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, October 30, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Donovan Honored in Suburban Philly

By Mel Greenberg

ASTON, Pa. --
WNBA Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan was honored here at Neumann University Tuesday night for something different than your normal honors, which you all saw through one link or another in the advances.

BTW. A very good story at philly.com from news section by news-side's Jeff Gammage at The Inquirer where you can get a full scope of the background.

The Guru was on the scene to cover the speech and question and answer session.

For those friends up north only two names came up all evening -- references to Dawn Staley and Andrea Stinson, her two co-captains who led the turn-around in Charlotte from 1-10 start to WNBA finals.

In a magnanimous gesture beforehand, the Guru decided to send the traffic here to the Connecticut Sun so they have the full report and will probably post sometime this morning after editing and getting the photos from Neumann.

In other news, didn't know the Big East was into regattas yet if you need someone at the women's helm of a re-formatted ship, might as well have a Cox do the job. :)

Unlike elsewhere whenever the Preseason USBWA men's and women's teams post at the site's tipoff report, at least one Big East team will be in the women's rankings.

That is all. Will tweet when Donovan story is running at Mohegan central.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, October 25, 2013

Guru's NCAA Report: An In-House Change Might Mean Former Rivals Colliding Earlier in NCAA Tourney

By Mel Greenberg

Decisions by the NCAA women's basketball tournament committee were released Thursday on the future of the showcase event spurred by the White Paper research document of former WNBA president that became public several weeks prior to her hire in June as commissioner of the re-vamped Big East Conference.

Highlights beginning next year are returns to the format of top 16 seeded teams hosting the first two rounds and a rollback to the Friday-Sunday competition of the Women's Final Four from the current Sunday-Tuesday night dates that follow the tournament.

Consequently the preceding weekends of opening round play and the regional Sweet 16 and Elite Eight events will also roll back to stay in synch.

Shot down by either vote or no-vote were the suggestions to finish up a week after the men's tournament and also reducing the four regionals to two super-site regionals of eight teams each, of which Doug Feinberg, the Associated Press national women's basketball reporter, revealed the latter in his coverage.

Though the Guru has yet to troll the waters for further information, he suspects the whims of national TV partner ESPN were probably influential in terms of what got approved or disapproved on the heels of recommendations by the recent gathering of administrators, key coaches, referees and TV executives to discuss Ackerman's conclusions.

It is not known at this writing but maybe soon enough whether using a rotation of cities to host regionals and then a Final Four is still alive as a concept.

The basketball committee did say that after the exception this year, regionals should be played on neutral sites, per the urging from the coaches in the sport, a move that could help the mega bid Philadelphia has been dealing to get key weekends of the women's tournament as part of an effort to land a bundle of NCAA championships in other sports.

One thing likely to happen, but not finalized yet, according to a Guru source, is the rollback of dates is likely to see a return of Selection Sunday -- the same day the men's field is announced -- from Monday nights.

While the Monday setup has given the women their own day to feature the release of the 64-team field and draw, several knowledgeable sources have told the Guru that even in the face of the tumult that comes several hours later on Sunday when the men's field is announced, the women's selection show had better TV ratings prior to the change.

Principle and Procedures Amended

But while that addressed the future, a situation, not announced, involving this season's tournament was dealt with concerning the impact of the mega conference shuffle, which began to occur after Ackerman was given her mission with the White Paper.

The breakup of the old Big East, additions in the Atlantic Coast Conference, both of which affected many of the top women's team, and even some action off Conference USA and the Colonial Athletic Association, had a major impact on how the men's and women's committees put their draws together.

The women are going to follow changes made by the men's committee last summer in terms of when teams from the same conferences can meet.

One difference that had existed and will continue is while the men seed their field of 68 and then use the S curve to balance the pairings (1 meets the lowest team in the opening round), the women seed 64 teams but then with four teams at a time the committee places then in proximity to the geographical locations of the regional.

This all came to light in 2007 when it was thought the women's committee operated as the men until four teams in the Top 10 rankings landed in the Cleveland regional.

Several mock brackets later, the media and coaches came to understand the difference and how to adjust their own projections of the women's field.

But another problem emerged to give the women's committee headaches with super powers galore in such places as the old Big East, the ACC, the Southeastern Conference, and the Big 12, coupled with lower seeds hosting early rounds allowed to be in their arenas against higher seeded teams.

Now one can imagine the added difficulty dealing with the new map of NCAA competition in terms of keeping similar conference teams apart from facing each other until deep in the pairings.

