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But I gotta say, with all the hate and horror this past week, I have to wonder about Skylar’s tweet:

Some of the comments I heard from the fans last night disgusted me. Completely unnecessary and nothing to do with ball.

Not. Okay. SO not okay.

Speaking of NOT OKAYBrittney Griner Responds To Happy Father’s Day Trolls On Twitter

Speaking of ALSO NOT OKAY: Who the hell writes your headlines AP/ESPN? This is what you produce after a three-overtime game? Wings beat Mercury in 3OT in first game between Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson since divorce Take a moment sports and copy editors and look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Who do I work for, a sports site or a gossip rag?”

Now, about that triple-OT game. It was a doozy – with lot of basketball drama. From Swish Appeal: 

Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello was quick to give Dallas credit for their resilience.

“We just didn’t have the energy, we built that seven-point lead, and we got some wide open three’s and we just broke down,” Brondello said. “This (Dallas) is a team that has a lot of confidence; Skylar Diggins got back into the flow of her game. We were on our back foot, obviously, foul trouble hurt us – when Diana went out.”

From Jeff Metcalfe: 

The Mercury (4-8) dropped the second of back-to-back games after losing Friday in Los Angeles and fall to four games under .500 for the third time.

“We let it slip away,” said Taylor, who scored 21 points. Taylor said she did not commit a foul with 15.5 seconds left but was told by the official “that he thought I wanted to foul. But I didn’t. It was a game we had control of but had too many mistakes and too many breakdowns. We have to take a look at ourselves and try and turn it around.”

BTW @WNBA – any way you can contact google and inform them that the Shock are no longer the Shock?

Dream: Carla Cortijo embraces role as WNBA’s only Puerto Rican-born player

Yes! LeBron, Russell Westbrook praise WNBA in new ad set to debut Monday night and Hell, yes! WNBA’s Nneka Ogwumike shot the ball 20 times in a game and didn’t miss

Cool: Sports Humanitarian finalists: Brent Burns, Tina Charles, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Paul

Fever: USC’s Mitchell thriving in WNBA

“I think this put me in the best situation, honestly,” said Mitchell. “I use it as motivation just because I felt I could have been a higher draft pick. But, at the end of the day, I knew I was going to make the most out of any opportunity I had and I had to put my best foot forward.”

Yes, yes, how soon does June 21st get here!?!??!?!? WNBA Power Rankings: Minnesota Lynx, LA Sparks Continue Early Dominance From Michelle: 

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve looked around after practice and saw nearly 50 members of the media there to greet her and her Lynx players to talk about being on the cusp of the best start in WNBA history.

“There are a lot of people here, something must be going on,” Reeve said with a chuckle.

That good humor is hard-earned, as Minnesota has stormed out to a 10-0 record to open the season, matching the best start in WNBA history.

LaChina’s Podcast: 

On this week’s “Around the Rim,” women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson covers the Lynx’s historic start to the WNBA season and speaks with two of the game’s brightest stars — Sky rookie Imani Boyette and three-time WNBA champion and Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

Flashback time: Twenty years later, a look back at WNBA’s first game

“All those games I’d watched as a kid, the Celtics-Lakers games, it was in that building, on that court,” said Lobo, who finished the first game with 16 points and six rebounds. “It was that same kind of atmosphere in terms of a lot of fans there, TV cameras right there. It felt big.

“The game itself I remember us winning, which was important. But there was just so much around it that is even a bigger memory to me than some of the things that happened on the court.”

AdiosFormer UConn star Swin Cash on WNBA farewell tour and Retiring Swin Cash trying to stay in the moment in final WNBA season

And yes, I know they’re doing a “Top 20 of the last 20 (WNBA 20th Season Celebration Will Honor 20 Greatest Players),” and Mel’s asked for your input (WNBA Top 20 All-Time Players: The Guru Offers You the Chance to be His Committee but all those lists do is start arguments vs. discussions of the game. Me? I’d rather they just put in them in (reverse) alphabetical order…

Babcock McGraw: Parker, Catchings among 20 best players in WNBA’s 20-year history

International: China, France, Spain and Turkey clinch women’s basketball places at Rio 2016

Geno Auriemma getting ready for run with U.S. women’s national team

BTW: Coming to New York for the USA National team game on July 31st? Gimme a holler – maybe we can meet for dinner afterward? (And if you want to avoid ticket fees, I can pick up seats for you too – womenshoopsblog@gmail.com

Also: It’s to early to plan for FIBA 2018/Spain… but it sure ain’t too early to start saving for the trip….hint, hint, hint.

NCAA: 

Goodbye/hello: St. Bonaventure women’s basketball Miranda Drummond transfers to Syracuse

Goodbye? Morgan State reassigns women’s basketball coach Donald Beasley

Oregon Ducks women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves excited about incoming recruiting class

Coach Jeff Mittie seeks faster pace from K-State women’s basketball team

Congrats:

The 1991-92 and 1992-93 Arkansas Tech University women’s basketball teams have been selected for induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
 
The Golden Suns of the early 1990s are the only four-year college basketball teams from the State of Arkansas to ever win back-to-back national championships.

Another Library addition: Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life and Q&A with women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell

Less than a month after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2013, UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Her new book, “Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life,” details her battle and eventual triumph disease. 

High School: Two girls’ basketball players in Ky. sue coach for bullying, intimidation

Two graduating seniors are now suing their prep basketball coach, accusing him of bullying, abuse and intimidation.

Four months after finishing their Muhlenberg County (Greenville, Ky.) girls’ basketball careers, Makayla Sampson and Kerra Vincent are seeking disciplinary measures against Lady Mustangs coach Mike Harper as well as compensation for the injuries and resulting medical treatment they say he forced them to play through, according to WBKO-TV.

