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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Whalen's Shot At Finish Over Washington Keeps Minnesota Unbeaten

By Mel Greenberg

The good news for the Washington Mystics in their WNBA cross-conference matchup with the defending champions Minnesota Lynx was they reduced their turnovers and forged an impressive rally from 24-point deficit in the second half.

The bad news was that even in challenging moments, the Lynx find ways to win and when it came to crunch time in the final minute and final second of that minute, Olympian and All-Star Lindsay Whalen came through again to give Minnesota a 79-77 victory to stay unbeaten at 5-0.

It had been cruise night in the first half for the Lynx rolling to a 51-31 lead at the break shooting 65.6 percent from the field.

The only positive thing that could be said for the home team is that the near-record 32 miscues recorded in Saturday's win here against the struggling Tulsa Shock were limited to six.

But after Whalen's two free-throws expanded the differential to 24 points at 59-35 with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left in the third quarter, the Lynx's advantage began to shrivel to 10 at the end of the period and even worse when the Mystics (1-2) went ahead twice on Michelle Snow baskets at 73-72 with 3:24 left in the game and again at 75-74 just 50 seconds later.

Whalen, however, who had been upset with her six turnovers, drove to the basket and though she missed the shot, a foul by Natasha Lacy sent her to the line and she converted both free throws as the Lynx went ahead 77-75 with 42.9 seconds left.

Washington, which last year used a similar rally from 24 down in the second half against the Los Angeles Sparks to win on the road, was not done and tied the game on Crystal Langhorne's basket with 25.7 seconds left.

But Whalen wasn't through, either, scoring on a layup with one second left to keep the Lynx perfect.

"My assistants tell me `Stuff happens on the road,'" Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said afterwards trying to find perspective from a performance that did not leave her entirely overjoyced.

"Washington understood it was a 40-minute game," said Reeve, whose team heads for Connecticut Friday night against the Sun, one of two unbeatens in the Eastern Conference along with the Indiana Fever. "I thought we played well in the first half and then for some reason, we didn't understand that we had to keep playing."

The loss became another one similar to last year when 15 got away in the final minutes though Wednesday night it was Washington attempting to be the one to grab a win as a decided underdog.

"We weren't on point," Reeve said. "I told our players, `Usually I could say a win is a win,' but this was a day I couldn't particularly say that."

Second-year pro Maya Moore, a former UConn sensation, and veteran Rebekkah Brunson, who played her collegiate ball near here at Georgetown, each scored 16 points for the Lynx while Brunson also grabbed nine rebounds.

Seimone Augustus, who along with Moore and Whalen will be training here in July with the Olympic team before heading to London, scored 15 points and Whalen had 11.

Former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon agains sparked the Mystics off the bench, this time with 20 points, while Noelle Quinn and Monique Currie each scored 13, and Langhorne scored 12.

Washington, having finished its opening homestand, now takes off for a two-game jaunt to the Chicago Sky, Friday night, and then to Connecticut Sunday afternoon before returning here on Friday next week against the New York Liberty.

Wednesday's game also featured a reunion of two-time NCAA runnerup Notre Dame stars in Washington rookie Natalie Novosel, who scored a basket in 3:44 of playing time, and Minnesota newcomer Deveraux Peters, who grabbed five rebounds, including some critical offensive boards in the final minute, to help win the game.

"Yeah, I guess Natalie has to buy," Peters grinned afterwards.

"We're glad we got the win but we know we have a lot to watch, a lot to learn from the film," Whalen said. "We can just try to get better. We can take this and continue to try to improve."

"I just wanted to make the play and the ball came bouncing back to me at the end."

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Must-Wins Already On The Horizon In Week No. 2

By Mel Greenberg

The WNBA's 16th season is not even two weeks old and early trending is already starting to occur, though some of it could change once more teams meet each other.

But for now separation is already in play and with the Olympic break and impact acting as a wildcard some assumptions that will be in place at mid-July could vanish quickly after the players -- both American and currently missing foreign stars -- return from London a month later.

For now, the defending champion Minnesota Lynx are holding up their end of the quest to become a repeat winner with a quick 4-0 start that could be at worst at 6-1 by the time this week concludes with Sunday night's games.

The Los Angeles Sparks are now looking more likely to make the playoffs than not as long as former Tennessee superstar Candace Parker stays healthy and is able to go full tilt wire-to-wire for the first time since her 2008 debut when she was both rookie and most valuable player.

Pecking orders are also being established.

The Connecticut Sun, which is 3-0, holds a 2-0 lead on the New York Liberty and could clinch the season series with a win next month while the Indiana Fever likewise is 2-0 over the two-time defending Eastern playoff champion Atlanta Dream.

But Atlanta has been down early before and not the top seed in both previous seasons in the conference in which the Dream emerged to make the finals.

Then the rest is a wild tangle and, for example, with much attention being paid to those teams that will live on a tightrope in light of the prizes that await four franchises that do not making the postseason, it will will take some time to figure out who might be better off departing early for the overseas winter.

Time and time again, the fate of acquiring collegiate sensations Brittney Griner of Baylor, Elena Delle Donne of Delaware and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, with some other worthwhile talent behind the trio, will hang in the balance.

"Why did we win that game? It could cost us in the long run," one person was heard to half-jokingly comment Saturday night in Washington after the Mystics squandered all but one point of a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead but escaped the Tulsa Shock at the finish with a three-point win in the Verizon Center.

Tulsa, with just three wins, and Washington with just six, had the two worst records in the league in 2011 and most feel both teams will fall short again, to the delight of their fans, considering the long-range prospects if either organization gets lucky in the lottery.

Saturday's game was one of what is quickly shaping up as an ongoing labelled attraction of lottery specials where non-performing teams may have the last laugh. While matchups with the likes of Connecticut, Indiana, or Minnesota may be tough deals, it is these games between equally-struggling opponents upon which factors in the lottery results will have a major impact.

That Washington struggled in a game that was going to be easily winnable, by perception, could be a mixed sign, depending on fans' preferences, after two straight outings in which the Mystics are doing more for charity on the court then their well-run community operations off the hardwood.

Maybe its adjusting the seven newcomers with the four-surviving veterans from a year ago. But the Mystics have now committed a combined 55 turnovers against the Chicago Sky and Tulsa, including 32 on Saturday night that were just one short of the league mark shared by three teams, including Washington.

And when we get to the week ahead, unless things get fixed quickly, it could be a gruesome adventure between now and Sunday night for Washington.

But with some separation already occuring, someone or several teams with losing records may make the playoffs because four have to go, though the good teams could be top-heavy with wins above the rest who could all be beating each other.

As for wildcards, though it didn't come up in the postgame conversation when the Guru chatted with new Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg, the former Indiana assistant, with the Shock now at least looking competitive without wins in their 0-3 start, remember that young Australian star Elizabeth Cambage, the No. 2 pick overall in last season's draft, returns after the Olympics.

Likewise, woeful as the Seattle Storm are looking, Lauren Jackson will have an impact after her Olympic participation for Australia, while Atlanta will be getting Erika De Souza back from the Brazilian Olympians in August.

However, the Phoenix Mercury have to make do without important cog Penny Taylor, more so for her season-ending knee injury than for playing with Australia.

As for New York, well the schedule is not kind, and is proving as challenging at the outset as has been expected.

San Antonio is probably a 50-50 deal, though Griner at home in Texas next season if the the Silver Stars get unlucky-lucky has not really been a discussion.

So, hard to believe, but in a short 34-game season, as early as week No. 2 begins, there are must-win games ahead. One way to change trends is to grab games off those in which clubs will be the underdogs.

Therefore, let's take it team-by-team, off the standings, even though the games will be addressed both from either side. The nice thing about all these early must-wins, so considered because the outcome begats the next chapter for the teams involved, is WNBA's live-access viewing apps for electronic devices, even at the $4.99 assessed rate for what was free, is worth the money.

Eastern Conference

Connecticut (3-0) -- The Sun host Minnesota Friday night and a Connecticut win could really get the crowd juice flowing, especially since Washington comes visiting 48 hours later. The biggest problem for coach Mike Thibault's group is the long layoff with seven days between beating San Antonio on Friday and hosting Minnesota.

Indiana (3-0) -- The Fever also get a long rest and then it's back-to-back hosting New York Saturday and heading to the Liberty in Newark, N.J., Sunday at the Prudential Center. A sweep keeps pace at the top of the East and quickly Indiana will be close to pocketing two season-series tie-breakers in the conference.

Chicago (1-1) -- Many think the Sky with their additions are finally playoff worthy in the seventh season of the franchise's history. They have a chance to prove it this week first traveling to San Antonio Wednesday, hosting Washington Friday with a chance to be 2-0 over the Mystics, and then on to Atlanta on Saturday.

Washington (1-1) -- Fasten your seatbelts, it is going to be a bumpy ride. Minnesota comes visiting Wednesday, as mentioned, then it's off to Chicago Friday with what is one of those early must-wins, Then it's on to Connecticut Sunday.