But it appears the women are going to adjust as follows: If teams meet only once in conference play also including the conference tournament which would be caused by an upset, then they could meet as early in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

If they meet twice, either double round-robin but not in the conference tourney, or in single round-robin and the conference tourney, they could meet in the round of 16. And if they meet in league play three times, double round-robin and the conference tourney, they cannot meet until the Elite Eight.

Given the implosion of the Big East and the expansion of the ACC, here's how this would play out in the real world involving some teams likely to make the field in most years.

Connecticut, the preseason favorite to repeat, Rutgers, and Louisville, formerly with the Big East, are now with The American. Meanwhile, Notre Dame and Syracuse are over in the ACC, while DePaul, St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, and Villanova are with the new-look Big East.

Now given that seeding gets done first and some of these teams are all likely to be on the high end and would be apart anyway such as UConn and Notre Dame, it would be possible for Connecticut and Villanova, for example, to play in the second round.

Same for Syracuse and UConn or Syracuse and Villanova.

If Old Dominion, now in Conference USA, makes the field, the Lady Monarchs could see the CAA champion earlier than they would have in the past -- though that chance was slim anyway given the way the mid-major CAA has been treated in terms of multiple worthy teams.

Next year some more moves will mean Rutgers and Maryland in the Big Ten and Louisville in the ACC could also see certain teams earlier than before.

Maryland could see the Terps former ACC rivals earlier.

But still, the season has to play out and remember this time around the early round sites have been pre-determined.

While in the future good teams will be rewarded with top 16 seeds -- which means 1-4 in each regional column, perhaps this is going to propel expenses because depending where the rest of the field is emerging geographically, they will all have to be matched to the existing top four seeds per region hosting early rounds.

OK. Class dismissed. Any questions, that's what twitter and email are for.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guru's College Report II: Departed Delaware Grad Elena Delle Donne Still A Dominant Force at CAA Media Day

Guru's Note: The A-10 media day post is under this.

By Mel Greenberg

Former Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne made a virtual but not live encore appearance of sorts here Tuesday at the annual Colonial Athletic Association media day following her smashing WNBA–debut season on the Chicago Sky which landed her the media panel’s unanimous choice as rookie of the year.

If the All-American and 2008 national high school player of the year out of Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Del., had stayed on her original path and pursued her collegiate career at powerful Connecticut, Tuesday’s talk on the women’s side of the event might have focused more on the departure of former CAA heavyweight Old Dominion, which moved on to Conference USA, or the new member arrival of College of Charleston with Natasha Adair, or the debut of three new coaches – Natasha Adair as part of the new member package, Niki Reid Geckler, moving from Howard to Towson, and Ed Swanson, moving from Sacred Heart to William and Mary.

George Mason and Georgia State also left the conference.

Adair, as an assistant who had been a runner up for the Temple vacancy six years ago, and Geckler have past ties to Georgetown with Geckler having been one of the more prominent players in the old Big East during her collegiate career.

All three were approached, however, as media members made their rounds to the tables to interview the nine each men’s and women’s coaches. Old Dominion’s exit, though, received barely a whisper with the big noise coming a year ago with the Monarchs’ announcement of their future intentions.

And maybe Drexel would have gotten some extra love for winning the WNIT, though with a preseason pick for second behind James Madison from the CAA coaches, the Dragons certainly earned some respect.

But with Delle Donne and six other Delaware seniors from last season gone from the scene of a two-year unbeaten domination in the conference by the Blue Hens, coach Tina Martin answered the obvious questions, with perhaps one-more go-round on opening night, about a squad that is so young the roster suggests that most of the players might have won spots in competition at her summer camps.

Delaware was picked fifth in the league.

Delle Donne’s place, now part of the CAA lure, means that it has become safe for Delaware opponents to praise her exploits instead of concentrating on how to triple-team her in the nightly conference wars that kick into play once the new year arrives on the calendar in January.

Akeema Richards, picked on the All-CAA preseason second team, is the only returning starter at Delaware, which has six freshmen – one a redshirt, and five sophomores – two also redshirts, and a junior to go with Richards and senior center Kelsey Buchanan.

Martin said there really was no nostalgia or strange feelings on her part when practice got under way without her scoring machine and her six classmates.

“It’s exciting because it gives us an opportunity to give a fresh look at everybody,” Martin said.

“Certainly though freshmen and sophomores who didn’t get a whole lot of playing time last year, but got some, are going to have to step up and play some huge roles.

“We graduated over 6,000 points (3,000-plus by Delle Donne), over 3,000 rebounds, and over 3,000 assists just from our seven seniors, and it’s impressive when you look at those numbers – certainly even with Elena,” Martin continued.

