Friday, March 6, 2015

WNBA: On The Scene At All-Stars in Casino-land

By Mel Greenberg

WNBA: On The Scene At All-Stars in Casino-land

By Mel Greenberg

  UNCASVILLE, Conn. - In a reversal of normal Guru lifestyle, the Guru has opened his eyes here in casino-land this Saturday morning just past sunrise as opposed to heading for shuteye as daylight approaches.

Thus having several options -- one of which is watching a movie on the laptop blueray disc -- the Guru decided he better having something posted to answer a question that will have others here heading to the site prior to Saturday's pre-game activities. Those events will be WNBA commissioner Donna Orender's mid-summer state of the league and the skills competition.

The question is: "Let's see what the hell he wrote since he seemed to have time to walk around Friday telling stories of the past to some of the newcomers on the scene."

Well other than results which will go into the WNBA cyber-record book there will be some news of consequence.

The most prominent will be the halftime announcement of the next class of six that will enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., next June.

It could be the Knoxville Sentienal will already be leaking the information on the internet since our colleague Dan Flesser -- the Vols' beat writer and 2007 WBCA media award recipinent -- has better access to the Guru's friends down there these days, not that the Guru can't find some of them in a heartbeat or the case of our media-director friend -- lots of heartbeats.

The Guru and everyone else did receive some hints a few days ago in terms of backgrounds -- three former players, two coaches, and a contributor.

 By now our friends up here that comprise the horde contingent have posted the little "I can't say anothing right now" grin that former UConn star Rebecca Lobo, now an ESPN broadcaster, responded with when asked Friday during the practice session whether she was one of the six.

 It was to easy assume she is one of the three players since she is now eligible and would be a first-time-eligible no-brainer pick. That said, she did lose out in a tough-choices competition on the first go-round last spring as a candidate for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield,Mass., according to some people familiar with the selection process. Rutgers longtime coach C. Vivian Stringer and former Olympian-WNBA,Southern Cal star Cynthia Cooper-Dyke emerged with Stringer becoming one of the overall committee choices for September's ceremonies.

Cooper was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame this past June.

Moving on looking to enhance the clues and adding Guru knowledge to those who don't keep track of everything, the Guru can say that former Olympic-Georgia-ABL-WNBA star Teresa Edwards is now eligible. Though older than Lobo, it took Edwards munch longer to finally find something else to do the rest of her life.

As for the third player -- There's lots out there to choose from. If a nod was made to attract attention in major markets -- a player has to be retired for five years thus still preventing Philadelphia's Dawn Staley from selection -- let's think about this.

 Two players come to mind out of the New York area: One would be Sue Wicks, the former Rutgers and WNBA New York Liberty star, and the other her former WNBA teammate and former Louisiana Tech star Teresa Weatherspoon, who is now coaching herr alma mater.

 We're not exactly sure of Vicky Bullet's eligibility, but she would be someone out of the Washington (Mystics) Maryland (college) combination, though the Terrapins could have a winner in another category.

 In the Midwest, most of names to be thought of - such as Notre Dame alumnae -- are still eligible.One thinks of former WNBA star -- the late Kim Perrott -- out of the Sothwest. There are some other eligibles out of Stanford, whose former star Jennifer Azzi was inducted in June.

As for coaches, it's been a few years since a well-storied high school coach has been picked and The Guru knows that Bergen Catholic's Rose Battaglia, who coached Anne Donovan among others, as discussed in recent years.

As for the college group, well here are the few remaining eligible coaches on the Guru's top-25 group of coaches in total AP poll appearance, who have yet to be named in Knoxville: Rene Portland (formerly Penn State, Colorado, St. Joseph's), Jim Foster (Ohio State, formerly Vanderbilt, St. Joseph's), Joan Bonvicini (formerly Vanderbilt, Long Beach State), Gail Goestenkors (Duke), although we're not sure of she's been a head coach long enough, Chris Weller (formerly Maryland), Gary Blair (Texas A&M, formerly Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin), and Muffet McGraw (Notre Dame.).

As for the contributor, there's lot to choose from  although since somehow inductee classes usually have a dose of Tennessee-Orange sprinkled in the group, someone of that ilk could be a frontrunner.