Ball: Women’s rec basketball gets a starring role in new Pistol Shrimps documentary

The pistol shrimp is a ferocious creature the size of a human finger, armed with a deadly, oversized claw that functions like a handgun, sending tiny air bullets speeding at 60-plus miles per hour toward its victim. These Pistol Shrimps are 13 women on a rec league basketball team in Los Angeles. They, too, are fierce. They’re funny. They have their own dance team. And last season, they almost went undefeated. So, so close.

The Shrimps’ chase to the L.A. City Municipal Women’s Basketball League division championship provides the backdrop for a new documentary, “The Pistol Shrimps,” which introduces viewers to the most famous women’s intramural team in the world, and is only tangentially about the game of basketball.

“From the outside, we look like an unassuming basketball team,” says singer/songwriter/point guard Jesse Thomas, No. 99 on the Pistol Shrimps. “But after you watch the movie, you realize there’s a lot more going on than just basketball. It’s inspirational.”

From Deadline: ‘The Pistol Shrimps’ Tribeca Trailer: These Women Are Ballers On And Off The Court

Warning to haters from Pistol Shrimp baller Aubrey Plaza, just in time for the NBA Playoffs: “You’re either with us or you’re against us — and God help you if you’re against us because we will dunk on your ass so hard!” Here’s a first look at The Pistol Shrimps, a docu-take on the basketball collective made up of actresses, comics and attitude. Shocked — shocked! — to learn that there were no women’s leagues in Los Angeles, they formed their own, and a hard-fouling, trash-spewing semi-juggernaut was born.

 

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Still trying to wrap my head around the Lib’s domination of Indy – mostly centered on the continued revival of Sugar’s game and the, “Wait, has it FINALLY clicked” of Kiah’s offensive game. Folks did a nice job filling the seats the “day after.”

Now it’s time to ponder what Indiana has in store for us today. I have a fondness for the Fever because, well, 1) Catch. ’nuff said 2) the coaching transition Lin and Stephanie have managed – wow, and 3) they keep you honest – smart, determined and fierce, when challenged, the whole group comes after you.

From David Woods at the Indy Star: Fever must defend better to keep season alive

Irrespective of coach or personnel, the Indiana Fever’s WNBA record of 11 successive playoff appearances was built on a foundation of defense. Cracks have been showing in this postseason.

In the past two games against Chicago (.571) and New York (.565), the Fever allowed the second- and third-highest shooting percentages in their postseason history. That can’t persist, or the Fever’s season will end Sunday.

From our AP folks: Tamika Catchings defies odds at 36 for Indiana Fever

Being down is nothing new to the third-seeded Fever. They trailed 1-0 in each of the first two rounds in 2012 and again in the first round this year before beating Chicago 2-1.

“Because we have the mental asset of having players that have been there, done that, going into the second game against Chicago, we were all on the same page,” Catchings said.

From Mechelle: Catchings, Fever need to control the game to stay alive in East finals

Back home at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, where Indiana went 11-6 during the regular season, the Fever have to play a very different kind of game than they did in the series opener Wednesday. That 84-67 New York victory at Madison Square Garden was a best-of-the-Liberty show, as they dominated offensively from both the perimeter and the paint.

“We talk about controlling the controllables,” Fever coach Stephanie White said after Wednesday’s game. “Our effort, the hustle plays, being there on our rotations, having each other’s backs, box outs, setting great screens, using screens. We didn’t take care of our controllables.

Bill Littlefield, Only A Game (no, that is NOT a photo of the Lib coach) does a little flashback: WNBA’s Liberty Focus On Defense — Not Distractions — During Playoffs

Howard Megdal, who’s been writing about the WNBA this season for VICE Sports, feels people who attribute the Liberty’s recent achievements to Thomas fail to understand who built the team. He credits Basketball Operations Director Kristin Bernert and Coach Bill Laimbeer, who also worked together in Detroit.

“The idea that you need someone to oversee, you know, a couple of people who have had great success and have worked hand-in-glove for the better part of a decade and a half here in the WNBA defies belief,” he said. “Isiah was working hard to just get up to speed on the league.”

As Howard Megdal has noted, Thomas could hardly fail to understand the reaction he provokes in fans, even as the team over which he presides has flourished.

“I mean, there was a remarkable moment. They honored Becky Hammon, the trail-blazer and former Liberty star,” he said. “Isiah, in a very smart PR move, came out with Becky Hammon’s parents. He still got booed just the same, but he had plausible deniability. He could claim that perhaps New York didn’t like Becky Hammon’s parents.”

I wouldn’t mind a three-game series… but I have Joan Armatrading tickets on Tuesday. So… GO, LIB!!!!

The story is not much different in the Land of No Bun. Behind “Beast Brunson” (hmmm, another Georgetown kid – Go, Old Big East!) Minnesota secured a win – though certainly not in the overwhelming manner one has been accustomed to. The surprising Merc have some work to do if they want to play one more. Writes Michelle: 

After dominating Tulsa in two games in a first-round sweep and seemingly scoring at will, Phoenix went cold in Minnesota.

“We have been moving the ball well and putting up a lot of points the last month or so,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “Maybe it was the moment, I don’t know. Some of these players haven’t been to the Western Conference Finals before. Minnesota has been there, done that, often. But we will go back to Phoenix and we know we will play better.”

From Tyler Killian: Mercury’s rebounding woes put them on the brink of elimination

Guard/forward DeWanna Bonner: “Man, they killed us on the boards. Brunson, in particular.”

Something else that should be obvious after one game of the Western Conference finals: If the Mercury can’t figure out a way to keep Brunson and the rest of the Lynx from dominating the glass, the issue that has been their biggest weakness of 2015 will be the one that ends up cutting their postseason run short.

Awards: Griner, Loyd, Defensive Team, Quigs and Seattle.