“Because certainly, (Daniel) Parker was a 1,000-point scorer, a 1,000-rebounder, (Lauren) Carra was a 1000-point scorer, so the majority of that was done by the entire team, obviously, and it’s definitely a re-birth with all these freshmen and sophomores, so you’re definitely going to need a roster to see who’s on our team,” Martin added.

“I was really excited,” she said about the first day of practice. “The group did what they needed to do to put their mark on history. And they certainly did put their mark on history. I don’t think another team will accomplish what they accomplished – being undefeated (in the CAA), back-to-back years, that’s not an easy task, certainly that was a huge, huge mark as they put their stamp on the history of Delaware women’s basketball.

“But no, I pretty much let that all go in the summertime,” Martin related. “I had a couple of evenings where I sat down and just looked at the highlights and really enjoyed that, and spent some time with my seniors and really enjoyed that, and then I was ready to move on, just like they’re ready to move on with life and they’re really doing well.

“So I was ready at the first day of practice – OK, who are all these new people and let’s work with them and get them to be the best people and then the best basketball players they can be. So I was excited about the first day of practice.” Martin explained.

“There has not been a down day for me. Really, there has not. I’m very, very refreshed and excited to work with these youngsters.”

She also talked about Drexel winning the WNIT and also her good friend and colleague, Dragons coach Denise Dillon, who represented the women’s coaches in remarks after lunch and got one of her Delle Donne references combined by tossing a shot at the Guru, noting after saying some nice things about him that she has given him grief spending more time outside the Philadelphia city limits at Delle Donne’s games then at Drexel.

“I knew she’d have a great shot (winning the WNIT),” Martin said. “In our league all the coaches have respect for Drexel and the job that Denise does. It just shows you how good the women’s side of the C AA is.”

Kenny Brooks also noted Delle Donne as well as the return of a bit of old times with his James Madison squad picked to win the league and his senior guard Kirby Burkholder named preseason player of the year.

“A lot of people say, are you happy that Delle Donne’s gone,” the veteran coach said. “There are only two people that are disappointed she’s gone – that’s me and Tina.

“I thought what she brought to our league was tremendous and you don’t get that very often,” Brooks said. “I thought she raised the level of play in our league, and the expectations in our league, and obvious with them going to the Sweet 16, that was a great accomplishment.

“Hopefully, people will understand what Elena did over the summer – she not only did that for the Chicago Sky, she did it for the CAA and Delaware and I was really proud of her. I said with all these (NCAA) rules changes (cleaning up defenses), that if those rules had been in place in the past, Elena would have scored 6,000 points against the CAA,” Brooks continued.

“I loved competing against her. Unfortunately she’s not around anymore and we have to compete against the people who are here and I like our chances and I like our team.”

Brooks also alluded to Drexel’s success, saying, “I’ve said all along our league is underrated. We continue to get one bid and we had a run two years ago to the WNIT final game, and last year we got to the quarterfinals and Drexel was able to get over the hump and win it.

“It just goes to show how good our league is and should put people on notice.”

As for Drexel’s outlook, Dillon noted that despite the graduation of Hollie Mershon, “Some people think we have some things to work with. With Meghan Creighton at the point (guard slot), she gives you a lot of security. She understands what needs to be done – initiating the offense, keeping everyone on the same page.

“We’re just asking her to grow up a little sooner than most people would expect from a sophomore. With her game experience, she knows what has to be done – she just has to learn how to communicate it to her teammates.”

After Drexel, the third pick was Northeastern, which had the biggest turnaround and landed Daynia La-Force coach of the year honors.

Towson was picked fourth and the Tigers have a new spectacular addition not on the roster but prominent nonetheless in their brand new 5,000-seat SECU Arena that upgrades the home court in suburban Baltimore from one of the poorer ones around to a state of the art facility that should quickly become a host site possibly for NCAA women’s tournament early rounds.

Delaware followed at fifth and then the rest of the forecast in order consisted of Hofstra, College of Charleston, UNCW, and William & Mary.

The rest of the All-Conference first team to go with Burkholder is her JMU teammate Precious Hall, UNCW’s Kelva Atkins, Towson’s Tanisha McTiller, and Northeastern Jewel Tunstull.

Joining Delaware’s Richards on the second team are C of C’s Alyssa Frye, Northeastern’s A’lece Mark, Hofstra’s Anma Onyeuku and the Pride’s Andreana Thomas.

Drexel’s Creighton and Fiona Flanagan were named honorable mention along with Nyree Williams of Towson.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Guru's College Report - Part 1: Defending A-10 Champions Saint Joseph's Picked 2nd at Return of Media Day

By Mel Greenberg

After shoving Dayton aside in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament last season and then going on the edge upstart Fordham in the final seconds of the championships, the Hawks have been picked second behind those same Flyers in the coaches’ preseason poll. La Salle was picked ninth.