Atlanta (1-2) -- The Phoenix Mercury visits on Thursday and this might be a must-win on both sides considering the start for each. Then Chicago visits and depending on the previous games for each, this also will have another must-win label for the moment of confrontation.

New York (0-4) -- At this point, even a split in the home-and-home with Indiana this weekend may not be good enough, depending which game would give New York its first win. But the Liberty are underdogs in both games, part of that seven-game, season-opening, underdog forecast, that is holding up, before the June 8 trip to Washington.

Western Conference

Minnesota (4-0) -- Rolling rolling. The Lynx visit Washington, head to Connecticut and then host San Antonio Sunday. The Lynx will not be holding lottery picks in April, 2013, but potentially possessing another trophy baring misfortune.

Oh, while we're here, the Guru would like to make a quick adjustment -- in a recent observation on the preseason WNBA general managers' survey, the Guru had noted all but four were also coaches. However, he was pulled off course from a story written in the preseason that mentioned Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and had the GM title also applied in coverage of her.

But the other day, the club sent an email to the Guru noting that Roger Griffith still has the GM title in the Twin Cities, though on the website he is listed as executive vice president.

Los Angeles (3-1) -- Tulsa visits on Tuesday, take a little rest and then Seattle returns Sunday with a chance for the Sparks to pocket the season series with the Storm in the West at 3-0 and stay on the heels of Minnesota.

San Antonio (1-1) -- Which way you going Silver Stars? Time to find out. Chicago visits Wednesday with, as mentioned in the Eastern outlook, both teams looking for upside. Then Phoenix arrives Friday in what might be one of those lottery specials the Guru is tracking. Then Sunday it is on to Minnesota. No question, a big week for the Texans.

Phoenix (1-2) -- A must week for more success than not, though it is unknown if that can happen. There's Thursday's visit to Atlanta -- a must on both sides; then two lottery specials in visiting San Antonio Friday and hosting Tulsa Sunday in a meeting that's the first between the two since the Mercury escaped the Shock in their recent confrontation.

Seattle (0-3) -- Tulsa visits Friday so, as our friend and colleague Jayda Evans of the Seattle paper will surely write, someone will at worst get their first win out of this one. Then it's on to Los Angeles Sunday to complete the double-must for a Storm team that was revamped in late winter.

Tulsa (0-3) -- If the Shock want to get ahead of last year's pace, not too difficult considering, though Tuesday's visit to Los Angeles is a tall order, two lotto games await in visiting Seattle on Friday and Phoenix Sunday.

And then will come the Monday break and the Guru will review the bottom line results of the week and look ahead to the next six days on the schedule.

Of course, the Guru will be blogging all week in both the collegiate and WNBA worlds as well as tweeting from some games and in general at @womhoopsguru.

Mystics Marking Season No. 15

Recently, the Guru weighed in on the Connecticut Sun marking its 10th season by holding fan balloting to pick the all-time squad. Now Washington is doing likewise but with a much different approach.

The Sun put every player who was on the roster on the ballot and is asking the fans to choose 10 and then the organization will be announcing first and second teams.

Washington, on the other hand, is only offering 14 and asking its fans to pick five.

Well, while the Connecticut choices are a little tough because of the wealth of talent that has appeared on rosters through the last decade in casino-land, it's a piece of cake compared to determining Washington choices, but given the history the head scratching is appropriate.

In fact, it might be fun for the Mystics to ask the fans for their favorite coach in light of 12 who have patrolled the sidelines. Well, OK, D.C. Basketball Cases, we know your pick. And the runnerup is probably easy also.

But the Guru digresses. In determining his five picks for Washington, the Guru might have an easier time noting his five favorite fans who has shown up on the Verizon scoreboard screen over the years.

Only two current players -- former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne and former Duke star Monique Currie -- are on the list of choices and Currie has only been in D.C. six seasons of which one in 2011 was virtually all lost to injury while Langhorne has been on the team five seasons.

Three players have eight-year histories -- first-ever draft pick Muriel Page, Nakia Sanford and Coco Miller; one has seven in former Duke star Alana Beard -- last season's absence to injury is not listed; three have six in Currie, Chamique Holdsclaw, the prize of the 1999 draft; and Chasity Melvin, who has split four and two year tour of duty; Langhorne has five; Nikki McCray has four; Stacey Dales and Vicky Bullett have three, while Lindsey Harding and Nikki Teasley have two each.

So here is the way the Guru would go with his five: Langhorne, though much of her future is in front, she clearly is a person who would be near the top of anyone's draft list; Beard, despite injuries, for consistency; Miller for endurance (no there's not vote for fan endurance); Bullett, despite short service two of Washington's few good seasons were on her watch; and Page for endurance.

Though honorable mentions aren't allowed on Washington's ballot, Holdsclaw, off her healthy years, is one, had she had more she might bump someone in the five; Melvin, who like actor William Holden in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai returned after an earlier escape; and Harding.

One thing that makes this much tougher than the Sun picks, though that organization just listed players and years on the ballot, is the limited number of bonafide achievements that were on the bio release given out on media day when the initiative was announced.

Incidentally, fans will be able to also write-in a candidate not on the list. Though they were short-timers in Washington, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Katie Smith deserve a seat at the table.

And Before Signing Off ...

OK, that is the news of the day. As noted last week, on the coaching carousel running blog, there are still 10 Division I openings, though some may be filled this week.

We're also down to less than two weeks until the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductions (June 8-9) in Knoxville of Dawn Staley (Virginia, Olympics, WNBA/ABL All-Star), Inge Nissen (Old Dominion), Pam Magee (Southern Cal), Robin Roberts (contributor: ESPN/ABC contributor), Nikki McCray (Tennessee) and Nancy Fahey (Washington University in St. Louis coach).

Needless to say, considering other events going on in Knoxville, the Guru will be on the scene early.

Speaking of the WBHOF, congratulations to former basketball relations director and former Connecticut Huskies/Sun beat writer Karen (nee Tucker) Garner on the recent arrival of her first family addition.

Also, the Guru will be working on writing the printed program biography of former Georgia star Katrina McClain, who will be inducted in September along with the Redheads Women's Basketball team and four men's notables into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Be back in the next 24 hours or so and will be traveling to Washington on Wednesday, Connecticut on Friday and then either Connecticut or New York/New Jersey on Sunday.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Washington Win Over Tulsa Marred By Near-Record Turnovers

By Mel Greenberg

Though the Washington Mystics have hit the early phase of the WNBA season with seven players and though the home team in the Verizon Center held a a 15-point lead over the Tulsa Shock early in the fourth quarter, by the time Saturday night's game had wound down to its final minutes, the announced crowd of 11,866 in the Verizon Center trembled watching a familiarilty from 12 months ago.

Once again the Mystics got involved in a pressure-cooker though this time unlike 15 that got away a year ago Washington grabbed a victory in the form of a slim 64-61 triumph that went into the record books only after a quick video review determined a Shock three-point shot that would have sent the game into overtime had occurred too late.

The cross-conference game involved teams with the two worst records in 2011 -- the Shock with just three wins and the Mystics with only six.

Even at the finish Washington had to wait out a quick review of the last moment before a three-point Shock shot that could have sent the game in overtime was denied.

Tulsa is going a re-organization with a new coach and new players in trying to build a foundation for future success and though the Shock are now 0-3 unlike last season they have been in the hunt in the final minutes of each outing.

This was Washington's second game and first win after losing the season opener here last week against the Chicago Sky.

The reason things got so close was Washington's offense yielding 32 turnovers leading to 25 points and nine of the miscues occured in the final quarter.

If you think that is an inordinate case of miscommunication you are exactly right.

The 32 was one off the league mark of 33, the last of which occurred by these same Mystics at the former Houston Comets in Washington's inaugural 1998 season when they won just three games leading to the overall No. 1 draft pick of Chamique Holdsclaw.

One other team committed 32 and that was Minnesota at home in July 2007 against Washington in overtime.

The Mystics (1-1) have now committed 55 turnovers in their first two games.

"Obviously (I am) happy we were able to execute down the stretch and pull out the win," Washngton coach Trudi Lacey said. "However I was not pleased with the types of turnovers and the number of turnovers we committed. Very simply, we have to make better decisions with the basketball."

Washington's cough-ups enabled Tulsa to pick up 25 points, as previously noted, while the Mystics got 19 off the Shock's 19 turnovers.

All this gets mentioned because most believe Washington and Tulsa will land in the next four-team draft lottery, which will yield three prized collegiate talents at the top in Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

Of course, at the present pace with an 0-4 start the New York Liberty could also be in the mix.

And if tie-breakers come into play in determining who gets the best odds to win the lotto, Saturday's game could be looked upon if Tulsa is swept by the Mystics in their two games putting the Shock at an advantage.

But that is not a supreme guarantee because in a similar scenario a year ago Tulsa finishing as woeful as it did got the Oklahomans nothing better than the fourth pick last month.

