(Updating: Guru's oversight from his original list. Sarah Bucar and Cat Makarewich included on Penn all-decade team)
By Mel Greenberg
When it comes to Division I women's basketball in the Philadelphia Area much of what happened locally also caught attention nationally.
Throughout the decade Dobbins High graduate Dawn Staley bolted either to the front of the sports section and beyond while Connecticut's dominance is such that in reviewing great moments it is hard to keep the Huskies from intruding on affairs of the City of Brotherly Love.
Part of that is because coach Geno Auriemma grew up in Norristown, part of it is the recurring visits courtesy of the Big East relationship with Villanova, and part of that in this particularly instance is the way it started with a special NCAA Women's Final Four at the Wachovia Center in 2000 that had a particular Philly accent.
The Guru will get to the news of the past 10 years in a bit, but first its time for the awards ceremony.
To begin, the Guru is putting on a Philly label to make Drexel part of the family that also includes the Big Five. While Rutgers and Penn State technically aren't eligible for this event, the Scarlet Knigts and Nittany Lions drew enough interest in the region so it would be hard to ignore the two state schools of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectfully.
Delaware is near enough to also get sprinkled into this narrative and the Guru is affording two honorable mention slots on his all-Philly Division I Team Of The Decade.
The Guru used NCAA rules and gave out 15 scholarships (forgot the actual number if challenged) to fill the roster, though he will name five starters.
Then to be consistent he also chose an all-decade team of 15 players for each of the six local schools with some honorable mentions to be all-inclusive when the cuts were tough and in the case of one particular school with a bundle of players it was tough.
And in the case with every situation, players who came over from the 1990s with two years of eligibility had to be addressed.
In that instance, rules bended to help when warranted and not help when making tough decisions.
On the plus side, the rule had to be bent in favor of Penn's Diana Caramanico in becoming one of the area's all-time players in any decade and finishing in 2001 as the Quakers' all-time scorer with 2,415 points and rebounder.
Caramanico's mark is also a city record which is being hotly challenged by Drexel senior Gabriella Marginean.
But with all that said when it came to naming the player and coach both awards went to the team that dominated the decade - Temple.
Candice Dupree won multiple player honors in the Big Five and the Atlantic 10 and helped lead the Owls to their first national ranking in the 2004-05 season. She also went high in the first round of the WNBA draft and has become an annual all-star performer for the Chicago Sky.
Although Dawn Staley is gone, having left for South Carolina in May of 2008, her exploits were followed nationally throughout her eight seasons on North Broad Street.
Coaxed into a coaching career within a few weeks of the conclusion of the Women's Final Four in 2000, Staley ended a decade of losing seasons. Her teams captured four Atlantic 10 titles including three in a row. And Temple won five Big Five crowns including an unpredecented stretch of four straight seasons with 4-0 records and an overall record 18-game win streak.
Meanwhile in terms of the other starters, Caramanico and Marginean have been addressed. St. Joseph's Sue Moran, now an assistant coach at her alma mater, played three seasons in the decade and became the Hawks' all-time scorer, surpassing the storied Dale Hodges. Villanova's Trish Juhline was part of one of the great moments in Wildcats and local D-I history in taking coach Harry Perretta's team to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2003. More of that after the awards presentations. Finally, in a tough decision, if this group starts, the Guru wants Courtney Mix first off the bench because of the former Wildcats' defense ability to make things happen. The daughter of former 76ers broadcaster Steve Mix, Courtney was part of the greatest four-year run of success at Villanova in terms of record and accomplishment.
But understand, this entire roster up and down would gain lots of playing time. Also because of their nearby presence Delaware was given two honorable mentions to assistant coach Tiara Malcom and Tyresa Smith, who helped give the Blue Hens some of their greatest moments.
More may be on the way but redshirt-freshman Elena Delle Donne will have to wait until 2019 to gain decade distinction. Still, the former product of Wilmington's Ursuline has a place down below in the recap narrative.
If any of you have arguments, feel free to email. Some choices may be open to revisions because there was not time to have a lot of discussion in recent weeks with the current coaches and you see what time in the middle of pre-sunrise Sunday this is being written.
In making picks, each media guide was perused for statisical accomplishments within the decade with particular attention to players who cracked their schools' all-time categories. In some cases, the Guru went beyond to fill spots, though Villanova was overloaded.