The rankings were revealed Tuesday in Richmond, Va., at the Coliseum, the site of this season’s entire A-10 tournament, at the conference’s first women’s media day in quite some time.

In the old days when Rutgers and Penn State were in the league, the event was one of the most-stops on the preseason circuit before the A-10 resorted to teleconference interviews not long after the two usual frontrunners departed elsewhere to the old Big East (Rutgers) and Big Ten (Penn State).

A piece of credit for the restoration goes to former Old Dominion longtime coach Wendy Larry, who last season became in charge of the conference’s women’s basketball operation under commissioner Bernadette McGlade.

Richmond, ironically, is the headquarters city of the CAA and several sources have claimed that with the CAA moving the men’s tournament to Baltimore, in part because of no longer having a state-of-Virginia presence, the city was miffed to toss as much as $10,000 dollars at the A-10 to bring the women’s tournament below the Mason-Dixon line.

Two seasons ago the entire tournament was at Saint Joseph’s and last season the event returned to Hagan Arena, but only through the semifinals before a week’s pause occurred to play the title game in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the brand new Barclays Arena after the men’s semifinals.

Dayton dominated the season with a national ranking and in the conference before the Hawks shocked the Flyers to eventually earn longtime coach Cindy Griffin her first NCAA appearance as a coach at her alma mater.

“Our players will play and act like champions until they have the championship taken away from them,” Griffin said of the defense of the conference crown.

With Temple gone to the basically football portion of the old Big East in The American conference after being a perennial A-10 challenger, the local presence has been reduced to the Hawks and Explorers.

Saint Joseph’s Erin Shields, the A-10 and Big five most improved player last season, was named to the conference second team along with Natasha Cloud, who also was named to the preseason defensive team.

Shields and Cloud along with a slew of Hawks all had an outstanding offseason playing in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Basketball Summer League with Shields’ team winning the title.

The A-10 coaches picked three preseason fives but no individual top player and all the winners can be seen at the conference’s website.

Dayton got 12 of 13 first-place votes in the poll, while the Hawks picked up the other first-place ballot.

The A-10 was also caught in the mass conference shuffle of members coming and going over the summer. Besides Temple’s departure, Charlotte went to Conference USA while Xavier, a past conference challenger, and Butler, which lasted one year, went to the new configuration of the Big East while George Mason was picked up from the CAA.

Duquesne, which had the only coaching change, was picked third ahead of Fordham by a point.

The Dukes lost former basketball great Suzie McConnell-Serio who traveled across town to take the Pittsburgh job in her native city. Both she and her Panthers are making their debut Wednesday at the Atlantic Coast Conference media day in Greensboro, N.C., after the school left the old Big East but will see familiar faces as former Big East schools Notre Dame and Syracuse also make their debuts.

McConnell-Serio was replaced at Duquesne by Dan Burt, who was promoted after being her top assistant.

George Washington, beginning to experience a revival under second=year coach Jonathan Tsipis was picked fifth, while Richmond was tabbed six with the rest of the order being VCU, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure (by a point), La Salle, George Mason, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

La Salle is hoping to mount a challenge with a healthy squad that was rocked by injuries last season. The Explorers are also adding some talented transfers.

“We're very excited about this year,” Williams said during the interviews. “Practice has been going great. Our transfer kids have been providing tremendous leadership. Practice has been very intense, upbeat, [and] our team chemistry has been great so I'm very excited about this year. We still need to score the basketball, rebound the basketball… but were working at it and our kids are getting better every day.”

The Guru will catch up on the blog with some previous stops over the last two weeks, including Penn State and on Thursday Rutgers’ media day.

He’s been doing his normal administrative ops this time of year to get ready besides working on UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s biography for the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction on Nov. 7, though Auriemma won’t be there because of the Huskies’ season opener the next day in defense of the NCAA title.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Guru's Acceptance Speech at Immaculata Athletics Hall of Fame Induction

Thank you.


It’s homecoming weekend at Temple University, my alma mater, but tonight I’m here at Immaculata becoming one of your Hall of Famers, or, as one person recently asked me: Does this mean now that you are an honorary Catholic woman?

I’d like to thank the selection committee and everyone else involved for this special honor and I’m especially thrilled for my fellow and sister inductees, especially because, quite honestly, when I first received my notification last spring, I thought to myself: They put the entire 1972 team in the first class last year so now they must be running out of candidates.