Speaking of Indiana, in other news: Lutterman, Beeler, Owen stood tall among SIAC girls’ coaching pioneers

The times they were a-changin’ in the early 1970s.

Just six days after the Watergate break-in, Title IX — authored by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh — went into effect on June 23, 1972. No longer could anybody in the United States be discriminated against on the basis of sex.

Bayh’s legislation created equal opportunities for women in academics and athletics. Although Indiana was a little behind the times, local pioneers such as Ginger Lutterman, Brenda Beeler and Louise Owen made an indelible mark that still resonates to this day.

This winter will mark the 40th anniversary of the first Indiana High School Athletic Association’s girls’ state basketball tournament.

Swish Appeal on Candice Wiggins: 

If it were your last day on earth, would you be able to say you lived life to the fullest? If you ask Candice Wiggins, she’ll respond with an ardent, “Yes.”

Watching her on the court is almost as entertaining as watching her lift her players up court-side. After Hearing her teammates speak so highly of her throughout the season – even describing her as the anchor of team, I had to find out more.

Who is Candice Wiggins, and does that energy follow her everywhere?

Bye: Brie Mobley done with UNCW basketball program

Bye: Edwards leaving ASU women’s hoops as medical exemption

Ouch: South Carolina’s Tiffany Davis Suffers Knee Injury

From Jennifer Gish, Albany Times: Women hitting athletic director glass ceiling

When I told my 7-year-old son we were going to a college football game the other week, his first question was “Women’s or men’s?”

That proved our time at the women’s tackle football championship game this summer was well spent.

For all the mistakes I’ve made as a mother — like going anywhere when any of us is hungry — I’ve completely scored when it comes to opening my little boy’s eyes to realizing sports isn’t just a man’s game. 

Too bad athletics isn’t quite there yet.

Earlier this month, Juliet Macur had an excellent column for The New York Times about how too few women hold athletic director jobs at Division I colleges. The numbers are around 11 percent for Division I. Things get slightly better at Division II and III schools, and factoring them in, women run the athletic departments at about 20 percent of colleges and universities nationwide. If you’re wondering if this is radical progress over the past 20 years — as girls have crowded tot soccer fields and U.S. women have brought home the World Cup in front of thousands of fans who know their names. In 1995, 16 percent of college athletic directors were women, according to NCAA statistics.

Any Minnesotans got info? 

Dorothy E. McIntyre, co-author of the book, Daughters of the Game – The First Era of Girls High School Basketball, 1891-1942, is seeking information on the 1924-25 Ellendale High School girls’ basketball team, coached by Mr. Bergesen, who also was the school’s principal.

In particular, McIntyre is looking for details on a gold basketball charm presented to Bergesen by the 1924-25 Ellendale boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

The charm has the initial “E” with red inside, with 24 on the left side and 25 on the right. Below it reads, “Coach Bergesen from Boys and Girls Squads.”

The charm is unique as it was made for the players to give to their coach. The stitching and etching are clear.

What is not clear is where did the players order this charm? Jostens in Owatonna does not believe that their company made such charms in that era. Are there individuals who may have ties to the team? 

Congrats! Girls’ hoop refs to induct Fran Mitilieri in first Hall of Fame class

Speaking of officiating – As Lauren Holtkamp preps for her second season as NBA ref, she talks to Daily News about her path to the pros, Chris Paul and more 

Also speaking of officiating: For my Ohio Buckeye fan, those articles I mentioned.

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The Irish are smiling: Notre Dame popular pick at ACC women’s basketball media day

Notre Dame didn’t lose a conference game in its first season in the ACC, and if prognosticators at the conference women’s basketball media day are right, there aren’t going to be many losses this time, either.

For the first time in about six seasons, Duke won’t be picked by many to play in the Final Four in women’s basketball.

And while veteran coach Joanne P. McCallie says she would rather be the ACC’s “top dog,” coaching a team that’s not under such pressure should be a lot of fun.

Duke had its annual preseason media day on Wednesday next to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the most striking thing about it was the dearth of familiar faces.

When it comes to her team this year, four things stand out to Sylvia Hatchell.“We have leadership, we’ve got experience, we’ve got depth, and great chemistry,” the Hall of Fame coach told reporters Wednesday morning at ACC Women’s Basketball Media Day in Greensboro.

Three Pac-12 women’s basketball teams earned first-place votes in the preseason coaches’ poll, but despite some major changes upcoming, the Stanford Cardinal was voted the favorite for the 15th year in a row.
They won’t have to face 6’9″ Golden Bear: Savanna Trapp Out Indefinitely

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s players seem to have an unparalled work ethic. During 2014-15 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day on Wednesday, what the USC Trojans head coach said of forward Alexyz Vaioletama’s summer made you believe it.

“I was mad at Alexyz,” Cooper said, half-joking. “She worked too hard over the summer.”

 Never let it be said that Cynthia Cooper-Dyke doesn’t know how to make an entrance into a room.

USC’s women’s basketball coach is by nature a noisemaker.

She entered the interview room at the Pac-12 headquarters Wednesday prepared to talk to the media about her Women of Troy and their preparations to start a new season and build on last season’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.

But first, Cooper-Dyke had to take a selfie with senior forward Alexyz Vaioletama, trying to line up the media in the background for a group photo-bomb. At another point, she offered to sing a little something.

The other USC has huge expectations: South Carolina picked to repeat as Southeastern Conference women’s basketball champions

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley knows the work it took to reach the top of the Southeastern Conference. She understands it’ll be an even greater challenge for the defending SEC champs to stay there.

Gone are the days when everyone would pencil in Tennessee to dominate the SEC, win the league title and easily move on to the Final Four. While the Gamecocks were picked to repeat, Staley expects the defending champions to be challenged by a hungry, talented group of teams looking to finish on top.