So first, here is the All-Philly Division I Local Roster
Philadelphia Division I Women's Team of the Decade
(3) Temple – Candice Dupree, Kamesha Hairston, Stacey Smalls
(3) St. Joseph’s – Stephanie (Graff) McCaffrey, Sue Moran, Angela Zampella
(2) Penn – Diana Caramanico, Jewel Clark
(2) La Salle – Crista Ricketts, Carlene Hightower
(4) Villanova – Trish Juhline, Courtney Mix, Liad Suez-Karni, Laura Kurz
(1) Drexel – Gabriela Marginean
Honorable mention - (2) Delaware - Tyresa Smith, Tiara Malcom
Player of the Decade - Candice Dupree (Temple)
Coach of the Decade - Dawn Staley (Temple)
Starting Five – Candice Dupree, Trish Juhline, Sue Moran, Diana Caramanico, Gabriela Marginean
First off the bench: Courtney Mix
And now to demonstrate what a talented pool the last ten years offered, here are the six local school teams of the decade chosen by The Guru. The "S" indicates starter
Temple Team of the Decade (15)
Honorable Mention – Chrissy Cruz
St. Joseph’s Team of the Decade (15)
S-Stephanie (Graff) McCaffrey
Mary Kate McDade
Faith (Gross) Schutte
Honorable Mention – Hillary Klimowicz, Sarah Acker
La Salle Team of the Decade (15)
Honorable Mention – Marjorie Rhoads
Penn Team of the Decade (15)
S- Jewel Clark
S- Joey Rhoads
Villanova Team of the Decade (15)
Honorable Mention _ Kate Dessart Mager, Jennifer Hilgenberg, Courtney Roantree, Heather Scanlon
Drexel Team of the Decade (15)
The News of the Decade: The Events That Caught Local Attention
Ok, that done, let's go on to the decade in revie w looking at news items, many of which actually leaped from the sports section into the front page of The Inquirer.
As noted above about the way Connecticut impacts local affairs, the Huskies are involved in the top two local events of 2000s.
The No. 1 moment occurred in March 2003 at Rutgers University. Through a series of events, Villanova, which had a great profile coming down the stretch of the regular season, made its way to the Big East title game. The opponent was the usual when it comes to Big East affairs -- The Connecticut Huskies.
Coach Geno Auriemma's crew, led by Diana Taurasi, had won an NCAA-record 70 straight games on the way to the championship. (That record may be challenged by the Huskies themselves off another current run coming out of last season's unbeaten championship.)
Villanova always had a reputation for baffling teams with Perretta's patient style and although Connecticut had beaten the Wildcats in Storrs several weeks earlier, the 'Nova extended the Huskies throughout the night went ahead in the closing minutes and then were the talk of the nation with a 52-48 victory.
A week later, the Wildcats earned a No. 2 seed and landed in Tennessee's region. This had its own humor because the previous summer Perretta had been befriended by Volunteers Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt after Perretta gave her staff a personal clinic on his motion offense.
This was perceived as an act of treason considering the long-time relationship of Perretta and Auriemma, the arch-national enemy of Tennessee in a storyline dating back to the 1990s when UConn first beat the Volunteers.
Once the NCAA began, Villanova remained successful and after beating Colorado, 53-51, the Wildcats met Tennessee in the region title game where the storybook run came to an end.
Incidentally, the win over the Buffaloes ended the career of Colorado point guard Kate Fagan, who years later crossed paths again in the home office with the Guru where she is now the Inquirer's beat writer covering the NBA 76ers.
Moving on to the second top local moment, it would be the Women's Final Four in South Philly loaded with local flavor.
You know all about Geno who had a special homecoming going for the first title since the 1995 unbeaten finish. Tennessee had as one of its stars Cardinal O'Hara graduate Kristen "Ace" Clement, one of the all-time local stars out of the Catholic League.
Penn State upset Louisiana Tech to give former coach Rene Portland, a former Immaculats star, her first appearance in the finals since playing on Mighty Macs championship teams in the former AIAW.
Rutgers in what was the middle of the night back East upset Georgia in Portland, Ore., as the Scarlet Knights took the final seat at the championship team and gave coach C. Vivian Stringer the distinction of becoming the first men's or women's coach to bring three different teams to the Final Four. In 1982 she took Cheyney to the first NCAA event, and then in 1993 she led Iowa to the finals.
Connecticut beat Tennessee for the title giving the second of six NCAA titles a special meaning to Auriemma.
Third on the list and after this the Guru will depart from rankings is what he calls the Dawn Staley package.
