Women's Hoops Blog: January 2005

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Monday, January 31, 2005

I'm not sure whether this really counts as a women's basketball story, but it's just too weird to ignore.

Last May, the ABA's Nashville Rhythm named former Vandy star Ashley McElhiney its head coach, making her the first woman head coach of a men's pro team.

McElhiney was fired in the middle of a game Saturday night after co-owner Sally Anthony became upset when the coach refused to bench Matt Freije. It sounds like Freije had been hired by Anthony's co-owners against her wishes.

"To show you how dumb I was, I had not even heard of Matt Freije before," Anthony said. (Oh you showed plenty, love.)

Anthony came onto the court during the third quarter and ordered McElhiney to bench Freiji. Ashley ignored Anthony. Security guards ultimately came and took the owner away; McElhiney kept coaching and won the game.

Following the game, Anthony had another altercation with the brother of player.

Today brings word that the firing was probably void anyway, since Anthony, as a 33% owner, simply doesn't have the power. And the Tennessean is also reporting that Anthony ended up in the Vanderbilt hospital after Saturday's game. "I tripped on some stairs and hit my head last night," Anthony said Sunday afternoon. "Some people think that I did it on purpose, but I just tripped."

It is 2005, so it's no surprise to learn that there's a sallyanthony.com. Complete with low-grade self-promotion: "This talented performer, entrepreneur, pioneer and role model continually demonstrates that there are no limits to what one can achieve." "The past 12 months have proven to be an exceptional time for Anthony." "Success is not something new for Anthony."

She also claims to be a role model for many women. (Cough.)

Is it possible that this whole thing is just a bizarre publicity stunt? Good lord, I sure hope so. This world needs only one Courtney Love.

UPDATE: the players stick up for their coach, call their owner "ridiculous."

And the story has reached the sports pages of the Gray Lady. And just about every other paper in the country.
New women's basketball blog on the scene: She's Got Game, created by an unknown assailant.
William Rhoden on Dawn Staley: "My theory is that if anything good is going to happen to Philadelphia, the process begins with Dawn Staley. Just as the Steelers' Jerome Bettis is the figurative mayor of Pittsburgh, Dawn Staley is the spirit of Philadelphia."

If you've been lucky enough to be sleeping for the last eight days, you may be blissfully unaware that there is some (wholly manufactured) controversy about whether TO should play in the Superbowl. Rhoden decided to ask Dawn what she thinks.

The answer: "I don't think he's a Philadelphia guy. Can he be a Philadelphia guy? If he suits up and hobbles down the field, he might be a Philadelphia guy."

Temple beat A-10 power Xavier yesterday with a buzzer-beating alley-oop from Candice Dupree to Kamesha Hairston.
Nat Newell at the Indy Star reports on Amber Harris and what dunking will mean for the women's game.
Yesterday's game between Houston and TCU was billed as a big one. It was expected to be a classic matchup between Sandora Irvin and Sancho Lyttle, two of the country's best bigs, two of the nation's top player of the year candidates, and two of the WNBA's best prospects.

The matchup, however, fell far short of expectations, as both players struggled with foul trouble and opposing defense. Irvin had 13 and 12 on 6-for-14 shooting; Lyttle had 9 and 9 on 3-for-9.

TCU won, ending a three-game drought against the Cougars.

Irvin had 5 blocks, leaving her just 3 shy of the all-time NCAA Div. I record currently held by CS Fullerton's Genia Miller.
Brittany Hunter may never play again. Yesterday in the CT Post, her mother claimed that Duke pressured Brittany to come back too soon. Coach Goestenkors, in response, said that Duke's medical care was excellent and that Brittany did not always follow her rehab instructions. Hunter is considering a lawsuit.

Connecticut fans debate the issue; Duke fans too.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Fighting Irish made for a dark day in Storrs. After the guys blew it on the road, the women had their first Big East loss in Gampel since 1993. Notre Dame held off a struggling Husky squad 65-59.

Geno was underimpressed with the team's play. "We played that first half like we’ve never practiced before. It’s hard to win two against five." At times it looked like a replay of the ill-fated Michigan State game - too many quick shots, not enough teamwork. Battle summed it up nicely: "Everyone was trying to make big plays instead of making the safe plays."

The box score is kind of bizarre. Ann Strother played 40 minutes and tallied up 25 points; Charde Houston squeaked in a double-double but only shot 3 for 10. Courtney LaVere was the Irish's top scorer at 14 points, but "Energizer Bunny" Megan Duffy put in 40 minutes and went 7 for 8 at the line.

This game highlighted the Huskies' major problem this year: the lack of a good point guard. They also seem to be struggling with what I'll snarkily term "Borton-itis": great defensive play, but underperforming offense.
Rutgers blew out West Virginia 70-49 in New Brunswick; the first half included a 21-0 run and 18 WVU turnovers. Michelle Campbell scored 20, Cappie 16.

No celebration, though: Rutgers' Chelsea Newton left the game on a stretcher after colliding with a pick. Newton, who hurt a knee and an ankle in her last two games, now has a mild concussion and a strained neck; she's listed as day to day.
And in another almost-shocking near-upset, Xavier almost beat Temple; the second half included seven ties. Kamesha Hairston scored the last of her 31 points on a buzzer-beating layup to pull the Owls ahead for good, 64-62.

Temple remain undefeated in conference play, and it remains hard to know how good they really are, given their conference and their lack of TV. More on Staley and Fatima Maddox (now in Philly, but not yet eligible to play) right here.
Auburn came somewhat close to beating LSU, 57-52. Coming back from a double-digit deficit, Auburn cut the lead to 3 before LSU made 4 of 4 late free throws. Less than delighted, Pokey thanked the LSU home crowd of 14,256.

The Tigers-vs.-Tigers game set much-heralded shot blocker and treelike post Sylvia Fowles against less-heralded shot blocker and treelike post Marita Payne. Fowles finished with 4 blocks, 13 boards and 14 points, Payne with 8 blocks, 11 rebounds, and just 4 points; she later called Fowles a horse.

Both teams shot just thirty-three and a third. Augustus, about whom sportswriters have apparently run out of things to say, finished with 24; she still averages over 20.
North Carolina State almost beat Duke. The Wolfpack came back from twelve points behind, and actually outrebounded the Blue Devils, but Currie "made an incredible shot" and Williams a free throw to finish it, 52-49. Coach G says she's "not worried" about her eight-player team. NC State coach Yow waxes philosophical.
Three days after shocking Penn State in Evanston, Northwestern almost beat still-ranked Purdue. Northwestern are now "a very physical team" and "can really shoot the ball," one of Purdue's assistant coaches says. Gearlds and Lawless scored 17 apiece as Gearlds' free throw sealed the win, 68-65; totally unheralded junior Suzanne Morrison led Northwestern with 18.
Penn State, still unbeaten at home.

Despite trailing 7-2 early, the Gophers played the Lions nearly even through the first half, getting points in the paint, where Minnesota prefers them; Kelly Roysland put back a missed three-ball at the buzzer to end the half at Gophers 27, PSU 28. Tanisha Wright had already scored 14; Shannon Bolden, who usually contains leading scorers, couldn't do much about it.