But as of now, much is to occur before how the low end of the league standings comes into focus. At the moment, for everybody it is all about winning and trying to make the playoffs though new Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg, the former Indiana Fever assistant to Linda Dunn of the 2011 regular-season co-champions, is has the proper perspective of his Shock's situation.

"We've been digging ourselves a hole in that third quarter and we did it again," said Kloppenburg of when Tulsa fell behind by as many as 16 before the end of the period. "We go through some scoring droughts. Obviously, we're offensively challenged at times so we've got to avoid getting into the hole.

"I'm proud of the way we fought out of it. But when you dig out, everything has to go exactly perfectly, If we could just have a normal third quarter, hang in there, have a normal game, and step up in the fourth, we're probably in good shape.

"But we have a young team and we have to keep at it. I told (his players), `We're not going to worry about our record. We're going to come out and just play extremely hard and try to get better each day.' Honestly, we have to shoot the ball better. Thirty percent is just not going to get it no matter how good a defense you play," Kloppenburg continued.

"We have a lot of work to do. But it's a willing group. They're willing to put time in and be very conscientious. Obviously, you like to make progress with a with a win under your belt but I think it will come if we keep playing hard. It's early. We could be 3-0 -- every one of the games we lost, we were right there in the last minute to win it."

As for forcing Washington into the plenthora of give-aways, the Tulsa coach said, "We feel like we have good defensive quickness. That's probably one of our strengths that we can go after some teams with pressure.

"Glory (Johnson) -- she's probably like a Dennis Rodman-type all-over-the-floor energy player, creates a lot of havoc with her defense so were trying to just ultilize the strengths we have to keep ourselves in a ballgame, we just need to have a game that if we shoot the ball well, we'll probably beat somebody easily."

Johnson is the former Tennessee star who was the fourth overall pick in the draft that also harvested Miami guard Riquana Willams and Maryland post player Lynetta Kizer who had her homecoming game here near where she starred for the Terrapins up the road in College Park.

Former North Carolina star guard Ivory Lotta got 16 points, the only Tulsa player in double figures, though she committed a crucial turnover after Tulsa had come within a point of the Mystics.

. All three rookies came off the bench with Johnson scoring nine points but limited with five personal fouls, while Kizer scored six and Williams had two, shooting 1-for-7.

On the Washington side, two positives were its rebounding domination -- 40-27 -- and former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon coming off the bench in her season debut with a game-high 19 points fueled by 8-for-10 from the foul line.

Ajavon had missed working most of camp and two exhibition games and last week's opener recovering from a knee injury in the offseason.

"It felt good. I felt confident," she said. "My teammates were behind me all the way through so I felt confident tonight. But it's still early in the season. We have a lot to work on. We had a lot of turnovers -- most of it was us and lack of communication but we have a couple more days to get that together and get ready for Minnesota."

Imagine what the defending champion Lynx would do with Washington's charity if it happens again Wednesday night when Minnesota makes its second Eastern stop out of the West early in the season.

"We had too many turnovers, sloppy basketball," aaid Crystal Langhorne, the Washington All-Star center out of Maryland. "It was pretty much not executing on offense. Their pressure got us some because we were bringing the ball up the court with some 15 seconds left on the shot clock so we really couldn't run our offense, so it was a little tough."

Langhorne finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds while former Duke star Monique Currie, recovered from the knee injury that caused her to miss all but the end of the 2011 season, scored 15 points.

Ajavon, Dominique Canty and Ajavon each had five turnovers.

Washington rookie Natalie Novosel, the former Notre Dame star, did not get into the game. Former Duke star Jasmine Thomas, who also was sidelined in training camp, scored two points in 13 minutes, 30 seconds of action.

Tulsa next visits the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday in the second stop of a five-game road trip while the Minnesota visit on Wednesday wraps up Washington's three-game home stand.

The Guru will be back to wrap up the weekend Sunday night heading into the next full week on the league slate.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 25, 2012

Guru College Report: Tennessee's Jennings' Past WBCA Media Award In Prestigious Company

By Mel Greenberg

The Guru would like to take a quick time out to offer some brief comments on how dismayed he is over the current situation regarding longtime Tennessee women's basketball sports information director Debby Jennings, who apparently was forced into retirement.

Before going on, the Guru makes two disclaimers and one reference. For those that need to get up to speed, either go to the website of the Knoxville News-Sentinel to see ongoing coverage and also to a recent commentary by ESPN's Mechelle Voepel, much of which the Guru concurs so he will not repeat what has already been offered.

The Guru will admit he does not see the day-to-day workings inside the Tennessee athletic department, which has been one of the last to merge its women's and men's operations. But he is also aware of persons who have been Mel Greenberg media award winners in all walks of life who have had somewhat similar type experiences in different means in terms of operations downsizing and consolidating.

He also adds that the Guru and Jennings go back to Day One when both were starting together -- the Guru trying to create what became the AP women's poll and Jennings working as a liason between the media and the Lady Vols, most importantly the wome's basketball program and legendary coach Pat Summitt.

Thus a great friendship was forged over the years but just as important a great working relationship.

The Guru would add, though Jennings had to be extra overloaded coming down the stretch of season -- how far will the Lady Vols advance in the NCAA tournament? What is the future of Summitt, who is battling early onset dementia/Alzheimer's type? -- she was extremely helpful and efficent in keeping the Guru up to speed in terms of the situation in Denver in which the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) was going to present its Most Courageous Award to Summitt and then announce the award will be named for her to present to all future winners.
Jennings related Summitt was only going to be in Denver briefly but set up access to Holly Warlick, who has since become the new coach with Summitt becoming coach emeritus.

All parties involved were able to go back-and-forth so the Guru could get in contact with Warlick at the Women's Final Four to give her time and specifics on accepting the award on Summitt's behalf.

Now since Jennings has been talked about in terms of honors, the Guru would like to make a little correction to the reported record of one award and also run a list of winners to show what fine company she is in.

Jennings, who won the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Mel Greenberg Media Award, was not the first winner -- she was the sixth, but she was the first sports information director honored following representatives of several media organizations.

The Guru was the first winner of what was simply called the media award but then the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow in 1991 in New Orleans announced at the moment of presentation that future winners will win the WBCA Mel Greenberg Media Award.

Here are some other winners in rough chronologically order though you can see the whole list at the WBCA website.

Following the Guru:

Incidentally, to note a comon thread he begins by saying the Guru is no longer on board at The Philadelphia Inquirer but does do freelance work when needed. He left on good terms but, as the highest seniority employee in the newsroom and the fate of the paper at the time of his departure, finances dictated that it was time to go after som 40 plus years.

Debbie Becker -- Then the principal women's basketball writer at USA Today.
Jane Burns -- At the time, the Des Moines Register women's basketball writer covering Drake, Iowa, Iowa State among others.
Mimi Griffin -- Then a principal ESPN analyst who now runs an important men's golf tournament near her home in Allentown, Pa., near Philadelphia.
Debby Jennings
The late Mitch Parkinson -- Was the women's SID at Southern Illinois
Mary Gaber -- One of the nation's original female sportswriters, if not the original, who was at the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina. The Guru had the honor of meeting her in his early days covering N.C. State.
Ann Meyers-Drysdale -- At the time the principal analyst for ESPN. The Hall of Famer is now an executive with the WNBA Phoenix Mercury. The UCLA grad is also in the Naismith and Women's Basketball Halls of Fame, among others, and recently the USBWA announced its women's player of the year and newly-instituted national player of the year would be named after her.
Vic Dorr -- Longtime writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who, though still employed, has been downsized, so to speak, in recent seasons in terms of national breadth of women's coverage.
Robin Roberts -- No explanation needed except to say that next month she will join the Guru as the second media type inductee into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Bob Kenny -- Now retired but was sports editor at the Camden Courier Post across the Delaware River from Philadelphia providing women's coverage well before the Guru came on the scene.
Mechelle Voepel -- ESPN. Nothing further needed because you all know her work.
Tamara Flarup -- At the time the Women's Basketball SID at Wisconsin.
Bill Jauss -- Now retired but was the women's basketball writer at the Chicago Tribune.
Debbie Antonellii -- Women's Basketball analyst everywhere who won in spite of campaigning in hotel lobbies for several years. -- A little Guru humor.
Dan Fleser -- The Tennessee beat writer for the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Chuck Schoffner -- Now retired but was the first in-house national Associated Press women's writer following the Guru running the operation from his Inquirer base. Future winner, some day without a doubt, Doug Feinberg now does the heavy lifting.
Dick Patrick -- Had been the USA national women's writer but several months prior to his presentation was laid off in one of many cutdowns by the Gannett Chain.
Carol Stiff -- ESPN executive. She's the reason you get to see the games you do on TV.
Mike Carmin -- Most recent winner. Lafayette Journal and Courier principal and longtime Purdue women's basketball writer.