Throughout the decade she continued to make headlines. First there was the improbable task of jumping into the coaching profession taking a program that had not won in a decade.
Then there were the slew of titles and success stories as she made good on her promise to turn Temple into a national conversation piece. Along the way was her performance as a WNBA All-Star, her performance in two Olympics, highlighted in 2008 with her selection to carry the flag and lead the U.S. delegation into the stadium in the opening ceremonies in Athens, Greece.
Then came retirement as a player, ending her career with the Houston Comets under coach Van Chancellor whom she played for in Greece. She had been traded from Charlotte prior to her last season to try to win a title.
Finally, came the stunning news in May 2008 that she as leaving Temple for South Carolina. But the stamps of Staley and Auriemma were still present in Philadelphia with the hire of her good friend and former teammate Tonya Cardoza who played at Virginia and had been a longtime assistant to Auriemma at UConn.
Since her arrival, the Owls have not missed a beat, tying St. Joes for the Big Five title last season and earning another NCAA bid. Temple seems poised to keep the NCAA string going in 2010.
Turning temporarily aside from immediate local consideration, recent seasons have seen Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductions in Springfield, Mass., go to Auriemma, Stringer last September, and a year ago to former Immaculata coach Cathy Rush.
Rutgers made another NCAA splash in 2007 upsetting top-seeed Duke in the regional semifinal and advancing to the title game before losing to Tennessee. A few days later the Scarlet Knights got drawn into a national controversy by national radio talk show host Don Imus who had made racial and sexual comments about Rutgers after he had watched the title game on TV.
Just before Rutgers' upset of Duke in Greensboro, N.C., there was the surprising resignation of Portland from Penn State, coming after she had been accussed of sexually harrassing a player and kicking her off the team. She was later replaced by Notre Dame associate head coach Coquese Washington who continues to rebuild the Nittany Lions back to national respectability.
Former La Salle star Kelly Greenberg was hired to coach Penn prior to the 1999-2000 season and she went on to lead the Quakers to their first two Ivy Titles in 2001 and 2004 before leaving for a similar job at Boston University.
Kelly was replaced by local native Pat Knapp, who had been at Georgetown, and he coached the Quakers untol his contract wasn't renewed last spring. He was replaced by Mike McLaughlin, who had years of success at Division II Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia.
There was the controversial exit of longtime coach Stephanie Gaitley in 2001 at St. Joseph's and she was replaced by former Hawk star Cindy Griffin. At La Salle, longtime coach John Miller was involved in a controversial departure in 2004, although he has since found success coaching Mount St. Joseph's into a high school girls power in the state.
Miller was replaced by longtime assistant Tom Lochner.
Former Villanova star Denise Dillon was hired to coach Drexel in 2003 and last spring she led the Dragons to their first Colonial Athletic Association title, ending Old Dominion's longtime reign with a semifinal victory. The next day, Drexel won its first game-ever at James Madison to win the CAA crown and advance to the NCAAs.
Incidentally, JMU and Drexel meet in West Philadelphia Sunday afternoon to launch this season's CAA competition.
Two season ago, Perretta's 30th anniversary on the Main Line was celebrated with a celebrity-filled diner tribute at Villanova.
That brings us back to the Delle Donne discussion. Having been pursued by a slew of schools since seventh grade, she narrowed her collegiate choices in the summer of 2007 to Tennessee, Connecticut, Villanova, and Tennessee before selecting the Huskies.
Then in June 2008, departed quickly within 48 hours after arriving for summer school. By summer's end she announced she was returning Connecticut's scholarship -- the Huskies as noted went on to go unbeaten and win the NCAA title in April -- enrolling at Delaware and she was going to play volleyball before the years of attention had left her burned out over hoops.
But as winter arrived a year ago, she sensed her real problem was homesickness and being away from her sister Lizzie, who has been handicapped since she was born.
Delle Donne then decided to give basketball another try and announced last June she was joining the Blue Hens.
In the early going, she has been sensational leading Delaware to an 8-3 record -- she missed two of the losses due to a sprained ankle -- and won two games herself with shots at the fnish. Now it's time for the real test in CAA competition.
And so as Delle Donne was one of the last national women's basketball stories off the court at the end of the decade, she seems ready to join Baylor rookie Brittany Griner as one of the first stories as a new calendar year and decade get under way.
Incidentally, for those keeping track of things, Delle Donne visits Drexel on Jan. 31 just over a week after UConn visits Villanova on Jan. 23.