And when it comes to the thanks, without getting into a lot of names around me over the years, though the women’s basketball poll was actually then-sports editor Jay Searcy’s idea, conceived from his New York Times background during the heyday of the Immaculata-Queens rivalry, there have been many industry colleagues on my side to help the cause while from your side, nothing gets done without the coaches and players performing at their best to provide a reason to chronicle their stories.

First, I’d like to clarify a few things – I did not rig three AIAW tournaments and one in the NCAA so your Marianne Staley and Theresa Grentz could win national titles as coaches as well as doing likewise in another NCAA event in 2000 leading to a Final Four set up in Philadelphia, so Rene Portland’s Penn State squad would be a participant.

You, know there at times the way my life has gone that unlike The Mighty Macs film, it is quite the opposite here at the podium where I open these remarks by saying you are now looking at a true story based on a movie.

In a recent phone call to Cathy Rush, she asked, in terms of the acceptance, how much time are “They” giving you and I replied – it’s about the same resistance the sisters gave you when you tried to turn the place into big time.

And learning from you, Cathy, I’ll probably go about it the same way.

I told Cathy that if I can fundraise to get Patty Canterino, your marvelous current women’s basketball coach and athletic director, an increase in her contract, then I might be able to buy a few extra minutes I’m going to take anyhow to tell the tale.

You know when the movie came out, people kept asking if I had a part, and I told them that, no, I came along just after the championships, but, of course, had I known the way the script would stretch a few things, then I might have talked Tim Chambers into a scene or two.

In fact, here’s how one scene could have gone – true story. – Cathy was so far ahead of everyone in the area of media promotion and when I started out and approached AIAW, then dominated by conservative philosophy out of the Midwest, about trying to launch a national weekly women’s basketball poll, a response came back in the mail, and for you youngsters who are here, that’s mail, not email, in the form of a position paper saying, quote, “Women’s athletics should not get involved in newspaper games like polls, for it will lead to the evils of men’s athletics.”

And who would have believed then that one day men's athletics would become part of Immaculata.

So anyhow, I actually then thought, what the heck, why bother? Until ---- I went to one of your postseason dinners in 1976 when Marianne was a senior and I was so inspired that night that immediately afterwards I thought, if I don’t do something, this could all eventually die.

By then word was getting around about this guy at The Philadelphia Inquirer doing nice things in the media for women’s athletics, and as a result the AIAW elders were softening their stance.

So one night back then, Cathy, Ed and yours truly were having a few lemonades around the corner on Lancaster Avenue and I was giving them the latest scuttlebutt at a time when Cathy was making some progress in what she wanted to do to enhance the program.

Then Cathy says to me about our common cause: “Listen. You take care of AIAW and I’ll take care of the nuns.”

There’s another tale from early on involving this place that gets told, especially to new generations of players in the Lone Star state over the years and it begins: One cold night at Immaculata.

Texas comes up here in the winter of 1976 to play the Mighty Macs over at Great Valley High and despite all you might guess at the largess of the Longhorns’ bank account for travel, when they came up from the Heart of Dixie, they stayed right here on campus in the dorms, which, back then, would be shuttered at midnight.

Texas was then coached by eventual Hall of Famer Jody Conradt and the women’s athletic director, who was on the trip, was Donna Lopiano, one of the great proponents of women’s athletics and equality.

So the game is over, Cathy says to me, You’re in charge of postgame hospitality, I have to go somewhere, take care of Jody and Donna.

It’s a cold winter night, we shoot over to a restaurant in Valley Forge and now we’re working our way back down below here on that narrow lane through the grotto, but it’s after 12 a.m.

So, you know what that meant. And at first no one was found to open the doors to the dorm and Donna says, Well, Mel. It looks like we’re staying at your place and Jody says: We can’t do that. It won’t look good because we just got ranked.

In the early days of the poll, attendance was not always great but the late great North Carolina State coach Kay Yow always remembered the time when your team came to their place and because each team was ranked giving some relevance to the event, several hundred people were already lined up outside the gym in Raleigh during a raging blizzard several hours before the game.

And I remember one night here in those days about the time there was a brief newspaper strike that Saint Joseph’s, with a ranking, came out here to play and there were actually scalpers and a large line outside Great Valley even though there was no advance coverage.

I said at the beginning of these remarks that when I got word of this honor, I did have some wonderment, why me? – I mean, I’m not an alum. I certainly can’t get facilities built on campus here the way my fellow inductee Tom Ford got things done.

But the reality is, we are all family nonetheless. As I go through my life, and the things I’ve achieved, I always marvel when younger coaches and players say to me, “Tell me about those days at Immaculata.

And here’s something else as we look at life’s daily evolvements over the years since that championship run:

Game film has become video. Typewriters, which I first used, have been outdated by computers, which have been outdated by smart phones and tablets.