For most of the second half the Gophers lost focus, and couldn't recover from mistakes; stolen balls got stolen back, perimeter shooters couldn't get anything off, and the Gopher defense encountered whistle after whistle, partly on silly grabs and lousy decisions, and partly because Wright and Strom are just that good at drawing contact. The second half was a foul festival-- Lions made 27 of 29 second-half free-throws, Gophers 18 of 19; when Bolden, and then Schonrock, got whistled for a fourth foul, the game looked and felt mostly over. (Schonrock later scored the Gophs' only trey.) Final score: 81-68, the last of several PSU 13-point leads.

Tanisha Wright "had an All-American night," said coach Portland. She "basically could do anything she wanted," Gopher coach Borton agreed. Wright finished with 32, tying a career high. McCarville scored 21, with 11 boards, but the Lions actually outrebounded Minnesota, 32-26, going hard to the offensive glass.
Around the Pac-10, Stanford crushed Washington State.

And in a display of hot outside shooting, Oregon demolished USC, 81-59; Bills and Kraayeveld each scored 22. Kraayeveld got her 1,000th point and her 26th career double-double-- all this after a ridiculous few years of injuries, including an ACL tear. She also made four of four from the land of threes.

"We took advantage of being at home," said Ducks coach Bev Smith, whose team improves to 10-1 in Oregon (including Portland): at home, the Ducks beat Stanford but lost to Ohio State. On opponents' courts (as against neutral sites) they're just 2-5.
Around the Big XII, no upsets: Texas canned an ailing Mizzou by shooting over their zone.

In another display of hot outside shooting K-State handled Colorado 81-70 behind Claire Croggins' unexpected firepower (9-18, 5-8 from downtown).

In another display of hot outside shooting, Iowa State-- whom K-State flattened a couple of days back-- beat Oklahoma 73-60. The Cyclones made 13 of 27 three-balls.

And in a display of what-goes-around-comes-around, Baylor got past Oklahoma State 67-65 on two free throws with 0:00.9 left in the game. "Just let us play the game," said Nina Stone, who led the Cowgirls' scoring, rightly proud of the Big XII basement-dwellers' late-game comeback; "Who calls a foul with point nine seconds left?" "Try 0.2 seconds," Coach Mulkey-Robertson did not actually reply.
Overtime thriller in Tucson last night as Shay Doron led Maryland past the Wildcats, 84-77.

Maryland played with both feet on the gas the whole game-- fast breaks, fast sets (or one-pass sets) and aggression; for the first half it worked-- the Terps shot 56%, the 'Cats just 31% with a maddening series of missed layups and rushed, low-percentage, off-balance running jumpers. A few steals prevented a blowout; Maryland led at the half 40-30.

Then Arizona remembered its offensive sets. The 'Cats opened part II wiith a 9-0 run and shot 55% for the second half. Polk remembered how to use her size and finished with 19 despite some missed bunnies. Frosh Jessica Arnold finished with 18 (including some very beautiful drives), and Dee Dee Wheeler-- whose shots kept going awry-- created some neat-looking turnovers to bring the score to... UM 67, UA 60 with 1:18 on the clock.

And then things got really crazy. A Wheeler layup. A traveling call. A double-dribble. A four-point play from Natalie Jones, fouled at the arc. Arizona 69-67 with 0:03 on the clock.

An inbounds pass deflected at halfcourt. Another deflected to the Maryland baseline. A third inbounds pass to Jade Perry with 0:00.8 left: she made the layup right through a pair of defenders, forcing an overtime which Maryland-- really, Doron-- dominated, 15-8.

I'm afraid the better team won. Arizona just missed too many chances, left too many shooters open. And Doron is just an amazing player: her shots go in, her court vision's superb, and she has a scary ability to get the calls she wants (including a very questionable foul on what looked like a clean block on her first three-point attempt in OT). Everyone knows she's from Israel, but does everyone know she attended Sue Bird High?
Gophers get ready for the big game at Penn State, where Minnesota has never won, though this year's Gophers certainly have the weaponry. Today's winner would have a real lead on the Big Ten regular-season title, especially given Penn State's... interesting... schedule: the Lions don't play at Minnesota, nor at Michigan State, this year. PSU fans wonder: will Strom even play?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Good article about Janel McCarville highlighting the matchup with Tanisha Wright, the other co-Big Ten player of the week.

Exceptionally nice (dare I say "Hott"?) pic by MN Daily staffer Nate Denay accompanies the article. If I could only get my hands on a high-res version, what a poster it would make...
Today's most interesting game: no. 20/22 Maryland at still-promising Arizona, on national TV. Maryland coach Brenda Frese started for Arizona herself before injuries cut short her college career.

Governor Napolitano will visit the Wildcat bench; can she do for the 'Cats what she's done for her political party?

Coach Bonvincini expects an "up and down" running game, and lots of fans. Everyone up here wants Arizona in a rout.
Voepel on parity, mild hypocrisy, llama dung, and how it feels when Super Team falls to "Never Beat Us Before Team."
Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault has been Down Under watching the WNBL, looking for players who might fit his game. This week he asked for a tryout from Donna Loffhagen, who led the 2004 Olympics in rebounds per game with the Tall Ferns, New Zealand's national team.

Loffhagen said no. She's under contract this summer (for her, it's winter) with her netball team, the Southern Sting.

Also in Canberra: Seattle coach Anne Donovan, hanging out with her two favorite Aussies, and doing some scouting herself.
Last year the University of Virginia ended up with a huge disappointment, finishing three games below .500 and missing the Big Dance for the first time in twenty years.

This year things look better. Last night the Cavaliers got past Virginia Tech 70-67 in Charlottesville, in their first match since their in-state rival joined the ACC. UVA outrebounded the Hokies by 22. La Tonya Blue scored 26 on 9-17 (2-4) shooting and herself pulled down 12 boards. Given the rebounding picture, Hokies coach Beth Dunkenberger says she's amazed her team even had a shot.

Once-promising VT drop to 12-6, 2-4 ACC; UVA improve to 15-5, 4-2. All five of the teams which beat UVA have now spent time in the top 25.

At this point as many as seven teams from the revamped ACC have a realistic chance to make the tournament.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Email from Bob Corwin, responding to my post yesterday:

AAU has less power than ever in regard to summer ball in terms of quality players as most of the powerful club programs go in other directions (Nike & Adidas sponsored events) . The kind of abuse that you outline will sadly go on as long as men coach young women. The best thing that a parent could do is tag along on the trips out of town and watch out for unusual behavior of the coach in question. There is no way any one organization could really police this matter.

You are right about the power that a club coach has with regard to exposure, even more so if NCAA ends spring & fall non-high school evaluation as is now planned. If a player is on a bad high school team and makes no effort to be seen in the off-season, that individual has a good chance to have a significant limit on their offers to play college ball.

I don't mean to pick on AAU alone. And, to be honest, I don't know a great deal about how AAU or club hoops function these days.

Club ball seems to be the biggest worry when it comes to sexual misconduct. It happens in other settings too, but high school and college coaches are at least answerable to someone (a principal, an athletic director), and they are subject to the rules of their institution. Many club coaches are answerable to no one at all -- they simply put together teams and start playing. That is why the risk is great.

Unfortunately, the diffuse, decentralized nature of club basketball makes it difficult to do anything -- there is no centralized institution capable of a fully effective response. AAU simply wasn't designed to police coaches.

Still, they can do something. AAU, after all, already has a sexual misconduct policy -- it's just inadequate. They can expand it, clarify it, and add whatever enforcement mechanisms are possible. That wouldn't be a panacea, but it's easy to do, and it wouldn't hurt.