That's it for now. The Guru doesn't know -- it's doubtful -- he will be back in Connecticut Friday night for the San Antonio Silver Stars visit only because of the turnaround to get to Washington Saturday night for the Mystics game again st the Tulsa Shock.

Draft speculators -- take note -- This Saturday game is the first of a bunch that good feed into breaking ties in the four-team draft lottery yielding a bunch of you know whos next April.

-- Mel
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Guru's WNBA And Collegiate Musings: Will Seattle's Opening Meltdown Have Long-Range Implications?

By Mel Greenberg

Considering the way the Los Angeles Sparks finished last season, even with the return of Candace Parker after missing most of the way with a knee injury, it seems the team from Tinseltown has a new coach and new attitude at the outset of 2012.

How else to explain the Sparks' rally from a 21-point deficit and still 14 down in the outset of the fourth quarter on the road to win at the Seattle Storm Friday night in the season opener behind former Maryland star Kristi Toliver's 25 points to give former Atlanta Dream assistanr coach Carol Ross her first victory as a sideline general in the WNBA.

One can apply the usual "it's just one game," to hold the gleefulness in check on the winner's side and shrug the loss off by the home team, but, in a short 34-game season and one in which everything could come back later as a tell-all effect on the final results who knows how much this result will be held up under a magnifying glass when the four playoff spots in the Western Conference spots are determined in September.

Just a week ago prior to the WNBA defending-Minnesota Lynx taking the floor in Connecticut against the Sun in a preseason tilt, coach Cheryl Reeve reflected on an outcome involving the Sparks in the last week of the 2010 season when Minnesota appeared to have a game won against the Sparks only to have veteran Tina Thompson, now on Seattle, nail a shot just before time expired.

"That 1.4 seconds did a lot because if we win the game, we're probably in the playoffs and Los Angeles is in the lotto draw of the draft," Reeve noted.

"Instead, it went the other way and then we won the rights to the No. 1 pick and we get in line to take (former Connecticut superstar) Maya Moore," she observed about one of the key additions that helped Minnesota have a super-talented roster to make a dominating run to the Lynx's first title.

A year ago Los Angeles could look at two losses that would be regretful, blowing a 25-point lead at home to the forlorn Washington Mystics and losing another game to the even-more woeful Tulsa Shock as setbacks that deprived the Sparks of appearing in the postseason.

But just like Minnesota's bad luck to good in 2010, Los Angeles hit the jackpot to gain the overall No. 1 pick and while former Stanford star Nneka Oguwmike many not be the total equal of Moore she certainly was a worthy top prize in one of the weaker three-round draws in the league's 16-year history.

Yes, on Seattle's side Friday night there were allusions to the absence of Storm sensation Lauren Jackson who is bypssing the front part of the season to train with her country's Australian Olympic team. However, as former Connecticut All-American Sue Bird noted, it's not like Seattle hasn't had to make do without Jackson for large stretches in the past due to injuries.

But one might better note the absence of another former Connecticut all-American -- their imprints are all over the WNBA -- Swin Cash, as well as former Auburn star Le'coe Willingham -- who were dealt away to the Chicago Sky in exchange for the No. 2 pick in last month's selections, which became former Tennessee star Shekinna Stricklen.

That swap could become even more magnified this weekend if Cash and Willingham propel Chicago to a road-opening win at the Indiana Fever.

But then again, if Seattle were to miss the playoffs by a game and land in the lotto capturing either the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, a year from now, and then open up with Jackson ready for a full four-plus months worth of work with either Baylor superstar Brittney Griner or Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne or Notre Dame great Skylar Diggins in the lineup in a Storm uniform, then the passionate fan base in the Northwest may look back at Friday night's painful meltdown and just grin ear to ear.

A Second Look At That General Managers' Forecast Survey

Some items appearing here in this post the Guru noted earlier in the day on his twitter @womhoopsgur, but since not all of you who come here may be followers, he'll repeat the observations.

This week the league at its WNBA.Com website ran the annual survey of general managers about aspects of the 2012 competition ahead and the thought suddenly hit that the makeup is different than earlier years offering the same outlook.

As time evolved, economy and cost-cutting has resulted in most of the league now having combo coach-general manager positions dominating the 12 franchises.

In each division only two teams have separate positions, not that at those places the coaches have that much less influence.

Over in the East, for example, Connecticut has always had Chris Sienko as a sole GM with Mike Thibault being the coach in the Sun's 10-year history since moving from Orlando as the former Miracle while Kelly Krauskopf has also held the singular GM job alongside several Indiana Fever coaches -- the current one being Lin Dunn.

After Carol Blazejowski's ouster in New York a year ago, John Whisenant was hired for both positions with the Liberty similarly to his dual role with the former Sacramento Monarchs. Likewise, the ouster of Angela Taylor and Julie Plank in Washington resulted into dual titles for Trudi Lacey with the Mystics a year ago. The same holds a year ago when Chicago inked Pokey Chatman to a dual role which is likewise held by Marynell Meadors with the Atlanta Dream.

Over in the West, Penny Taylor has always been a GM only in Los Angeles while the same holds true for the situation in Tulsa where newly-hired Gary Kloppenburg, the former Indiana assistant, is the coach of the Shock while president Steve Swetoha has more of the general manager functions, though Kloppenburg also has major input on personnel decisions.

In San Antonio, Dan Hughes a year ago returned to a combo role when he sauntered back to the Silver Stars sidelines, while Reeve in Minnesota holds both roles. Last winer in Phoenix, Corey Gaines added the GM title to his coaching duties when Hall of Famer Ann Meyers-Drysdale gave up the role for other functions. In Seattle Brian Agler has both positions, though his GM-type title is different.

Thus the so-called GM survey has a lot of coaching mindset into the answers for better or worse -- just saying.

The College Scene

There are no new updates overnight in the Guru's ongoing coaching carousel though some more are about to be entered in the post of May 1 in the next 24-48 hours. High Point did announce a succesor to Jen Hoover, who left for Wake Forest, promoting an assistant, while it appears likewise is occuring at UC Irvine. Colorado State also seems ready to announce a hire.

So for the moment, if all the names are true, the overall summary will hold at 68 new coaches at Division I schools but the rookie count will grow to 37 who will be eligible for the annual WBCA Maggie Dixon award and the remaining openings will shrink from 12 to nine barring other new vacancies occuring either through movement to the existing vacancies or brand new exits.

While this migration either through dominoes effect, ousters or legitimate retirement decisions has resulted in an all-time offseason high that is way above the 40-something count in the past, it has also resulted in just four conferences who, at the moment, will begin with the same coaches at the helm to start 2012-13 that signed off after 2011-12.

The four conferences are the America East, the Ivy League (though seven were hopeful that Princeton might open to give them a better chance against the Tigers), the Pac-12 and the Southern Conference.

But speaking of conferences, seismic shifts continue in terms of members themselves, especially a season from now, which will impact updating the Guru's database of the history of appearances in the Associated Press Women's Poll.

For example, though Old Dominion hasn't been ranked in some time, the once dominate Lady Monarchs will be heading for Conference USA as will Louisiana Tech bringing some hefty AP history categorial numbers with them a year from now.

Likewise, additions this season notwithstanding, Temple brings a total of 26 appearances a year from now to the Big East, which has lost some numbers in West Virginia's departure next season for the Big 12.

Next season, Missouri and Texas A&M will tote some numbers from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference while at some point to be settled a small total will go with Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast.

There are some others involve. Despite the shuffle the database does maintain a category that shows what conference a team was in at the time of the ranking besides listing the same team's current conference membership.

Anyhow that is all there is to say right now.

The Guru as previously mentioned will be heading to New York on Saturday and then on to Uncasville for the two-day back-to-back games between the Liberty and Sun, though he will track all the other games elsewhere.

Separate stories will be focusing first on whoever wins Saturday and then the other team -- win or lose Sunday -- for Full Court followed a few days later with one on the Washington Mystics.

The Guru will be doing game-specific roundups here at the blog across the way and then again on Tuesday when New York, which is setting a record for arena evictions, returns to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. from Madison Square Garden to host Minnesota.

A year ago New York began a three-summer hiatus across the Hudson River while the Garden undergoes renovations but the results of the current National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs which has the Jersey Devils hosting the New York Rangers on Saturday has caused the Liberty to return to the Garden to open the season in a one-game appearance before the jackhammers start up again.

You media types who did not cover the Maggie Dixon Classic at the Garden in December and haven't been to the Garden since the Liberty closed shop in 2010 will be impressed by the revamped media room operations.

So as the sun comes up, it's time to get some shuteye before figuring out the cheapest and least time-consuming way to transport to the weekend doubleheader.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 18, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Season Opens With Familiar Faces In Brand New Places

By Mel Greenberg

And so as season No. 16 gets its WNBA curtain raised Friday night, here is a look at the change in wallpaper in terms of personnel since the end of 2011.

First, overall, in terms of the draft, 10 of 12 first-round picks made it to opening nght, though the Connecticut Sun's Astan Dabo from Mali is remaining with her national team.