Newspapers have been outpaced by the internet, which has seen Facebook get eclipsed by twitter for breaking stories.

But right here at Immaculata, where we celebrate at this exceptional event tonight, time may stand still in terms of the glory of the past, but the University continues to move forward into the future.

Some things never change. Your students, and by that I mean, not just your athletes, still compete at the highest level of desire every day. And likewise, the university itself is still a big time player in the modern world.

In some ways it’s a bit melancholy, we can’t go back to the innocent fun days of cake sales to raise travel money, and postgame tea and cookies has transformed into wine and cheese.

Yes, some things are gone. But Immaculata has stood the test of time – going from College to University, from a small women’s school to a thriving co-educational institution overcoming every challenge along the way.

Everywhere I have gone, everything I have achieved, there has always been a piece of your university with me. Immaculata endures for the ages.

When I was out here one night back in 2007 to watch a scene for the movie being shot in the Rotunda, during a timeout, Tim Chambers introduced Cathy, who was here, and me to the cast, saying of myself to them, “We are able to do this today because he was here back then.”

But I say to you tonight, I am able to do what I do because you were here then and you’re still here now. – And once again I thank you.

Some quick notes. The Guru went second following Tom Ford and noted right off the cuff that Tom's speech was actually two minutes longer but when the Guru learned Tom was a finance director he purchased the time to add to his own speech.

Cathy Rush, Theresa Grentz and Denise Conway-Crawford of the original national champs were at the Guru's table.

Full details of all five inductees are at the Immaculata website.

In closing out the night, Canterino prononuced the Guru an official Mighty Mac and approved the speech be posted here, on facebook and tweeted as long as the reference to her in the Guru's speech appeared in boldface type.

So consider the request fulfilled :)

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Guru's College Report: Commentary on Another In-House Hit at Tennessee and NCAA 2013-14 Sites

By Mel Greenberg

Word on the street out of Knoxville from reliable people in the know is another longtime member of the Tennessee athletic department primarily in the area of women’s competition, especially Lady Vol basketball, has joined the list of “Pat Summitt era” support notables who are either now in the past tense in terms of university affiliation or whose duties have been significantly altered.

According to a few sources sending notes this way, William “Willbill” Ewart, who many of you know by his shock of red hair, has been relieved of his duties as an athletic department photographer after serving 35 years.

If former longtime trainer Jenny Moshek was one of the best off-court rebounders for Summitt in terms of performing miracles in getting injured players quickly back to action, then Willbill could be considered one of the greatest “shooters” for the Hall of Fame coach who never donned a Lady Vol uniform or who’s only contact with a basketball occurred in out-of-bound situations during games.

Willbill capturing the scene involving Lady Vol athletics players and coaches as well as at off-court events was as notable in its own way as the work often done by White House photographers.

Personally, Willbill was kind enough to volunteer his services as a photographer to the Guru entourage attending the Guru’s induction in 2007 to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville.

In recent years Willbill has shot subsequent induction weekends for the Guru’s website and has traveled on his own to Women’s Final Fours to perform similar functions.

The Guru was told Willbill, unlike others, is not totally out the door but will now serve as Lady Vol Media Ombudsman, continuing his function as half-time media hospitality and postgame coach and player hospitality coordinator.

To date Willbill is not credentialed in-house for any other sports and he is banned from shooting Tennessee Athletics unless he is hired by a legitimate organization or media outlet making use of his photos, Guru sources reported.

Though the Guru has not talked to Willbill in recent days there was a sense from him in a conversation not long ago that some change to his duties may be brewing so apparently it has occurred.

In terms of Willbill's psuedo-free-agency, the Guru would say that you SIDs who read this blog and whose teams are visiting Tennessee this season for any sports but whose support staff travel budgets have been trimmed and need a reliable local photographer in Knoxville, you now know there is a good one available barring any restoration of Willbill’s previous role.

Of course, given the Guru’s longtime relationship with Lady Vol basketball either in the past as a fulltime Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter or as the AP women’s poll coordinator from its inception through 1994-95, if the Guru desires Willbill to shoot action in Knoxville, it will be interesting to see if the new top brass above the WBB SID level in athletic relations is consistent with the NCAA in considering this blog and its local sister PhilahoopsW as a legitimate organization or media outlet.

Stay tuned.

NCAA Assigns Site Cities Leading to 2013-14 Womens Final Four

We've known for some time where the last stop on the NCAA trail is in terms of Nashville hosting this season's NCAA Women's Final Four.

Now we know the opening and regional routes the field of 64, when determined, must navigate in terms of geography to get there.

