Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Guru's Musings: WNBA's Oscar Set To Meet Diana

By Mel Greenberg

Guru's Musings: WNBA's Oscar Set To Meet Diana

By Mel Greenberg

   And the winner for best WNBA regular season performance game after game:

    That would be former Connecticut star Diana Taurasi of the Western Conference postseason and regular-season champion Phoenix Mercury.

   The league announced early Monday afternoon that the WNBA's Most Valuable Player award, determined in a media vote, would be made public Tuesday night in Phoenix prior to the Mercury's tipoff against the Eastern Conference champion Indiana Fever in the opener of the best-of-five title series.

   Phoenix is going after its second championship in three seasons, while the Fever are seeking their first after attaining the conference title for the first time. Indiana also won the regular season and title and had the second-best overall record behind the Mercury.

  Form held in the WNBA Monday because soon after the heads-up from the league to its media network, while the Guru was out of pocket for a few hours, the Arizona Republic announced Taurasi would receive her first MVP award as a pro.

  The way life works in the WNBA and the NBA, and several other places, the hometown paper of the winner usually receives a whisper, also known in the business as a leak, ahead of the officially announcement.

   Even if that had not occurred, other past practices would indicate Taurasi as the winner -- unless her teammate and former Big East rival Cappie Pondexter, an all-American out of Rutgers, was going to steal her thunder.

 On Sunday night a league source told the Guru the award was coming sooner. Well, Taurasi was the top overall vote-getter in being named to the first-five All-WNBA team with 201 points ahead of Seatttle's former MVP awardee Lauren Jackson, who picked up 179.

 Taurasi was also the league's top scorer with a 20.4 average.

  If Indiana's Tamika Catchings, who also made the first team, was going to be named, the league would wait until Sunday so she could receive the honor when the series moves to the Midwest for Game 3.

  Surprisingly at this hour (midnight going into Tuesday in the East), the Guru did not see similar reporting from the other group that gets supplied whispers on all matters UConn -- his contingent of colleagues comprising the horde, though the Guru did not check all the blogs before writing this report.

  On Saturday night, when Phoenix's victory ended the illustrious career of Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie, who is now retired, the Guru noted the three-time Olympic gold medalist could begin writing her future acceptance speech to be made after her first eligibility for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

  Taurasi, though many years away from her final chapter, is on a similar track which closely matches that of Leslie.

   The native of California was part of three NCAA champions at Connecticut, while Leslie's Southern Cal teams fell short of Final Four status.

     Taurasi is one behind Leslie in Olympic gold medals with two, and if Phoenix prevails over the next week or so, her WNBA title collection will also be two.

     That said, there's still one more individual postseason award to be handed out -- Rookie of the Year.

    The newcomer honor might also go in the Mercury's direction with former Auburn star DeWanna Bonner.

     A key would be if the award is announced to be given Thursday night when Game 2 is also played in Phoenix.

     Angel McCoughtry out of Louisville, the NCAA runnerup in April to the Big East rival Huskies, had been considered a slight favorite.

      Now depending how slick the marketing wonks are and considering that the Atlanta Dream rookie reports to USA Basketball training camp in Washington Tuesday night, a clear clue as to the identity of the winner would be if the nation's capital is chosen as the site for the rookie presentation.

    One reason to give it to McCoughtry in Washington is she would be less than a hour from her hometown of Baltimore, giving what's left of the local women's media group an opportunity to be on hand for the presentation.

                          Odds and Ends

      The Guru, around attempting to get to the Eastern site for the finals and to D.C. for the USA camp, begins  the annual drudgery of asseembling the composite local schedule, with potential national stops inluded, and he's noticed a few things.

      Dawn Staley will make her first hometown appearance as the South Carolina coach when the former Temple mentor who left a year ago brings the Gamecocks to Philadelphia to play in St. Joseph's tournament.

     The three-time Olympic gold medalist, who is also on a Hall of Fame track after her playing career ended in 2006, has one of the nation's top freshmen in Kelsey Bone out of Texas.

      The game brings Staley to the recently renovated Hawk Hill home of St. Joseph's where she practiced many a day as a player and also played in public league championships, the Guru believes.

       South Carolina's opponent will be Boston University, coached by former La Salle star Kelly Greenberg, a proficient guard who coached Penn to its only two Ivy titles, which were won this decade before she left for the Terriers, which has turned into an America East contender.

      With Penn's schedule posted in the last week, how's this for a challenging start for new coach Mike McLaughlin, who perenially led Holy Family to Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference titles in Division II?

     The Quakers' first game is up the street at Colonial Athletic Association champion Drexel on Sunday, Nov. 15.

