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So, the board is discussing whether having a sexual harasser as an owner is a good thing, and Lin Dunn steps to the plate: 

“I’m waiting for Laurel Richie to take a leadership role in this,” Dunn said. “I’m concerned that anyone who had been found guilty of sexual harassment would be back in a position working with women. I’m counting on Richie to do her due diligence and get the Board of Governors to make a decision that continues to show that the WNBA empowers girls and women and will be a role model when it comes to that.”

Honestly, I don’t envy Richie and the BoG. The stakes are pretty high, whichever way they vote.

Meanwhile, from Mel’s blog: Rob Knox’s WNBA Notebook: Liberty Focusing on Basketball Unhampered by the Thomas Hiring

But back in Newark at the preseason game on May 22, while the swirl of media attention was tough, it ultimately could be a positive for the Liberty and the WNBA.

That’s why Laimbeer appeared at ease as he sat on the bench laughing while members of the Liberty participated in pregame drills.

“Everybody knows who the Liberty are now,” Laimbeer said. “During media day, we told them very clearly to write whatever stories they’re going to write.

“However, we also told them, don’t go away. Come back in five weeks, look at the product, write about how we play and how the ladies are.”

From Mechelle: What everyone will be talking about when the WNBA’s 19th season begins

After an offseason of mostly negative WNBA news, thank goodness the league’s 19th season is beginning soon. It’s time to play ball again.

The WNBA starts with five games Friday, including last year’s champion, Phoenix, at home against San Antonio. Can the Mercury become the first team to repeat as champions since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002? That will be a challenge.

Contenders for the crown
Phoenix will be without Diana Taurasi all season, and it appears Penny Taylor also is not going to play in the WNBA in 2015. Brittney Griner will be on the sideline most of June as she serves a seven-game, league-mandated suspension for her April arrest after a fight with her then-fiance, Glory Johnson of Tulsa. Griner and Johnson were married in May.

From the other Michelle: New-look Mercury gunning for repeat

It became apparent a few weeks ago that the phrase “It is what it is” was going to be a mantra around the Phoenix Mercury’s camp.

The phrase is less about resignation than an acknowledgement of reality for the defending WNBA champions, who will begin the 2015 season not at all resembling the players who finished a remarkable run with confetti raining down on their heads.

No Diana Taurasi … no Penny Taylor … no Brittney Griner for the first seven games of the season … breathe and reboot ahead of Friday’s season opener at home against San Antonio. “At this point, I think that more than defending a championship, it’s just about trying to win a championship,” said veteran guard DeWanna Bonner. “We just want to get to the point where we can win another title. Really, we have so many different faces, this team hasn’t won a title.”

Speaking of which, now that I think about it…Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner having second thoughts, may appeal suspension

Surprisingly, a number of the comments in reaction to this totally wrong-headed opinion piece are thoughtful and nuanced: The W.N.B.A. Should Bring the Basket Down, and Fandom Up

Longtime readers of this blog know I disagree with this premise… for so many reasons. And it’s not because I’m against dunking. It’s just that, when you do the math, you realize that dunking is about 50 seconds total of the men’s game. If that’s why you watch the NBA, why not save yourself the 47 minutes and watch SportsCenter?

From Swish Appeal: 5 Players Due for Breakout Seasons in 2015

In college news:

CU women’s basketball: New-look Buffs get to work

Every year, college coaches deal with a certain level of roster turnover.

This summer, Colorado women’s basketball coach Linda Lappe is dealing with more turnover than ever before.

Heading into her sixth season as CU’s head coach, Lappe’s roster will look much different in the 2015-16 season.

“I think it makes it really fun and exciting,” she said.

Allison Guth excited to return to Yale as women’s basketball coach

Happiness is being an Ohio fan:

The women’s basketball program will be back in the NCAA Tournament … soon
Bob Boldon talks upcoming season of women’s basketball
Sports Column: There’s never been a better time to be a new Bobcat fan

Hmmmm…UMD coach resigns, cites unhealthy work environment

Minnesota Duluth women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles resigned Monday morning after seven seasons with the Bulldogs, citing an unhealthy work environment at the university.

She is the third female head coach to leave the UMD athletic department this year, following Shannon Miller, the former women’s hockey coach, and Jen Banford, who served as women’s hockey director of operations and head softball coach.

As did Miller and Banford, Wiles is expected to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The United States Department of Justice is investigating those earlier complaints.

The Indy Star’s offers up a little history: Ann Meyers took her best shot at making the Pacers

“Annie was one of the best basketball players ever. I didn’t say male or female. I said ever.” – Bill Russell, Boston Celtics legend

So here she was. One of the best players ever. No matter that she was a woman. Gender was just that, an easy label the sports world clung to that meant nothing to her.

Here she was, Ann Meyers, one of the best basketball players ever and she was about to prove it.

Inside Hinkle Fieldhouse in September of 1979, with Indiana Pacers coach Slick Leonard watching. With so many news cameras pointed her way, clicking nonstop, that she started feeling “uncomfortable.”

A bit of parallel history: UNC’s Beth Miller was there when women’s sports was a struggle

The arrangement eloquently illustrated the state of women’s college athletics. When the University of North Carolina volleyball season ended in the fall, player uniforms were not placed in storage. Instead they were passed along with travel bags and warm-ups for immediate use by members of the Tar Heel women’s basketball squad.

In today’s world of multimillion dollar contracts between apparel companies and major-college athletic departments, with uniforms carefully tailored to suit the needs and marketing imperatives of each sport, such a cozy cycle of reuse is difficult to imagine. “At that time, I don’t think the kids paid any attention,” Beth Miller, then UNC’s volleyball coach, recalls of the shared clothing in the latter 1970s. “They were just glad to have anything.”

The support at Chapel Hill was actually a marked improvement from conditions at Appalachian State and other major colleges at the dawn of the same decade, when women were limited to participation on the equivalent of glorified club teams. Miller’s highest annual budget as ASU volleyball coach between 1969 and 1972 was $1,500. In contrast, UNC’s current volleyball operating budget is $200,000, not counting scholarships and salaries.

Finally: We’re in the home stretch! Have you supported women’s basketball history yet? 

Now that the goal has been reached, I have decided that I should — and can afford to — publish 1,000 copies of my book. I have narrowed my search down to two local printers. One can print 1,000 copies for about $4,400 (or so). The other one would charge $7,500. The second printer also offers a number of other services, such as providing the ISBN, getting the book up on Amazon, storing up to 100 copies in their warehouse, and placing the book in their twice-yearly catalog distributed to a number of bookstores. The ISBN is worth $150. Their Amazon link means I would get a 60-40 split on sales, as opposed to 45-55 if I signed up with Amazon myself. The warehouse feature means that bookstores will be more likely to stock it. The catalog will help me market to libraries and schools.As you can see, my Kickstarter campaign has made it possible for me to consider the second option. So, once again, I am grateful for everyone who contributed. Please continued to spread the word. I will be taking donations until the Kickstarter ends later today.
Skip that latte for three days and you get an autographed copy of “Finding a Way to Play!” What a bargain!

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The story: “There’s no parity in women’s basketball.”

The truth:

Illinois over #17 Iowa, 73-61.

Pittsburgh over #5 North Carolina, 84-59.

Miami over #4 Notre Dame, 78-63.

I’m trying to decide which upset is most surprising.

Yes, Notre Dame was on the road, but lordy, they were down 20 at the half to a team whose “best” win of the season to date was… heck, it’ s hard to point to a “good” Miami win – they’ve lost to MTU, ASU and Tulane.

“You never like to lose, but we’re just so darn young sometimes that we needed maybe a kick in the pants to kind of say we need to come out ready,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “I don’t know mentally what they were thinking before the game but we were uncharacteristically bad in the first half. Credit their defense, that really set us back on our heels.”

That being said, one has to consider the impact (and back story) of the news that starting sophomore forward Taya Reimer, who did not travel with the team to Miami, is considering her future at the university.

Even without Xylina McDaniel, North Carolina’s loss to Pittsburgh makes me shake my head. It’s not just that it’s Pitt. (Blog followers know that they struggled early this season, losing to Duquesne, James Madison and Princeton, but they played #7 Louisville tough.) It’s the score. This wasn’t a close game.

Michigan was a big win for the Pitt women. 

Ohio State was a big win, too. 

Neither of those earlier victories — nor very many wins in the history of the program, for that matter — compare to Thursday’s 84-59 victory over No. 8 North Carolina at Petersen Events Center

The win was Pitt’s first against a ranked opponent in almost four years and was their third over a top-10 opponent. 

No, we haven’t been talking about Iowa a lot, but we have mentioned Illinois more than a few times, so perhaps you weren’t too surprised by the news that the Hawkeyes got taken down by Matt Bollant’s Illini.

Illinois finished the game on a 26-8 run and held No. 17 Iowa to only three field goals over the final 10 minutes of the game as the Fighting Illini pulled away for a 73-61 win at State Farm Center on Thursday. It marked the Orange and Blue’s second win over a ranked opponent this season and Illinois held Iowa to its second-lowest point total of the season. Illinois improves to 11-4 on the campaign, its best start in seven years, and 2-1 in Big Ten play.