The current structure of club ball leaves the ultimate responsibility for addressing sexual misconduct with individual parents. But that doesn't absolve the rest of us from responsibility. First, we should at least consider trying to change the structure of club ball to institute more oversight. And second, even taking the current structure as a given, we should use whatever means we have (even if they are limited) to address the problem.

At an absolute minimum, AAU (and Nike, and Adidas, and the NCAA, and the WBCA) can use their bully pulpit to educate parents. Send out some letters. Make some materials available at your events. Publish a statement on your website, or at least put up a damn link to WSF's position statement. How hard would that be?

Just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything.
Duke won a sloppy game against Maryland. Other than Mo Currie, no one played particularly well.

"We were just really happy to come away with a win," a relieved head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "It was a really hard-fought game. I knew Maryland was a great team and they just keep coming at you at both ends of the court. We just feel very fortunate to come away with a win."
Florida State's hot streak came to an end in Miami, and the Hurricane's got their first ACC win.

"I think we caved into fatigue tonight," 'Noles coach Semrau said. "We had played three and half games in last eight days with the overtimes games and we can't give into that and we did give into it tonight."

"Like Pat Riley says, there's winning and there's misery, and we've been absolutely miserable around here," Miami coach Ferne Labati said. "It's like being in a house where the plumbing is broken, you fix that and then the next toilet breaks, you fix that and then the refrigerator doesn't work. It was so frustrating."
The USA Today gives some ink today to two figures who deserve more national attention.

First, MSU coach Joanne McCallie, who has quietly built a new powerhouse.

"My freshman and sophomore year when I walked to class or the grocery, no one said anything," says Lindsay Bowen. "Now everywhere I go people say, 'I listened to your game,' or 'I saw your game on TV.'"

Second, Baylor forward Sophia young, the emotional leader of a team that means an enormous amount to a school still living in the wake of a devastating tragedy on the men's side.

The Bears recorded their first sellout earlier this month when Texas came to Waco. "We had scalpers at that game," says Baylor AD Ian McCaw. "I didn't know whether to call security or take pictures. Women's basketball has really been our shining light. It has become a must-see event."
Time to add Jess Davenport to the POY discussion. 18 points, 58% FG, 8 boards, 3 blocks per game for a top-5 team.

Last night she put a big 36-point beat down on Wisconsin.

"I think the Northwestern men's team could really use her," said Badger guard Stephanie Rich said.
Is Jess Strom so good that the Penn State squad would simply collapse without her?


Hit with a bad case of flu, Strom didn't make the trip to Evanston. Penn State went on to lose to the Big Ten's perennial bottom-dweller, Northwestern.

Tanisha Wright had to play point. "Tanisha is holding the ball instead of getting the ball," said coach Rene Portland. "That's a big problem. We're a team of creativity. We're a team that says, 'OK, stop that play and we'll give you another one.' We play that game with people."

"I don't know if the realization has hit of what we just did," said Samantha McComb. "They were sitting alone at the top of the Big Ten at 7-0. I think it will hit us a little later, but we just knocked off a very good team."

Strom is expected to be back for Sunday's game against Minnesota.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Outside the Lines feature on Rick Lopez was, like almost everything OTL does, excellent.

The strangest part was the interview with Lopez's sister, who still seemed to maintain that the whole thing wasn't true. When asked to explain the accusations, she said it was just "jealousy," and that the girls all came forward because "they wanted him to themselves."

The show did a nice job emphasizing the important points -- how people looked the other way, how hard it is for girls to come forward, how parents need to be vigilant, and how the power of the coaching relationship lends itself to abuse.

There was some talk about how the girls felt "trapped" by Lopez, because he was so controlling, and because he was their only access to top college programs. After the show, Sara was saying the same thing -- when she was in high school, there was only one real club team in Minnesota. If you wanted recruiting exposure, that team was your only chance.

The coaches of the big club programs have a large amount of power. With power comes the potential for abuse. That's why I remain so disheartened that AAU has apparently done nothing at all to address this problem.
Done deal: Coop is no longer the head coach of the Denver Nuggets.
At the Star-Telegram, Mercedes Mayer lists the five players she believes are competing for the national player of the year awards: Augustus, Wecker, Wright, Currie, and McCarville.

It's a little surprising for a writer in Texas to omit both Irvin and Lyttle. If we had to narrow it to five right now (which we don't), I would sub Sandora in for Tanisha.
Newsday has a feature on Sue Wicks, one of the all-time favorites. (Hat tip, Geyer.)
Have you heard? Sports blogging is the next Big Thing. (You mean it isn't already the Big Thing?) Yes, my days of fame and fortune are just around the corner.

I'm hoping to skip the self-congratulatory, on-the-rise media profile, everyone-kissing-my-ass phase so that I can go straight to the wasted, burnt-out, drugged-up, hanging-out-with-Jacko-and-Liza-Minelli, whatever-happened-to phase.
At SI.com, Kelli Anderson says Sancho Lyttle deserves more ink.
Cappie Pondexter led Rutgers to a big road win over BC at Conte Forum. She scored 22 of her 27 in the second half.

"I think it's a great arena shooting-wise," said Pondexter. "And I had a little more motivation today. We haven't beaten Boston College, my class, in my four years. We had to get them once."
Oklahoma had a 14-point lead over Texas in the second half but blew it, and went on to lose in OT.

"This was a very difficult game to lose because we dominated for about 35 minutes," said coach Sherri Coale. "It also goes back to the fact that we had a chance to put them away early in the second half, but we didn’t."

"We had almost everyone make some kind of big shot for us," coach Conradt said. "Kala had a nice shot and knocked it down." Bowers hit a jumper to tie the game with eight second left. Tiffany Jackson had 30 and 16.
Purdue learned what lots of other teams already know: it's hard to stop Kelli Roehrig. Roehrig had 20 points on 10-for-13 as MSU beat the Boilers. "She's a great player and she's hard to guard," said Purdue center Emily Heikes.

Purdue fell to 4-4 in conference as Michigan State improved to 6-2. "I think it’s experience," coach Curry said. "Definitely when they have two seniors like they do. You’ve got all those kids returning, they’ve played together for a long time and they understand their strengths and weaknesses and the extra pass and the little things."
The Nuggets are closer still to replacing Coop with George Karl. And contrary to yesterday's reports, Marc Stein says that Karl will take over this week.

Some Denver players are grumbling. "I like the coach we've got now," Marcus Camby said.

"I can't worry about my position, because I knew taking the job as the interim, that's what it was," said Coop.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I recently received a couple emails from a parent of one of the victims in the Rick Lopez case:

Your thoughts on your last post about boundaries were my thoughts exactly. The coaches, even if not enforced by the AAU, should have their own contracts in which they state what they will and will not allow (driving alone with girls or any time at all alone with the girls and more...) I believe that is the first step -- coach accountability.

Next, a parent chaperone in every room who is accountable for every girl, every minute. I believe that person should be slightly compensated so it is understood how important that is. Anyway, there is more such as parents putting personal boundaries on their children's relationships, keeping them balanced with sports, school, church (if applicable) and other outside activities. Obviously, I could go on forever. I certainly hope the AAU takes notice though!

I was especially happy to see your post though because so many people want to blame the parents citing us as greedy, uncaring etc... that just makes it easier for people to believe that it couldn't happen to them, in which case no one learns anything.

