for first with New York in the East, got the No. 1 seed in the tie-breaker, but was quickly knocked out of the postseason by Atlanta.

On the court in terms of personnel in the off-season the Mystics had a Duke-a-thon – former Blue Devils star Monique Currie suffered a 2011-sidelining injury, Lindsey Harding was traded to Atlanta for newcomer and first-round pick Ta-Shia Phillips out of Xvier, while newcomer and first-round draft pick Jasmine Thomas (Seattle) arrived via a deal following the conclusion of selections in April.

Off the court, however, general manager Angela Taylor and coach Julie Plank were let during a cost-cutting move by the Mystics organization, Lacey was promoted and assistant coach Marianne Stanley was re-hired.

New York veteran center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a free agent again, this time took off for Minnesota where she reunites with coach Reeve from their days of glory with the Detroit Shock champions who relocated to Tulsa prior to last summer.

Superstar Katie Smith, also a former Shock, went from Washington in a three-team deal that reunited her with coach Brian Agler and his assistant Nancy Darsch in Seattle.

Agler coached Smith to two titles won by the Columbus (Ohio) Quest in the brief existence of the American Basketball League (1996-98), which collapsed under bankruptcy in December 1998 two months into season number three, while Darsch coached the one-time dental aspirant at Ohio State.

As noteworthy as the Washington offseason front-office action was, the team that will undergo special scrutiny for many reasons is New York, which had returned to winning ways last summer courtesy of the arrival of former Rutgers all-American Cappie Pondexter.

Anne Donovan had already announced her intention to return to the collegiate level prior to 2010 when she accepted the Seton Hall job – though former Liberty coach expects she will be somewhere courtside as a spectator.

But out of nowhere one day the MSG hierarchy decided to jettison longtime Liberty front office head and Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski, who eventually accepted a job at her alma mater at Montclair State.

Blazejowski had been New York’s only front-office head since the WNBA inaugural summer of 1997.

Whisenant, who led Sacramento to a WNBA title in 2004, was hired to fill both jobs, which seems to be the cost-cutting mantra with Chicago having done a similar action with Chatman’s hire.

But there is a new challenge ahead – New York will be playing across the Hudson River the next three summers at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., while Madison Square Garden undergoes a series of renovations.

Such as the state of the newspaper industry is these days, it is already questionable short of using wire coverage how many publications will send staffers on ferries, railroads, and subways over to Jersey and it is also a curiosity to see which Garden State publications will appear.

Associated Press national WNBA writer Vin Cherwoo out of New York, a good buddy of the Guru, said unless he hears otherwise he expects to make the trip for the home office so it is not that the wire reports will lack expertise.

But the fan base from Manhattan’s environs on the New York side is already not thrilled about an extended trip, including late-night return perils that could exist on public transit.

Furthermore, from what the Guru heard, Casey Sherman, who was the main media contact for the Liberty, is not being replaced.

If all does not go well, new WNBA president Richie may find that her first challenge might be to lead a rescue effort in Newark just a few miles away from her oval office.

-- Mel