LaSondra Barrett, the former LSU star, was cut from Washington, and it is unclear, per coping with the WNBA.com site what Minnesota did with its foreign player but those were the two not on team rosters.

Only three players made it from the second round: Tiffany Hayes, the former UConn star and 14th overall pick, will play with the Eastern playoff champion Atlanta Dream while Riquana Williams, the former Miami star and 17th overall pick, will play with the Tulsa Shock, the only team, not surprisingly, to retain all its rookie picks from the three rounds.

Chay Shegog of North Cariolina, the 21st overall pick, made it to Connecticut to complete the second round group.

As for the third round, just former Rutgers star April Sykes, the 28th overall pick, will open Friday night with the Los Angeles Sparks in Seattle with the Storm, while Lynetta Kizer, the former Maryland star and 29th overall pick, will open with Tulsa.

However, several rookies will be making debuts as free agent signees. One is Sonja Petrovic, a native of Serbia, who is with the Chicago Sky, but had been previously drafted by the San Antonio Silver Stars but had never played in an official in-season WNBA game.

Liberty graduate Avery Warley is a free-agent rookie with Phoenix joining first-round pick Samanta Prahalis, the former Ohio State star.

Zioma Morison, a native of Chile and graduate of Abilene Christian is a free agent rookie with San Antonio, while Alysha Clark, a former Middle Tennessee star, is opening as a free agent rookie with Seattle joining first-round pick Shekinna Stricklen, the former Tennessee star.

Also, Aneika Henry, a former Florida star, is a free-agent WNBA newcomer, joining Hayes on the Atlanta Dteam.

That makes five to go with 14 of 36 draft day picks who made rosters.

The league has gotten much younger, though the Guru's cut-off on double-digit experience was at 13 seasons, though some more have reached 10-12 seasons of WNBA performance.

Seattle free-agent Tina Thompson, the original overall top draft pick in 1997 with the former Houston Comets, is the only one still around from the inaugural season, though she mised parts of seasons due to pregnancy and injury.

Katie Smith, also on Seattle, has 13 seasons of WNBA experience, though she was a pro when the league launched, playing in the former American Basketball League. The same holds true for Minnesota's Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who has played with a slew of teams in the WNBA after the ABL folded.

Tangela Smith on San Antonio has 14 seasons of WNBA performance, while Tully Bevelaqua on the Silver Stars has 13. Ticha Penicheiro on Chicago has 14 seasons in the WNBA, while DeLisha Milton-Jones on Los Angeles has 13 and also had a season in the ABL.

Dominque Canty on Washington is at 13 seasons while DeMaya Walker on New York is at 12.

New York has just one rookie, former Tennessee player Kelly Cain, who went seventh overall though she keft the Lady Vols prior to her final season and played overseas.

Washington pick Natalie Novosel, the former Notre Dame star with the two-time NCAA runnersup, is the only rookie on the Mystics who have a host of changes. Her Irish teammate Deveraux Peters, another first-rounder, is the only rookie on the loaded defending WNBA Minnesota roster.

Sykes joins overall No. 1 pick and former Stanford star Nneka Oguwmike as the two rookies on Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, factoring draft picks, free agents and trades, here is a team-by-team look at newcomers on the 12 WBBA franchises.

Atlanta: Five fresh faces: Rookies Tiffany Hayes and Aneika Henry, are joined by free-agents Laurie Kuehn, Cathrine Kraayeveld, and Ketia Swanier.

Chicago: Five newcomers: Rookie Sonja Petrovic, veterans Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham (trade with Seattle), and free agents Ticha Penicheiro and Ruth Riley, the former Notre Dame star in 2001.

Connecticut: Two newcomers: second-round oick Chay Shegog and free-agent signee Misty Mims, the former Duke star.

Indiana: Three newcomers: Draft pick Shasha Godlett from Georgia Tech is joined by free agent Erlana Larkins and Roneeka Hodges, courtesy of a trade with San Antonio.

Los Angeles: Five newcomers: Rookies Nneka Oguwmike and April Sykes are joined by Nicky Anosike and Marisa Coleman via swaps with Washington and Sharnee Zoll.

And taking a quick timeout, the Guru has a WNBA preview on philly,com done for the Inquirer sports section, which has a heavy dose of localize to Philadelphia. He did forget, in case the paper can;t add the slight, that Zoll, the former Virginia star who broke Dawn Staley's collegiate assist record with the Cavaliers, was born in Philadelphia, lived quite a bit across the river with her military folks at McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey and went to Marlboro High for three seasons before transferring to Blackwood Regional as a senior.

Now, continuing:

Minnesota: Two newcomers: Rookie Deveraux Peters and free agent Erin Thorn, who played last with Chicago.

New York: Three newcomers: Rookie Kelly Cain is joined by free-agents Kelly Miller, the former Georgia star whose sister Coco was cut by Atlanta; and DeMaya Walker.

Phoenix: Five newcomers: Rookies Samantha Prahalis and Avery Warley are joined by Alex Hornbuckle, the former Tennessee star who was dealt from
Minnesota; and free-agents Charde Houston and Zane Tamane.

San Antonio: Four newcomers: Rookies Shenise Johnson, the former Miami star; and Ziomara Morison are joined by free agent Sameka Christon and
Tangela Smith, who was traded from Indiana.

Seattle: Five newcomers: Rookies Shekinna Stricklen and Alysha Clark along with free agent signees Ann Wauters and Tina Thompson besides Victoria Dunlap, the second-year pro out of Kentucky who was dealt from Washington.

Tulsa: Five newcomers: Rookies Gory Johnson, Lynetta Kizer and Riquana Williams along with free agents Jene Morris and Scholanda Dorrell.

Washington: Seven newcomers: Rookie Natalie Novosel is joined by free agents Dominique Canty, Michelle Snow and Noelle Quinn, while Natasha Lacy came in a trade with Los Angeles and Ashley Robinson was taken in a deal with Seattle, and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton was claimed on waivers. Latoya Pringle is on the suspended list while attending a family matter.

Opening Weekend

Though the highlight of the regular season will be outside the WNBA involving WNBA players when the Olympics are played, the league has now gotten to the point in which almost any game is worth anticipating, though slightly less so involving Minnesota if the Lynx run roughshod again, though many outcomes were close; and involving Tulsa unless the Shock really look to build substantially on the three-loss effort of a year ago.

This weekend Friday night's singleton with Los Angeles at Seattle is worthy.

Connecticut and New York have a back-to-back with the host Liberty making a brief return to Madison Square Garden Saturday after being kicked out of the Prudential Center across the river in Newark, N.J., because of the NHL playoffs, thus playing in the arena they are in the middle of being kicked out of for three summers while the Garden undergoes renovations.

It's only the first weekend but if either gets a sweep it already will have a long-range baring on the Eastern race. Connecticut hosts Sunday afternoon in its opener and then the two won't see each other again until they play their first two games, which are right after the Olympics, against each other.

Elsewhere on Saturday: Chicago visits Washington with each team wanting to show they are playoff-worthy; while Indiana and Atlanta meet for the first time since the the visiting Dream topped the Fever to win the Eastern final for the second straight season. San Antonio at Tulsa completes the Saturday action and the host Shock can make a quick opening statement against the visiting Texans.

On Sunday, besides the Connecticut game, Minnesota hosts Phoenix, which is the first meeting since the Lynx eliminated the Mercury in the Western playoffs.

That's it for now. The Guru will be on the scene at the Connecticut-New York home-and-home but will be tracking all games. The ongoing coaching carousel action at the collegiate level will continue -- nothing new -- and he does want to weigh in on the retirement announcement of longtime Tennessee women's basketball media relations operative Debbie Jennings.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: The (Invisible) Elephant in the Washington Mystics' Upbeat Room

By Mel Greenberg

The double dateline means catching up with WNBA material from two different locations, including up in New England where Monday the Guru viewed the Connecticut Sun opening exhibition game with the New York Liberty and where the Guru will return Thursday night when the Sun hosts the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.

While a political party, whose symbol is an elephant, is busy trying to reclaim residency in November nearby here in the nation's capital at a fashionable adress in a house painted white along Pennsylvania Avenue, an elephant of a different sort was hanging out invisibly in the Verizon Center Tuesday afternoon during the annual WNBA Washington Mystics media day.

In discussiions about trying to improve from last season's woeful six-game win effort, Mystics coaches and players spoke about an attempt to get better like the happy times of two seasons ago and make the playoffs.

For the second straight season there's been a major makeover in a roster in which this time perennial All-Star candidate Crystal Langhorne, the former Maryland All-American; former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon, second-year pro and former Duke All-American Jasmine Thomas, and former Blue Devils All-American Monique Currie, who misssed most of last season with a leg injury, are the only holdovers.

Kerri Gardin, a fifth holdover from the final 2011 statistics sheet, was let go prior to Tuesday's media fest.