I really hope families are able to learn from this - that's how I'm getting through it!

The Lopez story will be on Outside the Lines nightly tonight, in a feature titled "A Trust Betrayed." Midnight eastern on ESPN.
Let's take a look at the efficiency ratings for some of the main candidates for the national player of the year awards.

I ran three different formulas. The WNBA formula is the simplest -- you get a point for each point, assist, rebound, steal, and block, and you lose a point for each missed shot and turnover. The ACC formula is slightly more complicated -- it gives more weight to points and assists, and it penalizes fouls. The Prouty Rating is the most complicated, and it takes into account team success.

WNBA Efficiency Formula:

Irvin: 29.0
McCarville: 24.5
Wecker: 24.2
Currie: 21.0
Batteast: 19.9
Augusutus: 19.4

ACC Efficiency Formula:

Wecker: 1.54
Irvin: 1.51
McCarville: 1.39
Currie: 1.30
Augusutus: 1.30
Batteast: 1.17

Prouty Rating:

Irvin: 0.557
Wecker: 0.557
Currie: 0.556
Augustus: 0.555
McCarville: 0.550
Batteast: 0.527

Of course, if you're playing weaker teams, you'll put up bigger numbers, so we must make some subjective adjustment for strength of schedule (which isn't built in to any of the ratings). Right now, according to CollegeRPI, they are: LSU (3), Notre Dame (7), Duke (9), Minnesota (26), TCU (34), K State (40).

What does this tell us? To me, the race seems wide open. Augustus has been the presumptive favorite all year, but while she's easily the best pure scorer in the country, she isn't as good as the other candidates at other aspects of the game.

And of course, the most important games of the season are yet to be played. Leading your team to Indianapolis trumps any statistical rating.

UPDATE: PUMatty asks whether Tanisha Wright and Jess Strom should be added to the list of top contenders. Given PSU's great run lately, they have a good argument. Their numbers, however, don't compare to the six above. Wrights numbers in the three different ratings are 17.7, 1.06, and 0.480.
In the St. Paul Pioneer Press this morning, Charley Walters cites Keegan:

"The Phoenix Mercury will make Gophers center Janel McCarville the third overall pick in this year's WNBA draft, projects www.insaneplatypus.com, a women's basketball blog. The Minnesota Lynx, with the No. 11 overall pick, will choose guard Dee Dee Wheeler of Arizona."
30 years ago today: the first nationally televised women's basketball game.
Adam Zagoria reports on the search for a new commish. As candidates who "have reportedly been considered for the position," he names Blaze, Sarnoff, Brown, Lieberman, Meyers, Toler, Sulka, and O'Malley.

But no one on the inside is talking. "I don't know if they're being considered or not," Sharon Robustelli said. "I would think that there would be some people outside of those mentioned."
Iowa State inexplicably received one first-place vote in the coaches' poll released yesterday. As if to prove that voter's error, the Cyclones went out and got pounded by K State.

The Cats had 59 rebounds to the Cyclones' 31. Wecker had 26 and 15.

After the game, ISU coach Bill Fennelly called Kendra and the other K State seniors together to tell them how much respect he has for their game.

"They're a very good team and they outplayed us every step of the way," Fennelly said. "There's no excuses, we got outplayed by a better team tonight."
Coop, not optimistic: "I think one of the big things is they want a coach with some experience. That's not a knock on me. I just think that's what management wants."

If the Nuggets hire George Karl, Cooper would apparently remain on as interim head coach till the end of the season, at which point Karl would take over, and Coop would return to the assistant's chair. That sounds like the worst of both worlds.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

In the small NBA-WNBA coaching carousel, Coop might be out sooner than we'd hoped, but Bill might be in sooner than we'd expected.

In Denver, the Nuggets continue to struggle. Many of the players are hurt or pouting or both. Yesterday Denver GM Kiki Vandeweghe flew to Chicago to meet with George Karl, and Marc Stein reported this afternoon that Karl and the Nuggets are hammering out a deal.

In Detroit, Larry Brown may be on his way out as Pistons head coach. Awhile ago, I said that Brown would be around for at least a few years. But he's had a bad run lately. His Olympic team fared poorly and faced derision from all corners. His Detroit squad, after unexpectedly winning the title in '04, has fallen back to the middle of the pack (sound familiar?). He's been complaining about the new NBA rules, and he's been bickering in the press with some of his stars. His friend Tony Kornheiser has started hinting that Brown won't be back next year, and Brown himself said recently, "I don't know how much longer I really want to coach, to be honest."

If Larry leaves, Laimbeer will have the inside track, though he may face competition from Phil Jackson, Pat Riley... and Michael Cooper.
Stephen Rodrick explains how ESPN has ruined sportswriting too.

He also takes a shot at Lobo's husband: "As anyone who has read Sports Illustrated's Steve Rushin knows, it's quite possible to write an unreadable column without being a television pundit." Ouch.
The issue of sexual misconduct by coaches isn't a new one, and at least some people have been working toward solutions for quite some time.

The Women's Sports Foundation leads the way. The WSF has an excellent position statement on the issue, including Guidelines for Administrators Charged with Hiring and Supervising Coaches. We should demand that every institution involved in girls' and women's basketball make an effort to comform with these guidelines.

The WSF also has a self-assessment tool for coaches to help define what it means to cross the line with players.

While we're in the realm of the Women's Sports Foundation, there's another issue worth addressing. A couple people have emailed and asked (usually with some trepidation) whether we're wrong to frame this problem as one of male coaches committing misconduct. They ask: aren't female coaches sometimes involved in inappropriate behavior with players? Are you, for political reasons, ignoring that aspect of the problem?

I don't doubt that female coaches cross the line too, but my sense is that it's less common.

I don't know what the academic literature on the subject of coaches' misconduct says about gender statistics for offenders. And I don't know whether the numbers might vary from youth sports to college sports.

But we do know, in general, that the great majority of sex offenders are men. Government statistics (see this PDF, e.g.) show that about 99% of rapes are committed by men. I believe that figure includes statutory as well as forcible rape. For other sex offenses, the number is not as high, but it is still over 90%.

I'm willing to be convinced otherwise by contrary data, but I think it's reasonable to suppose that female coaches are substantially less likely to abuse their position. I believe that parents' worries about "lesbian predator" coaches are vastly overblown. I believe that more female coaches in youth sports would reduce sexual misconduct (and have other benefits as well).

The most important point, however, is simpler and less controversial. Rules regarding sexual misconduct by coaches should be written and enforced in a gender-neutral manner. Every coach, man or woman, should receive training and should make a commitment to respect appropriate boundaries.

The WSF, which has earned more than a little credibility on issues of orientation and sport, nails the bottom line when it comes to sexual misconduct: "There should be zero tolerance of such behavior on the part of any coach, male or female, gay or straight."
Keegan posts an early mock WNBA draft, based on the assumption that Currie and Polkie will return to school next year. His top five: Pondexter, Irvin, McCarville, Wecker, Batteast.
nguyenphoto at the espn board lists the players who were added to the midseason Wooden Award list and those who were dropped from the preseason list. Shyry Ely, Loree Moore, Ann Strother, and Barbara Turner all dropped off, meaning that neither UConn nor Tennessee has anyone on the midseason list.
Kendra Wecker was already famous 10 years ago. For football.

