Temple's Cardoza Lands Big Five Coaching Award as a Rookie

By Mel Greenberg

  PENNSAUKEN, N.J. - Although the Guru promised you 24 hours ago where the next dateline would occur because of the new site of the annual Women's Big Five awards banquet, the location for this post should really be listed at nearby Cherry Hill, since the Guru is composing this at one of his remote locations that contains a very strong wifi network.

  The Guru actually has a longer-than-print version of all the women's awards elsewhere in Philly.com, but if this is your first stop -- a quick recap. Even more detail with statistics can be found, hopefully by now, at the Big Five web site.

 Temple's Tonya Cardoza claimed the Big Five coach of the year award after the Owls and St. Joseph's tied the City Series competition at 3-1 to share the title. Her team also finished second in the Atlantic 10 and earned a sixth-straight NCAA bid.

 Villanova's Laura Kurz, as expected, was named player of the year, while Temple freshman Kristen McCarthy won the rookie of the year award. La Salle's Morgan Robertson won the most improved honor, and Villanova's Siobhan O'Connor won the sportsmanship award.

Big Five first-team honors went to Penn's Carrie Biemer, Kurz, Robertson, and Temple's Shenita Landry and the Owls' LaKeisha Eaddy.

Second-team honorees were Saint Joseph's Brittany Ford and the Hawks' Mariame Djouara, La Salle's Margaret Elderton, and Villanova's Maria Getty and O'Connor.

Not mentioned anywhere else in the other stories were the academic awards.

So to get a little smarter, the all-Academic team, with one representative from each school, consisted of:

La Salle's Robertson (Political Science and Psychology, 3.87 GPA)

Villanova's Getty (Finance, 3.75)

Penn's Anca Popovici (Economics and German, 3.59)

Temple's Eaddy (Sport and Recreation Management, 3.18)

and St. Joseph's Mary Kate McDade (Business, 2.77)

Kurz in discussing her award afterward, added, "When I transferred her (back from Duke), I was looking forward to getting an opportunity to play in the Big Five. It's such a competitive rivalry. Every single game in the Big Five is a nail-biter, so it's just fun to be a part of that and get the experience of playing  in that atmosphere."

In accepting Temple's share of the Big Five title, Cardoza was joined by her players at the podium and paid tribute to her predecessor Dawn Staley, whose team had won the previous four titles outright each at 4-0.

"Dawn Staley set the bar high," Cardoza said.

Hawks coach Cindy Griffin noted, "I just want to say we appreciate everything the Big Five has done for St. Joe's and the city of Philadelphia. And I know there was a stretch where it was a little iffy as to whether we were going to continue or even continue the dinner, so I give you guys a lot of credit for continuing this tradition.

"It's important and important in the women's game and we're just excited to be part of it and we look forward to many more."

Cardoza rolled her eyes in surprise at her table when she was announced as the winner of the coaching honor.

Two of her longtime friends Connecticut assistant coach Jamelle Elliott and Staley were both thrilled to learn of the former Virginia star's honor who had been on the Huskies staff 14 seasons before taking the Temple job.

 "That's really tremendous," Elliott said. "I can't believe she didn't tell me."

The Guru then related that the winners were not told in advance of their awards.

  Staley, from South Carolina where she is now coaching the Gamecocks, said, "That's well-deserved. She did a great job with the team this season. She didn't know a lot about the Big Five rivalry before she got there but I'm sure she knows all about it by now and each of the teams."

  During the conversation Staley also said to correct some earlier Guru speculation that she did not turn down the Olympic job prior to Connecticut's Geno Auriemma's appointment because of the demands of building the Gamecocks' program.

  "I would never, ever, turn down anything from USA Basketball," Staley said, but also added, "Geno has certainly earned it. You look at the job he has done with Connecticut and his work speaks for itself."

  -- Mel