Newcomers include first-round draft picks Natalie Novosel of NCAA national runnerup Notre Dame and former LSU star LaSondra Barrett while Langhorne's former Maryland teammate Laura Harper is on the list as a free agent after missing last season with a leg injury.

Former Tennessee stars Michelle Snow and Ashley Robinson -- Snow via free agency after spending 2011 with the Chicago Sky and Robinson via trade with the Seattle Storm -- are also on the list of hopefuls.

Still around for a second-straight season as head coach-general manager is Trudi Lacey, the former North Carolina State star who if she has any staying power might make her a rarity in the 15-year history of the Mystics.

Actually, a second person with somewhat staying power is former Washington head coach Marianne Stanley, the women's basketball hall of famer who has returned the last several seasons as an assistant. Former Los Angeles Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom, who will also be an aide to UConn's Geno Auriemma on the U.S. Olympic team, joined the staff in January.

But while everyone talked a good game about the future, those listening to it all, given the 6-28 record of last season, wondered sometimes in audible whispers why would one want to get much improved and land in the playoffs, given the opportunity that to land in the 2013 draft lottery means perhaps getting a superior talent that could actually bring the Mystics closer to a long-sought WNBA title.

Why blow an opportunity that could see Baylor star Brittany Griner become the second Bears super sensation arrive on the local landscape in the wake of NFL Washington Redskins quarterback draftee Robert Griffin III.

And if not that, why pass up the chance to land Delaware star Elena Delle Donne who has the potential to draw a huge crowd of her fans from within two hours distance as well as, if he is still in office, Vice President Biden, the Delaware grad and newly-acclaimed Blue Hens women's basketball fan of his alma mater.

Still, even a drop to No. 3 in the lotto could mean Novosel could be reunited with former Irish teammate Skylar Diggins.

As much as there is the painful reminisce of 2011, the reality is that as bad as the final record was, the Mystics still had a chance to win a slew of games as the clock approached the final two minutes.

"Fifteen to be exact," Lacey responded quickly when the reference was made.

Injuries also factored into the demise with Currie out as mentioned as well as Alana Beard, the former Duke All-American and league All-Star who went two straight seasons without playing following a new injury just before play got under way.

The Mystics and Beard parted ways in the offseason.

Snow was upbeat in her interviews Tuesday, noting, "It's great to see a team with so many players that can do so many different things, so I'm really watching and observing right now. Just learning what we have at the guard spot."

She pointed out as a reason for coming, even though she had been well aware of the Mystics' struggles: "I've always loved this organization. This is where I interned when I was much, much younger (2001). This organization is really special, it's a cornerstone of the league, especially when I think of the owner Dr. (Sheila) Johnson. We have the potential to do a lot of great things. It's just a matter of us coming together as a team and that's going to come day by day everyday coming in here working by itself."

Asked how she got hooked with her front office internship, Snow quickly responded, "(Former Tennessee coach) Pat Summitt. She has some pull."

Summitt, who has been fighting early onset dementia, Alzheimer type, and recently stepped aside to become head coach emeritus in Knoxville, was a consultant at the time to the Mystics when former Lady Vols sensation Chamique Holdsclaw was on the roster following her pick by the Mystics in 1999.

As for the roster turnover, in terms of her own experience, Snow said, "Most of my early career I spent in Houston (with the former Comets who won the first four WNBA titles), so I really got to play with a lot of great players.

"Turnovers come and go so you can look at it either as you have a pessimistic view or an optimistic view. I say it's an opportunity. Competition is great. If you're a player on this level and you don't want to compete (for spots and wins), you don't deserve to be here."

Langhorne is happy to have the newcomers at post positions. "Now we have all the shot blockers in the league and I won't have to go against Snow, I'll be playing with her."

When Beard stayed sidelined, former Rutgers star Ajavon became a starter and bloomed though she noted, "I still need to be more consistent than a year ago."

Asked about her former Rutgers associate head coach Jolette Law landing a spot on Holly Warlick's staff at Tennessee, a national rival of the Scarlet Knights over the years, Ajavon said, "It's bittersweet. I'm happy for Jolette, but, you know, it's Tennessee."

Novosel talked about her introduction to the pro level after her stellar career with the Irish.

"Notre Dame did an excellent job preparing me for the next level in terms of professionalism, and athleticism. It's tough transitioning into these two-a-days in terms of training camp, but I think it just shows how bad you are willing to sacrifice. It's a lot to handle in a little bit of time but I'm ready for it and ready to take it head on."

Novosel has touched base with new George Washington coach Jonathan Tsipis who accepted the offer from the Atlantic 10 school following his long stint as associate head coach at Notre Dame.

"He was my coach (guiding the posts)."

The Guru paid a vist to Tsipis' new office digs in a row house across from the Smith Center making the visit the biggest thing to happen to the site in five years, when the Guru last paid a visit when Joe McKeown was the coach.

"It's not South Bend," Tsipis smiled in terms of not needing a car for now with the Metro subway system and bus system making travel is Washington cheap and easy.

Meanwhile, back inside the Verizon Center in talking to his former Irish star, as for any surprises or early impressions, Novosel said, "I think I was prepared for professionalism, like every day dress up and go to work, but at the same time you go back and lounge around your hotel like everybody else. It's just another day. And there's no more homework (at school), that's done.

"The biggest difference is the pace of the game. You have to move around quickly. Everyone's not just standing around. It's quicker than in college."

Novosel said while there's more of chance of gaining confidence because of the number of players she already went up against when playing collegiate and AAU ball, she also pointed out, "In a way it's a little more intimidating because you watched them grow. But at the same time it's nice to come in here and know you can play with these people even if they are bigger and stronger. You have to know you have a right to be here and believe you can do it."

She said she has enjoyed the company of her sister draft pick LaSondra Barrett. "I think we'll be good friends the rest of our careers."

Thomas is happy to have a year under her belt after an outstanding career at Duke.

"It's nice not to be a rookie anymore," she said. "Walking onto the floor, it looks a lot more competitive this year and I think that veteran experience has brought that. As for last year, some things went well and some things didn't. And when they didn't we let them get worse and we didn't close out games."

So to coin an old campaign song from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt era when he became president during the great depression, the Mystics could improve and the fan base will be signing "Happy Days are Here Again."

But the flip side is that if the season becomes another disaster in terms of the playoffs, by next spring if the draft order has fallen the right way in the Mystics' direction, "Happy Days" may be called for anyway.

Though only an exhibition Thursday, Washington will be in Chicago to face the re-vamped Sky, so the Mystics will get a chance to see one of the teams they will have to battle in the Eastern Conference.

Evans Makes Her (Preseason) Debut

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Most of what went on here in the Connecticut Sun's win over arch conference rival New York on Monday has already been covered by the regular beat writers, but the Guru did chat with former James Madison star Dawn Evans, who has battled a kidney ailment but was invited to camp a year after her graduation as the reigning Colonial Athletic Association career scorer -- Delle Donne will probably erase that early next season.

After getting into the game Monday, Evans said. "It's definitely exciting at this level -- just to say I played with a group of girls that are so talented -- it's exciting to get out here and represent JMU and what we do.

"Everybody's a little longer and quicker but in practice I can get my confidence up. I felt a little out of whack being my first professional game but otherwise I felt pretty good. This is an opportunity to grow as a player and be around so many good players."

The Sun roster is down to 13 and must get down to 11 following two cuts on Wednesday.

Talking to Sun coach Mike Thibault about prospects of the race, which was extremely tight in the East and tight from No. 2 down through five in the West, he pointed out, "All it takes is one injury to a key player on any team and everything changes so whatever you think now about how things may go, many not happen," Thibault said.

"This league has to get up to 12 players on rosters."

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: All-Decade Conn. Sun Media & Player Squads

By Mel Greenberg

First, depending how you are reading Thursday's Guru site, the coaching carousel post stays in one place, remains dated to its original May 1 -- have no control over that -- but given the popularity the Guru continues to update daily as exits, hires and other related events occur.

When that is done, he will notify through twitter @womhoopsguru and also at the top of these blogs until all the jobs are filled and the exits stop. The post is easy to find to click onto down the left column.

OK, in a rambunctious mood, the Guru has a musings post under this talking about the Butler women's team which will be joining the Atlantic 10, a little item of Temple star Shey Peddy, the former senior taken by the WNBA Chicago Sky, speculation on a Thursday press conference involving Kentucky's Matthew Mitchell, and Delaware' trip this week to the White House.

Now, to go on, this one is for the Guru's friends in Connecticut. Since the WNBA Sun is celebrating its 10th anniversary by asking fans to pick the all-time ten players from everyone that was ever on the roster -- the Guru will give you his choices at the bottom -- the Guru thought you all would like to pick the all-time media group who has covered the squad up there in Casino-land at Mohegan in Uncasville near New London over the last decade.

Feel free to email the Guru (poll416@gmail.com) your choices and comments -- your privacy will be respected.

A few things before offering the group -- The Guru decided to honor the five columnists who have been on the scene by separating them out and making them combination coach/management of the media team. There may have to be another breakout of electronic from print/internet.