Despite the statements coming out of the recent summit at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis consisting of a conclave of coaches, administrators, referees and ESPN network officials that a strong message was being sent to the women's tournament committee of changes that should be done as quickly as possible, the response apparently is: Well, not that fast.

For example, it was recommended that the format go back to top 16 seeds getting home sites for first and second round action.

Instead, an announcement came Wednesday of 16 pre-determined sites, the way it has been in recent seasons and some earlier ones prior to a change when the tournament briefly got under way in the manner of the men's eight-team-per-eight-site pod system.

The summit, incidentally, was spurred by the white paper report on NCAA women's basketball in all phases produced by former WNBA president Val Ackerman before she became commissioner of the new Big East conference.

In terms of the early round sites, on one hand, at the outset of a season that still must be played out before the move this time can be evaluated, at least 12 of the 16 host schools/cities could land in the top 16 and all have a shot at making the field, which, of course, would preclude any site being truly neutral.

And for teams in the East, such as schools here in the Philadelphia area, there are plenty of places to be placed without any type of hardhip travel in terms of Penn State, Connecticut, Duke, Maryland, and North Carolina as options, though all would be tough on home floors but in fairness all would probably be higher seeds anyway.

But when it comes to the four regionals, the assignment could get intriguing in terms of who lands at either Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., or at Louisville in Kentucky, or Lincoln, Nebraska, or Stanford in northern Californi by the Bay Area community of Palo Alto.

Because of another outgrowth of the white paper, teams are allowed to play in their own venues in the regionals.

However, at the regional level of the next Big Dance in March-April, when the talk has been finding ways to promote media coverage and create a fine arena atmosphere, the Northeast has been left out in the cold more than weatherwise.

It is only the second time in the 33-year history of the tournament -- the other being in 1989 -- that the state of Kentucky becomes the Eastern most locale. In the other instance Western Kentucky was a host in Bowling Green when the Hilltoppers were a national power.

It is known that Springfield, Mass., had a bid, which would have been a fine and convenient place for teams, like the powerhouse down the road, fans and media to get to from the East at low cost rates.

There are other years in which a pure Northeast locale was not in the regional mix, but in those instances the Eastern most sites were either at Dayton in Ohio, or in North Carolina at either Greensboro or Raleigh, or once in South Carolina with the Gamecocks hosting in Columbia.

Because one does not know yet of any changes in principles and procedures in building the tournament -- it's not as easy even for the Guru these days to chat with people to get background of deliberations -- Connecticut does not have a total slam diunk to obtaining what would be record-breaking title number nine.

Yeah, we started out here last year in the same mode with Baylor and the given did not happen thanks to, by the way, Louisville, so this assumption involving Connecticut is for illustrative discussion.

Say the Huskies are the overall No. 1 seed, barring that they don't get topped because some committee types could decide that someone with a better RPI (perils of The American) trumps the best talent in the tournament.

Then under the current setup they get near geography, which according to precise Mapquest readout is Notre Dame, though Louisville is only less than a 100 miles or one hour more away.

Well since the Irish are now in the Atlantic Coast Conference there's no rules of placement problem since UConn and Notre Dame are no longer in-house rivals. There is one of your first outgrowths of the whole shuiffle of schools that occurred last July.

But for now, Louisville, ACC-bound next year, is still in the revamped American (formerly football portion of the Big East with mass changes), and thus is a conference rival of UConn -- the Huskies topped the Cardinals for last season's title game.

So if during tournament committee deliberations Louisville lands on line four, UConn could not be No. 1 there because the two could not meet until the regional final, barring a change in putting the tournament together.

And then, maybe, it would not be workable to put UConn at Notre Dame, so Nebraska is the next available stop.

As for the list of the 16 early-round host schools, there are the five already mentioned -- Penn State, Maryland, North Carolina, Duke,and Connecticut.

The other 11 are Iowa State, Iowa, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Baylor, Purdue, UCLA, Washington and, for the first time Toledo.

In terms of powerhouse conferences the Southeastern got four members as hosts (Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU and Kentucky), while three teams as hosts went to the Atlantic Coast (Duke, Maryland, North Carolina) and Big Ten (Penn State, Iowa, and Purdue). Two-each went to the Pac-12 (Washington, UCLA,) and Big 12 (Baylor and Iowa State).

The American, still a higher designation for the moment, got Connecticut, whose RPI could be dragged in-house despite a killer non-conference schedule for the rest of it.

And Toledo out of the Mid-American becomes the sole Mid-Major in the mix.

For now, the tablecloth is down and beginning Nov. 8, the ensuing four months involving conference and nonconference warfare will lead to resumption of this discussion in mid-March when the time comes to determine exactly how the fine and not-so-fine 64 pieces of china and silverware will be placed on such table.

