Thursday, February 11, 2016

Guru Report: Bonvicini's Not Sleeping in Seattle

By Mel Greenberg

Guru Report: Bonvicini's Not Sleeping in Seattle


By Mel Greenberg

The women's basketball coaching revolving door in Division I did much less spinning in the off-season than in recent times.

Unlike several years ago when job changes through retirements, firings, and the domino-effect of filling vacancies caused by those exits shot the number of faces in new places into the 40-60 range, this year's list of switches is a mere 13 based on one of the side charts that are part of The Associated Press women's preseason package of stories for sports department affiliates.

The economy certainly is a cause of that with athletic directors opting to letting a coach near the end of a contract finish out their deal rather than start paying buyouts and additional salaries to new hires.

In some cases, that reluctance to make a move inherently is giving an extra chance this season for coaches who had bad records a year ago to try to turn things around.

Although the number of moves is small, there are significant stories involving the offices that have new names posted on the doors.

Seattle is one such place where Joan Bonvicini, a longtime veteran who had stops at Long Beach State and Arizona State, has returned to active duty after a year's absence.

Her success at Long Beach and in the early years with Arizona has Bonvicini high on the active list in terms of appearances of coaches who guided teams ro eankings in the Associated Press poll.

It still seems like yesterday that the energetic Bonvicini, a former star at Southern Connecticut, was coaching the likes of Cindy Brown and current WNBA Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler.

From the earliest times, Bonvicini was media-smart and constantly through herself into the extra effort it took to market a program.

A few days ago, she checked in with an email from the Emerald City to friends to give an update on her new scene in the Northwest.

 "Just wanted to give you an update of my life in Seattle," Bonvicini wrote.

"I have adjusted very quickly to the Northwest and absolutely love it here. There is so much to do in the this area, and the people at Seattle University have been very welcoming to me.

" The biggest difference between being at a very large University like Long Beach State and the University of Arizona and now at Seattle U is that it is so much more personal. The people at the school and Athletic Department truly care and want you to do well.

"We are basically starting from scratch at building this program…with season ticket sales, speaking engagements, booster clubs, camps, etc. It is all new for the people here.

" Everything is smaller…classroom size, the budgets and my salary. But, this is a very good fit for me right now and life is good again."

Bonvicini finished after giving further updates by offering a positive, but realistic assessment of the job ahead.

"I know that there will be some difficult days ahead, but I feel so good about being here."

Some other places worth watching include Oregon and Southern California in the Pacific-10 Conference where former WNBA coaching rivals Paul Westhead (Phoenix Mercury-Oregon) and Michael Cooper (Los Angeles Sparks-USC), who both have NBA pedigrees, are making collegiate debuts coaching women.

Both produced WNBA titles.

Former Boston College coach Cathy Inglese has returned from a year off to takeover at Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10, and former Tennessee star Kellie Harper, formerly with Western Carolina, is the new full-titled coach at North Carolina State having to fill the shoes of the legendary Kay Yow, who died in January after a lengthy battle against breast cancer.

In Cincinnati, another former assistant to Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma gets under way with her own program in Jamelle Elliott, who also starred at UConn.

On media day when the squad was picked for last by the Big East coaches, Elliott quipped, "That's going right up on the locker room door when I get back."

Staley's Foundation hit by the economy

In mentioning the economy in the previous item, the Guru would like to note that even here in Philadelphia such longtime efforts as the Dawn Staley Foundation that the former Olympic star who coached Temple is now at South Carolina launched in 1996 to help inner-city youngsters, has been affected by the downturn.

With donations down from several corporations, Staley noted that for the first time the annual Day-In-The-Park program held in the fall in North Philadelphia near her original home had to be cancelled.

Staley alluded to staff cutbacks and that she increased her own donation to keep the foundation alive by meeting outstanding expenses.

She did say that some new strategies and new partnerships with businesses and corporationsw have helped secure funding for the 2010 fiscal.

But revenues are still needed to get through the present one.

Checks to the foundation are tax deductible and allowed by law.

"After careful thought and consideration, we realized that the price of not opening our doors is far greater than closing them. For many of our girls, the program is a safe haven and a place they call home."

Local Previews

This is a quick timeout to say that the Guru's print preview of the Big Five and Drexel can be found in the Inquirer sports section somewhere down the virtual hall here at

Delle Donne reunion

When Elena Delle Donne makes her collegiate debut with Delaware Tuesday night at St. Francis, Pa., (somewhere near Altoona), there will be several familiar faces among the Red Flash who will serve as opponents.

One is freshman guard Kelly Doogan, who played three seasons with the former national high school player of the year at Wilmington's Ursuline Academy.

Another is Sarah Thorn, a sophomore guard from Yardley, Pa., who is a graduate of Pennsbury East and played with Delle Donne on Fencor AAU.

Two other area products at St. Francis are sophomore forward-center Kelsey Caruthers from Conestoga and Penn Manor, and Najah Prescott, a sophomore forward-center from Cardinal Dougherty.

By the way, the Guru doesn't have details but a few other private scrimmages were held over the weekend involving area teams with Drexel meeting Rutgers, while Temple played Hofstra.

That's today's report as the Guru is almost 100 percent back from last month's technology collapse.

   -- Mel

Inquirer Sports Columnist
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About this blog
Mel Greenberg covers college and pro women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he has worked for 38 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. He was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Click here for Mel's list of All-Decade players from Philadelphia-area schools.

Other contributors

Jonathan Tannenwald is a producer with In addition to covering the local college scene, he spent two years as the Washington Mystics beat writer for Women's Hoops Guru. He also writes his own blog, Soft Pretzel Logic, which covers men's college basketball, football, and other sports.

Kathleen Radebaugh is a recent graduate of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. She covered women's basketball for the school's newspaper, The Hawk, and served as sports editor her sophomore year. She was also a four-year member of the varsity crew team.

Erin Semagin Damio covers the University of Connecticut and the WNBA's Connecticut Sun for the blog, and contributes other features. The Storrs, Conn., native also attends Northeastern University, where she is a coxswain on the varsity crew team.

Acacia O'Connor is based in Washington, D.C., where she reports on the Mystics and the college basketball scene in the nation's capital. A graduate of Vassar college, she played on the varsity women's basketball team and was editor of the student newspaper.

Click on any of the contributors' names above to e-mail them.

Reach Mel at

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Sports Columnist
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