Meh: Veteran Lady Vols shrug off No. 2 prediction

On a day promoting a big-picture view of women’s basketball, Isabelle Harrison set her sights on the finer details.

“We want to set goals for ourselves,” Tennessee’s senior center said. “We want to keep it small right now, little things that are going to add up in the end.”

Delle (Dunkin’) Donne might be gone, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Hens are down and out: Delaware Women’s Basketball Predicted to Finish Second in CAA.
They’ll have to get through the Dukes, though, if they want to get to the Dance, ’cause James Madison is Voted to Repeat as CAA Women’s Basketball Champions
Even without 6’9″ Craig, the Great Danes are still thought to be the top dog in the America East — but lookee at the #2 Seawolves!

In the Big West, CSUN is the Overwhelming Favorite For Women’s Hoops Crown

After sweeping last season’s regular season and Tournament titles, CSUN is the media favorite to take home the crown in the 2014-15 season. The Matadors gained 13 first place votes and 125 points overall for the first place nod. Hawai’i checked in behind the defending champions with 101 points and the remaining first place vote. Back-to-back Tournament finalist Cal Poly was third with 99 points, while UC Davis wrapped up the top half of the poll with 83 points for fourth place.

In the New Big East, DePaul is the top Demon.

So fun the first time, they’re looking to do it a second: North Dakota Picked First In Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll

North Dakota won its first Big Sky championship and earned its first berth in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament as a Division I school last season. The Green and White posted a 22-10 mark last season with a 15-5 record in the Big Sky. North Dakota earned the most points in both polls, pulling 115 points and seven first-place votes in the coaches’ poll while earning 147 points and eight-first place votes from the media. 

From the Green Wave: Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton: ‘We want the NCAA Tournament

Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton said expectations are high for a team that has won 20 games or more in five consecutive seasons.

And expectations should be high, especially considering Stockton returns 11 of 13 letter winners from a season ago and 97.9 percent of the team’s points and 98.7 percent of the team’s rebounds.

For the Terps, it looks like the top in the 10: Maryland women’s basketball favored to win Big Ten, which is a bit of A homecoming for Brenda Frese

 …the Terrapins’ debut season in the Big Ten is a homecoming of sorts for Frese, 44, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I know for me personally, being able to come back in the Big Ten, having grown up in Iowa and (knowing) the Big Ten Conference extremely well, having coached at Minnesota for a season, I can’t wait,” she said. “I can’t wait to be able to get back and play against the great competition.”

This is interesting, considering the hot water UNC is in (UNC report finds 18 years of academic fraud to keep athletes playing): Tying college coaches’ contracts to academic progress gets mixed reviews

A proposed policy that would require teams to reach academic benchmarks before their coaches and athletic directors can cash in on performance-based bonuses has drawn mixed reviews.

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents is expected to vote on the policy Friday during a meeting at Frostburg State. If passed, any new contracts signed by coaches and athletic directors at the system’s schools would include stipulations that require teams to meet a certain Academic Progress Rate for them to receive bonuses based on other incentive clauses in their contracts.

If you’ve followed the “your students do well or else you lose your job” policies in education, you’ll have read about the cheating scandals. So – does this push folks (should I put “Top 25 folks”?) to focus on academics or focus on finding a way around academics?

Is it too early to say “on the hot seat”? Badgers women’s basketball: Coach Bobbie Kelsey excited entering 4th season

Where others might see pressure, Bobbie Kelsey sees opportunity.

Kelsey, beginning her fourth season as the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball coach, is still in search of her first winning season and first postseason tournament bid.

And yah, it’s too early, but the rest of the b-ball world has already warmed his seat.. so Ex-ESPN analyst Dykes defends his hire at Arkansas

“I’ve never been a head coach, never pulled the trigger on the sidelines making the decisions with live ammo flying around us,” Dykes said. “But I’ve seen it, and I’ve been a teacher on the air. I’ve tried to teach the game of basketball. I think that’s why I rose up in the profession like I did as an analyst, because I think I was a pretty good communicator and teacher on my nightly broadcast.”

In Colorado, so far, so good:

Two weeks into preseason practice is far from a make-or-break point in any team’s season, but it does provide enough time for a coach to start getting a feel for her team. According to Colorado women’s basketball head coach Linda Lappe, what her team has showed thus far is encouraging.

What do you think?

“We get better every day and we’re progressing on a great path,” Lappe said after practice last Friday. “I’ve been really impressed by our freshmen and how they’ve been able to come in and learn the system, but also our veterans and how they’re leading.”

Oh, oh: Mosqueda-Lewis Working Hard To Prove Skeptics Wrong

…if the draft were held today it is likely the Seattle Storm, which owns the pick, would take her and team her with Sue Bird, the first overall pick of the 2002 draft. 

But there is work to be done. There are WNBA executives who doubt Mosqueda-Lewis has the speed and agility to get to the basket, to create her own shots and, more importantly, guard the swift perimeter players she will be assigned to at the next level.

“People tend to make a lot of general assumptions,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I was probably the skinniest I’d ever been during my freshman year, but we didn’t win and I didn’t have my best season. 

Rebecca Lobo and Kevin Conners discuss the possibility of a 3-peat.

From Dishin & Swishin 10/23/14 Video & Podcast: Geno Auriemma on USA Basketball & coming back to UConn, Carol Callan on all things USA Basketball

NCAA regional tix are up for sale (PROMO CODE: NCAA ) Women’s Preliminary Round Tickets

What, too soon? What people are saying about some of the top 2015 WNBA Draft prospects

Shoni still doin’ the other thing she does so well:Local youth at Montana basketball clinic and  WNBA Shoni Schimmel visits Wagner School

It started in complete silence, and then slowly turned into a low rumble of anticipation and excitement. A highlight was being played on the big screen of the theater of Shoni Schimmel during one of her games as a professional Native American basketball player for the Atlanta Dream team.