At age 12, she became the first girl to make the finals of the NFL's Punt, Pass, and Kick competition. "The hardest part," says Wecker, "was doing all the interviews. Everyone kept asking, 'So what's it feel like to be a girl and do all this stuff.' I didn't know what to say. I mean, how do you answer that?"
Dawn Staley, on the Owls' first-ever ranking: "It's a reward for all the players who have come through Temple, especially under me."
Karleen Thompson heading to Houston.
FSU had yet another crazy overtime win last night, this time over Va Tech.

"We go into a double overtime game and I just can't say enough about my team and the way they came out and fought the way they did," coach Sue Semrau said. "I think our unsung hero was LaQuinta Neely, coming in and defending the way she did and she hit that driving runner to put us into double overtime. They just never quit. Roneeka (Hodges) and Alicia (Gladden) did what they always do. This team just continues to get better and better every game and more and more heart."

The Hokies had more than a few chances to put the game away. Up by two with nine second left in the first OT, Kerri Gardin got fouled, but she missed both free throws, and then the 'Noles scored at the other end. The Hokies never led in the second.
The Duke-UNC game turned into a slogfest -- or, as the TV announcers always say, a "defensive battle." Duke shot 23%, UNC shot 29%.

The Heels thus broke their 12-game losing streak against the Devils. "It's great," said UNC senior Nikita Bell. "Four years? It was a fun game. Beating the No. 1 team -- and it's Duke -- that's a double victory."

"We got on the boards, played good defense and rebounded -- those things were in our favor," coach Hatchell said.

After a quiet first half, Mo Currie did her best to mount a single-handed comeback in the second, where she scored 22 of her 24. "I knew we had to play with a sense of urgency," she said. "We couldn't be tentative at all. I just tried to get more aggressive, get more involved in the game."

Some nice game photos here, courtesy of Orin.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sue Bird may be the Sherri Coale of players. Here's Russian diary entry #2.

After playing overseas, she gives some props to WNBA refs. "Yes, you read this correctly. I have a new found appreciation, and I'll leave it at that."
Phil Musnick on Sandora Irvin's block record. Phil says "there should be two record books: one for the real things, the other for ill-gotten achievement, for swiping candy from a baby." He says Sandora's was "relatively righteous."
Voepel on Jackie Stiles. "If I don't at least try everything and feel like I've exhausted every option," says Stiles, "I'll always live in regret."
More reaction to Eric Adelson's Rick Lopez story and the issue of sexual misconduct by coaches --

Eric at Off Wing argued last week that exhaustive background checks for coaches may be the best solution.

SWE looks at Adelson's writing.

X-Over has some good thoughts and also a bunch of helpful links.

Regarding my suggestion that adult coaches shouldn't be alone with minor players, Pilight says: "I am frankly amazed that this isn't already the rule. In the company I work for (a large national retailer with over 300,000 employees) it's against the rules to have a one-on-one closed door meeting with another employee and has been for all the years that I've worked here. Either the office door stays open or you bring in a witness. That's with everyone being an adult."

Yep, I think the sports world is behind the times on this issue. Over a decade ago, I had to go to a sexual harassment class in order to be a church camp counselor. Do girls' basketball coaches receive any such training? I'm sad to say I doubt it.

Betty Bean wonders whether a criminal trial for Lopez might have helped to raise awareness of the issue and teach other parents some lessons.

In terms of legal responses, we might also wonder whether civil lawsuits loom. The threat of lawsuits is part of what motivated corporations, schools, and churches to implement sexual harassment guidelines and training. Institutions in sport may be inviting liability if they fail to do the same.
Vandy dropped its third straight SEC game to LSU. Augustus played 40 minutes and scored 20 points. Fowles dominated the second half, where she scored 20 of her 22 (why is she still coming off the bench?).

"We haven't experienced much success here," said coach Pokey. "But I'm more pleased with the way we got it done. We didn't quite finish it like we'd have liked, but for 85 percent of the game, we played the way we needed to in terms of the scouting report."
Purdue got its biggest win of the season and snapped a three-game skid by beating Iowa. Super sophs Katie Gearlds and Erin Lawless led the way, with some help from freshman forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton.

"I'm so happy," said Gearlds. "I really can't put it into words. I'm just glad. We really stuck together. We knew it was difficult. We just really came together. I don't even know what to say. I'm just so excited we won. It feels so good."
Notre Dame outscored Rutgers 43-16 in the second half to give coach McGraw her 400th win. The comeback included a 23-0 run.

"Twenty-three points in a row, that's crazy," said coach Stringer. "Batteast just put the team on her back and decided not to lose."

Batteast scored 27 on 10-for-20. "My teammates realized I was hot," she said.

"When Jackie's coming out, shaking people, pulling up and hitting jump shots, that gives the rest of the team a little more energy on defense," said Megan Duffy, who dished out 11 assists. "We're bouncing, our legs don't feel as tired. It's fun watching her hit those shots."
NC State handed Maryland its first home loss of the season. Turnovers continued to hurt the Terps, and an injured Shay Doron shot just 1-for-12.

"It was a disappointing game because we're a better team than we showed today," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said.
At this point, is there any reason why Penn State shouldn't be the highest ranked Big Ten team? "November" is not a reason.

True, the Lions have benefitted from a favorable schedule. Among the top four teams in conference (PSU, OSU, Minnesota, and MSU), no one has beaten anyone else on the road. You could say that Penn State is only undefeated because it hasn't had to play any of those teams on the road. Moreover, it will only have to do so once all season -- the last game at Ohio State.

But after beating Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan State, it's time to give them some respect. If Rutgers can jump from #24 to #4 in two weeks, Penn State deserves to jump into the top ten. And these wins should no longer be called "upsets."

Strom and Wright scored 24 each yesterday, and once again, they took control of the game when it counted. "We should be able to pressure Strom," MSU head coach Joanne McCallie said. "[But] they had two seniors that took over the game. They outplayed us, they outhustled us and obvious they outscored us."

"In the second half you just have to come out with a whole new focus," Strom said. "And that's when we usually get it. We talk about first five minutes of the second half, and that's where we really try to make a run."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

From the mailbag, regarding the sexual misconduct issue:

None of the articles examine the role of the parents in protecting their children, or how to educate parents about what is and isn't appropriate behavior by a coach. That seems almost ridiculous to write, but it's less ridiculous than a coach sleeping over at a player's house!

It seems to me, the parents should be stepping up and teaching their kids that there are clear boundaries between a coach, school sports, and their personal life. Predators look for situations where there is a lack of a clear boundary, and it both enables and protects the predator. NCAA and AAU regulations can help, but surely the first and last line of defense is a strong education about proper boundaries.

Yes, there is much truth in that.

You have to preface this discussion by emphasizing that it isn't about looking backward. There's no reason to point the finger at the parents who've been involved at the Lopez case or any other. That's just another species of victim-blaming.

Instead, we need to looking forward and face the problem. In doing that, we must say that parents have a responsibility to recognize and enforce boundaries.

What should the boundaries be? Of course for starters, sleepovers with coaches aren't a good idea. That one is easy. Other questions aren't so easy to answer.

I would say that we have to adopt a difficult but necessary rule: one-on-one time alone between an adult coach and a minor player is out of bounds. It's sad to be forced to draw that line -- we are no doubt throwing out some good things with the bad -- but I think it has to be done, just as it has been done in other contexts (churches, schools, etc.) across the country.

