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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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Had to follow it on twitter (thanks, Gonzagawbb – loved the video commentary and this morning’s GAME HIGHLIGHTS) but what a game between the Bulldogs and the Dons. Through three overtimes, neither team would let the other win… until finally, in the fourth,  10-time defending conference champion Gonzaga prevailed, 91-84. The game featured 21 lead changes, 14 ties and lasted two hours and 50 minutes, becoming the longest game in West Coast Conference women’s basketball history.

“I’ve never been involved in a four overtime game,” head coach Jennifer Azzi noted after the marathon on the court. “Never. This is the first one ever – playing, coaching. I don’t even know if I’ve ever been involved in a three overtime, so this was pretty crazy. This team is really special. They get along very, very well, and they’re very supportive of one another. I’m just so proud of our team.”

I know coach Azzi must be sick and tired of my (and anyone else’s)  “signs of program progress” commentary, and her players must be pissed and exhausted, but consider what was happening in San Fransisco when she assumed the head coaching duties in 2010: The program hasn’t had a winning record since 2001-02, and only one since 1996-97. They now stand at  and are a young team (3 seniors) with some height. Things could get very interesting out west….

In other games, Gonzaga’s WCC rival St. Mary’s got smacked by their other WCC rival, Pacific, 61-48.

Kendall Kenyon had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half for her 45th career double-double, which broke the program record amassed by Julie Szukalski from 1986-90. Kenyon finished with 12 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, including eight on offense, to go with two blocks, two assists, one steal and only one turnover in 28 minutes.

“It’s pretty awesome to hit that milestone,” Kenyon said. “It really tops off my senior year. But I’m just trying to keep moving forward and keep improving. Coach Roberts always says consistency in key in great teams and great players.”

It was a great game between the top two teams in the OVC, Tennessee-Martin and SIU-Edwardsville, but the conference leading Skyhawks emerged victorious, 69-68.

The OVC produced the second Debbie Antonelli Special of the night, as Murray State upset Austin Peay, 98-84.

No, #18 Princeton wasn’t upset, but fellow Ivy League undefeated Yale was – by Harvard, 65-55.

The Big West seems to be slipping out of Long Beach State’s hands and into the Wahine’s. 

Yes, the Billikens seem to be improving, but they couldn’t get past Richmond.

Since getting smacked by Maine, New Hampshire has lost four straight. Magarity’s young coaching staff has got to get their team’s head back into the season.

That sigh of relief was the Catamounts breaking their 12-game skid. Their next opponent? The struggling Wildcats.

Yah, it’s looking like the MEAC is going to be between Norfolk State and Hampton. Circle March 5th on your calendar.

Texas Southern is lurking right behind Southern in the SWAC. They’ll meet each other for the second time this season on March 7th.

New Mexico State moves to 8-0 in the WAC.

That “other” team from New Mexico is making noise again. Sure, their out of conference record is for carp, but in-conference is not so bad. Let’s see what happens when the Lobos host Colorado State at the Pit this Wednesday.

Central Connecticut sits atop the NEC at 10-1. They’ll face their nearest challenger, Robert Morris, two games from now. The Colonials eeked out a win against Farleigh Dickinson, 69-68.

As anticipated, it was a battle between the Michigans, but Western staked out a lead and Central could never quite catch up.

It was an unanticipated battle between Western Carolina (1-7, Southern) and East Tennessee State (7-1 Southern), as the Catamounts gave the Buccaneers all they could handle. In the end, ETSU emerged victorious. Six games from now, they’ll have their second showdown against conference-leading Chattanooga.

The Hattiesburg American gives a shout out to Southern Miss head coach: McNelis outdoing herself this year

Here’s the deal: last season, Southern Miss did not beat perennial powerhouse Middle Tennessee more than once. It has defeated MTSU twice this year as well as Western Kentucky once, both of which have either been ranked in the Top 25 poll or received votes. Last season, Lee-McNelis never had to deal with quitters as she has this time around (senior Markia Nix and freshman Shakoa Edwards bailed on her early in the year). Last season, she had Jamierra Faulkner running things on the floor when things got dicey. No disrespect to Tamara Jones, Jerontay Clemons or any other players on the team this season, but none of them are Faulkner.

We know what’s coming up tomorrow…so what does one make of Geno getting so cranky with the play of his starters that he sits Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart four minutes into the game against Memphis? And they stay there all game. And UConn still wins by 50.

On the upcoming Connecticut-South Carolina game from David Cloninger:

This is the one we’ve all been waiting on.

Connecticut.