-- Mel

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Reeve's Minnesota Squad Giving Atlanta the General Sherman Treatment

By Mel Greenberg

It looks like former La Salle star and South Jersey native Cheryl Reeve out of the Philadelphia area is on the way to matching General Tecumseh’s record of making quick work of Georgia, except the Minnesota Lynx coach is getting the job done in the WNBA.

Reeve’s Lynx, perhaps smarting and driven by last year’s upset 3-1 series loss as defending champions in the finals to the Indiana Fever, racked up another 24-point win over Atlanta Tuesday night with an 88-63 win at the Target Center in Minneapolis to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five finals.

The former assistant to current New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer in the heyday of the former Detroit Shock, now in Tulsa, Reeve has had Minnesota on fire since the season’s opening tip back in May when the Lynx were rather under-valued in predictions for who would role this month’s final chapter.

It’s difficult to not get ahead of one ’s self given the Lynx performance so far, but Minnesota’s compelling talent and depth make it likely that Reeve will continue to handle the march from the Midwest to Duluth, Ga., in the suburbs of Atlanta the way Sherman rapidly drove from Atlanta to Savannah to bring on the end to the Civil War in late 1864.

The amazing thing in her first stint as a WNBA head coach after her hire prior to 2009-10 is that in a short amount of time, Reeve is landing alongside the elite level of peers past and present with playoff success.

In some ways she is the new Van Chancellor considering his jump from the collegiate ranks at Mississippi to the former Houston Comets at the outside of the WNBA in 1997 where he went on to win the first four titles but in less playoff games played in that span prior to postseason expansion.

Maybe Reeve will need more games to add meat to the percentage but right now, she is 18-5 in playoff appearances to be the all-time percentage win leader at .783 heading into Thursday night.

Next up is former Los Angeles Sparks coach Michael Cooper with two titles in the mix and at .658 with a 25-13 record, while Laimbeer with three crowns in the mix follows at .628 with a 27-16 record and then comes Chancellor with four titles and a 20-14 record at .588.

In terms of playoff wins, Laimbeer is first at 27, Cooper follows at 25, Mike Thibault now at Washington moved into third at 21 with the Mystics’ opening first-round win at Atlanta, though the rest of it was built with the Connecticut Sun.

Chancellor and then former New York Liberty/former Sacramento Monarchs coach John Whisnenant are tied at 20.

Tuesday’s win locked Reeve into a tie at 18 with Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn, though winning one of the next three moves her into sole possession of six at 19, though if the playoffs extend to Sunday or next Wednesday on a potential Game 5 her percentage will drop somewhat.

In terms of eras, Houston’s Big Three were just-retired Tina Thompson, now Southern Cal coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, and new Loyola-Chicago coach Sheryl Swoopes with an impressive supporting cast.

Los Angeles was primarily about the legendary Lisa Leslie in winning two titles and earning three-straight finals appearances while Laimbeer in Detroit had an array of talent with just-retired Katie Smith, Cheryl Ford, Ruth Riley, and Deanna Nolan, the latter of whom could rejoin him with New York next season.

In Minnesota, center and former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson many times gets eclipsed despite her consistent double double performances because of the focus on veterans Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and former UConn star Maya Moore, who has been in the league just three seasons.

Though this post is culled from the WNBA playoff guide in looking at numbers, one has to mention Seattle coach Brian Agler, whose teams are always a threat win or lose, and may again be more of the former when Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird are back healthy again next season.

Obviously, talent-wise, Los Angeles and the Phoenix Mercury have the material but not the statistical numbers yet to challenge the ongoing Lynx compilation in the West, while the Chicago Sky, despite a quick exit in the first round of their first playoff appearance last month, also have a bright future driven by Sylvia Fowles, Epiphanny Prince and rookie-of-the-year Elena Delle Donne with a growing supporting cast.

Phoenix, headlined currently with former UConn star (this phrase gets so redundant) Diana Taurasi and rookie Brittney Griner, has two titles but has undergone several coaching changes in the Mercury’s history since being one of the WNBA charter teams.

Meanwhile, Reeve was invited to last week’s USA national women’s team training camp in Las Vegas as a floor coach but was unable to attend due to the Lynx’s advance to the finals.

Still, if title No. 2 comes this week it is hard not to see her named as one of UConn’s Geno Auriemma’s assistants on the national team for the FIBA World Championship next season.

A USA spokeswoman said the Olympics group to join Auriemma ‘s staff for the run to another Olympic gold medal at the Brazil Games in 2016 won’t be named until after the World Championship, though obviously several are likely to remain with the Hall of Famer all the way through.

-- Mel

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