Let’s start a new story: There’s no parity in men’s college basketball.

So, speaking of close games, I see that Duke escaped Syracuse by two. Is there something askew with the ACC traditional powers? (And, soon, ‘Cuse, sooon you’ve got to come out of these close losses with a win!)

Okay, I’m paying attention: MSU women make another piece of history

Stat stuffers don’t care how their lines in the final boxscore look. 

After all, if players who fill numerous columns with crooked numbers are doing their jobs, their team’s total in bold at the bottom of the page is going to be bigger than the opponent’s.

Dominique Dillingham’s numbers Thursday were far from the biggest on the final statistics for the No. 14 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 72-57 victory against Arkansas. But none of the 3,556 in attendance at Humphrey Coliseum would deny Dillingham had perhaps the biggest impact in helping MSU push its season-opening winning streak to 18. In the process, MSU made another piece of history in opening Southeastern Conference play 3-0 for the first time. 

Hey! Look who’s ranked! Western Kentucky! First time since the 1997-98 season.

‘‘It’s an awesome day for our program,’’ WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. ‘‘It gives me chills when you say that we’re ranked. It’s a great day for everyone that’s ever tied their shoe here or had to do with WKU in the past.’’

Anyone think that Ohio State is going to be scary good next year?

Yup, that’s #18 Arizona State winning, matching the program’s best start.

The Debbie Antonelli includes, of course, Sacramento State. This time they came out on top, 93-86.

In-conference play is killing San Francisco’s mojo.

It’s kinda feeling like, this year, the A-10 is George Washington’s to lose.

I’m not going to declare the Patriot League Lehigh’s until after they face American. Twice.

The Tigers roar in Graham’s mid-majors poll (and sit in the 22nd spot in the AP poll)

Courtney Banghart developed a standard response when asked about the outlook for her Princeton team this season, the first season the Tigers began coming off anything other than an NCAA tournament appearance since the fall of 2009, when every member of the current roster was in high school or even middle school.

It was a likable group of people, really likable. But she wasn’t sure they knew how hard it is to win.

“I just didn’t know if they actually had enough edge,” Banghart said. “If they hated losing — which is different, whether you hate losing more than you like winning, or you like winning more than you hate losing. I didn’t know if they were able to make the shift. Was this team really going to hate to lose and come with that edge?”

They must really hate losing. Because they can’t stop winning.

Steve Megargee of the AP give “the other majors” some love:

The first half of the women’s basketball season produced plenty of memorable moments for mid-major programs.

Chattanooga beat Tennessee and Stanford for its first two wins over top-10 opponents in school history. Princeton is ranked 22nd and Western Kentucky is 25th. Green Bay (11-3) was in the Top 25 earlier this season.

“I think it’s great for the game, for women’s basketball,” Western Kentucky coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “That’s what we want to have the opportunity to do, to just continue to keep working and building, so … we don’t have to be in a position where we have to win our conference (tournament) to get to the NCAA.”

Michelle writes about those “other” Huskies, and their peach of a player, Plum: Plum paces Washington to 12-2 start – Huskies set to take on No. 15 Stanford on Friday, Cal on Sunday

As a freshman last season, Kelsey Plum confesses, she sometimes felt “dumb,” even if the stat sheet didn’t show it.

“At least in terms of making plays,” the University of Washington sophomore guard said. “I guessed a lot.”

Plum seems to have found the right answers pretty quickly. The nation’s second-leading scorer at 25.0 points a game, Plum is setting the tone for a Huskies team that is about to embark on its most defining weekend in a decade.

“We are finding a quiet confidence,” said Washington second-year coach Mike Neighbors.

He saw it in the days before his team played then-No. 5 Texas A&M before the turn of the new year. Washington won that game 70-49, one of the most unexpected results of the young season.

In W news, Mechelle addresses the “You’re fired!” “You’re hired!”

There are certain sports franchises — and players and coaches, for that matter — who do weird things that at first make you say, “You’re kidding. Seriously, they did that?” But then you say, “Oh, wait a minute. This is (fill in the name) that we’re talking about.”

The New York Liberty are such a franchise. But the re-hiring of Bill Laimbeer as coach less than three months after he was fired by the organization is head-scratching even by Liberty standards.

Oh, wait a minute. Not really. This is the Liberty we’re talking about.

Let me make haste to say, though, I actually don’t think this is a bad decision at all. It’s correcting a bad decision, which was firing Laimbeer back in October without a really strong idea of whom the franchise could get to replace him.

More Liberty news: 7 ON YOUR SIDE: HOOPS PRIZE WINNER NEEDS ASSIST

A little history: Former Wayland Baptist Flying Queen Cherri Rapp has been named for induction into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.

Rapp played for the Flying Queens from 1968-72 under coach Harley Redin, winning two AAU championships along with third- and fourth-place finishes as those teams combined for a 107-13 win-loss record.
 
A three-time NWIT and AAU All-American, Rapp scored 1,348 points to rank third at the time on the Flying Queens’ career scoring list; today, she’s 14th.
 
She was a member of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team that competed in the 1976 Montreal Games. She played in the Pan American Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Colombia), serving as captain of the team that won the 1975 gold medal, and also played in the World Games in 1971 (Brazil) and 1975 (Mexico).

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Saturday Night Live - Season 1

 

New York Liberty rename Bill Laimbeer head coach.

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From Mechelle:

Was Laimbeer really given enough time in New York to replenish the roster and establish a playing identity that would hold up over the course of a season? I don’t think so, but maybe time wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. Perhaps the style that worked for Laimbeer in Detroit just isn’t viable now.

Or … maybe the Liberty needed to stay the course longer with Laimbeer and get help through a key free-agent signing or two, along with the talent-rich 2016 draft. It’s not as if any realistic projection of the 2015 Liberty — regardless of who was coaching — included title hopes.

From Mel, a little history lesson: Guru’s WNBA Musings: Another Blindside Hits the New York Liberty

Several WNBA types who were in Turkey for the recent world championship won by the pro stars of America under the USA Basketball banner had no idea, especially with front office executive Kristin Bernet among them.

When asked about Big Bad Bill’s whereabouts, she said he was fishing, which was not out of line from comments he made during his past two seasons.

Gotta say, I might have suggested the Lib should have secured my season ticket renewal before the move…

Speaking of ex-Libs: Hammon elected to Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015

And other ex-Libs: Sun Devil WBB to Honor No. 32 Jersey of Hall of Famer Kym Hampton on Dec. 6

Hampton was the first ASU women’s basketball player to earn all-America honors (1981-1982). In addition to the aforementioned career scoring and rebounding records, Hampton set several other records, many of which still stand today, including: most career blocks (178), most points (683) and rebounds (413) in a season and most points (44), rebounds (28) and field goals (19 – tied) in a single game.

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Bill Laimbeer let go by New York Liberty.

Why do I feel like this:

Gary-Larson-Aquarium-Fire

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Just in case you missed it: Basketball – Semi Final and Final Medal Matches | Full Replay | Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

USA Semi-Final game against Hungary starts at the 5 minute mark.
Gold Medal Game against Netherlands starts at the 3 Hour 04 minute mark.

Speaking of USA basketball, the pool of candidates for the National Team is an embarrassment of riches: 

The old saying that you can’t have too much of a good thing is, in fact, true. But it doesn’t always make things easy.

Consider the talent pool for the U.S. women’s national team in basketball. There’s not just a lot of “good” there, but a lot of “great.”

One of the dilemmas that USA Basketball faces is how to fine-tune the makeup of the squad going into major international competitions such as the upcoming FIBA World Championship.

No matter which 12 women are picked for the final roster, the Americans will be the favorite to win the gold medal in Turkey. But how does USA Basketball make tough calls about potentially adding younger players to the team?

From Kate: Why Dolan Shouldn’t Fire Laimbeer.

Laimbeer was not hired to guide a mediocre roster. He was hired to first help shape, then eventually motivate (his strength) a roster equipped to win a title. Truth is, that previous version of the Liberty was built for playoff appearances and early playoff exits — not championships, not even close. Everyone within the franchise knew the truth, and everyone around the league knew it too. Since the moment Laimbeer walked in the door, the Liberty have been plotting for future domination. Sometimes you have to get worse before you get better, which is exactly the space in which New York finds itself right now.

Well, right there — that’s your first mistake: assuming Dolan gives a flying hoot about the Liberty.

Second: You mention Essence as a floor balancer who, truly, wasn’t 100%, (but will she ever be) but who is she “balancing” against. You don’t mention Cappie? Has she been traded?

Third: “..a couple of smooth-shooting guards” playing for NY in 2016? Any idea how we’re going to get them, what with no draft picks and to trade bait? (Yes, maybe there’s interest in an east coast/west coast exchange… but how likely that?)

Fourth: You need a “conductor to harness the power.” So this means Cruz is not our point guard in two years? Who is?

Fifth: “gather complementary pieces — the rebounder, the lockdown defender, the banger — en route.” Anyone you have in mind? And again, we get them how?

Sixth: “This means one of the first pieces New York must secure is a center who can bang, who can take the defensive pressure off Charles.” Am I repeating myself? Name me any candidates that are available?

Finally – no, I don’t think Laimbeer should go. But projecting the Lib turnaround by 2016 is goofy. Yes, it’s hard to build a team around a center (power forward, if you’d like), but NY is currently made up of “old” and serviceable. There ain’t no Ford, Smith, or Nolan in the wings to rescue us. The team needs a complete overhaul…and that’s going to take a little longer than we’re going to like….

From Nate: After the Phoenix Mercury ended the L.A. Sparks’ season in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs for the second consecutive year – this time handing the Sparks a blowout loss at home – it’s painfully obvious that they need to make changes this offseason.

Back before the 2012 draft, I wrote that Nneka Ogwumike was the obvious pick for the L.A. Sparks but that maybe they’d consider a trade because she wouldn’t fit that roster as long as Candace Parker was there too. But ultimately, as I would later write before the 2013 season, that’s just the kind of situation where you take the best player available and figure everything out later.

Well, it’s now “later”. And the Sparks are well past the somewhat benign point of being at a “crossroads”.

A little belated, but congrats to Skylar, Sandy and Brittney.

And speaking of congrats: From Scot Gleeson at USA Today: Newly engaged Brittney Griner takes control of her life

Brittney Griner blushes and lets out an infectious smile when asked about her recent proposal to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson.

“Yes, I put a ring on it,” Griner says.

The 6-8 women’s basketball star is used to the spotlight for her uncanny athleticism with the Phoenix Mercury on the court and her candid personality off it. Now, Griner says, it’s all “falling into place.”

As Phoenix and Minnesota get ready to rumble, Mechelle has 5 questions for West finals

Now we have a marquee matchup of two teams that each have won two WNBA titles. And between the Lynx (Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Janel McCarville) and the Mercury (Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner), there are five former No. 1 overall draft picks.

There also are two players who’ve been the WNBA’s MVP: Moore, who won the award this year, and Taurasi, who did so in 2009. Taurasi was runner-up to Moore this season.

Kent Youngblood says Reeve feels good about Lynx headed into Phoenix series

“It’s a cohesive group,” she said. “I think the chemistry has really grown. Having Rebekkah [Brunson] back and Seimone [Augustus] back in the fold for the last few games. You guys all worried about the way we finished the season. But we knew we were making some progress.’’

Also from Kent: Lynx-Mercury series offers intriguing matchups

The formula is basic, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. When it comes to winning in the playoffs — no matter the opponent — the Lynx have to be efficient on offense and defend well.

Of course that’s easier said than done when it comes to playing the Phoenix Mercury. The two teams will begin their best-of-three Western Conference finals Friday in Phoenix. They are the top two teams in the league in wins, points scored, point differential, field-goal percentage and offensive efficiency.

From Ryan Scott at Insight News: The hard road to a Lynx dynasty

The Lynx and Phoenix Mercury are on a collision course for the WNBA ages. And to put it concisely, Mercury stars Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, “ain’t nothin’ nice.” At 6’8″ and boasting the leagues’ first highlight reel of dunks, Griner is a basketball nightmare similar to Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal in the men’s game. And though the adjectives and statistics for Griner can be rattled on for several pages, it is the cold-blooded Taurasi that should strike the greater fears in the Lynx.

Mechelle also had a little something to say about Delle Donne.

For most of June and July, she was forced to watch the Sky struggle without her. She played just four games during those two months. She missed the WNBA All-Star Game. She couldn’t be sure when she would be able to return to action.

All that backstory makes what happened Tuesday night in Atlanta even more remarkable. We didn’t just see one of the more clutch climbs out of a deep hole in WNBA playoff history. We saw it done by a player and a team whose season has been the very definition of resilience.

About that game… Kris Willis notes: The Atlanta Dream saw a 20 point lead slip away in a heartbreaking 81-80 loss to the Chicago Sky 

And yes, it was the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.

“It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays, my big-time player [Delle Donne] stepped up.”

From the Chicago Tribune: Delle Donne’s basket with 8.2 seconds left wins series for Sky

I think we were playing to win,” Lyttle said. “We just stopped executing, and all of a sudden it was a one-point lead and we wondered, ‘How did that happen?'”

From Jayda: VIDEO: Elena Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot advance to conference Finals

You knew it was going to happen. Elena Delle Donne is too incredible of a talent to not wash over a game like a tidal wave in attempt to lead her Chicago to a win. But, as Atlanta coachMichael Cooper said afterward, she could do her damage — which she did Tuesday — and the Dream could’ve still won.

Instead, Atlanta PG Jasmine Thomas missed two free-throws with 17.3 seconds left in a decisive Game 3 playoff matchup against Chicago.

Also from Jayda: Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Angel Robinson left an impression

And, yep! WNBA star Swin Cash part of historic all-female sports show

In college news:

Cal adds some coaches: Devanei Hampton and Sweets Underwood

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gotten some relief, and others may be feeling toastier.

New York’s in trouble. It doesn’t matter if the score a lot of points or a few points. They’re not winning. Even more troubling? The Sun’s success might mean they get a Lottery Pick for the Charles trade. #MightComeBackToBiteYou. Oh, and adios Toni?

The Dream is in a groove and lovin’ it. (Now, if only the AJC would notice.)

The 2014 WNBA season is now in its second quarter and the Atlanta Dream is showing itself to be a legitimate contender.  But to be more specific here, that’s for the WNBA Championship, not just Eastern Conference banner. 

Indy and D.C are…surviving –  I KNOW coach Dunn and folks want Catch back, but I also know they want CATCH back. Respect their patience.

By the Great Lakes, Chicago folks are falling like flies, and it’s killin’ their mojo, but not their Pride. The All-Star break can’t come soon enough.

Is the Sun rising? Coach Donovan Knows It Takes All Kinds To Make Sun Mesh

In the West:

L.A. was making everyone wonder, que pasa? Then they met Tulsa and earned a no-longer-take-them-for-granted win.

The Lynx were rolling, but shorthanded still. Then they encountered the high-low we all expected Griner-Taurasi to be. Looks like the Merc are bringing the heat.

Seattle is making folks earn every win against ’em…. but, I’m guessing Bird would rather win than pile up stats. They do have a new COO, though: Alisha Valavanis will be leaving her post as the University of California, Berkeley’s Assistant Athletics Director of Development for Annual Giving and Alumni Relations

It’s amazing what Danielle Adams can do – unless, of course, you remember what she did in the NCAA Championship game. Doesn’t mean I don’t worry about her knees….

Some great games on today — and it’s WNBA PRIDE TIME!

 

images

Shock @ Sky.

Dream @ Liberty.

Stars @ Sparks.

Fever @ Lynx.

Mystics @ Storm.

Just a thought about Mechelle’s piece The WNBA’s Pride predicament. It’s amazing what happens to my heart when I read the players tweeting their support of WNBA Pride. For those of us who have journeyed with the players, fans, coaches and owners within the league, we know what a seismic moment this is. We’ve been frustrated, logical, realistic, impatient, hurt, embarrassed and sensitive to others. And yet, here we are: WNBA PRIDE.

This year, the league is acknowledging that fan base with a first-ever multi-media campaign: WNBA Pride, Presented by COVERGIRL. Nine teams are hosting a pride-themed game including the Chicago Sky, whose match up against the Shock on ESPN2 Sunday will be the first nationally-televised such game in professional sports.

Wicks, who came out before her retirement in 2002 when a reporter asked her if she was a lesbian, called the WNBA’s pride campaign “fantastic.”

“There have always been gay and lesbian fans at WNBA games,” she said. “It’s nice for fans of the community to be recoginzed for their support.”

For some reason, I’m flashing back on Whoopi Goldberg’s Broadway show (1985) where a character said, “Love isn’t smilin’ at people with your face and squintin’ at them with your heart.”

Here’s hoping that, wherever you draw your personal code of morals, ethics and/or intra and inter-personal behaviors from, you can agree with this: judge people by the “content of their character.”

In other news: More games to watch in you’re in Toronto: Welcome to the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship.

Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States all remain undefeated after two days of play at the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, Ont.

AND they’re putting up big numbers. The games are streamed.

Speaking of international play… The lil bits (aka, the U17 team) was in a dogfight with the Canadian team… end then they zoomed away in the fourth.

The medium bits (aka the U18 team) will reassemble at the USOTC for training camp July 25-August 5. You can watch them play for FREE in Colorado Springs, August 6-10.

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Wisconsin hung with Gonzaga through the first, and then the Bulldogs ran away with the win.

Speakin’ of dogs, the Danes are still undefeated.

Wow – BU has not had a fun first year in the Patriot League.

Why don’t people listen when I say “‘Ware the Wabbits”? In the first half, the Lions got kicked but good by South Dakota State. Penn State then got their rabbit’s foot working and it looked like they were going to recover from a 20pt. deficit to escape with a win. But no, the Jackrabbits pull a huge win upset out of their hat.

Yes, I see you, undefeated Indiana — but Iowa looms on January 2nd.

Eastern Michigan goes up against Big Blue — and earns its first loss of the season, 89-75.

Graham puts the spotlight on some deserving teams and coaches: WCC offers some of nation’s best basketball

What college soccer fans have known for years looks increasingly a fact of life in basketball. Teams that treat the West Coast Conference as a little guy put themselves at risk of a big surprise. 

Gonzaga’s win at Wisconsin on Tuesday night finished a Midwestern sweep that began with a win at Ohio State and cemented the Bulldogs as the team atop the rankings. But this isn’t just about the WCC’s flagship program, the one with three Sweet 16 appearances and a regional final since coach Kelly Graves arrived. Four teams from the conference appear in this week’s rankings, teams with a combined 33-2 overall record and 9-1 record against major conferences this season. 

What used to be the six power conferences, including the old Big East, were the only leagues a season ago that ranked ahead of the WCC in RPI. Two seasons ago, the WCC ranked eighth among all conferences. That is in contrast to the previous decade, when the league finished better than 12th on just two occasions. Credit the arrival of a proven program like BYU with some of the improvement, but it’s also about growth from programs like Saint Mary’s and San Diego, which advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT two seasons ago, finished second in the league for the second season in a row last season and now finds a home in the mid-major rankings for the first time.

Let’s get this hype started: Duke v. UConn, December 17th.

John Altavilla – Duke-UConn: It’s More Than A Game and Another 1 vs. 2 Just A Week Away For UConn

Mechelle & Michelle: Top Teams Face Off

Ouch: Kentucky’s Stallworth sidelined after knee surgery

Good news: Maryland’s Frese celebrates son’s success in beating leukemia

So, just how happy are the Sun? 

Asked how he was doing after his Liberty ended up fourth in the WNBA draft lottery Tuesday, New York coach/general manager Bill Laimbeer joked, “Oh, I’m just destroyed and heartbroken.”

He was totally kidding, of course. Last year, with the “3 to See” lottery, coming in fourth left Mystics’ president/managing partner Sheila Johnson visibly stricken and disappointed.

But this year, while No. 1 is coveted as always — Connecticut has the top selection, followed by Tulsa, San Antonio, and New York — the talent available for the top four picks is not perceived to have a precipitous fall-off between selections.

Speaking of the W: Michael Cooper interview, Part II: The Atlanta Dream’s offseason, the 2014 WNBA Draft, and Pat Riley’s influence

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Vets, rookies give Mystics new life

Snow, an 11-year veteran, and Hill, the No. 4 draft pick in April, represent the extremes in experience for the Mystics.

On one hand, you have the 6-foot-5 center who has seen it all in the pro game and been able to steadily keep a job. On the other hand, you have a 5-10 guard who’s learning more every day about what it takes to earn minutes in this league.

“When you’re young,” says Mystics point guard Ivory Latta, “you need that veteran who will get in your grill and say: ‘Hey, you are at the next level. Everybody is faster, quicker, they jump higher, they get in the passing lanes. You have to adjust.’

“Tayler — she’s going to be great. She just has to get into the rhythm of how the WNBA is played, and it takes some time.”

Where I’m going to be tonight: Liberty Host Eastern Conference Rival Connecticut Sun, by Ros Gold-Onwude

The Connecticut Sun (2-3) are hampered by injuries of their own. Streaky shooter and solid defender Renee Montgomery is out with an ankle injury. Shooter Tan White is out with a broken finger. Kara Lawson missed a game with a sore back but returned to play on Wednesday against the Indiana Fever. Due to all the injuries the Sun brought in veteran guard Iziane Castro Marquez who brings size and another scoring option to the wing. The Sun bounced back after a three game losing streak with a 73-61 win over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday June 12th. Reigning MVP Tina Charles carried the Sun with 30 points and 10 rebounds in an inspired effort. Lawson returned to the court to add 12 points but seemed limited, only shooting 5-14 and giving up 6 turnovers.

Speaking of New Jersey,  C Viv in the Nine for IX Short: ‘Coach’ Preview

Check out a preview clip from the Nine for IX digital short film “Coach,” the Best Documentary Short winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. “Coach” will debut on espnW.com on June 18, while the Nine for IX documentary series begins July 2 on ESPN.

Nate ponders the Three keys to the Atlanta Dream succeeding without Sancho Lyttle

Adding to the discussion of rosters and money, Clay says, In the WNBA, injuries change everything

So even though the Liberty knocked off Atlanta Sunday, starting 75-year-old Katie Smith every night is simply not the way to win consistently in this year’s very tough and competitive WNBA. As time goes on, the 12 teams are not only getting more talented, they are developing identity and pride, and a group like the San Antonio Silver Stars, hampered as they are by their own injuries, are going to play tough almost every night out. Even downtrodden and unlucky Tulsa is not guaranteed win, as the Shock have taken some of the league’s best into overtime.

This flew under my radar — and it’s interesting, because about five years ago, a NCAAW coach was talking to me about “concerns” at Nike. Nike LGBT Sports Summit underway in Portland

Folks are tweeting the event: #LGBTSportsSummit

The second annual Nike LGBT Sports Summit started this week at the same time the city gears up for the Portland Pride Festival.

The summit held in downtown Portland includes more than 100 leaders in LGBT sports community.  There are various initiatives, all centered around ending bias and discrimination of LGBT athletes and their fans.

Cyd Zeigler of OutSports.com is one of the founders of the summit, and credits Nike for hosting the event.

And Nike unveils line of sneakers celebrating gay pride – The colorful #BeTrue Free Run 5.0 shoes are available in the U.S. for $115, and profits will benefit the LGBT Sports Coalition.

In addition to the professional activists and media, the attendees include athletes, coaches or representatives affiliated with colleges and universities around the country, as well as the NCAA, USOC and USA Wrestling. And there’s an anticipated increase in the participation of active and former athletes and coaches. More than a dozen current college athletes (gay and straight) will be joined by another dozen coaches, including Portland State women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell. Murrell is the lone out coach in Division I, and her perspective — on her responsibilities as a mentor to her athletes and as a responsible citizen to the wider community — might help move the national conversation beyond questioning an LGBT person’s fitness to coach, or beyond concerns over sexuality or gender identity, and back to simple ability.
Bill Laimbeer is standing in a piece of real estate that he used to own. Both his feet are firmly planted in the paint as he’s calmly instructs the players that Bill Laimbeer the GM has provided him how to feel for the balance and weight of a defender. Later he’ll show some of his guards how to properly curl off of an off-ball pick. Every now and then he’ll smile, too.In their 16-year existence, the New York Liberty, one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, have never won a title. There have been three finals appearances, but the last one was in 2002. Last year they finished the season 15-19. Laimbeer, on the other hand, is a three time WNBA champion—2003, ’06 and ’08—the second most in league history. It took him less than two full seasons to lead the Shock to their first WNBA title. The Liberty are hoping for an even faster clock this time around.

And some sad news that I saw, but couldn’t get to: Memorial service set for Melissa Erickson, former Washington player
Melissa Erickson, a former Washington basketball player, died Wednesday after a seven-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She was 34.
A public memorial service has been set for June 21 at 5pm at Alaska Airlines Arena, or Hec Ed as Erickson and her teammates knew it when the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight her senior season in 2001.

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basketball “stuff,” but it is cool how basketball can distract you from “stuff.”

So, I did manage to catch my first live Lib game of the season last Sunday. Thoughts:

  • Shout out to Hasim, the Lib’s media person, for being so welcoming. (RU! RU!)
  • It’s REEEEALLY easy to get lost in the bowels of the Rock.
  • Yes, back in the day there WAS a lot of media at Lib games. Not so much now. But it still was heartening to see some familiar (stubborn) faces doing what they want to do – and love to do – in service of the game and players.
  • Speaking of someone who loves to do what she does: lovely chatting with coach Coyle. She knows next year will be a challenge, but is excited to be in the MAAC.
  • The best part of going to the game was seeing the “regulars” in the stands. And shouting “REEEEFFFFFFFF SCHOOOOOOOL!”
  • The game: The ESPN headline credits Cappie with the win over the Dream, but really it was Mini Mi and the Old Lady. Watching the 39-year-old Katie Smith dog Angel all game was a lesson in ferocity and stubbornness. Yes, Angel got her points, but on 4-16 shooting.
  • What about Mini Mi? Well, in the season preview, coach Bill stated he wanted “strong-minded women that want to be themselves, but want to play within the structure, and want to know where they stand every minute of every day.” Leilani Mitchell sure as heck knew where she stood at camp: “In front of everyone he said, ‘I don’t like small guards.'” Mitchell is generously listed as 5’5″. “It’s hard when your coach doesn’t have confidence in you.” Her response? Play with a sense of freedom and abandon. She made the team (to the surprise of some) and, while she only made one basket Sunday (a key 3), it was everything else she did that made an impression: 7 rebounds, 3 steals and +13. Which earned her praise from her not-short coach. And the fans.
  • Cappie looked outta sorts in the first half, her shots all coming up short, as if she had no legs. And then something clicked in the second half. After the game coach Laimbeer spoke about her leading by being part of the offense, “not just jacking up shots.” So I started wondering about her transition to working under a Laimbeer-esque coaching style and how that will impact her attitude and game-sense.
  • The rooks did good. Honestly, was there EVER a time when you could say, “The Lib have three rookies on the floor” and not have it because the game was outta reach? Favorite moment: Angel and Bone arm wrasslin’ each other for the ball. Bone does not let go, and Angel gets in to her face a bit, as if she believes a rookie should release control to an All-Star. Yap, yap, yap like my miniature Dachshund used to do at our bigger Kerry Blue. Bone just stood there, patiently, until her teammates stepped between the twosome.
  • Yes, it’s fun to watch the Dream get all emotional. But, while it’s tempting to draw a conclusion about their “chemistry,” don’t get fooled. It works for them. “That’s how they’ve always been,” said Smith post-game. The only thing “bad” I can see about Atlanta folks barking at each other or the refs is when they use their barking as an excuse not to get back on defense.

Speaking of Smith, the fabulous Jim Massie catches up: Former Buckeye Smith, 39, still climbing upward

Check in with L’Alien for more info on this past week’s games, like:  Charles dominates ice cold Fever

Check this week’s Top Plays. (Mark, you’d a very poor inspirational speaker…)

Other stuff:

Ah, yes, INJURIES!!! John Altavilla writes: Short WNBA Rosters Are A Problem For Sun, Other Teams. On a related note, Pilight wonders: Is there enough talent for WNBA expansion? The Rebkellians discuss.

Kwai Chan at the Meniscus: WNBA 2013: One year, big difference for the Washington Mystics

There is no jumping or shouting in the Verizon Center…yet.  But what a difference a year makes for the Washington Mystics, who defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 85-80.

Mike Thibault, who has the most wins of any active coach with 209-135 (.608) record in the last 10 years, is the new head coach of the Mystics.  Eight of the 12 players on the 2012 roster are gone, and have been replaced by four rookies and three veterans.  With these changes, one would think that just getting a team on the floor would be an accomplishment in itself.

Not so much fun being in Indiana these days: Fever not feeling, looking like champions – Defending WNBA titlists are off to 1-4 start, worst 5-game start since 2001

Michelle says: Griner’s popularity reels in fans

It’s more than two hours before tipoff at U.S. Airways Center on Memorial Day, and a Phoenix Mercury staff member is erecting a banner of Brittney Griner that shows the exact physical dimensions of her height and wingspan and the size of her hands and feet.

Immediately after he is done, a group of kids rush over and put their hands and feet up against the banner to compare.

The big girl is a big deal here.

From Media Planet:  WOMEN IN SPORTS: NO LONGER ON THE SIDELINES: Title IX opened the gates for female athletes—a halo effect empowered women to own, manage and work in the once male-dominated industry.

Case in point: Laura Gentile, espnW vice president, launched the digital initiative as a voice for women who love sports. “One of the best parts of starting this business was connecting women in sports to discuss issues and work together. Women have made a lot of strides,” she adds, ticking off names including WNBA’s president Laurel Richie and USA Today’s Christine Brennan. 

No Sancho? Williams is going to change things up a bit.

Prince leaves Chicago. Again.

No Ice, Ice Baby Tonight: From Odeen Domingo:#WNBA suspends @phoenixmercury Candice Dupree 1 game for making contact w/ game official Sat. Will not play tonight vs @LA_Sparks cc: @WNBA

All Star Voting Time! Who do YOU think deserves a $5000 bonus?

So what did you think of the Complaint Cam… I mean Borg Cam … I mean I Need my Dramamine Cam… I mean Ref Cam? WNBA debuts live high-definition ‘Ref Cam’. A ref speaks. And this: WNBA successfully debuts ref cam in Indy.

Nate keeps his promise: 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year watch list: Weighing scoring & value added in the post-Bonner era

After a three year run of Sixth Woman dominance (it’s difficult to argue that anyone was snubbed in the three years she won the award), Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery won the award last season in familiar fashion in the world of basketball awards: she had among the highest scoring averages of any reserve in the league on a team that won its conference.

However in a year in which Bonner is starting (for now?) and Montgomery will miss significant time due to injury (WNBA voters tend not to give awards to players who missed significant time, which is fair in 34-game season), there is a chance the award will go to someone who isn’t quite a dynamic scorer.

In college news:

Swish has Gary Blair, Jim Foster reflecting on their careers at induction ceremony and some Hall of Fame interviews: Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Jennifer Rizzotti, Annette Smith-Knight and Sue Wicks:

Who had the greatest influence on Wicks?

“When I was a professional in Europe, players I would see, the way they held themselves, the pride that they had, the way that they played in total obscurity most of the time, I modeled myself after them. Along the way I would find someone who had a quality I really admired and I would try and emulate them.”

Coming back from an ouch: CU Buffs’ Rachel Hargis healing after MCL tear

Bye: Beckie Francis out as Oakland women’s basketball coach and Mines, women’s basketball coach Felderman part ways

Ooops: NCAA bans UNO men’s and women’s basketball from 2013-14 postseason

Yikes: Memphis Tigers women’s basketball team loses four players – Starter Abdul-Qaadir off to Indiana State as grad transfer

Wow! Congrats! Meia Daniels named new HPU women’s basketball coach

“We are pleased to be able to promote Meia Daniels to our head coaching position as well as our Senior Woman Administrator (SWA),” said Howard Payne Director of Athletics Mike Jones. “She has been mentored by two outstanding coaches in Chris Kielsmeier and Josh Prock and was a great collegiate player. She knows how to win and how hard you have to work to be successful at this level. These experiences will serve her well as she enters this new phase of her career.”

As a player, Daniels was 109-12 over four seasons leading the Lady Jackets to three American Southwest Conference championships, four NCAA III national tournament appearances and a NCAA III National Championship in 2008. A 2008 graduate of Howard Payne, Daniels holds numerous HPU and ASC records and is second in career scoring at Howard Payne with 2,118 points.

Some of you may remember Howard Payne’s run to perfection in 2008 because of the WHB or from this piece.

From Storming the Floor:

“After the incredible, unprecedented run through the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament that Shoni and Jude Schimmel, Umatilla, led the Louisville Cardinals on, ICTMN reached out to some of the most amazing and historically important Native hoops players to get their thoughts on the state of Native basketball, how to succeed in life and where they’re headed next—including from the Sisters themselves. “Let’s give them something to talk about!,” we promised. And so we kicked off a Conversations With Champions series, sitting down with eight basketball trailblazers, champions and builders for some one-on-ones. Here is a recap of the series, in case you missed any of the engaging discussions. These are men and women you need to know.”

Thank you: Iconic Elba coach Nowak retires and  Elba girls basketball coach Tom Nowak retires – Popular basketball coach compiled a 457-133 record

“It was really very rewarding to have gone through generations of family,” said Nowak. “To see the dads play football for me and then their daughters playing basketball — maybe both parents and children winning sectional titles.”

In the 2011-2012 season, Nowak coached his girls to their first state championship in the program’s history. Fittingly, the Lancers earned a perfect 25-0 season in their quest for the Class D title in Nowak’s 25th year as coach.

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Why, look who’s writing about the New York Liberty! Can Laimbeer lift the Liberty?

After the 2012 season, when the New York Liberty finished with a 15-18 record and exited the playoffs in the first round, many fans were disenchanted with management, uninspired by the product on the court and dreading the idea of spending one more summer “in exile” in Newark, New Jersey, awaiting the completion of final renovations on Madison Square Garden.

Then, in October, a ripple of excitement spread through the fan base: It was announced Bill Laimbeer would return to the WNBA as the Liberty’s new head coach and general manager. Laimbeer brought with him an oversized personality, a keen basketball brain and, most importantly, a history of almost instant success. In 2002, he took over an awful Detroit Shock team midseason and transformed it into a championship winner the next year. He followed that up with two more league titles in 2006 and 2008. What might he do with a team that went 15-19 in 2012?

Other folks have been really busy at Full Court. Sharon Crowson says It’s time for Chicago to meet expectations

Stereotypes can be useful because they are frequently accurate. They can provide a useful picture of a situation — but it’s vital to remember that “frequently” is very different than “invariably”.

That distinction is important to remember as the Chicago Sky enter their eighth season. They have yet to make the playoffs and the stereotype of non-playoff teams is that they lack talent — but nothing could be further from the truth.

(Speaking of Chicago, Delle Donne making Chicago homeElena Delle Donne Makes Impressive Debut for WNBA’s Chicago Sky and Sky’s Delle Donne wastes no time)

Kelly Kline says the Upgraded Shock are thinking playoffs

Despite being stood up by Liz Cambage for the second year in a row (they made up), the Tulsa Shock are optimistic about 2013. Thanks to adding significant talent through the draft and offseason trades, the Tulsa season is shaping up to be the team’s best since it arrived in Oklahoma.

“We feel like we have more firepower, bigger guards, better shooting and we have a chance to be a better defensive team,” says coach Gary Kloppenburg. “We basically have a new team.”

Will Indy pick up waived Adair now that Davenport is hurt?

Congrats: Connecticut Sun guard Kara Lawson wins WNBA Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award

Congrats! (Vrooom, vrooom!) WNBA Champion Indiana Fever named Grand Marshal for 2013 IPL 500 Festival Parade

The APs Kareem Copeland writes: Fever prep for WNBA title defense

The defending champion Indiana Fever feel like they are under the radar all over again heading into the WNBA season.

The team brings back 10 players from the 2012 roster and will be trying to become the first repeat champion since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.

They have exactly been the talk of the league so far.

Almost congrats: Brittney Griner, WNBA Phoenix Mercury Player, Nominated For 2013 BET Award and Out WNBA Star Brittney Griner Tells Youth at GLAAD Awards ‘Don’t Hide It. Be Who You Are.’

Speaking of BG, some Baylor message board fans may be turning their back on her, but W fans ain’t: Brittney Griner’s arrival sees 19 percent increase in sales of WNBA merchandise

(BTW, did you catch this Baylor news: WBB coach Damion McKinney resigns and assistant Rehka Patterson also resigns).

Odeen says Diana Taurasi is glad to share Phoenix Mercury stage with Brittney Griner

The spotlight was hers and hers alone.

Was.

It shined on Mercury star Diana Taurasi for years, nearly a decade just in the WNBA. But now comes Brittney Griner, the Mercury’s new No. 1 overall pick — a 6-foot-8 phenom whose personality is just as big as her new teammate’s.

Asked to compare her spotlight to Griner’s, Taurasi didn’t miss a beat.

“It’s a lot taller.”

Ever the optimist: Gemelos still aims for WNBA career with Minnesota Lynx, coming back from 5th repair of ACL

Mechelle says Maya Moore as motivated as ever

The WNBA season hasn’t even begun, but it has already been a championship kind of year for Minnesota’s Maya Moore.

Playing in China for the first time, she led her team to a title there. Then in April, she watched her alma mater, Connecticut, win its eighth NCAA women’s basketball crown.

“Obviously the alums feel a part of it, but that was their journey, their struggle, their learning, their growing, their competing,” Moore said of the 2012-13 Huskies. “It wasn’t an easy season; there were ups and downs. But to see it come together in those two games of the Final Four, it just made me so proud.”

It’s a reminder, of course, that how you finish means everything in sports. And last season, that’s what Moore’s Lynx didn’t do well. After having the best regular-season record for the second season in a row, Minnesota wasn’t able to successfully defend its WNBA title.

From the Yakima Herald: Storm’s Clark not taking anything for granted

Many already have Alysha Clark as a lock to make the final Storm roster for 2013.

Clark, a 5-foot-10 forward, crinkles her face at the idea.

Sure, she was part of the 2012 roster. She even played a key role when injuries and the WNBA’s break for the Olympics pulled teammates out of the lineup.

However, it didn’t land her a guaranteed contract.

An act of faith: Former WNBA player Tully Bevilaqua commits to her partner

Former Indiana Fever player Tully Bevilaqua and her life partner, Lindsay Bevilaqua, are raising two children in Indianapolis and own a gym together in the city.

So when the two, who have been together for 4 1/2 years, decided to get married, they opted for a ceremony in Indianapolis rather than going to a state that recognizes gay marriage.

But in Minneapolis: Augustus looking forward to Minnesota wedding

It looks like Seimone Augustus could get her Minnesota wedding after all.

The Minnesota Lynx star has been planning to marry fiancee LaTaya Varner, but she wasn’t sure she would be able to do it in her adopted home state because gay marriage was not legal. That could change by as early as next week.

The Minnesota House passed a measure to legalize gay marriage on Thursday and there is optimism among supporters that it will pass the Senate and be signed into a law by Tuesday.

”It’s just exciting thing to see so many people support it,” Augustus told reporters on Friday, her first day of training camp with the Lynx after returning from playing in Russia during the offseason.

From Michelle Smith: Mercury ready to rebound

“Last year was the hardest, most difficult thing I’ve ever been through as a player,” said point guard Samantha Prahalis, a rookie for the Mercury last season. “Losing that much, it was tough. People would say to me, ‘Yeah, but you get to play a lot,’ and I would say, ‘No, I want to win.’

 “I was excited to get drafted to come here and play with Diana and Penny and play for titles.”

Just a couple of months later, the clouds parted. Oh, did they ever.

M&M ponder Which team will win the East?

Did you catch this? WNBA Player Puts on Astonishing Shooting Show

Hello there, lady bolter: Alabama introduces new women’s basketball coach Kristy Curry. Here’s her goal: Alabama AD Bill Battle wants women’s basketball to outgrow Foster Auditorium

WATN? Windward’s Vanessa Nygaard will help coach U16 national team. She’s joined by LaDreda Akins (Haines City H.S., Haines City, Fla./Florida’s Finest AAU), Terri Bamford (LaJolla Country Day, La Jolla, Calif./Waves AAU),and Kimberly Davis-Powell (Essence Girls Basketball AAU, Tallahassee, Fla.)

Speaking of USA Basketball: 2013 USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team Trials Set To Begin With 33 Collegians — Ten USA Basketball Gold Medalists Return To Vie For Roster Spots

WATN? Semeka Randall named new Alabama A&M women’s basketball coach

WATN? Eastern Illinois hires former WNBA player Debbie Black as new head coach

Another new hire: Billi Godsey takes Iona’s reins

We still don’t know why the position became vacant, but it’s no longer open: San Diego State Hires Stacie Terry

It can be tough to play friends: ND v. Penn State – McGraw challenged by draw

Of all the teams in the Big Ten, there was one team that Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw didn’t want to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference-Big Ten Conference Challenge — Penn State.

That’s because Coquese Washington, who played for McGraw at Notre Dame and was an assistant coach for the Irish for eight seasons, is the head coach at Penn State.

“Of course, we would never schedule a game against Penn State, because I try not to play my friends,” McGraw said.

Yes, Women’s College Basketball is adopting a rule long overdue…

Speaking of rules that were overdue….here was someone who said “No” to banning girls basketball: E. Wayne Cooley, pioneer of Iowa girls sports, dead at age 90

E. Wayne Cooley, a girls’ sports pioneer who left long-lasting marks on the the state of Iowa, died Saturday of natural causes at age 90.

He ran the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, the nation’s only statewide athletic association dedicated to girls, from 1954 until his retirement in 2002, overseeing generations of athletes. Under his guidance, the Union expanded from three sports — basketball, golf and tennis — to nine programs.

Flashback to 2007: Hall of fame: Cooley led the cheers

Troy Dannen, current executive director of the IGHSAU, said Cooley has the greatest business mind he’s ever known.

“He’s the epitome of the promoter,” Dannen said. “He always came up with different ways to get people into the building. It was always about more than basketball at the basketball tournament.”

Sports Illustrated came to Iowa after Title IX passed in 1972 to do a story about the effect on the state. The article concluded the change barely caused a ripple, Cooley said.

“We were 15 to 17 years ahead of Title IX,” Cooley said of what he considers his top accomplishment. “I was very proud of that. The girls had everything.”

Generations of Iowans, Branstad remember Girls Union chief Cooley

Cooley was recalled as a musician who once sat in with Harry James’ big band orchestra as it toured Iowa, an avid fan of Winston Churchill and an astute investor eager to put a hot stock tip to work.

“When Dr. Cooley came into a room, things happened,” said Craig Ihnen, executive director of the Iowa High School Speech Association, in a eulogy.

The service was attended by former all-state six-on-six basketball players like Lisa Brinkmeyer and Jan Jensen, Drake coaches Jennie Baranczyk (basketball) and Natasha Kaiser (track) and Northern Iowa director of athletics Troy Dannen. Dozens of longtime coaches and officials paid their respects.

Branstad hails Cooley as a visionary

Gov. Terry Branstad called E. Wayne Cooley a visionary who helped elevate Iowa girls’ basketball to a national phenomenon – some thing that touched Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds directly as a forward for Interstate 35 High School during the heyday of six-on-six era.

During his weekly news conference Monday, Branstad paid tribute to Cooley as a pioneer of Iowa girls’ sports. Cooley, who died last Saturday at the age of 90, ran the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union — the nation’s only statewide athletic association dedicated to girls — from 1954 until his retirement in 2002.

“E. Wayne Cooley was a visionary leader for girls’ athletics,” said Branstad. “He made it phenomenally successful.

“He was a great marketer and promoter,” the governor added. “He’s going to be greatly missed. He has a really wonderful legacy that he leaves in terms of girls’ athletics.”

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Liberty Sign Cheryl Ford

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Janel is back in Minnesota, Nolan is back  with Bill (in New York). But are they BACK? And what about Candice and Nicole?

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From Mechelle, Charlie and Graham and Michelle: How does Gray’s injury affect Duke? (which includes some pondering “Outside of the nation’s top-four ranked teams, who has the best chance to get to the Final Four?”)

M&M&M are Picking Award Winners

Charlie has some bracketology: Boy, are Notre Dame and UConn going to be sick of each other.

From Curt: All about ‘next game’ for Diggins

Skylar Diggins pulled up a stool and sat down after Sunday’s 87-49 rout of Marquette, white towel wrapped around her neck.

Diggins had just become the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to have 2,000 points, 500 assists and 500 rebounds in her career.

“I had no idea,” Diggins said when asked about the achievement. “I guess it looks good, when I leave here, when I’m old and gray. It’s just all about the next game. I’m trying to do what I have to do for our team to win.”

From the Husker Blog: ‘The Rex Burkhead of Women’s Basketball’

Before we begin, please understand today’s N-Sider is a history lesson, a geography challenge and a supreme compliment all rolled into one. This blog ties two well respected Husker walk-ons – offensive lineman Brodrick Nickens and basketball guard Mike Peltz with Jordan Hooper, one of the hottest Division I women’s basketball players in the country.

Sheryl Swoopes talks career, life after the WNBA, LGBT thoughts

From Dave D’Alessandro at the Star-Ledger: Former Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer does plenty of good for WNBA

We were sitting upstairs in a coffee shop two blocks east of the Garden, where nobody gave any notice to the man who might be the most influential coach and GM in the history of this 16-year-old women’s league. His first lap around the WNBA was in Detroit, where he took over a last-place team in 2002 and turned the Shock into a champion in eight months. Two more titles followed, before he left the league in 2009.

Now he’s back with the Liberty, who will start their final season in Newark in May because of renovations at MSG. If you follow the league at all, you know it needs him badly. First, this market needs a big personality to stimulate interest in a league whose attendance has cratered. Second, the Liberty have been consistently mediocre since Richie Adubato left nearly a decade ago, and need Laimbeer’s extraordinary eye for talent.

As a follow-up, Nate asks, “Who are the top mid-major prospects in the 2013 WNBA Draft? “

Obviously the top mid-major prospect in the 2013 WNBA draft is Delaware Blue Hens forward Elena Delle Donne.

But what about the rest of the players among the ranks of the mid-majors? Who else might have a shot at contributing to a WNBA team?

As usual, there are quite a few mid-major players putting up gaudy numbers as distributors, rebounders and scorers that might draw the attention of WNBA GM’s. Yet as discussed last week, mid-major programs haven’t yielded very many WNBA contributors over the past few years – it’s not impossible, but the threshold for being considered a productive WNBA prospect has proven to be extremely high. Almost to the point of having an unblemished college record for most mid-major prospects.

It’s about friggin’ time: From ESPN: Nine for IX: About Women. By Women. For Us All.

AIRING JULY 2-AUG. 27 ON ESPN

Pat Summitt’s life as it has never been told before. Venus Williams lobbying for pay equality. Female athletes balancing the double standard of being the best on the field and the sexiest off of it. These are just a few stories from ESPN Films and espnW’s documentary series, Nine for IX.

MORE ON NINE FOR IX

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(And yes, Debbie, we too hate exam schedule.) Coach Frese is on. Nice shout out to d’em Flyers!

Penn State’s sharpshooter Maggie Lucas blogs.

Charlie asks: Are the No. 1 seeds already set? and offers up his early Bracketology.

Graham has his weekly wrap up: Stallworth gives Wildcats a boost  and gives us BYU’s Steed as his Player of the Week.

BYU coach Jeff Judkins described Haley Steed (then Haley Hall) as one of the best high school players to come out of the state of Utah “for a long, long time,” an explosive guard who was quick with the ball and quick to the basket.

The numbers back up his memory; she remains among the top 10 all-time scorers in Utah prep history.

Rebecca has 5 Questions with Ms. Sims.

In October, Sherri Coale wrote

How good is it when the worst thing you can think of to say about your team is that sometimes they try too hard?

We’re in week two of our progression toward “real” practice. Week one was four days of intense defensive focus. This week is total commitment to offensive core concepts. Monday, we’ll let the horses run and see where we are.

And while I can’t really know exactly where that is, I do know it’s in a really good place.

Two months later, the the Oklahoma Daily is writing: Injuries threaten what kind of season the Sooners can have

Slam Online has: Women’s College Basketball Recap: Week 4 – Kentucky and Louisville face off in a nail-biter, and Odyssey Sims gets the better of Skylar Diggins.

Lots of interesting stuff over at Swish Appeal:

I had a great time at the Maggie Dixon Classic at the Garden (join us next time, wontcha?). Ray has Maggie Dixon Classic: Tempo-free numbers and notes.

Duke defense comes up big in win over St. John’s and Rutgers shoots down cold Louisiana Tech

Shifting into W mode: Who are the top prospects for the 2013 WNBA Draft? – Our look at prospects for the 2013 WNBA Draft and a group of top players to watch.

With an “oiy” to the typo: Bill Laimbeer set to take the reigns of the New York Liberty

New York Liberty head coach and general manager Bill Laimbeer is nothing if not outspoken and in an interview with Ryan Dunleavy at the Scarlett Scuttlebutt blog during this weekend’s Maggie Dixon Classic he was clear that he won’t necessarily be maintaining the status quo in NYC.

From James: Atlanta Dream head coach Fred Williams on the WNBA Draft, goals for 2013, and his nicknames and Which former WNBA players should have their numbers retired?

What’s up with Ticha? Enjoying life after Spalding

Clay at Full Court has: New WNBA rules and other meanderings and Remember: Recruiting (among other things) is different for girls

 

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“Madam President.” After winning 1st WNBA title, Fever promote longtime front-office executive Kelly Krauskopf to team president

And on this day to deal with Hurricane Sandy, all the wind blowing, all the bluster, what better occasion to commemorate Bill Laimbeer’s return to the WNBA?

This is not good news for the league. It’s great news. The villain has returned. Every good story needs one. The WNBA has been bereft of a true rivalry – a rivalry with personality and animosity – since Laimbeer left the league three years ago and the Bad Girl Detroit Shock relocated to Tulsa.

Detroit-Connecticut was must-watch. Tulsa-Connecticut is just another game.

Speaking about the tall Aussie who was on the Olympic team: Medicos order Jackson to rest

Recovering Opals star Lauren Jackson’s WNBL return has been postponed, with Canberra Capitals’ medical staff on Tuesday ordering her to have at least another week of rehabilitation.

Speaking of an Aussie teammate, almost a year after she had the left worked on, Sue Bird had right hip surgery. She’s been rehabbing in Connecticut.

Frank, who was named Wednesday the school’s acting women’s basketball coach, sat Thursday in nearly the same place as Summitt and Warlick in one of the conference rooms at the Wynfrey Hotel for his appearance at the 2012 SEC Media Day. He didn’t have to face a wall of television cameras and microphones, but he did have to begin to explain how the Rebels were going to work their way out of a scandal that has engulfed the program.

From the OVC:

In recent years, the popular move when it came to coaching vacancies in the Ohio Valley Conference women’s ranks was to hire an assistant coach from another school or from within the established program. This year, when vacancies came open. That wasn’t the case.

Noticeably missing from the returning seniors is Lexie Gerson, who underwent hip surgery in early September and will miss the entire season. She was named to last year’s ACC All-Defensive team, ranked No. 15 in the country in steals.

“The loss of Lexie was quite a shocking blow,” said head coach Joanne Boyle in a released statement. “She has been a tremendous defensive spark for us on the court. We are all wishing her a speedy recovery and know that she will be back next season with that same energy and enthusiasm.”

From the middle-ish of the country: Missouri women’s basketball players eager to start new season

From another school in the middle-ish of the country: CU Buffs’ Jen Reese rebounding from eye injury

From out in Oregon: Breaking the bad – A summer chemistry lesson emboldens injured Ducks squad to dream

As odd as it may seem, Paul Westhead accused himself, Oregon’s coach, of doing a little too much coaching the last couple years.

His free-wheeling, fastbreak system got the UO women into the WNIT in 2010, to cap Westhead’s first season with the Ducks. But then came records of 13-17 and 15-16, and Westhead started to tinker.

“I saw us stuck, and tried to unstuck ’em,” he said the other day, “and probably got more stuck. I’m going to avoid that this year. … I’ve never been a big X-and-O guy anyway. Much of what I do is chemistry — getting them to play quick, fast, hard, every moment, and quicker, faster, harder the next moment.”

James continues his countdown:

This entry in the list of Swish Appeals Top 100 Programs in Division One women’s college basketball looks at the teams ranked #41-70. But how come there are no non-DI schools on the list?

And continues:

This entry in the list of Swish Appeals Top 100 Programs in Division I women’s college basketball looks at the teams ranked #26-40 and discusses which stat can mean the difference between making a tournament and not.

Is it too early to ponder Christmas gifts? NO! From FIBA:

We are proud to inform you that FIBA has released its latest instructional DVD, entitled ‘Queens of Hoops’, a valuable tool which we hope can inspire and assist the continued growth of women’s basketball worldwide. (WHB note: I wonder if they talk about “attractive costuming”?)

Leading international stars Diana Taurasi, Lauren Jackson and Céline Dumerc are among the 12 players from around the world who reflect on their careers to date, share their know-how and pass on some of the secrets that have helped them reach the top of the women’s game.

The DVD also features the expertise of renowned coaches Jan Stirling, Geno Auriemma and Tom Maher.

We invite you to watch the videos by going to FIBA’s Coaching Library Website coachinglibrary.fiba.com.

For instructional videos go to http://coachinglibrary.fiba.com/pages/eng/cl/QueensOfHoops/p/qoh_teaser.html

For interviews with players and coaches go to http://coachinglibrary.fiba.com/pages/eng/cl/news/p/videos.html

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And we got’im!

Bill Laimbeer named New York Liberty general manager and head coach

Suddenly, I’m interested in the Lib again.

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getting my SCUBA certification (yup, I’m officially a diver!), the WNBA was having an interesting weekend.

On the “not fun” interesting side: Shock players had staph infections. It’s a little deja vu-esque for Tulsa. Writes Mechelle:

There’s no getting around it: This is a tough subject for the Shock — and the WNBA — because the franchise has dealt with staph infections each of the three years it has been in Tulsa.

***

Still, the length of Pedersen’s absence with “flu” prompted some rather ridiculous rumors about what was actually wrong. Why didn’t the Shock just initially acknowledge publicly what it was?

Well, staph (short for staphylococcus aureus) infections are something that franchises and leagues really don’t want to talk about ever, let alone three years in a row. ESPN the Magazine’s Ric Bucher wrote, in an October 2010 story, about how staph was “the secret scourge of locker rooms everywhere.”

He detailed a staph outbreak that hit the Boston Celtics in 2006, along with several other harrowing experiences by athletes with infections. Including the NBA’s Grant Hill, who missed an entire season after contracting a staph infection during an ankle surgery.

On the “fun” interesting side, I swear I heard the “Beat LA!” chants while I was under water. I find a rally and a two-point win will do that to a NY/J crowd.

Tina rallied the Sun to beat a Sylvia-less Sky — who got a 21/15 game from Swin. But, PLAYOFFS? Swaggering Sky Puts Playoff Tickets on Sale

Katie D broke 5,000 but, more importantly, her 30pts helped Indy take down Phoenix, 89-83.

In the “what the heck is happening” interesting side, Sophia is still rockin’ the joint, but the SASS are still losing — this time by a whole heck of a lot to Minnesota (who didn’t miss a beat with Augustus sidelined.). Gotta love the eagle-eye headline editors: WNBA: Moore’s double-double leads Silver Stars.

In the “bored now” interesting side, the Dream stomped all over the Mystics. More nice things from Harding. The teams involved in the Drive for BG has begun to narrow: Draft Lottery Results Will Be Announced Before Playoffs Begin

Friday was pretty fun on the court, too. Says Nate:

This has already been mentioned elsewhere, but if you happened to miss Friday night’s overtime thriller between the Atlanta Dream and Minnesota Lynx you should go back in the WNBA LiveAccess archives and check it out. It was an instant classic unlike any other game this season if only because it was played at such a high level if nothing else.

It’s almost hard not to start the recap of the weekend’s 11 games without that game at the top, but we’ll still go in reverse chronological order just to attempt to bring some coherence to what happened…and keep the Lynx at the top (for summaries of what happened in Atlanta or New York, check out what James, Ray, and Queenie wrote elsewhere on the site).

That was a sigh of relief coming out of Seattle: Storm clinches WNBA-record ninth consecutive playoff berth. Jayda adds: Storm rookie Shekinna Stricklen is elevating her game. Sue says, Thanks, fans, for the starring role you play

Joan Niesen from FSN says Rivalries would enhance WNBA’s popularity

Cheryl Reeve has been the villain.

It’s hard to envision that here in Minneapolis, where Reeve has quietly altered the power structure of the WNBA, turning mediocrity into utter dominance. She’s still the underdog, in a sense, in her out-of-the-way city so far from the lights of New York and beaches of Los Angeles. Reeve and her Lynx are big time, but they still haven’t lost their small-town, overachiever feel.

But Reeve had a life before the Lynx, one that included a four-season stop with Bill Laimbeer and the Detroit Shock. And Laimbeer, he was the villain back then. Even Reeve admits it.

Anyone else find it weird that no Minny players are in the “running” for MVP? Maybe the fan vote will “Boost” one of them into the running.

In other news, they’re going to need a reeeeeeeally big table: The United States’ female Olympians have been honored by WNBA with its Inspiration Award. Heather Burns writes:

Tamika Catchings has won three gold medals as a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team, the latest last month in London. But it never gets old.

“When I first get my bag with all my gear, I do the same thing every time,” Catchings said. “I go up to my hotel room and I get out my jersey and my shorts and my socks, and I lay it all out on the bed. Take a picture, post it. Every time.

“When you have Team USA across your chest, you aren’t just playing for yourself or your families. You are playing for the whole United States of America.”

Speaking of the Olympics, the gold went to… Gliders get rolled for gold by German muscle

Still speaking of the Olympics: My First WNBA Game (Wouldn’t it have been cool if she could have attended wearing a USA Women’s Basketball jersey?)

Hey, speaking of honors, did you see that the NY Times wrote about the Red Heads? Photo in an Attic Leads to a Forgotten Team’s Place in the Hall of Fame

Every journey to the Basketball Hall of Fame follows its own path. This one starts with flaming red hair, a dull black-and-white photograph and one man’s ravenous curiosity about a team few others even knew.

Last Friday night in Springfield, Mass., about 65 women (many with fiery auburn hair) were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the All American Red Heads officially emerged from basketball obscurity.

Thanks, John.

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go hand in hand. It gets louder during tournament time, and gets even louder when your team loses.

I’m not saying officials don’t make mistakes. That would be like saying players or coaches or announcers or reporters don’t make mistakes. But, remember the old saying: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Folks complain, but rarely have any sense of the reality of the officiating training process. Nor do they seem to be interested in actually learning about the job — the art, the science, the actual rules.

So, I invite folks to not just whine, but learn and offer actionable solutions. First step, some (slightly ancient) articles to peruse:

Making the Calls: The World of the Referees

There’s little doubt Title IX and the evolution of the female athlete have changed how women’s basketball is played, coached and marketed. But the impact on those who officiate the games is rarely acknowledged. While coaches, players and fans often rail against the officiating, there often is a lack of understanding and appreciation of not only the basics but, as it were, of the art of reffing.

“What’s expected of officials now has increased exponentially,” says Dee Kantner, a Division I ref for 19 years and currently Director of Referee Development for the WNBA. “You used to just show up, stretch out a little, go out on the floor, and boom, you’re done,” she recalls. “Not anymore. These athletes are quicker and stronger. They’re doing things that a lot of people aren’t used to seeing. You just don’t show up at the game and expect to be sharp and work the games to the top level it needs.”

Earning Their Stripes: Officials In Training – October 2007

Currently Supervisor of Officials for the WNBA, Dee Kantner began officiating in 1982 and is acknowledged as one of the top Division I referees. A few years ago Kantner said this about being a women’s basketball official:

“It’s not a vocation or an avocation that a lot of people innately say, ‘That’s what I want to be,’ because there’s so much negativity surrounding it. Everyone’s always focusing on the bad things about it: people yell at you, you wear bad polyester…. But those are far outweighed by the positives.”

And what are those positives? You get to stay close to the game you love; you stay in shape; you earn a little extra pocket money. And if you’re patient and good – and I mean really good – you might become one of the handful of Division I officials who do the job full-time and earn a six-figure income.

So where do these “positive” people start and how do they learn the craft? Well, if one imagines the officiating pool as a pyramid built on experience and shaped by geography and opportunity with Division 1 at its peak, its base – it’s foundation – is the high school official.

Coaches and Officials: Reaching Across the Divide – July 2006

Gamesmanship.

For some, it’s as much a part of the game as the squeak of basketball shoes. Getting that intangible advantage can be reflected in how a coach works the media, a player, the other coach or, for the purpose of this discussion, an official.

Consider this recent example: Watching a nationally televised game between the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and Detroit Shock, the Shock were making a furious comeback. On an inbound play, Detroit center Ruth Riley was called for a foul – probably her fourth, maybe her fifth. Immediately Detroit head coach Bill Laimbeer, all 6’11”, 260 pounds of him, loomed over official Lisa Mattingly (who’s got to be 5’8” or so on a good day), saying “Oh, that’s a terrible call. A terrible call! And millions of people are watching on television and seeing what a bad call that is. That’s a horrible call,” he continued, “and it’s all out there on national T.V. for everyone to see.”

Never mind the fact that the replay clearly showed the television audience the correct call was made, it was obvious he was using his physical size, his recognition of the media exposure (both coaches were miked), and the pressure of a close game, (imagine if it had been at Detroit!) to try and influence how the game was being called -– though it is hard to imagine how that might work on such an experienced official as Mattingly.

OFFICIATING UNDER REVIEW: Coaches, Conferences and the NCAA Working to Collaborate

It goes without saying that any coach interested in how officials are evaluated by the NCAA regional advisors or during the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship should read the very clear “2008-09 NCAA Women’s Basketball “Officials’ Performance Evaluation Form.”

While doing so, though, they should also pay particular attention to following section of the introduction:

 Please note that this performance instrument was not created with the intent of replacing those used by individual conferences; rather, the NCAA women’s officiating program is interested in creating a systematic approach to selecting and advancing the best officials for its tournament. 

Why the caveat?

“This is often an area that is misunderstood by coaches as well as the general public” said Mary Struckhoff, the NCAA’s coordinator of women’s basketball officiating, “I think it is natural for people to assume that because the NCAA writes and establishes the playing rules, that it also oversees regular season officiating.

Wrong.

“It is important for people to understand that each conference oversees its respective officiating program, while the NCAA championship falls under the purview of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee,” explained Struckhoff.

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