Sunday, December 21, 2014

Guru's Musings: USA Picks Are A Retrospective For Geno Auriemma

By Mel Greenberg

Guru's Musings: USA Picks Are A Retrospective For Geno Auriemma

By Mel Greenberg

  They won't be going to the King & I soundtrack to play Getting To Know You when the Road to London 2012 goes into early rehearsals this fall under Olympic coach Geno Auriemma.

 If anything, with a few exceptions, they might adjust the title to Getting To Know You Better with a few exceptions.

As coach of the six-time NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies, Auriemma has already had two of the first eight pool players for the national team under his charge in Diana Taurasi of the WNBA Phoenix Mercury and Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm.

  As for former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, now a WNBA teammate of Taurasi, Auriemma has coached her in USA Basketball on the 2000 Under-18 and 2001 Under-19 national teams before coaching against her in the middle of this decade in the Big East wars with the Scarlet Knights.

 During Monday's teleconference, Pondexter referred to Auriemma as "the greatest," in terms of her experience with him in USA Basketball.

 Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles were involved in matchups against Connecticut at LSU or also appearing in the same Final Fours, though the Tigers and Huskies did not meet in actual semifinals or championship games.

  Candace Parker, Kara Lawson, and Tamika Catchings were part of the former Tennessee-UConn national rivalry from the Orange side.

Although Tennessee outnumbers Auriemma's own UConn representation in numbers as of Monday's announcement, that should changed perhaps as early as prior to next year's FIBA World Championships.

  Huskies junior Mya Moore is expected to eventually make the team, while senior Tina Charles, recently graduated Renee Montgomery and former Olympian and UConn star Swin Cash are also considered prominent contenders for the 12 spots.

  Interestingly, during Monday's call, Bird was asked what of her experience with Auriemma might she be able to pass on to her national teammates.

  What wasn't asked -- the Guru was on a different track with a question -- is what might they all teach Auriemma since they have been a core group for a while with more togetherness experience among themselves in recent international battles.

                                          Big Five Hall of Fame

   Assuming that former men's coaches John Chaney (Temple), Rollie Massimino (Villanova), and Speedy Morris (La Salle), who were cited Monday, will be the only inductees to this year's Big Five Hall of Fame class, there might be a tendency to say that it is the first time in a while that the women have not had representation.

    But that's not entirely accurate.

  In 1984, Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw, then the AD at La Salle, made an out-of-leftfield choice when he hired Morris, then a longtime legendary boys coach at Roman Catholic, to be in charge of the women.

    Morris may not have known a thing about the women's game, but he quickly proved that coaching is coaching, though his time with the Explorers lasted only two seasons before Bradshaw offered him the men's job.

   In the season prior to Morris' hire, the Explorers were 11-18. A year later they finished 22-8, losing narrowly in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to conference heavyweight Holy Cross, 62-61.

   The players and Morris quickly took to each other to the point that he actually spent a while wrestling with the men's offer before accpeting the position.

In Morris' second season, La Salle went 21-9 and this time captured the MAAC title, beating St. Peter's, 78-67, before losing an NCAA first-round game to Villanova, 60-55, at The Palestra.

  Some of Morris' players were Cheryl Reeve, now assistant coach and general manager of the WNBA champion Detroit Shock; former Penn coach Kelly Greenberg, now coach of Boston U.; Gina Tobin, and Big Five Hall of Famers Tracey Sneed, Jill Crandley, Allison Hudson, Suzi McCaffrey, and Linda Hester.

    - Mel

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Sports Columnist
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 Philly.com. 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 poll416@gmail.com.

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Sports Columnist
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