Some say you should never meet your heroes because they never turn out to be who you think they are, but Schimmel has remained true to herself and to the people. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications at Louisville, but she doesn’t just communicate with the people she meets, she connects.

From Swish Appeal: Eurobits: Meesseman, Montgomery off to Russia

WNBA players aren’t the only ones who go abroad: WNBA Coach of the Year Sandy Brondello to coach UMMC Yekaterinburg

OOOOO, History Alert! The Lancaster High School girls’ basketball team, 1919-1920

Ummm…we’ll do better next time: Sporting goods stores vow to get women in the game

When 12-year-old McKenna Peterson opened her new Dick’s Sporting Goods basketball catalog recently, the basketball player and superfan was frustrated to find a glaring misstep: The only girl in the catalog’s pages wasn’t playing basketball — she was sitting in the stands.

So McKenna began to type the company a fiery letter, not just praising her favorite female “dunking machines” but also tearing into the annoying imbalance the boy-heavy mailer seemed to represent. “It’s hard enough for girls to break through in this sport as it is,” she wrote, “without you guys excluding us from your catalog.”

McKenna’s letter didn’t just spark a public outcry and lead the corporate giant’s chief to apologize — it highlighted an unavoidable tension of the sporting goods industry: Girls and young women are one of its fastest-growing markets, and one of its most ignored.

Big shoes now empty: Girls basketball: Shabazz coach Vanessa Watson retires after 31 seasons

Vanessa Watson is truly going out on top.

After 720 career victories and six Tournament of Champions titles, including one in each of the last two seasons, Watson has retired from coaching girls basketball at Shabazz.

Watson finished her career with a 720-107 record, and she trailed only Pascack Valley’s Jeff Jasper 923 wins on the all-time list for New Jersey coaches. Watson led Shabazz to 10 state championships and six Tournament of Champions titles.

After 31 seasons on the bench at the Newark school, a combination of several things went into Watson’s decision to call 2013-14 her last season. 

It’s that amazing combination that can happen in sports: heart-breaking and heartwarming: Dying Mt. St. Joe’s player’s last game sells out

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you’ll find this:

Kent:

In retrospect, it was a bomb that reverberated all through a suddenly loud US Airways Center.

It was as improbable as it was incredible. And, maybe, it was the key blow in a game that, up to that point, had been a gutty example of give and take.

For at least this season, the Lynx’s reign is over, thanks to the Phoenix Mercury in a 96-78 victory Tuesday.

Tyler: 

“What can I say? There’s no player I’d rather have on my team,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said.

“To me, she’s the best player in the world.”

Mechelle: 

But those 2 seconds turned out to be too much time to give Taurasi. She swished the 50-footer, turning the Mercury’s lead to five points and permanently shifting the momentum.

“It’s a punch,” Minnesota’s Maya Moore acknowledged of Taurasi’s tape-measure 3-pointer. “We’ve overcome so much this season, and we always believe we have it in us to overcome runs. But we just didn’t have enough this time.”

Next!

From the .com: Fever vs. Sky: How to Survive the Eastern Conference Finals

After Chicago completed yet another incredible comeback in double-overtime on Monday to stay alive in the WNBA Playoffs, there’s no doubt this Sky is team is one that knows how to survive despite the myriad of injuries and illnesses it suffered throughout the season. In order to win the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals, however, just “surviving” might not be enough.

The Fever are a tough and driven team that appears to be in fine health. The team boasts a legendary leader in Tamika Catchings and her army of heavy-hitting teammates like Shavonte Zellous, Erlana Larkins and Briann January.

Here are the keys for both teams to survive and advance:

Alison: All on the line for the Chicago Sky, Elena Delle Donne

Michelle: Can Fowles lead Sky to Finals?  With Elena Delle Donne nursing back injury, Chicago’s center is Game 3 X factor

If the Sky can get from “Big Syl” what they got on Monday — a near flawless offensive game and shot-altering defense at the other end — Chicago could very well be making its first trip to the league championship series.

But if the Fever can contain Fowles better than they did in Game 2, knock her around, move her out of the deepest regions of the paint and render her even slightly less effective, they stand a good chance to move on to their second trip to the WNBA Finals in the past three years.

Scott: Indiana Fever ready for Chicago Sky in conference finals

“I think everybody wants to win for Lin. She has been just such an amazing inspiration to everybody that has played for her, everyone who has worked for her, and so we certainly want to send her out on top,” said White.

Phillip:

They are one win away from the WNBA finals, a position few Sky players expected to be in after a season filled with a litany of misfortune, a losing record and fourth-place finish.

“We all feel like we’ve got nothing to lose,” Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot said before Wednesday’s decisive game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Fever.

Phillip #2: Delle Donne’s back latest woe for Sky

Realizing her own limitations, Delle Donne suggested coach Pokey Chatman make her primarily a decoy, sometimes a stationary one, during her 39 minutes of playing time.

The second-year forward correctly figured the Fever would still respect her scoring threat by putting more than one defender on her and by forcing their best defender, Tamika Catchings, to stick with her outside, thereby opening space for other Sky players on offense.

David: Undersized but not overlooked, 6-1 Erlana Larkins vs. 6-6 Sylvia Fowles is key matchup

Erlana Larkins is five inches shorter than Sylvia Fowles and owns a correspondingly smaller resume. But the 6-1 Indiana Fever center, who was out of the WNBA 30 months ago, finds consolation when she reflects on her career.

“I’m not an All-Star,” Larkins said, “but I have something they can’t take away from me, and that’s a championship ring.”

