WNBA: No Place Like Home (Stateside) For Sparks' Stanley

By Mel Greenberg

NEW YORK – It was a bit of a homecoming here for Los Angeles assistant coach Marianne Stanley last Thursday night when the WNBA Sparks came to Madison Square Garden to play the Liberty.

Stanley, a former Immaculata star in the Philadelphia suburbs in the early 1970s, was a Liberty assistant to Patty Coyle for several seasons before joining C. Vivian Stringer’s staff at Rutgers in 2006-07 two seasons ago. That’s when the Scarlet Knights made a late-season turnaround dash to the NCAA title game.

A year ago Stanley returned to the Sparks to be closer to some of her family members.

Ironically, 2008 U.S. Olympic coach Anne Donovan now occupies the seat on the Liberty bench once held by Stanley.

In the late 1970s Stanley recruited the 6-8 Donovan, then a future Hall of Famer, to play at Old Dominion, which then won a second straight title under the former Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1980.

The two coached against each other as WNBA head coaches several years ago when Stanley’s Washington Mystics upset Donovan’s Charlotte Sting in the Eastern semifinals.

Donovan later coached Seattle to a WNBA title in 2003.

At the collegiate level, Stanley went on to win a third title with ODU, this time under the NCAA in 1985. She then returned home to coach Penn for several seasons before moving to Southern Cal, where she recruited one Lisa Leslie, the WNBA superstar who is heading for retirement from the Sparks after this season.

This past winter Stanley coached over in Russia.

“It was a great experience but the day after the season ended I was at the airport ready to take the first flight home,” she laughed. “The funny thing is when I got to the airport, a slew of the American players were all there waiting for their flights.

Of course one of the questions of the moment is whether Stanley is the heir apparent to succeed Michael Cooper with the Sparks after he heads to coach Southern Cal this fall.

Stanley declined to discuss the possibility although it is believed she would accept the position if offered.

Prior to her hire, Sparks co-owner Katherine Goodman noted she had been a longtime fan of Stanley’s dating back to Stanley’s days at USC and later at Stanford and Cal-Berkeley.

But general manager Penny Toler will probably have a major say on the ultimate hire.

Thursday’s game also brought a brief reunion with Liberty rookie Kia Vaughn, whom Stanley coached as part of her post-player responsibilities at Rutgers.

When it was noted that maybe Vaughn missed Stanley a bit last season when the center struggled, she responded, “It’s hard to say if things would have been the same as 2007 or different. Every season is different in college, even when veterans return.”

Stanley said she was not surprised the way things have gone topsy-turvy in the WNBA standings where the Sparks are near the bottom of the West because of roster depletions early in the season. Candace Parker justed returned after giving birth to her first child in the spring. Leslie has been sidelined but is due back soon.

“If you know anything about this league you knew when rosters contracted, everything was going to get tighter top-to-bottom and the league would be better overall. Look at the teams below compared to what those teams looked like several years ago.

Stanley also inquired when the movie about Immaculata, “Our Lady of Victory,” was going to hit theater screens.

The film was last reported to be ready this summer, but nothing as emerged as of yet as to a review date.

Stanley, along with such former Mighty Macs stars as Theresa Grentz and Denise Conway, has roles as extras in the film shot on campus and elsewhere in the Philadelphia area in 2007.

Celebrity Offspring Play at St. Joseph’s

The Hawks program added to its list of celebrity parents last week when sophomore guard Katie Kuester’s father John Kuester was named head coach of the NBA Detroit Pistons.

On the men’s side, sophomore Michael Andretti is the son of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, a longtime friend of Hawks coach Phil Martelli.

Katie Kuester celebrated Wednesday night, scoring 16 points as the Kelly team beat Teal, 67-51, in a Philadelphia Department of Recreation Women’s NCAA Summer League Game at Northeast High.

She then took an early flight the following morning to attend her father’s formal introduction as coach of the Pistons.

It was suggested that perhaps former Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer might ask her to put in a word for him to be on her father’s staff.

Kuester laughed, saying, “He doesn’t need me to help him. But I know they like him a lot in Detroit.”

Summer Action

While on the topic, the league got a visit last Wednesday from Sandy Parrott, a member of the NCAA’s enforcement staff in Indianapolis whose job it is to make sure summer leagues adhere to the organization’s rules.

She made a quick stop to Philadelphia before heading to Dallas.

Observing the turnout observing the games, Parrott noted that, “This is pretty good. Some places I go you only see a handful of people.”

The night’s major result was an upset of summer power Columbia Blue by Cardinal, 53-52, as Kristen Lafolla scored 13 points and Meghan Gibson scored nine. Blue, which is coached by former St. Joseph’s star Tracy Harmon, got 14 points from Hawks senior Brittany Ford, and eight each from incoming St. Joseph’s freshman Ashley Robinson, and Charmele Taylor.

Lime took a half-game lead in first over Columbia Blue, beating Silver, 85-62, as Drexel senior Gabriella Marginean, the reigning Colonial Athletic Association player of the year, scored 32 points and Christine Matera had 17 points, including five three-pointers.

Thought to Ponder

Read with interest our good friend Mike DiMauro's column in the New London Day near the home of the Connecticut Sun noting that gambling action in Las Vegas has picked up this summer nvolving bets on WNBA teams.

This information comes at an intriguing time because in the Guru's formative years building the women's beat he was always told by sports editors that the women's game will arrive and get more coverage when people start placing bets on games.

Well, somebody better quick give them the word because in the face of the collapse of space and manpower in print editions due to the economic conditions in the industry, the WNBA has become the first victim of coverage in publications not located in league cities.

More to come.

-- Mel


-- Mel