Former Rutgers Stars Impact WNBA While Coach's Hall of Fame Moments Arrive

(Guru's note: Thanks to a related-unrelated chain of events, the Guru is able to provide both ongoing coverage of the end of the WNBA regular season and Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer's induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame all in the same blog. The WNBA news will be at the top with Thursday's Hall of Fame notes at the  bottom here. Also, Kate Fagan has a print advance story on Stringer over in the Inquirer section for Friday editions whenever it posts.)

By Mel Greenberg

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - On a night when formal events got under way here involving Rutgers' coach C. Vivian Stringer's induction to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, two of her former Scarlet Knights were making news in the WNBA.

Stringer, along with  former NBA greats Michael Jordan, David Robinson and John Stockton, as well as Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, will be enshrined Friday night at nearby Symphony Hall on a day that will begin with a morning press conference at the basketball institution.

The first of several dinners kicked things off at the Basketball Hall highlighted by the annual Curt Gowdy media awards and several other honors. The Guru will get back to all that after the WNBA news, but no matter its length, barring a total disaster, the time element in Stringer's acceptance speech is no longer front and center.

The New York Post's longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey, who received the print honor while former 76er Doug Collins gained the electronic award, took Stringer off the hook.

 In a marathon response, Vecsey was clocked in a rambling presentation of some 25-30 minutes.

"That's what happens when you don't give a print guy an inch count," one attendee said, while it was also suggested that the print honor be renamed the print-internet award to cover a medium not limited by space considerations.

That out of the way, back in the WNBA two-year pro Essence Carson had a career-high 28 points for New York in the Liberty's 94-87 loss to host Detroit Thursday night to move the defending champion Shock on the verge of returning to the playoffs after a woeful pre-All-Star game start.

Of greater consequence was a shot by former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter with 6.9 seconds left in regulation that extended the Seattle Storm into overtime where her Phoenix Mercury emerged with a 92-84 victory,

Hours earlier another extension was worth smiles to Seattle, which announced the multi-year signing of former UConn star Sue Bird to keep her with the Storm.

Phoenix's win coupled with Eastern regular-season champion Indiana's 88-79 loss to the Chicago Sky in the Windy City clinched overall home-court advatange for the West champion Mercury if they advance to the finals. If they fail, but the Fever make it all the way through, then Indiana has the home advantage in the best-of-five finals.

If both fail, don't ask till Sunday night when the postseason field is finalized and the Guru will go through the entire set of potential title round pairings to help those checking airfares for that end-September first-week-October time frame.

San Antonio topped Sacramento 80-71 to move the Silver Stars on the verge of returning to the playoffs in the final days after advancing to the championship last season. A win in the final game will do the trick or if a loss in either of Minnesota's final two games occurs. The Sacramento loss kept the Monarchs one ahead of the Liberty in the determination for worst record and potentially best-position in next April's draft.

Chicago's win kept the Sky alive in a seasaon which the WNBA theme of Expect Great has resulted in Enjoy Parity.

That summarized, here's the nightly tracker, which was not updated Wednesday night due to the Guru's involvement here and a lone-game Minnesota-over-Detroit result that was self explanatory.

  The Nightly Team-Level Forecaster

Eastern Group:

Atlanta: Road (1): at Washington - Sept. 12.

Home (1) Connecticut- Sept. 11.

Washington: Road (1) at New York - Sept. 13.

Home (1) Atlanta - Sept. 12.

Chicago: Road (0)

Home (1) Detroit - Sept. 12.

Connecticut: Road (1) at Atlanta, Sept. 11.

Home (1) Indiana - Sept. 13.

Detroit: Road (1)  at Chicago - Sept. 12

Home (0) 


Atlanta appears to clinch with a win Friday night at home over Connecticut. Detroit and Chicago meet each other Sunday with winner likely in and loser depending on help and/or tie-breakers.

Connecticut can get there the easiest way with two wins, a Detroit loss to Chicago, and Washington losing to either Atlanta or New York. Washington needs to win both minimally.


 Atlanta: (Anything goes): 2-0, 1-1, 0-2

Washington: 1-1 or 2-0 with the Atlanta game the tossup.

Chicago: 0-1 Big win over Indiana but Detroit favorite here.

Connecticut: 1-1 but not impossible to be 2-0. The Sun could also drop to 0-2 and definitelly be out of the postseason for the first time since moving from Orlando.

Detroit: 1-0 or lookout.

Western Group 

Minnesota: Road (2) at Los Angeles - Sept. 11; at Sacramento - Sept. 13.

Home: (0) 

San Antonio: Road (0)

Home (1) Seattle - Sept. 12.

Los Angeles (clinched): Road (1) at Phoenix, Sept. 13.

Home (1) Minnesota, Sept. 11

Summary: Already addressed.


Minnesota: 1-1. Hard challenge for Lynx to win on road at L.A. Friday night when the host Sparks will be out to gfive Lisa Leslie a found regular-season home court farewell

San Antonio: 1-0 Could be academic, even at 0-1.

Los Angeles: Clinched a spot Tuesday night.

Hall of Fame Tidbits

Rutgers coach Stringer was beaming in a powder-blue outfit, perhaps relieved that maybe her work on her speech was finished.

She was the first of the five inductees introduced and since alphabetical order will not be followed (J comes before S), it is likely her speech will be first, though not confirmed yet.

According to a Rutgers source familiar with the editing process and a highly-placed Rutgers source who will have a final signoff on her own speech, a marathon six-hour session lasted here Wednesday night soon after Stringer's arrival from 8:45 p.m. until 3:35 a.m. Fortunately, neither party does not have a reputation for needs of long sleeping periods.

The Thursday dinner featured filet mignon, sea bass, mashed potatoes, salad, and cheesecake. A California winery joined as a sponsor causing the Guru, with an eye to regional marketing, to wonder if none existed in the nearby Berkshire mountains.

The Guru will post the press event here and perhaps later add a late night insert of a few highlights from the speech. The Guru normally transcribes the women's speeches but in light of Rutgers' ability for multi-media display at its web site, and the expected arrival of Rutgers women's beat writers who will be on the case, if transcriptions are already planned, the Guru will refrain to avoid duplication.

Texas women's coach Jody Conradt and WNBA Phoenix Mercury general manager Ann Meyers, two past inductees, joined Hal Lanier and Sam Jones on the podium in the last event of the night for a short Q. and A. session conducted by the emcee for the audience.

The Guru did some post-dinner socializing with Stringer's former Cheyney assistants and a few others from the early days. He was introduced to Vivian's mom and one sister who was here Thursday night as was her brother Tim Stoner, whom the Guru has known from the early days of his management of legal affairs for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

It is not known if the Big East will holding any post-event receptions inside the official post-event reception at the hall as the conference has done in previous years when Geno Auriemma, Jim Calhoun, Dave Gavitt, and Jim Boheim were inducted.

John Chaney had another event Thursday night but will arrive early Friday to be Stringer's presenter at the ceremony.

For now, more to come. The Guru needs a few hours of shuteye for the early-morning event.

 -- Mel