So if we have some boundaries in mind, and we agree that parents need to be educated, the next question is: who is to act as teacher?

Here, again, I think we need to look to AAU, the NCAA, the WBCA, and state high school leagues. They have some ability to educate, and they have some responsibility. In addition, the media can and should play a role. Thank god for the great reporting from the Denver Post, the Seattle Times, and Albuquerque Tribune, and now ESPN The Magazine -- they have helped to raise awareness of the problem.

And really, awareness may be the best cure we have. The goal isn't to make parents hysterical or to make them approach every coach with suspicion. The goal is simply to make parents aware of a potential problem so they can take common-sense steps to avoid it.
Minnesota tore up Illinois at Williams today. Angelina Williams (no relation) is a special basketball talent. Today wasn't a great day for her -- she disappeared for a big stretch, she did not seem to be getting along with her coach (who said after the game that Angelina didn't step up), and she did not score many of her points till the garbage minutes against the end of our bench.

Still, she did some things I haven't seen anyone other than Augustus do all year. She is a player who could do some damage at the next level, but she may suffer for lack of exposure.

The Gophers, led by the underappreciated Kelly Roysland with 19 off the bench, had their best offensive game of the year. "Everyone stepped up and hit shots," Roysland said. "It was a fun game for all of us."

"We need to do a better job of listening to our scouts," Illinois coach Theresa Grentz said. "We knew what Roysland could do."
Demetri notes that in the KRT wire story on Fatima Maddox, Joe Powdrell was listed as "president of the Albuquerque chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colorado People."

Yes, my friends, residents of the Centennial State have faced bigotry and discrimination for too long. It is time to stand up and fight.
It was a ton of fun to watch those two great Big XII games back-to-back yesterday. They featured some amazing players: Tiffany Jackson, Sophia Young, Erin Grant, and Kendra Wecker.

The game was close till the final few minutes, when Baylor suddenly imploded, turning the ball over again and again. Texas had been struggling before yesterday, losing four of its last six, but yesterday it got its running game going, and the inside-out combo of Jackson and Nina Norman was just too good.

"To me, Nina Norman doesn't get enough credit for Texas's basketball team," coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson said. "Either that or she can't stand Baylor. She commands a lot of attention because she goes where she wants with the basketball."

The second game went down to the wire. Wecker, still slowed by her ankle, took over the game in the final minutes. With seven seconds left, she drove and shot over Cisti Greenwalt. It rolled around the rim and fell through.

At the other end, Grant drove and shot just before the buzzer. Her attempt rolled around the rim and fell out. She was obviously disappointed, but she's an excellent point guard -- I wish she were a senior so the Lynx could draft her this year.

Coach Marsha Sharp was upset with K State's celebration after the game; she called it "not very classy."

On TV, it looked like all the Cats did was jump around a little near their bench. It didn't seem excessive considering the magnitude of the game and the way it finished. Some fans thought it went on too long, and it sounded like some of them started booing. Coach Sharp said that K State should have stopped celebrating and gotten off the floor once the school song game on. Coach Patterson quickly apologized "for any offense that coach Sharp and her staff may have taken."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Yesterday, the Rick Lopez story and the issue of sexual misconduct received its first attention in the national media.

Eric Adelson published a 5000-word article for ESPN The Magazine. The article is featured on the front page of ESPN.com this morning. It offers more details about how so many parents got fooled for so long.

Adelson also wrote a companion piece looking at the issue more generally. He cites a Canadian sociologist, Sandra Kirby, whose book is fittingly titled "Dome of Silence." Kirby "found that 22.8 percent of respondents in a Canadian sample had sexual intercourse with a coach or other person in position of authority within their sport." I'm always skeptical of those sorts of numbers (ahem), but if the truth is anywhere close to that, it is absolutely stunning. Even 2% would be shockingly and unacceptably high.

One of the contributing factors (something we already know): the "stunning lack of oversight of youth sports." Adelson notes that "Lopez had no oversight from high schools, the AAU or the NCAA."

Adelson's excellent work will help bring national attention to this problem. More importantly, it may help motivate AAU, the NCAA, the WBCA, state high school associations, and other institutions to take action.

Helen Wheelock is working on a long opinion piece for the WBCA newsletter. It asks why no one is talking about this, why we aren't doing more.

A couple weeks ago I emailed several folks at AAU asking them if they were considering any action in response to the recent scandals. (Helen laughed at me for trying.) I got a terse reply from National Director Carroll Graham referring me to Jan Lyon for legal questions. I haven't been able to get any response from her.

It's time to move this to the front burner. Pretending there's no problem won't make it go away.

UPDATE: Katy asks:

On espn.com the main title suggested that title IX was responsible for this sort of problem. It seems to me like that kind of headline suggests that getting girls and women involved in sport is wrong and sounds eerily like "she asked for it". Am i missing something or is that what it implies?

Yeah, that connection is a little strange. Adelson's view is expressed this way:

Title IX has revolutionized sports and opened up a world of thrilling possibilities for women athletes, but it also has had a terrifying and underestimated side effect: sexual abuse by coaches.

That's a little bit like calling gang wars a side effect of public schools, or calling drug abuse a side effect of music. If not for Title IX, far fewer girls would play hoops, and there'd be less opportunity for abuse. But you could also say -- if not for the invention of the automobile, far fewer girls would play hoops, and there'd be less opportunity for abuse.

Examining cause and effect that way isn't important anyway. The important question is: what can we do to reduce the problem? Title IX has little or nothing to do with the answer.
The New York Times reports the WNBA is close to naming Val Ackerman's replacement. The likely candidates?

Renee Brown - Senior Vice-President for Player Personnel
Carol Blazejowski - GM of the New York Liberty
Nancy Lieberman - ESPN analyst
Ann Meyers - ESPN analyst
Penny Toler - GM of the Los Angeles Sparks

I cannot think of five more undesirable candidates. And whatever happened to Ann Sarnoff, the WNBA's Chief Operating Officer?

My choice for WNBA Commissioner? Why not Anne Mariucci, former minority owner of the Phoenix Mercury? Mariucci was the President of Del Webb Corp, a former collegiate athlete, a longtime Mercury supporter before acquiring part of the team last year, and an active member of charitable organizations in Phoenix. A great business mind is just what the WNBA needs...

My other candidates? Kathy Munro and Andrea Lloyd-Curry.

Friday, January 21, 2005

From West Virginia SID Shelly Poe, regarding Georgeann Wells:

I was covering the women's team at West Virginia at the time Georgeann and her older sister Marva came to WVU. As I remember it, she dunked frequently in practices and summer competition as a high schooler and she came to us with the reputation that she would someday dunk in a game. I don't recall any specific reference to a dunk in a game during high school.

I would also like to add that Georgeann did dunk for us twice in games (three times, actually, but one was disallowed because of a foul called at midcourt on another player) and teams would come into games with special plays because they didn't want to be the ones to get dunked on. That was before the time the women's game went to a smaller basketball; Georgeann's long fingers gave her the ability to palm the larger-size ball when few women could.
Received an email yesterday from Hans Brauer, coach of the German league Marburg Blue Doplhins. They are looking for a post. They're paying 3000 Euros for the rest of the season, which, given the weak dollar, is probably like 100 grand U.S. Travel costs provided, plus free apartment to be shared with Gioconda Mendiola and Livia Antics (the latter seems like a stage name of some sort, but apparently it's a real person).

