By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA – In the end, new Cincinnati women’s basketball coach Jamelle Elliott had life work out pretty neat for herself considering the disappointments of almost a year ago when she was a finalist for both the Northwestern job and George Washington.
Elliott, a longtime Connecticut assistant and a native of the nation’s capital, first lost out when Joe McKeown was attracted to the Windy City and left the Colonials. And then she missed out a second time when his former assistant Mike Bozeman was elevated at GW.
Elliott, who played on the Huskies’ first NCAA champion in 1995, took the setback philosophically.
After all, being relegated to UConn for another season was more than a consolation prize considering what all thought would be in store for the Huskies in the months ahead.
And who knows what openings might occur next time around.
Well, the Huskies’ unbeaten run at 39-0 is now in the record books and another chapter went into her resume working for her former coach Geno Auriemma.
Then several weeks ago, Cincinnati called about its vacancy.
Despite the Bearcats’ finish as the cellar dweller in the powerful Big East, which plays UConn every year, there were some enticements that intrigued Elliott.
“You get to build your own program, and in a conference as strong as ours, getting to the top half of the Big East might be enough to get to the tournament,” Elliott said, already having a familiarity of the campus in the Queen City from past visits. “And they have great facilities.
“The question is how much of a commitment do they want to make?”
Well, the Cincinnati administration said enough to make Elliott satisfied and now her dream of becoming a head coach has come true.
It was suggested that maybe UConn could have a flip-flop two-night doubleheader involving Auriemma’s coaching offspring with Hartford (Jen Rizzotti), Temple (Tonya Cardoza), and Cincinnati, which is already on the Huskies’ slate courtesy of the conference.
“That’s a fun idea,” Elliott said Thursday night.
Connecticut and Hartford already play, while Cardoza and Auriemma have been discussing a future arrangement. And Elliott said that she could envision playing Temple and her good friend Cardoza, who succeeded Dawn Staley over the Owls last season.
“Hey, but first I have to get me some players,” Elliott said.
Knowing her recruiting prowess at UConn, that shouldn’t be a major challenge, although she will now be in the wars in the Buckeye State contending with Auriemma’s longtime friend Jim Foster at Ohio State.
With the ink on her new deal not yet dry, Elliott is already relishing attending next week's Big East spring meetings where she'll sit as an equal to Auriemma in terms of the coaches' confab, although we know some conference teams are more equal than others.
Two days removed from an emotional-laden transitional moment at her introductory press conference where she said goodbye to Auriemma, Elliott is quickly looking ahead to her new life.
When the Guru made a remark about her and Connecticut in the current tense, Elliott quickly corrected the comment with an interruption and a laugh, “Hey, I’m no longer part of `them.’”
Of course, we all know the Italian code of Auriemma: One never leaves the family entirely.”
Staley Returns Home (For At Least a Night)
Even though it is almost a year since Dawn Staley left Temple for South Carolina and the battles in the Southeastern Conference, the work of the Dawn Staley Foundation that she launched after the ’96 Olympics to aid inner city school children, continues.
Staley will be back in town for the foundation’s eighth annual “Black Tie and Sneakers” Gala on Tuesday night, June, 9, at the Cescaphe Ballroom on 923 North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties, just beyond center city.
This year’s theme, “Young at Heart,” will celebrate the more than 650 young ladies who have gone through the program and have experienced success at some of the top universities in the country.
For details, including corporate sponsorships, contact Angelia D. Nelson, Ph.D, the executive director of the foundation, at 215-457-1270 or at her email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
WNBA Coaches in Waiting?
New York Liberty coach Patty Coyle, the former Rutgers star who grew with her twin sister Mary in Southwest Philadelphia, must require Old Dominion DNA to serve on her staff.
Several seasons ago former Monarchs head coach Marianne Stanley was an aide to Coyle before serving a stint at Rutgers and then returning as an assistant with the Los Angeles Sparks.
Now former Olympic coach Anne Donovan, who guided the U.S. to gold in Beijing last summer and was part of the famous twin towers duo with Inge Nissen at ODU, is heading to the Big Apple.
Donovan had been looking to get back into the college ranks but few jobs were available this time around, in part because schools under the current economic climate, weren’t going to get into buyouts and have to pay two salaries caused by a desire for change.
If things had been handled differently at North Carolina State in the search for the late Kay Yow’s successor, according to one person familiar with the hunt, Donovan might have landed with the Wolfpack. But she wasn’t going to get involved as long as veteran assistant Stephanie Glance was considered a candidate for a job that went to former Western Carolina coach Kellie Harper.
Right after Beijing, Donovan, who coached Seattle to the 2004 title, was thinking about a spot in the WNBA, and landing in the Big Apple is a terrific move, especially with first-round draft pick Kia Vaughn, out of Rutgers, joining her former teammate Essence Carson.
Donovan’s presence also makes things easy for Liberty chief Carol Blazejowski, if some college next season gets its hooks into Coyle to fill a vacancy.
Coyle is near the end of her contract and while she has no plans to leave New York, her name is consistently at the top of search lists at schools that categorize potential coaching targets in the WNBA.
In recent seasons, Coyle politely pointed to her WNBA deal when schools made inquiries.
But if events change, the move to replace her would seem to be as quick as the move that elevated Coyle when Richie Adubato was dismissed.
Meanwhile, with Michael Cooper departing for Southern Cal after the summer, Stanley figures to be on the top of the list to replace him after also having head coaching experience with the Washington Mystics.
However, if the Sparks management doesn’t go in that direction, another strong candidate could be Detroit assistant Cheryl Reeve, the former La Salle star, who has been a finalist for WNBA head coaching jobs elsewhere in recent seasons. Of course, if Bill Laimbeer left Dodge, a pseudonym for the Motor City, Reeve becomes a top candidate for the Shock as a replacement.
State of the Newspaper Industry: Women's Writers Casualties List Continues to Grow
Bill Smith, who has been a longtime PR head of the women’s program at Arkansas and also teaches at the SEC school, is currently conducting a national survey to see how many print beat writers involving women’s basketball have gone by the wayside due to economic conditions.
“In two days, the returns are already gruesome,” Smith said, not telling the Guru anything he was not aware of considering his own a micro-survey of the credential list and seating chart at the Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.
But that is a discussion for another day even though it has been a daily discussion as the list of layoff, buyouts, retirements, etc., continues to build.
The “hit” list in terms of past print beat writers not tied to competing teams as well as major markets that were no longer represented was quite revealing.