Scott:

Heading into this 2014 WNBA season, the Indiana Fever weren’t expected to rule the Eastern Conference. I thought there was a high probably that they might make some considerable changes. The future appeared to be the vision rather than the present as the team drafted Natalie Achonwa, who would miss the season after tearing her left ACL while at Notre Dame, at No. 9 – their second first-round pick.

Oh, and a few weeks later, sharpshooter Jeanette Pohlen sustained a torn left Achilles. Then, a back injury sidelined leader Tamika Catchings for a substantial part of the shortened season (18 games).

A rebuilding year? Definitely not.

 

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Appropriate descriptions of the two Conference Championship games played. Home teams staked themselves a big lead, visitors clawed back a bit (or a lot) to make it interesting… but to no avail.

On the games themselves:

From the AP: Mercury humble Lynx, 85-71 (Interesting echo from Bright Side: One year ago today the Phoenix Mercury were humbled by the Minnesota Lynx) and Phoenix Mercury build large lead, hold on to beat Minnesota Lynx in Game 1

Griner, PHX defense key to big Game 1 win over Minnesota

From Tyler Killian: Mercury open Western Conference finals with rout of Minnesota Lynx

Eleven months ago to the day, the Mercury stood on their home court as the Minnesota Lynx celebrated a series victory in the Western Conference finals — the disappointing end of the Mercury’s drama-filled season.

The memory of that game may have faded some by the time the two teams met on the same floor Friday, but watching the Mercury dominate the Lynx and release the pent-up frustration that had been brewing ever since they were eliminated in 2013, the feeling of catharsis inside US Airways Center was unmistakable.

From the Tribune: Phoenix rises up to top Lynx in Game 1 of playoff series

“This is the playoffs,” Moore said. “There’s not really a lot of surprises when you don’t play with the intensity you need to — especially on the road. There’s nothing that they did that was super new. It was just a matter of them executing their offense. We have to be more aggressive.”

From Richard: Mercury outwork, outhustle and outplay Lynx on way to Game 1 win

Story of the Game: The game started as much of it would go on – unfortunately for Minnesota. Buoyed by their noisy home crowd, the Mercury got out in transition early on and scored the first nine points of the game. They were challenging hard on all the jumpers the Lynx were tossing up, leaking out after making those challenges, and beating Minnesota down the floor at the other end. DeWanna Bonner also drilled a three in the opening 90 seconds of the game, which would be another bad sign for the rest of the night for the Lynx.

From Pat Friday: Indiana rains threes on Chicago to steal victory on home floor

From Nate: Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman cites turnovers as a “glaring” problem in Game 1 loss

From Mark Ambrogi the Indy Star: Fever claim Game 1 East Finals victory over Chicago, 77-70

It wasn’t hard for Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn to determine the key stat on Saturday night.

The Fever hit 9-of-21 3-pointers compared to 1-of-8 for Chicago.

Fever buckle down, stave off Sky and its partner article: Fever hold off Sky in fourth quarter for 1-0 series lead

The Indiana Fever had to have thoughts of the Sky’s historic comeback win four days ago in Atlanta running through their minds.

But, unlike Tuesday night, Indiana fended off the late-charging Sky and held on for a 77-70 victory Saturday night in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.

From Bright Side of the Sun: WCF Preview: The One Year Journey Of The Mercury

Missed this from David: Delle Donne means the Indiana Fever aren’t facing a normal No. 4 seed

On the upcoming games:

Nate is feeling predictive: ECF/WCF predictions: Mercury, Sky will prevail

Did you catch Richard’s WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Fever vs. Chicago Sky and WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Western Conference Finals: Phoenix Mercury vs. Minnesota Lynx?

Yup: Lynx need more from Moore against Mercury

The Phoenix Mercury did something in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals that no other WNBA team has been able to do all season long.

They stopped Maya Moore.

And yes: Reeve wants to see Lynx more aggressive in Game 2

Two hands.

If there was one thing that really surprised Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve about Friday’s 85-71 loss in Phoenix in Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference finals, it wasn’t any one statistic or stretch during the game. It was an attitude.

As in, the defending champion Lynx didn’t have enough of it. “Phoenix has had a great season,” Reeve said Saturday, shortly after the team’s flight landed in Minnesota. “Phoenix has a great understanding that, in order to beat us, to go to the finals, they’re going to have to wrestle the trophy away from us. What I was surprised about was we didn’t have the collective effort to have two hands on that trophy.’’

From Mechelle: Lynx target solid start in Game 2 – Minnesota can’t afford another slow start against Phoenix

Since the Minnesota Lynx elevated to being an elite team in the WNBA three years ago, they haven’t ended a season at home. They won their 2011 and ’13 titles in Atlanta, and lost in the 2012 WNBA Finals at Indiana.

The Lynx are certainly hoping their 2014 campaign doesn’t end in Minneapolis, either — at least not during the Western Conference finals. They are down 1-0 in the best-of-three series after an 85-71 loss at Phoenix on Friday.

Sunday, the Lynx host the Mercury at Target Center (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in a game to keep Minnesota’s season alive.

From Tyler: Mercury won’t relax after opening romp in WNBA Western Conference finals

Our frame of mind doesn’t change,” Mercury forward Penny Taylor said. “We know we’re up against a championship team, and we know if we relax for a second, that they’ll be on top of us.

“They’re such a good team, and we expect them to come back at full force.”

Who didn’t see this coming:  Mo’Ne Davis heading to the conference finals

Congrats to all: Chiney Ogwumike wins ROY, heads All-Rookie team (And I know folks are cranky that Shoni wasn’t named – but please don’t bring up her All-Star Game performance as a reason she should have been on the team… That’s just silly.)

This is cool:

Professional basketball player Shoni Schimmel, the first Native American to play in the WNBA All Star Game, and her family will make two appearances this weekend to support the Seneca Nation campaign against alcohol and drug abuse.