While we're at it, Sara's rec league team could still use a post. No money in it, but easier than moving to Germany. With Sara now sidelined with alien in tummy, we got our butts kicked Wednesday.
Florida State. Two games. Two ranked opponents. Two overtime wins.

Just days after the big win over Maryland, the Seminoles knocked off UNC.

Ganiyat Adeduntan had 26, 9, and 5. "We talk about developing a championship mentality and having to conquer hard things in order to believe in that championship mentality," coach Sue Semrau said. "They continue to conquer everything in front of them."

Coach Hatchell complained about the reffing. The Heels are now 2-2 in ACC action. They remain ranked in the top 10, even though they have an RPI that may be somewhere in the 40s or 50s.
Your daily dose of anti-propaganda.
Vandy fell to unranked Mississippi.

"It doesn't matter to us who steps off that bus to come in here and play," Ole Miss coach Carol Ross said. "Our goal is to defend our homecourt. It was a good step forward ... a great win for us for a lot of reasons."

The Rebs shot 26 free throws compared to only 11 for the Commodores. "We just got killed on free throws," coach Balcomb said.
There are currently five Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25. Somewhat absurdly, Penn State isn't one of them, even though it's the only team unbeaten in conference play.

The Lions had another convincing win last night over Purdue. The fabulous pair of Strom and Wright combined for 45.

Said coach Kristy Curry: "You have to give Jess and Tanisha credit. They're a pretty special duo."

"I don't know if we felt like we had to take over," Wright said. "We just needed to have calm presence when they made runs. I think Jess really provided the calmness."
BC got a one-point win over West Virginia after the refs sent Clare Droesch to the line with .2 on the clock.

Mountaineer coach Mike Carey, not happy: "I'm probably going to get in trouble, but you don't make that call at the end of a game. That game was too hard fought by both teams."

Maybe he should make some t-shirts with "0.2" and "never forget" on them. That'll make him feel better.

UPDATE: an email from blogger Jen Garrett:

I was at the BC/WVa game, and it was *ugly.* I love BC, but their game was off last night. That being said, the officiating was deeply, deeply flawed. When 38 fouls are called in a 40-minute game, you've got some whistle-happy referees. That being said (again), the foul at the end was legit. The WVa defender got ball with the hand but it was the body contact that made the foul.

On a side note, I don't buy this whole "don't let fouls determine the game with .2 seconds left." Why not? Fouls determine the game all the time (with 1:15 left, with 2:34 left, etc.). Carey just didn't want to lose. None of us do.
Stanford scored 100 points and handed UCLA its third straight loss.

In the absence of Noelle Quinn, Nikki Blue and Lisa Willis stepped up and scored 51 points, but it was no match for the Cardinal's balanced attack and 15 three-pointers.

"A lot of people contributed tonight," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We really shot the ball well. When we got the ball inside, we scored. When we got it inside and they doubled, we kicked it out and a lot of people hit big 3-pointers."
Nell Fortner's SEC start hasn't been easy -- the Tigers have lost their first four conference games.

Last night they lost to Tennessee. Was there any consolation in the relatively small margin of loss? Not really. "I don't walk away thinking of it as a moral victory," Fortner said. "You just want to win."

Fluker had another good game, with 18 and 11. "I was aggressive," she said. "I went to the hole with a mindset that I had to score."
Cheryl Burnett's ten-woman roster has seven freshman and no one much taller than six feet.

That made easy work for the Gopher posts -- McCarville and Broback combined for 37 points on 15-for-20. Janel added 9 boards, 6 steals, 5 assists, and 3 blocks.

Michigan remains winless in the Big Ten. "All I can say is, we're recruiting size," coach Burnett said.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Lauren Jackson, rehabbing down under, is still trying to decide whether to return to the WNBL next year or head to Europe for the big bucks. It's all about the benjamins, I guess.
WNBA in Chicago sounds even closer to a done deal. Real estate mogul Michael Alter is heading the ownership team. Alter, a grad of Harvard and U Chicago law, also founded City Year, a nonprofit youth service organization.
Michigan State improved to 16-2 win a 20-point win over the Illini.

Kristin Haynie broke the Spartans' all-time assist record. "I have to just give credit to my team for that one," Haynie said about the milestone.
All five Duke starters reached double figures as the Devils beat the Demon Deacons.

Duke's inside game was particularly good. The Devils had a 38-23 rebounding edge, and Mistie Williams and Alison Bales had 22 and 21 points, respectively.

"The biggest thing for them was us being able to defend their first shot, but not their second or third," Wake coach Mike Petersen said. "We had trouble rebounding due to their height. Rebounding is usually a team function, but unfortunately we lost a lot of the individual battles, which led to their rebounds."
Earlier this week, Barry got his wish, as Richmond entered the top-25 in the coaches' poll, and sat just a few points shy in the AP.

But last night the Spiders fell to GW.

"They know us inside and out and I think they came out more focused and more ready to play and they were just really hungry for this game," Richmond coach Joanne Boyle said. "They know our weaknesses and they came out and pressured and we got back on our heels. They took us out of our game altogether with the pressure and we just didn't respond. Honestly, they outworked us."
Fatima Maddox explains why she left New Mexico. She said she never accused Coach Flanagan of being racist, and she says she's surprised at all of the publicity.

Maddox is heading to Temple, where coach Dawn Staley plans to help her fulfill her dream of playing in the WNBA.
List of WNBA players receiving "core" status:

CT: Taj McWilliams-Franklin
SASS: Margo Dydek
NYL: Vickie Johnson
SAC: Ticha Penichiero and Yolanda Griffith
CHAR: Dawn Staley
IND: Natalie Williams

While I will never understand what Margo Dydek contributes to warrant core status, Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil has always made questionable personnel decisions. Chalk this up as another one.

With Ticha and Yo having been cored and receiving max salaries, expect the bidding wars to heat up for one of the most coveted restricted free agents: DeMya Walker. Teams are now in a position to offer DeMya a higher salary than she merits because Sacramento has to pay $89,000 per year to Ticha, $89,000 to Yolanda, and a max or near-max salary to retain unrestricted free agent, Tangela Smith. In a nutshell, other WNBA teams can hold Sacramento hostage because of the hard cap of $679,000.

DeMya Walker is emerging is the crown jewel of the free agent crop.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

From the mailbag, Lettie has an addition to the high school girl-dunker list:

I think you are missing one: Georgeann Wells, who ended up being the first woman to dunk in college at WVa, supposedly dunked in high school. This was in Ohio, back in the late-Victorian era, because I was also in high school in Ohio at the time. Georgeann played for a team that made it to state in a different division than ours. I had already heard through the grapevine that she had dunked, but while I was hanging out between games, I overheard two officials talking about her. One of them had worked the game in which she did it and admitted to being so suprised he didn't make the little "2-points" finger-V. So this is all hearsay, but I certainly believed it at the time. I don't even know if anybody kept track of that sort of thing then. Would've been sometime between 1981 and 1983.

I did a google search but couldn't find any mention. Can anyone else confirm?

UPDATE: My previous searches were messed up because I missed the "e" in her name. Barry writes in to say that he's not heard any reports that she might have dunked in high school.

Here is a photo of Georgeann dunking for WVU. Wells is widely credited as being the first woman to dunk in college, but I can't find anything about her dunking in high school. GBall Mag reported last year that, before Parker and Fowles, there had been no high school dunking. The Des Moines Register reported that Wells's 1984 dunk was the first dunk in women's competition. But it may be that the story simply never got out.