But the five are Jeff Jacobs (Hartford Courant), Mike DiMauro (New London Day), Chris Elsberry (Conn. Post), the late Randy Smith (Manchester Journal Inquirer), and the late Dave Solomon (New Haven Register).

Two photographers are also given automatic entry -- Jessica Hill (AP) and Mike D'Avino (Sportspage magazine)

Now, Here Are The Bylines and Other Names of Today and Yester-year to make your choices. Note To Rich Elliott at the CPost -- Believe you have been minimal but someone will ask so everyone, there's answer.
PS. This tongue in cheek post is a way to pay tribute to the largest contigent of any franchise in the 16-year WNBA history. New York was big in the early years --- looooooong ago.

Also, Jon Erickson listed below has one of the more illustrious histories working as a beat person, becoming team PR in WNBA Minnesota, and then coming back to work the media room of the Sun in addition to being women's SID at Yale.

The media crowd also has such famed noteworthy's as former Staford SID Steve Racynski, Coast Guard SID Jason Southard and past operatives in the place were also UConn SIDs -- Randy Press and Leigh Torbin.

Hartford Courant
xx John Altavilla
xx Lori Riley
xx Mike Anthony

New Haven Register
xx Jim Fuller (two tours)
xx Karen (Tucker) Garner

Willimantic Chronicle
xx Rich Zalusky

New London Day
xx Ned Griffin

Norwich Bulletin
xx Joe Perez
xx Marc Allard
xx Matt Stout

Waterbury Republican
xx Roger Cleaveland

Manchester Journal Inquirer
xx Jon Erickson
xx Carl Adamec

Providence Journal
xx Shalese Young

Boston Globe
xx Susan Bickelhaupt

Associated Press
xx Donna Tommelleo
xx Pat Eaton-Robb

xx -- Ann Miller
xx -- Terese Karmel
xx -- Erin Samgin Damio

Dish 'N Siwsh/Hoopfeed
xx -- David Siegel

Sports Nation/Swish Appeal
xx Holly Tanneyhill

xx Joe Smith
xx Jim Clark

Radio CBS
xx-Scott Gray

Inhouse Sun
xx -- Bob Huessler

xx -- Rebecca Lobo
xx -- Mike Gorman

Note -- The Guru is a national regular but not eligible as the author of this post :)

Any memory lapses feel free to protest and will add.

And now if you are still reading this, which will interesting, here is the Guru's picks for Sun team of the decade.

Conn. Sun All-Decade Ten

Second Team
Margo Dydek
Debbie Black
Kara Lawson
Renee Montgomery
Taj McWllliams-Franklin

First Team
Tina Charles
Lindsay Whalen
Nykesha Sales
Asjha Jones
Katie Douglas

Alternates -- Rebecca Lobo

Some may change when the 15-year team gets picked since some destiny still ahead for the current young squad

OK, that's it till the next post. The Guru tentatively plans to be on the scene for the NY exhibition Monday night.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Guru's Musings: The Butler Does It Jumping To The A-10; Blue Hens Hobnob With The Veep

By Mel Greenberg

First, since the Guru's coaching carousel tracker seems to be catching attention, the original blog will stay in place rather than keep moving it up and it will update daily or as warranted as changes and hires and departures continue.

The Guru will alert through twitter @womhoopsguru and in precedes here when an update has occurred and you can just look down the left column inside blogspot to get to the link.

The carousel at the moment is just under this post while another new post above has some fun just for Connecticut Sun fans in the WNBA giving them a chance to pick the all-time media team of the decade as a companion to the current ballot asking for the top 10 Sun players of all time to celebrate the team's 10 years at the Mohegan Sun since moving from its former designation prior to 2003 as the Orlando Miracle.

The Guru after offering the media ballot picks will give his choices for the all-Sun team.

So moving on with some of the news of the day, since Butler will become part of the Atlantic 10 following next season replacing Temple after the Owls' departure for the Big East, people in town here where St. Joseph's and La Salle are still in the conference may want to know a little bit about the Bulldogs.

Their coach Beth Couture has had a record of success in 10 years in the Horizon League since coming over from Presbyterian, though this past season the team slipped to 9-9 in the conference and 13-17 overall.

But after struggling the first season at 6-23, the team then jumped to a level for several seasons at 14-15, 14-14, 15-14 and 16-15. Then in 2007-08, Butler jumped to marks of 20-10, 20-12, 23-10, and 20-14 prior to this season and the previous three records resulted in appearances in the WNIT.

At the moment the one player among many younger Bulldogs who will be on the roster when Butler begins Atlantic 10 play is Sarah Hamm, who was the second leading scorer at 11.1 points per game in her sophomore season.

Other than Wisconsin-Green Bay within the league and a nonconference tilt with Bowling Green of the MAC, it doesn't seem that Butler saw much, so needless to say it looks like it will be a challenge in the Bulldogs' new conference at the outset.

Shey--ing So

The Guru checked in with Jeff House, assistant coach of the WNBA Chicago Sky where Temple star Shey Peddy was taken in the second round and 23rd overall in the recent WNBA draft.

House made several visits here down the stretch to check out Peddy and Sky head coach Pokey Chatman saw several clips and liked what she saw enough that the thinking is that given Peddy's versatility if she proves herself in training camp, she has a chance to make the squad and be developed for the future to move up to a more active role when an aging veteran such as Ticha Penecheiro, the former Old Dominion All-American, decides to call it quits.

Chicago will be at the Prudential Center in the morning a week from Monday to meet the New York Liberty in a preseason game.

Kentucky Lock-Up?

The Wildcats sent an email around announcing a press conference tentatively set for Thursday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington involving women's coach Matthew Mitchell and athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

To paraphrase an old rock song "Smells Like Contract Extension."

Certainly Mitchell is not ready to join the five starters of the Kentucky men's champion NCAA squad and declare for the NBA draft. But given the way jobs keep opening in the middle of the current chaos there's no time like the present to keep the former Tennessee assistant to Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt in place given the Wildcats' success and liklihood they will be the Southeastern Conference favorite as well as one of the Final Four contenders in the next mini crowd behind defending champion Baylor and semifinalist Connecticut.

Speaking of Tennessee, the addition of former Illinois head coach Jolette Law, a former longtime associate head coach to Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer at Rutgers who mined considerable talent for the Scarlet Knights besides the attraction of her former boss in New Jersey, means the new era with the Lady Vols under former associate head coach Holly Warlick has a chance to succeed.

Blue Hens in Washington

The recognition of Delaware's school record-breaking season crashing onto the national scene with all-American Elena Delle Donne continues Thursday with a trip to the state legislature in Dover.

"Yeah, that would normally be a really big deal," said assistant coach Tom Lochner, the former La Salle head coach who joined Tina Martin's staff this past season. "But coming this week, the event has some competition."

That would be Tuesday's visit to Washington where famed alum and current vice president of the United States Joe Biden hosted the team for eight hours, giving them a total tour of the White House and then a poolside dinner at his residence.

Maybe Biden still can't over the fact that the weekend Barack Obama was selecting him as a running mate in 2008 when he was still the Delaware U.S. Senator, Delle Donne drew a larger local media turnout two days later when a press conference was held at the university to announce her enrollment and at that time joining the volleyball team.

When Biden had shown up for the championship game in 2009 in St. Louis when UConn beat St. Louis, someone in the media room remarked, "Guess he didn't get the memo that Delle Donne isn't here with UConn, she's back at Delaware."

Good thing not many in the administration or adjuncts in the media follow women's basketball, though the president has an awareness.

When Obama's aides were running a deception to keep secret his surprise trip to Afghanistan on Tuesday they put out an advance schedule saying Obama was going to be in meetings all day with Biden.

But Biden was preparing to be the gracious host.

"It was unbelievable the gave he gave us his time. He spent about eight hours straight," Lochner said.

The Guru hears that one highlight was Obama's daughter Sasha getting thrilled and excited when she spotted Delle Donne in the White House.

And you all thought a career at UConn was an end-all. Well, most of the time, but not always.

This could be interesting next year if the adminstration gets re-elected and the WNBA Washington Mystics land in the lotto and end up drafting Delle Donne. The result might be a bunch of nights in the Verizon Center when the Secret Service will be checking the place out in advance of visits from the nearby White House neighbors.

That's it for musings. Depending which way you are reading the triple threat posts today, on to the Conn Sun stuff.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Guru's College Report: Coaching Carousel Breakdown All Ways

(Guru's note: Updated Thursday, June 14, to reflect the hire of Felisha Legette-Jack at Buffalo after ousted at Indiana and previous reported hire of Bradley's Paula Buscher at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, which means 73 D-1 positions changing hands while rookie count holds at 40 and vacancies drop to five.

The Guru has deleted other information in the precede in this note to avoid crowding at the top of the blog. All the info is on the charts and story lead-in adjusted to the update.)