                                         Some Other Notes Off Friday

    As expected, as soon as Phoenix-Olympic-former UConn star Diana Taurasi hit the floor during the media session, a literal horde dominated by the horde surrounded her and virtually all she had to say is out there at other sites, though she later, flashing a big frin, she hit the Guru with her trademark abuse comment she honed upon entering the WNBA in 2004.

   Talking to former Temple star Candice Dupree, who has been on the all-star group since her rookie season, it was noted how she now made a career move joining the East this time as a starter.

  "Wow, a lot of things have happened in a short amount of time," Dupree noted, when she was reminded, that when Temple first approached her in Florida, she had no idea Dawn Staley was the Owls coach until the recruiting process heated up.

    The Guru first remembers meeting Nicole Powell when she had just committed to Stanford.

   Now on the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs, Powell, who hails from the East, said she still marvels over the excitrment women's basketball draws in these parts.

    .  "You know when you spend time in the West, other than our one trip here every year, you don't really see energy in other cities as high as here, which not to say others have great crowds. But it is really intense here."

   Powell was asked how it felt growing up in the sport and becoming known at this event as the replacement pick for the injured all-time star Lisa Leslie, who will retire at the end of the season from the Los Angeles Sparks.

  "Yeah that really is something," Powell said recalling she was just becoming a Pac-10 star long after Leslie had become one of the dominant forces.

  Asked if she was surprised at the recent firing of coach Jenny Boucek, Powell said: "A little bit. When we weren't playing well, it was mostly our fault because we really weren't performing well. But then we won a couple of games and were in several others right down to the wire, so it looked like we were getting on the right track. In that sense, it was a little surprising coming when it did."

 And in a note of trivia, What does the Detroit Shock's Katie Smith and Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko have in common in terms of all-star history in this state?

  Answer: Both were involved in the first of these events back in 1996 when the former ABL had its first game in Hartford. Smith was a member of the eventual-champion Columbus Quest and Sienko was an executive with the New England Blizzard.

                                                     Guru Hits the Jackpot

  Your Guru quickly found himself $100 ahead of the game upon his arrival here and none of hit had to do with applying elbow grease to the slot machine handles.

   The Guru had not worn a certain pair of pants, which he wore one day last month fresh out of the laundry, while attending the WBHOF action in Tennessee.

   Well, it seems the Guru must have moved some money into a front pocket for easier access because when he dressed to head over to the area, when reaching to straighten said pocket, five $20s came flying out.

   Meanwhile, the Guru hadn't been here since the opening of  added facilities, making walks from several parking garages a bit longer -- yeah he knows, he could have taken the hotel's complimentary limo over and high-hatted the all-stars upon arrival.

   Well, in spite of his aging mind, well after the evening's sociality ended -- media colleagues Jayda Evans and ESPN's Mechelle Voepel among his contingent at various times --the mental tea leaves he sprinkled to remember where his car was parked did the job mostly -- he was off by one level since he forget to note it, but he quickly realized that error.

  In another upset the media gift this time is functional -- the fact they still give them somewhat belies the economic questions sure to hit Orender a few hours from now.

  When he was handed a computer sleeve with WNBA signage, the Guru assumed his laptop wouldn't fit since it is one of the mega 17-inch kind as opposed to the traditional 15.4 sizes most users have, if not smaller these days.

  Well, surprise surprise. When trying to see if the sleeve was big enough when the Guru returned to his room, it actually slipped inside quite easily.

  In another computer-related note, the WIFI wireless signal is actuall strong and solid which has not been  the case in the past, although somewhere in here there is supposed to be an outlet for a cable to connect with the network.

   And speaking of the hotel, there  was the other lttle upset. For some reason wheneveer the Guru stays at this hotel upon coming for Connecticut Sun games, somehow across the stay the sound of a downpour comes out of nowhere, usually when the Guru is ready to go outbound and his jacket is still in the vehicle.

  Well, the Guru has once again heard the sound of pitter-patter, actually -- gushing water, against the window. But this time, although the sky seemed clear when emerging from the garage late Friday night, the downpour occurred AFTER the Guru had returned to his room.

   That's it for now. Not beholden to print deadlines on this trip the Guru may live blog a bit in the area. Either way, he'll return before sunset. There's another upset.

  -- 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
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected