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Screwing with the constant “WEEEEEE’RE DOOOOOOOMED” narrative: WNBA’s 20th season produces strong numbers and ratings

NY Times: Quiet Protest Helped Tina Charles Find the Voice of Her Conscience

“Of course, as an individual, I do have goals to be one of the best players in the W.N.B.A.,” Charles said Thursday. “But when you reach a goal, nothing compares to the person you become along the way.”

Hartford Courant: Breanna Stewart: Transition From UConn Sheds Light On Gender Discrepancies In Athletics

Okay: Harry Potter and the WNBA Power Rankings cast

Aussie! Aussie! Don’t! Go! Phoenix Mercury guard Penny Taylor to retire at season’s end

One part elaborate marketing promotion, one part performance art and all parts exhausting, the season-long athlete retirement tour has seen a rebirth in recent years.

Derek Jeter earned half a year’s worth of #RE2PECT at ballparks across the country. Nike gave Kobe Bryant his own holiday. Forty-year-old David Ortiz is currently making his long trek around league, picking up plenty of interesting parting gifts along the way.

Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings didn’t want anything of the sort. No elaborate branding campaign, no pregame ceremony celebrating her many accomplishments, no odd presents from opposing teams. Instead, Catchings, a league champion, MVP, 10-time All-Star and five-time Defensive Player of the Year who is going for her fourth Olympic gold medal, is flipping the script.

Like Jeter before her, Catchings is doing it her way, and her way means instead of honoring herself, she’s using her 15th and final go-around the league to give back. league’s 12 cities.

The argument for or against professional athletes being role models to the youth of today’s society has many different viewpoints, but when talking about Laney High School alum Tamera Young, she’s been able to utilize her platform as a veteran in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to make an impact in the two communities she calls home.
The Sparks haven’t wanted for star power since Candace Parker arrived in 2008, but the team has struggled to capitalize on her greatness, topping out in the playoffs with a trio of conference final losses. That could change this year, however, thanks to an out-of-this-world breakout season by 26-year-old forward Nneka Ogwumike. Ogwumike has always been good, but she’s currently putting on one of the greatest single-season performances in WNBA history, and it has the Sparks finally playing like champions.
Yea! (but I would have been campaigning for a visit with Audra McDonald – swoon!) After a long social media campaign, WNBA rookie Imani Boyette finally met 50 Cent

NCAA:

Carp: Tennessee loses Carter, Cooper for upcoming season

Nice: West Virginia’s women’s basketball team exhibition to benefit flood victims

WATN? Former Hawkeye women’s basketball player Sam Logic hosts Camp 22 in Davenport

Did you catch this? Miami Women’s Basketball Coach Blasts Texas A&M

Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier was not happy with the sexist slides from the Texas A&M football women’s clinic, which have gotten the Aggies criticized nationally and led to the suspension of two staff members.

Last night, Meier blasted A&M on Twitter for the slides. She also expressed disapproval for only punishing offensive line coach Jim Turner and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks with two-week suspensions.

Keeping an eye on this: 3 black players file discrimination suit against Cottey College

NCAA & WNBA: Olympics: Double the coaching, double the threat

“Playing for both Coach Auriemma and Coach Reeve has been a blast,” said Moore. “They’re both very competitive, both very detailed oriented, but both enjoy the game, enjoy their teams, so I’m just getting double the coaching trouble here with having them both here.”

Bob Kravitz – WTHR/NBC: Fever’s Tamika Catchings prepares to say farewell to the Olympic world stage

“What are you doing?’’ I asked Tamika Catchings.

She was alone, sitting on the edge of a press-conference room stage, having previously done interviews with Indianapolis-area media members like your humble correspondent.

After a short round of interviews – and Tamika is the only Indy athlete who insists on hugging all members of the local media – she was alone. No national media talking to her. No international media talking to her. In fact, the press-conference room, which was filled for the U.S. men’s basketball team just one day earlier, was maybe one-sixth filled.

“Just hanging,’’ she said. “Waiting to go back (to the boat where the basketball teams are staying).’’

This is nuts. And this is wrong. And this is completely expected. 

USA Today: Serial survivor Seimone Augustus key for US women’s basketball team

Geno Auriemma’s team will be a prohibitive favorite in Brazil, befitting a group that has a 41-game Olympic winning streak and has won the last five gold medals. It is a roster overstuffed with big names and world-class stars, none of whom has a story quite like Seimone Augustus. Her basketball resume includes two national player of the year awards at LSU and a WNBA Finals MVP trophy with the Minnesota Lynx, and her health resume qualifies as a medical horror story.

“With all the stuff she’s been through, she has always stayed the same person,” said longtime teammate Diana Taurasi. “She’s has this even keel about her. That’s impressive. She’s (been) one of the biggest pieces of this team for a long time.”

Also: Seimone Augustus proud of WNBA player activism

USA Today: Elena Delle Donne outgrew gymnastics dream, targets basketball gold

Elena Delle Donne — who at 6-5 is a guard in a pivot player’s body and the pride of Delaware — brings her unique gifts to Rio, a 26-year-old Olympic rookie whose first five-ring dream, alas, never quite materialized. It was hatched in Atlanta 20 years ago, when young Elena watched from home in Wilmington as 4-foot-8 Kerri Strug stuck a vault with an injured ankle to help the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win gold.

“I wanted to be a gymnast,” Delle Donne told USA TODAY Sports with a laugh. “It was all about (Strug.) I should’ve known there was no chance.”

Yakima Herald: Bird, Stewart bring exuberance to US women’s Olympic basketball team

Breanna Stewart can tell you where she was, what she did, and how she felt when she got the call notifying her she made the 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team.

“You’re supposed to keep it under wraps, but the first thing I did was call my parents,” said the first-time Olympian of sharing the news while standing in the lobby of her Seattle apartment building. “My dad started crying on the phone.”

The Summer Olympics begin this week, and tales of poop-filled water, human body remains on the shore, petty crime, serious crime, terrorism with a topping of the Zika virus have beset the Rio Games.

Sign me up.

Star-Telegram staffer Charean Williams will be covering this event, Erin Phillips of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings will be playing for her Team Australia … and I am green with envy.

EVEN as Marianna Tolo fell to the floor in agony last August her mind started the mental mathematics.

She had just torn her ACL in her first season of WNBA basketball and yet the only thing that really mattered was the 2016 Rio Olympics.

One of the last two players cut from the London 2012 squad, Tolo has made a remarkable recovery to get back to the court in the nick of time.

“My first Olympics, we had players like Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes,” Bird said. “They showed us what it meant to be a part of USA basketball. How to carry yourself. How to play. How to play within the team. How to put the gold medal before anything else.

“… When you get older, you want to pass that on to the new crop coming in. Not only are you honored to be a part of the tradition, you want to make sure you’re keeping it up.”

Forty years ago this summer, a team of 12 women laid the foundation for the future of women’s basketball in the United States, competing as part of Team USA in the first-ever Olympic women’s basketball tournament at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

There was no WNBA at the time, nor any professional women’s league in the U.S. at all. But for most of the group, this wasn’t their first high-stakes basketball tournament, as nine of the 12 women on the team had also played for Team USA at the Pan American Games the year before. Given the strength of the international competition, however, Team USA wasn’t expected to even qualify for the 1976 Olympics, let alone win a medal. But, led by coach Billie Jean Moore and co-captains Juliene Simpson and Pat Summitt (then known as Pat Head), they ended up going very far, eventually taking home the silver medal. 

For an inside look at the 1976 team’s historic run, The Huffington Post spoke with head coach Billie Jean Moore, players Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers and Juliene Simpson, who all played for the 1975 team, too, and Gail Marquis and Trish Roberts, who were newcomers in 1976. 

Along with athletes getting to know their counterparts from other nations, CISM also provides opportunities for officials to engage at the highest levels, Dinote said. “These can lead to training engagements down the road,” he added.

This week’s championship is the culmination of a “long process of trying to get women’s basketball on the map,” said Dinote, who also serves as secretariat of U.S. Armed Forces Sports.

Phelps was diagnosed with ALS in April 2015. Within six months he lost his ability to speak. In January, he was forced to eat and drink using a feeding tube.

But he continued officiating games around the state, using an orange hand-held whistle and LCD board to convey his thoughts if needed at the scorer’s table.

Players even took notice.

“It was a blast tonight, but being able to see Carl was even more amazing,” said Cache star Jamie Bonnarens, who delivered a personal letter to Phelps between games. “I got emotional before my game.”

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The 9th annual Maggie Dixon Classic (has it really been that long?) was another great event. First, and foremost, it’s an opportunity to remind ourselves exactly who was Maggie was and the powerful impact she made in such a brief time.

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“In a house of leaders, she stood out.”

– Army Superintendent Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr.

 

I became aware of Army women’s basketball after they played UConn on December 31st, 2005. Back then, the Huskies were broadcast on CPTV, and the broadcast team of Bob Picozzi and Megan Pattyson made a effort to speak to the opposition’s coaches about their program and share that with viewers. I was intrigued by what I heard and, in what became an ongoing effort to diversify my women’s basketball awareness, I started following the team. As they started winning, so did others.

From Ira Berkow: West Point Is Standing at Attention for Army Women’s Coach

Dixon, who credits her assistant Dave Magarity with easing the transition, was named Patriot League coach of the year. Now Army, seeded 15th, is preparing to face second-seeded Tennessee on Sunday in Norfolk, Va. On Friday, Jamie Dixon and Pittsburgh will face Kent State in the first round of the men’s N.C.A.A. tournament.

Part of the interview process at Army had Dixon meeting with the team. ”It was lunchtime, and they had just come in from formation, wearing their blue-and-gray uniforms, and a few of them had sabers dangling at their sides,” Dixon recalled recently. ”It was very impressive. Then one of the women proceeded to open her cellophane-wrapped sandwich with the saber. I was taken aback for a moment, but then she, and the others, laughed. I thought, ‘I just might like this place.’ ”

From Adrian Wojnarowski, March 17, 2006: Army coach is just like her team: tough when it counts

There were a lot of people thinking that, at 28 years old, she was looking for trouble. Deep down, she believed something else. Yes, she was sold on the possibilities of West Point. Mostly, she was sold on herself.

“I thought this was an opportunity of a lifetime, but people wondered, how are you going to recruit there?” Dixon says. “How will you do it? To me, this is an institution that just has so much to offer.”

Five months and 20 victories later, it’s strange how the perspective of coaching women’s basketball at the United States Military Academy changes as you’re sitting on the shoulders of the Long Gray Line, bobbing in the air at Christl Arena after the Patriot League Championship game, a scene unlike anything ever witnessed in West Point basketball.

Why did she take this job?

From the AP, I’m guessing Doug, April 6, 2006: Army enjoying newfound fame

Army’s women’s basketball team is becoming quite the craze as the huge underdogs prepare to meet Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Not only at West Point, where the players and coach Maggie Dixon were carried off the court by cadets after winning the Patriot League tournament to earn their first NCAA berth, but seemingly everywhere they go these days.

At a restaurant in Virginia on Friday night, fans yelled “Go Army” as the team shuffled in. Supporters honk, yell and wave from cars when they see the team outside.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Megan Vrabel said Saturday. “Absolutely amazing.”

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And then, suddenly, horribly: Maggie Dixon, Army Women’s Basketball Coach, Is Dead at 28

From Adrian, April 17th: Dixon’s death cuts short a championship-caliber life

Maggie Dixon had been a storybook coach of the storybook season, hired from DePaul just days before the start of preseason practice, winning 20 games and making her brother and her the first siblings ever to make the NCAA Tournaments together as coaches. “This is such a great story,” she said that day in the hotel suite.

And without warning — without anything but the cruelest of fates — the Dixon family was back together on Thursday at the Westchester Medical Center where the most vicious of nightmares was unfolding. Maggie Dixon, 28, suffered an arrhythmia heart episode on Wednesday at West Point, leaving her in critical condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Thursday night, she died at age 28.

Maggie’s death sent shockwaves of grief across the West Point campus and through the ranks of women’s basketball who’d so embraced her and the women she coached. But years later, her influence was still being felt as ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill chronicled in 2011: Maggie Dixon still revered for her impact – Five years after her death, the Army coach continues to touch peoples’ lives

Mallette, a captain on Maggie’s one-and-only team at Army, is married now and lives in Albany, N.Y., where she’s finishing up her first year of law school. She’s the only one from the 2005-06 squad not on active duty, long ago forced into a medical discharge. Her bad back allowed her one of the closest views to Coach Dixon, which is the only name they call her to this day. Coach Dixon saw how much Mallette loved the game, how much she was hurting. She let her play sparingly — enough to feel part of the team — and the rest of the time, Mallette sat beside her to watch and learn. They were all so young. Maggie was only six years older than Mallette, kind of like a big sister or a cool aunt.

“She’s somebody you meet for five minutes and feel like you have a best friend forever,” Mallette says. “She had that aura about her. You got drawn in, and you didn’t want to let go.”

This is a story about a woman who died too young, but still has been able to influence so many, even five years after her death. People like Mallette, who, despite her doubts, still picked up that phone and called the California area code to Dixon’s parents. Would they remember her? Would they approve of her request?

Read Merrill’s piece, and you’ll realize how extraordinary Maggie’s family is. Consider all they’ve done since their daughter/sister’s death: Maggie’s Legacy

Since then, Jamie, their sister Julie Dixon Silva and parents Marge and Jimmy Dixon established the Maggie Dixon Foundation, which works to promote women’s collegiate basketball and “to bring awareness to sudden cardiac arrest among young people, especially athletes.” The Foundation hosts the Maggie Dixon Classic, which began at West Point and is now conducted annually at Madison Square Garden. “We wanted it to be the premier women’s basketball event in the country, and it quickly became that,” says Jamie.

They also host the Maggie Dixon Heart Health Fair. “Once we established the Maggie Dixon Classic and had a venue, we quickly recognized we should create a heart health fair. We saw an opportunity to promote heart health (diet and exercise), heart screening and SCA awareness, including CPR-AED training.”

If you feel moved to do so, I invite you to donate in support of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

I can’t imagine their pain will ever go away, and yet every year they show up to an event that can only remind them of their loss. And every year they are gracious and generous to those they know and total strangers who reach out to them. I should know, because I had a chance to speak briefly with Maggie’s sister, Julie.

This year’s Classic not only honored Maggie’s legacy, but women’s basketball past – a game with a direct link to UConn’s head coach. From Doug, Maggie Dixon Classic honors history of women’s hoops at MSG

Geno Auriemma fondly remembers one of his first trips to Madison Square Garden when he was an assistant at Saint Joseph’s.

He was given $20 to take the train to New York from Philadelphia and scout Immaculata and Queens College. The two schools were the powers in women’s basketball at the time. Only a few years earlier, those two schools played in the first women’s game at MSG in 1975 in front of nearly 12,000 fans.

That game was part of a men’s-women’s doubleheader on Feb. 22. Most of the fans had left the building by the half of the men’s game between Fairfield and UMass having seen the thrilling 65-61 win by Immaculata.

As for the games played yesterday, UConn v. St. John’s was the “featured” matchup, but I very much enjoyed the Immaculata v. Queens College game. It reminded me that, Division I, II, III, NAIA, or Junior College, there are women who play college basketball with passion and skill.

Appropriately enough, the IU/QC game report from Queenie: Maggie Dixon Classic: Rowland powers Queens in historic rematch. No, there were no nuns with buckets, but here was a fabulous, joyous moment:
There will never be anything not awesome about dancing nuns in college sweatshirts.
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Lots of people there for both teams, and I loved it. There’s something subconsciously dissonant about nuns wearing college sweatshirts with their coifs, but it’s a good kind of dissonance. (After the second game, I saw some of them being taken on a tour of the Garden. Strangely adorable.)
At halftime of the game, the members of the Queens and Immaculata teams who played in first women’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden in 1975 were honored (Again, thank you Harvey, for the lovely article). It was incredibly moving to watch Olympian Gail Marquis (1976), Queens College coach Lucille Kyvallos, former WNBA presidency Donna Orender and their friends-teammates-supporters walk the red carpet and be celebrated.

If ever there was a link between the formative past of women’s college basketball and its fanciful present, it was when the teams from Connecticut and Immaculata came together Sunday between games of the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Immaculata had just been defeated by Queens, 76-60, in a 40-years-later rematch between the teams that played the first women’s college game at the Garden in February 1975. Connecticut, the dominant team of its time and the holder of a record nine national championships, was about to run its record to 12-1 by handling stubborn St. John’s, 70-54.

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Stewart is especially long and elastic, an athletic wonder who has made an impression on Lucille Kyvallos, the coach of Queens in the 1975 Garden game, which Immaculata won.

At 82, Kyvallos flew in from Florida to reunite with several of her former players, who were introduced at halftime of the morning opener. She said she was avid viewer of the women’s game on television, especially of Connecticut and Stewart.

“She’s so long,” Kyvallos said. “She does things we couldn’t imagine women doing when I was coaching.”

More on the Husky/Red Storm game:
“We’ve been incredibly fortunate to play in the Martin Luther King game for it seems like the last 20 years and the Jimmy V Classic, too. Both are huge, very important. But this game is more personal for me because I knew Maggie and I know her family.”
The 9th annual Maggie Dixon Classic was full of complementing images and emotions: Young Division I athletes, on scholarships that came about because of Title IX, competing with the promise of professional careers as a possibility. Young Division II and III athletes competing because they love the game and understand the immeasurable benefits of being part of a team. Women, forty years their senior, watching the results of a future the only glimpsed when Patsy Mink, Edith Green, Birch Bayh and all of those who fought (and continue to fight) to pass and uphold the federal statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded schools.
But it will always be rooted in Maggie’s story. From Brian Koonz: When the message is bigger than the game, Post
There are moments in sports when the message, and very often the messenger, are bigger than the game.
 
Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden was one of those moments.
 
Except for No. 2 UConn’s predictable 70-54 victory over St. John’s in the Maggie Dixon Classic, this day was all about the unexpected.
 
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Dixon’s death, a weeping, black armband for women’s college basketball. The game still mourns Dixon, the Army coach who climbed a stepladder at West Point and cut down a comet, all the way to the program’s first NCAA tournament berth.

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