More on those who are no longer playing: Lack of star talent remains a top concern in D.C.

From the NY Times: In the W.N.B.A., Women’s Coaching Journey Gets Easier (“Easier”, of course, is a relative term, ’cause the gig reeeeeeally hard)

Seventeen years ago, Lin Dunn was coaching the Portland Power of the short-lived American Basketball League. Dunn believed in sharing her knowledge of the game, so she allowed college coaches to watch her practices.

One of them was Pokey Chatman, then a young assistant coach at Louisiana State. Chatman stayed for a week learning from Dunn, whom she remembered as a volleyball coach at Mississippi in the late 1970s.

On Saturday, Chatman, now coach of the Chicago Sky, faced Dunn’s Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the W.N.B.A. Eastern Conference finals.

Speaking of hard: From the Argus Leader: Daughter inspires coach to stay with basketball team

It’s not all about basketball, says Vermillion, whose 24th year of coaching begins next year. It’s not about the wins and losses. “I can guarantee you I have more losses than wins,” he says. “When I started out, it was all about winning, then I learned it’s not. It’s about developing girls.”

One rule: Family, church and school come first. Vermillion never holds tryouts, and he never names starters. At one point, he required a 3.25 grade point average.

Vermillion encourages players to take the ACT four times. They might not play college ball, he says, but they will come out of there with a degree. He also spends much more time than the typical coach talking with college officials about the girls, doing his best to get them scholarships.

He loves the girls but hates the parents, he says bluntly. The girls, his girls, keep him coming back every season.

Or, maybe it’s just one girl. A dozen years after Tiffany’s death, her father still coaches because, as he says simply, “This is what she left me.”

Sad news out of San Antonio:

In the past two years, Tai Dillard has been an assistant coach in the Pac-12 and SEC, two of women’s college basketball’s top conferences.

As her path has taken her to places such as Palo Alto, California, and Knoxville, Tennessee, Dillard reflected on the person instrumental in helping her coaching journey get started: Sam Houston High School girls basketball coach Milyse Lamkin.

Lamkin, 52, died Thursday after battling cancer, Sam Houston Principal Darnell White said.

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Game time!

From Doug: Key story lines for the WNBA conference finals

WOMEN’S WORLD: For the first time in the 18-year history of the WNBA all four teams in the conference finals are coached by women. That guarantees that for the fourth straight year a female coach will guide her team to the title. Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve won in 2011 and 2013. Indiana’s Lin Dunn was the champion in 2012.

”I think it’s great,” said first-year Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello, who was the league’s coach of the year this season. ”There’s a lot of talented female coaches out there, so it’s good to see that.”

From Nate: Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner will be center of attention against Minnesota Lynx

Back before the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury faced each other at full health the first time just about a month ago, I wrote that the game obviously wouldn’t determine the champion but a Lynx win could very well illuminate just how close these two teams are.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened: the Mercury did come back and beat the Lynx in the final regular season meeting between the two teams on August 9, but we got some insight into a potential determining factor for this series and it was a totally predictable aspect of the game based on the numbers.

From Tim: Minnesota Lynx meet their match Friday in Phoenix

Lynx assistant coach Jim Peter-sen hasn’t been losing sleep this week plotting ways to stop the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA’s Western Conference finals.

“Phoenix is a nightmare in having to game-plan for them, in terms of who do you stop,” Petersen said. “But then you realize, hey, they’re a lot like us. We’re mirror images of one another. In some cases, you lay awake worried about if you’ll play well. This is a case where we lay awake because we’re so excited to play.”

From Tyler Killian: Mercury in for tough finals series against Minnesota

It almost seems unfair.

One team’s season will be over in, at most, three more games.

For two teams that have been head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league like the Mercury and Minnesota Lynx have been this year, a best-of-three series is criminally short to decide who will go on to play for the WNBA championship.

But they have no choice.

From Kent Youngblood: WNBA rivalry rekindled for top two teams in Western Conference

A season later, Seimone Augustus still hears about it.

The Lynx were in the fourth quarter of a Western Conference finals opening-game victory over Phoenix at Target Center when, near midcourt. Mercury guard Diana Taurasi passed the ball, then gave Augustus a little shove. Augustus turned and glared. Taurasi then slammed her shoulder into Augustus. The two were face to face when Taurasi leaned over and gave Augustus a peck on the cheek.

“It was either throw a punch or get a kiss,” Augustus joked this week.

From Randy Hill: More defense is Mercury mantra against Lynx’s Moore

 The Mercury are walking the self-awareness walk at a level never before witnessed in the WNBA.

But swagger of this caliber requires talking the talk as part of a defensive commitment that helped generate the best record in league history.

Also from Randy: Griner hopes to measure up as big difference-maker vs. Lynx

From David: Dishin & Swishin 08/28/14 Podcast: WNBA Western Conference Finals coaches Sandy Brondello & Cheryl Reeve talk about the playoffs

Mechelle chatted:

Shades (Minneapolis): Can you reflect on the career of Lin Dunn and tell us how her presence has impacted the WNBA?

Mechelle Voepel: One of the things that Lin Dunn did was she fully made the transition from being one of the “old guard” college coaches to being a pro coach. And we know those are really different jobs … you can’t coach and deal with pros the same way you do with college kids. Obvious, Dunn’s career at Purdue ended in a difficult way – I won’t get into all that here – and that changed her career path. But she ended up really embracing the pro game. Plus, she showed the resilience you need to have to be a pro coach … sometimes you get fired. Sometimes you realize a player is worth more to the franchise than you are. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad coach. You move on. You keep learning, even as you age. You become a better coach through some of your failures, as well as your successes. Lin Dunn has done all of that, and I think she’s also plotted an “exit strategy” that is to be admired. She helped groom a successor who she’s given a lot of responsibility to. Plus, she’s brought a fun personality that has never changed: She is who she is, and she’ll tell you what she thinks all the time. I admire that.