By Mel Greenberg

Continuing updating the carousel, as mentioned, former Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack hired at Buffalo and Paula Buscher switching schools means 73 D-1 jobs changed hands since the end of the season, counting five vacancies still out there with Buffalo and SIU-Edwardsville filled and Bradley becoming vacant.

There are now 40 rookie coaches in Division I with the recent hires of Kevin Cook, promoted at Winthrop, Amy (Gusso) Williams at South Dakota and Tamika L. Louis at Delaware State.

Williams played at Nebraska. Cook, a longtime friend of the Guru, has been an assistant at the former four-time WNBA champion Houston Comets, an aide at Kansas and a head coach at Division III Gallaudet in Washington as part of his career before joining Winthrop, assisting new VCU coach Marlene Stollings last season.

Previously, the Wake Forest hire of Jen Hoover means all 13 BCS opening have been filled baring another opening.

Fred Applin from 1995-97 was head women's coach at Hampton, depriving him of rookie status, though he is more known for a longtime stint at Texas under Hall of Famer Jody Conradt and also on the staffs at Wake Forest and most recently East Carolina.

Likewise, Sandra Rushing, recently hired at Central Arkansas from Delta State has a previous history at D-1 UTEP.

VCU with its new coach Marlene Stollings is heading to a new conference in 2012-13 in the Atlantic 10, which recently announced hire of former longtime Old Dominion legendary coach Wendy Larry as associate commissioner over women's basketball.

Re-shuffling the Division I breakout from the WBCA and Guru compiliations, as of Thursday, June 14, here first are the rookie Division I coaches, who become eligible for the WBCA Maggie Dixon award. Most recent hires after original compilation are below after the alphabetical list gets out of synch.

1. Bowling Green -- Jennifer Roos -- promoted from associate head coach
2. Bucknell -- Aaron Roussell -- was DIII head coach at Chicago
3. College of Charleston -- Natasha Adair -- was on staff at Wake Forest
4. Drake -- Jennie Baranczyk -- was an assistant at Colorado
5. Eastern Michigan -- Tori Verdi -- was an assistant at Kansas, Nebraska, Columbia and on staff of WNBA Conn. Sun.
6. Georgia Southern -- Chris Vozab -- was an assistant at Dayton, also on staffs of Winthrop and Canisiius
7. Georgetown -- Keith Brown -- promoted from assistant.
8. George Washington -- Jonathan Tsipis -- was associate head coach at Notre Dame
9. Kennesaw State -- Nitra Perry -- was associate head coach at Toledo
10. Kent State -- Danielle O'Banion -- was associate head coach at Memphis
11. Mississippi State -- Vic Schaefer -- was associate head coach at Texas A&M
12. North Carolina Central -- Vanessa Taylor -- was head coach at Division II Johnson C. Smith
13. Northwestern State -- Brooke & Scott Stoehr -- Brooke was assistant at Texas Tech; Scott most recently H.S.
14. Oral Roberts -- Misti Cussen -- promoted from top assistant
15. St. Francis, Pa -- Joe Haigh -- promoted from top assistant
16. Siena -- Ali Jaques -- was associate head coach at Northwestern
17. St. John's -- Joe Tartamella -- was associate head coach
18. Troy -- Chanda Rigby -- was head coach at Pensacola State College -- under the NJCAA
19. Denver -- Kerry Cremeans -- was associate head coach at Auburn was also at Florida and Purdue
20. Hawaii -- Laura Beeman -- was an associate head coach at Southern Cal
21. Louisiana-Lafayette -- Gary Brodhead -- was associate head coach at McNeese State
22. UMKC -- Marsha Frese -- was associate head coach at Northern Illinois and served elsewhere. Md's B. Frese a sister
23. North Dakota -- Travis Brewster -- promoted from associate head coach
24. U. of Tennessee -- Holly Warlick -- promoted from associate head coach
25. Valparaiso -- Tracey Dorow -- was head coach at DII Ferris State
26. Wagner -- Lisa Cermignano -- was assistant at Illinois, was also at Vanderbilt and George Washington
27. Western Kentucky -- Michelle Clark-Heard -- was an assistant at Louisville
28. Western Michigan -- Shane Clipfell -- was associate head coach at Michigan State
29. Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- Kyle Rechliz -- was assistant head coach at Wisconsin.
30. UNC Wilmington -- Adell Harris -- was head coach at Division II Tusculum.
31. Florida Atlantic -- Kellie Lewis-Jay -- was an assistant at Nebraska.
32. North Carolina A&T -- Tarrell Robinson -- was associate head coach at VCU.
33. North Carolina Asheville -- Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick -- was assistant coach at Florida.
34. Lipscomb -- Greg Brown -- Was associate head coach at Central Florida.
35. High Point -- DeUnna Hendrix -- Promoted from assistant coach.
36. UC Irvine -- Doug Oliver -- Promoted from assistant coach.
37. Eastern Illinois -- Lee Buchanan -- Promoted from associate head coach.
38. Delaware State -- Tamika L. Louis -- Had been assistant coach at George Washington prior to change of head coach over the Colonials.
39. South Dakota -- Amy (Gusso) Williams -- Had been head coach of NAIA Rogers State.
40. Winthrop -- Kevin Cook -- Promoted from assistant.

List could still grow depending on hires at remaining vacancies.

Boxscore on rookies -- 24 female 15 male 1 married couple; 7 in-house promotions; 4 DII HC; 1 DIII HC; 1 NJCAA HC; 1 NAIA HC.

BCS Hires
1. Auburn -- Terri Williams-Flournoy -- was head coach at BCS Georgetown
2. Boston College -- Erik Johnson -- was head coach at MM Denver
3. Georgetown -- Keith Brown -- promoted from BCS staff.
4. Indiana -- Curt Miller -- was head coach at MM Bowling Green
5. Mississippi State -- Vic Schaefer -- was associate head coach at BCS Texas A&M
6. Providence -- Susan Robinson Fruchtl -- was head coach at MM St. Francis, Pa.
7. St. John's -- Joe Tartamella -- promoted from associate head coach at BCS St. John's
8. U of Illinois -- Matt Bollant -- was head coach at MM Wis.-Green Bay
9. U of Michigan -- Kim Barnes Arico -- was head coach at BCS St. John's
10. U of Mississippi -- Adrian Wiggins -- was head coach at MM Fresno State
11. U of Tennessee -- Holly Warlick -- promoted from associate head coach at BCS Tenn.
12. Texas -- Karen Aston -- was head coach at MM North Texas
13. Wake Forest -- Jen Hoover -- was head coach at MM High Point.

Boxscore -- 6 female, 7 males; 2 head coach bcs; 7 head coach MMs; 3 inhouse promos; 1 assoc hc bcs.

Other DI Hires
1. Ball State -- Brady Sallee -- Was head coach at MM Eastern Illinois.
2. Fresno State -- Raegan Pebley -- Was head coach at MM Utah State
3. Charleston Southern -- Fred Applin -- Was asst at MM East Carolina; Also on staffs at Wake, Texas; HC MM Hampton.
4. Grambling -- Patricia Bibbs -- Was head coach at MM North Carolina A&T
5. Loyola Marymount -- Charity Elliott -- Was at D-II San Diego but also coached at D-1 Portland State.
6. St. Louis -- Lisa Stone -- A past head coach at BCS Wisconsin
7. Tennessee State -- Larry Inman -- A past head coach at MM Middle Tennessee
8. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi -- Royce Chadwick -- Was recently long-term head coach at MM Marshall, and also was HC at Stephen F. Austin
9. Texas Southern -- Cynthia Cooper-Dyke -- Was head coach at MM UNC Wilmington
10. North Texas -- Mike Petersen -- Was head coach at BCS Wake Forest
11. Wis.-Green Bay -- Kenneth Borseth -- Was head coach at BCS Michigan; a past hc at MM Wis.-Green Bay
12. Utah State -- Jerry Finkbeiner -- Was head coach at MM Oral Roberts
13. Arkansas Pine Bluff -- Nate Kilbert -- Was head coach at MM Mississippi Valley State
14. Colorado State -- Ryun Williams -- Was head coach at MM South Dakota
15. Marshall -- Matt Daniel -- Was head coach at MM Central Arkansas
16. Central Arkansas -- Sandra Rushing -- Was head coach at D-II Delta State and had coached at D-I UTEP.
17. VCU -- Marlene Stollings -- Was head coach at MM Winthrop.
18. S. Illinois-Edwardsville -- Paula Buscher -- Was head coach at MM Bradley.
19. Buffalo -- Felisha Legette-Jack -- Had been head coach at BCS Indiana and previously MM Hofstra.

Boxscore -- 9 female, 10 males; 4 BCS Head coach, 13 MM Head coach; 1 D-II Head coach, 1 Asst.

Vacancies (as of June 14, 2012)
1. Bradley
2. Mississippi Valley State
3. New Jersey Institute Tech
4. Northern Arizona
5. Tennessee Tech

Boxscore -- 5 MMs. 0 BCS

That's the updating for now.

-- Mel