     Then it's another local trip to Villanova the following Wednesday for his Big Five debut against the legendary Harry Perretta.

    Duquesne, coached by former Penn State star Suzie McConnell Serio, visits on Saturday, Nov. 21.

     The following weekend, the Quakers will open at the Northwestern tournament against Big 12 power Iowa State.

       It appears all four Big Five games will be on the road -- how did that happen? -- with the Quakers also visiting St. Joseph's (Jan. 13), Temple (Jan. 23), and La Salle (Jan. 2), although the Explorer's game is missing on the Penn printout the Guru made while it is listed at La Salle's site.

     The Quakers got one break in the Ivy League in that the first five contests will be at The Palestra against Princeton (Jan. 9), Yale (Jan. 29), Brown (Jan. 30), Dartmouth (Feb. 5) and Harvard (Feb. 6).

    The bad news, of course, is it will be all road trips the rest of the way except for the Columbia-Cornell weekend on Feb. 26-27.

   And for those who have asked, former Penn coach Pat Knapp was hired as an assistant to new Hawaii coach Dana Takahara-Dias.

    Meanwhile, Temple's recently released schedule shows the Owls playing seven games in its former home of McGonigle Hall, including Duke in a major nonconference game on  New Year's Eve.

     The Owls will open the season there playing Illinois (Nlov. 13) and Auburn (Nov. 17). The other games are against Ohio U. (Dec. 10), Fordham (Jan. 13), Penn (Jan. 23), and Atlantic 10 rival Massachusetts (Feb. 10).

     The Liascouras Center contests feature Eastern Michigan (Nov. 24 - doubleheader with men), Villanova (Dec. 20 on CBS college network TV), St. Joseph's (Jan. 16 doubleheader with men), St. Bonaventure (Jan. 30 doubleheader with men), A-10 defending champion Charlotte (Feb. 13 doubleheader with men), Duquesne (Feb. 17), and George Washington (Feb. 27), the last day of the regular-season and conference schedule.

    Looks like an economics move to the Guru, but he'll check on it.

    Delle Who? Delle Where? -- It is going to be interesting to see whether Delaware redshirt-freshman sensation Elena Delle Donne from nearby Ursuline Academy makes the Colonial Athletic Association 10-member preseason team when the squad and conference team predictions are announced at the annual media day in Washington on Oct. 20.

    The Guru, due to his coverage of Drexel, which is the defending champion, was again asked as a women's media rep to vote on the finish of the 12 teams and pick the squad.

     A prospectus is at the CAA's site to provde detail as a reference point.

      Well, and it might be somebody's wish at the Blue Hen level, couldn't check on it Monday, but talk about low key after the hubub a year ago when the nation's top incoming freshman decided to renege her Connecticut scholarship and play volleyball at Delaware. Almost a year later she announced in June her decision to return to basketball and play at her new alma mater.

           First, Delle Donne is not even mentioned in the quick hits section.

          Then the ballot directions created some confusion because it said vote for returning players, though the Guru sent an email asking he could vote for returning volleyball players who are really playing basketball.

         He later learned anyone appearing on a roster in the prospectus, which is not the actual CAA guide which comes later, is eligible and the Guru was able to make a quick adjustment.

         This is no knock on the league office, which does a great job and has been instrumental in helping postseason coverage in the tournament from afar when expense restrictions precluded an on-site appearance.

           In another CAA musing, what might be even more intriguing is where Old Dominion lands on the forecasts with only two returning starters frrom a team that had never lost a postseason CAA game until Drexel beat the Monarchs in the semifinals.

        The league will be very experienced with a slew of statistical leaders back including the reigning CAA player of the year in Drexel senior Gabriella Marginean.

          Moving, along,as previously mentioned ahead of the event, the Guru traveled to the frontier section of Northeast Philadelphia Thursday night at Somerton Springs for the farewell tribute dinner to David Kessler, the longtime director of the Dept. of Recreation's NCAA Women's Summer League, who has retired as a city employee.

    It was a classy affair with Philadelphia University's Tom Shirley, West Chester's Deidre Kane, and former Penn assistant Joe McGeever in attendance.

       The Guru has already informed Kessler he plans to make use of Kessler's free time by giving him some computer input work as part of some potential new projects in the pipeline.

      Kessler is thrilled to be on his own in that he says he now can go to a bunch of games in the winter and watch players from his league perform at their various schools.

       During his acceptance remarks, he quipped that Shirley's players never compiled great records in the summer when the Division II athletes had to go against many top Division I stars.

      But then the Rams in the winter usually were averaging 20 wins a season.

    "I'd like to think I had something to do with that," Kessler deadpanned.

    -- 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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