“It’s UConn,” Tiffany Mitchell shrugged after a pasting of Georgia on Thursday. “Now, finally, we’re ready to play them.”

It’s been circled since the idea was approached. Dawn Staley was working on the deal last year, one because it was getting increasingly harder to schedule good competition and two because she knew that this year would be an outstanding year, and what better litmus test could there be?

More from David: Gamecocks’ depth overwhelms foes

This is getting silly.

Alaina Coates, South Carolina’s best inside player and the key to establishing everything the Gamecocks try to do on offense, was suspended. USC was on the road, in a gym where it’s hardly ever played well. Players had already been talking about the next game, not this one.

And it still didn’t matter.

Why? Bianca Cuevas, this time.

Coach Staley is familiar with may of the UConn players because of her time with USA Basketball. From Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: South Carolina’s Staley dishes on UConn’s Stewart and future Husky Collier

Scott Anderson at The State:

But on Monday, when UConn hosts USC at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, it’ll be the visitors ranked No. 1 and the Huskies No. 2.

Wrap your head around that for a moment.

The Gamecocks, unbeaten at 22-0, are considered the best team in the country as they prepare to take on the best program in the country.

That’s really amazing.

David Caraviello at the Post & Courier: Anticipation runs high for both No. 2 UConn, No. 1 USC

Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma earned his 900th career victory Tuesday, but there was little drama in what quickly become another rout of another overmatched conference opponent. The real anticipation bubbled through the crowd whenever the video boards at Hartford’s XL Center promoted Monday’s game in Storrs against No. 1 South Carolina — even though it’s been sold-out for weeks.

Lori Riley at the Courant: Dawn Staley Says South Carolina Playing UConn, Not ‘What’s In Rafters’

“You can’t come into a basketball game and play the nine basketball championship [banners] hanging from the rafters,” Staley said Friday on a conference call. “You can’t think that way, because you’ve already lost the game. We play in one of the toughest conferences in the country, we have to think that way. It’ll overwhelm you if you try to play what’s up in the rafters.”

From ESPN’s MC Barrett: Key stats: South Carolina at UConn

The two best teams in the nation square off Monday (ESPN/WatchESPN, 8 p.m. ET) when top-ranked South Carolina takes on second-ranked Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion. For the undefeated Gamecocks, it’s an opportunity to keep their perfect season alive and earn the program’s first win against UConn. But the Huskies, who have been nothing short of unstoppable since their loss to Stanford on Nov. 17, have their eyes set to a return to No. 1 and on a third consecutive national title.

From Scott Michaux: Top-ranked South Carolina women face toughest test yet in No. 2 UConn

John Altavilla: Underestimate South Carolina? Not A Chance

Among the phenomenon Geno Auriemma has adapted to during the last 20 of his 30 years at UConn has been weathering the possible impact of approaching storms.

As it relates to Monday at Gampel Pavilion, it’s not about how much snow may fall, but how  much importance is being attached to the Huskies game with unbeaten and top-ranked South Carolina.

“I couldn’t even tell you how many times we’ve been in this situation, 1 vs. 2, but it’s been frequent,” Auriemma said. “And it’s occurred over many years, with many different teams, sometimes on the road, other times at home, with many different teams and coaches.

Game preview by DoggyDaddy:

South Carolina come into this game undefeated at 22-0. Their OOC schedule was pretty weak with only two games against ranked teams, defeating No. 22 (at the time) Syracuse 67-63 and No. 9 Duke 51-50. They also had a tough outing against the real USC winning 69-61. They have met a few ranked teams in their conference schedule, beating No. 10 Kentucky 68-60, No.12 Texas A&M 79-61, and now No. 22 Georgia 58-35 in their last game.

UConn comes into this game on a 21 game winning streak after beating Memphis. UConn played (and lost) to No. 6 Stanford, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 25 DePaul, and No.10 Duke. While the conference is weak, South Florida is a top 25 RPI team.    

Both Geno and Dawn are doing their best to motivate their players. Dawn sat one of her stars for breaking what was probably a nothing team rule. She used it to show she will sit you so “don’t screw up”. And she wants Coates to play angry.  

Jere’ from the Times looks ahead (waaaaay ahead?): After Geno Auriemma’s Reign, UConn Could Lose Clout

South Carolina travels to Connecticut on Monday night for a meeting of the top two N.C.A.A. women’s basketball teams. The matchup will tell us something about the present and raise a thorny question about the future.

In this turbulent, uncertain period of college sports, how long can UConn sustain its dominance as one of the few women’s basketball powers not affiliated with a Power 5 football conference? The reflexive answer for many is: for as long as Geno Auriemma remains head coach.

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