ANOTHER UPDATE: just heard from Jim Massie, the women's basketball reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. He says that neither he nor his editor had ever heard anything about Wells dunking when she was at Northland High School, and that the Dispatch contains no record of it. Sounds like this one may have to remain part of the ethereal world of legend.
Terrible news for UCLA -- after losing back-to-back games this weekend, the Bruins found out yesterday that Noelle Quinn will be out for 3-6 weeks because of a knee injury.

Quinn was the team's leading scorer and rebounder. "The best thing is it doesn't appear to be a season-ending injury," said coach Kathy Olivier. "But we still don't know how long she'll be out. We're still figuring out exactly what we're going to do tomorrow."
The Phoenix Suns have reacquired full control of the Mercury, taking back what they sold to Anne Mariucci and Kathy Munro last year.

As the Republic reports this morning: "In just 11 months, Anne Mariucci and Kathy Munro have gone from pioneer sports executives to jilted investors in the Phoenix Mercury."

Seth Sulka is expected to remain as GM, which is good, but on the whole, this is a disappointing development. As someone who hope for greater independence from the NBA, I was excited to Anne and Kathy got their stake, and I was hopeful that they'd eventually have full control.

The Suns apparently see enough financial promise in the Merc that they want to own it, at least for awhile. You could call that a silver lining. But on the whole, this seems like a step backward for the franchise and the league.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Barry posted yesterday about high school girls dunking.

How about an eighth grader? Read today about the legend of Brooklyn Pope.
The Wolfpack faithful showed up in pink wristbands last weekend to express their support for Kay Yow, and even the visiting Tarheels joined in the display of pink. Best of luck to coach Yow as she beats cancer again.
Yet... another... parity article.

But wait! This one (by Vicki Friedman) actually runs some numbers.

"Barely halfway through the season, the first 10 AP polls have included 35 teams. Compare that to last year, when the entire season saw just 38 teams appear in the poll. Two years ago, the total was 36; the year before that 42. Already this season, LSU, Tennessee and Duke have reached the No. 1 spot. The most the poll has ever had in a season is four teams at the top spot at some point."

Charlie Creme is happily back on the scene this week with some early bracket projections and his own thoughts on parity. He says we're just seeing the evolution of the game, which will lead to more good teams and fewer great ones.
Summitteers debate whether internet message boards are ruining the culture of women's basketball.

Board Junkies debate the WNBA free agents.
If you hadn't seen enough already, Lauren Jackson will pose in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

Jayda Evans writes that LJ's Black & White spread "caused a furor" this past summer. I may have missed something, but the only "furor" I remember was from a single anonymous internet message that Jayda plucked from the Storm Fans board in her original article.
The Women's Basketball Server has re-emerged with a new look. Good to have it back.
UConn won convincingly over Texas. The Huskies shot 55% from the field; the Longhorns shot just 34%.

Once again, Charde Houston was the lead attacker, scoring 25 points on 11-for-19. Coach Conradt saw it coming. "I knew things weren't going that well early in the season, but I saw them over the last three or four games," she said. "It's the same thing I thought with Houston. I went uh-oh, they're getting themselves righted just in time for us to get to Hartford."

Jeff Jacobs says the one-name freshman has changed everything.

Charde's grandparents live in Austin, and she almost went to play for the Horns. "They were my No. 1 school until the last few days," she said. "I originally wanted to go to Texas, but something told me to go here."
Camille Little shut down Miami's Tamara James, and Ivory Latta's shot was falling, leading to an easy victory for the Tarheels. Latta finished with 24, 7, and 6.

Miami was expected to do well in its first ACC season; the 'Canes were fourth in the preseason polls. So far, it hasn't gone that well, as they're off to an 0-3 start.
Duke was down by 15 early to Georgia Tech but ended up winning easily.

"I was really proud of the way we responded in the second half," said coach G. "I thought in the first half we got out-hustled, outworked.... I thought we did a much better job, were much more aggressive on both ends of the floor."

Jess Foley, with 23 and 10, had one of her best games. She tied the school record with seven three-pointers.

Just another day at the office for Mo Currie. 27 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists. "Obviously [Currie is] a special player, and tonight she showed that--she stepped up when her team needed her," GT coach MaChelle Joseph said. "The thing I like about her is she's kind of like the silent attacker--you don't even really know she"s got 27 points and 11 rebounds."

Monday, January 17, 2005

Duke-bound power forward, Carrem Gay, has dunked in a high school game.

"It was pretty neat," Royals coach Bob Mackey said of the dunk. "It definitely woke the place up."

Gay joins Amber Harris (Purdue verbal commitment), Sylvia Fowles (LSU freshman), and Candace Parker (Tennessee freshman) as the only young women to have dunked in a high school game.
Over the weekend, the Albuquerque Tribune finished its series on sexual misconduct by male coaches in girls' sports. This excellent series by reporter Jeremy Fowler deserves a read. Here are all of the articles:

"Crossing the line: A tainted record"
"Crossing the line: Blank checks"
"Summer ball adds risk to girls, some say"
"Crossing the line: Shades of gray"
"Coaches more cautious about interaction with players"

All of these are worth reading -- they show different aspects of the problem and point toward some solutions. There are a couple of points from the articles that are worth emphasizing.

First, there are particular risk with summer programs like AAU because they often involve long road trips and because the coaches are subject to less institutional control.

Second, when it comes to relationships between adult male coaches and girl athletes, there are gray areas and borderline cases. It is therefore imperative that schools and summer programs alike develop clear, bright-line rules defining what is acceptable and what is not. Of course, we can't write a rule in advance to cover every situation. But we can do more. AAU's current sexual misconduct policies, for example, appear to be hopelessly vague and woefully insufficient.
Happy MLK Day.
This weekend featured three huge interconference games.

In yesterday's biggie, Big Ten giant OSU put an end to Rutgers's recent streak of giant killing. It was a defensive battle, but the Knights couldn't contain Jessica Davenport, who had 22 and 7. Matter didn't put up big numbers, but a late-game lapse gave her an open look at a key time, and she drained it. "I think Matter's eyes popped out of her head," coach Jim Foster said. "It was the first time someone wasn't within two feet of her all day."

Cappie Pondexter took the blame for the loss. "I'm a veteran player," said Pondexter, who scored five points on 2-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes. "I don't think I stepped up like I'm capable of doing. It's a letdown for me."

Sunday's other TV game between Purdue and Notre Dame showcased two of the country's most talented forwards in Jacqueline Batteast and Erin Lawless. Batteast was simply outstanding, and the Irish got the win. "This one really, really feels good," coach McGraw said. "We came out with an incredible amount of intensity. Our practice Friday was our best of the year. This was our best overall team effort. We tried to limit Gerards and Lawless. We did a great job recognizing where Geralds was."

With the loss, Purdue fell to 10-6. "We're really, really young," coach Curry said, "and that's not been an excuse for me, but it sure does show at times." The next two weeks won't get any easier for the Boilers, as they face Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan State.

On Saturday, Stanford beat BC at Maples. Stanford beat a big early lead, but the Eagles charged back to make a game of it. "This reminded me of an NCAA Tournament game," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "This is a team that's going to the Tournament. I knew a 20- point lead wasn't going to be enough, but I don't know that I communicated that to my team well enough."