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does the basketball. And yes, I know I’m a little over an hour away from Colorado Springs and the U18 team practice… but it’s just. not. going. to. happen.

So, whadImiss? (Thanks, Richard)

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the New York Liberty: A Rookie as Feisty as She Is Steady

Carson said that despite Cruz’s size, her speed and on-court relentlessness made for a seamless transition to the league. At 5 feet 9 inches and 155 pounds, Cruz is smaller than other W.N.B.A. guards. But her willingness to draw contact during drives to the basket and her flashy ball-handling have made her a fan favorite, and she often draws some of the largest cheers during pregame introductions, along with Pondexter, a six-time All-Star, and Tina Charles, who grew up in Queens.

On Aug. 8, in part because of Cruz’s rising popularity, the Liberty will hold their first Noche Latina game, which will celebrate Hispanic culture. Her parents will be in New York for the event.

“I didn’t expect it at all, but I appreciate it,” Cruz said of the adulation. “They make me feel like I’m home.”

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the Phoenix Mercury!  A Two-Handed Push Elevates Phoenix Mercury to No. 1

“We didn’t win a championship, and we didn’t lose one tonight,” said Brondello, a former point guard and two-time Olympic silver medalist for Australia who is in her first season with the Mercury. “It’s more about, O.K., let’s learn from it and move on to the next game. That’s been our mentality through this whole streak.”

Taurasi, however, summed up the night’s frustration and physicality in her inimitable style. Both teams complained about the officiating, leading to three technical fouls, the last two on Brondello and Taurasi in the final minute. So what did the Mercury learn from this game?

“We’ve got to get better at football,” Taurasi said. “We will. If we’ve got to put our helmets on, that’s what we’re going to do from here on out.”

Surprise! About that Phx/Minny matchup: Rebounding leads Lynx past Mercury

In a game with such a wealth of riches, talent-wise, it might seem downright boring to focus on something as fundamental as rebounding.

Yet if you wanted to point to one thing that decided the heavyweight bout Thursday between the two best teams in the WNBA, you gotta go with the glass. Maya Moore and her Lynx outrebounded Diana Taurasi and her Mercury by a handy margin in front of a jazzed-up Minnesota crowd of 9,513.

From Nate:

While the Phoenix Mercury were storming through the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx were quietly keeping themselves within striking distance without their full complement of talent.

And in tonight’s nationally televised game on NBA TV, the Lynx showed just how dangerous they can be at full strength by ending the Mercury’s league-high 16-game winning streak with a 75-67 win in Minneapolis. Neither team played particularly well, but in a significant regular season game that got increasingly physical throughout the starters that had been missing for so long loomed large for the Lynx.

From the Bright Side of the Sun: Phoenix Mercury: The war rages with the Lynx, the streak is over, and the season is just getting started

Awesome! (And not really WNBA related, BUT) NBA ref Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner

Equally awesome! Delle Donne savors return to court

Guzzling Pedialyte on the Chicago Sky bench, there was very little that could have sapped the childlike joy from Elena Delle Donne on Thursday night.

“It was amazing,” Delle Donne said after scoring 10 points in 11 minutes in her first game back in a month, an 87-74 Chicago victory over New York that keeps the Sky a half-game behind the Liberty for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. “Even when [coach Pokey Chatman] had her little freak-out at one point, it was great. It’s just awesome to be back with the team, competing, being back out on the floor and I’m just enjoying every second of it.”

Nerd City at Work! Chiney Ogwumike records 12th double-double as Sun hold off Stars

Optimism! Shock looks at rebuilt WNBA contenders as assurance in own direction

As the season nears its end and the playoff push continues, the Tulsa Shock appears to have the perfect combination of short-sightedness and perspective.

Finally! (we know) Tulsa Shock’s Riquna Williams to undergo season-ending knee surgery

From Mirin Fader at SlamOnline: Dream Big – Rookie PG Shoni Schimmel has brought Showtime to the WNBA. But her transition hasn’t been easy.

“There are big things in store for Shoni’s future. Everyone can see that,” Thompson continues. “But that would probably be the one thing that I think that Shoni is really taking the time to get better at.”

Schimmel is specifically working on her one-on-one defense. She wants to be able to contain the elite players in the league, not just be able to break them down with a single crossover and get to the basket.

Every day she works on her agility, using ladders to develop more quickness to help with sliding laterally so she can better stay in front of whoever she’s guarding.

This isn’t the first time Schimmel has had to make adjustments.

From Advocate.com: ESPN Short Lifesize: Brittney Griner Highlights Income Disparity for WNBA Stars

In other news:

Tough news for the Quakers: Stephanie Cheney decides to leave Penn women’s basketball

On November 14, Penn women’s basketball will begin the road to its Ivy League title defense. However, that title defense will have to come without one of the team’s young developing forwards.

Rising sophomore Stephanie Cheney, who played in 22 games for the Quakers last season, has left the program, leaving the team without a piece in the post that coach Mike McLaughlin could have utilized.

Roots! Women’s Basketball Adds Clare Berenato to The Coaching Staff

“Clare comes from great basketball bloodlines,” said Gaitley.  “Her mom, Agnus was the head coach at Pitt and her aunt [Bernadette McGlade] is our A-10 Commissioner.  She has great knowledge of the game and is a terrific people person.  We are excited to welcome her to the Fordham family.”

This explains it! I’ve already gotten two inquiries about the Maggie Dixon Classic (for those who don’t know, I’ve been gathering a group of folks to attend. Started with 25. Last year we had 140.) UConn women’s basketball will play St. John’s in Maggie Dixon Classic

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