Women's Hoops Blog: September 2006

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Seattle residents vote this fall on a measure that would restrict public stadium financing.

Storm-Sonics owner Clayton Bennett hopes the measure will lose but says he doesn't care that much: Initiative 91 "will have minimal impact on our site selection process," which could land the teams within Seattle, in the suburb of Bellevue, or in Oklahoma, where Bennett lives.

Last week the P-I's editorial board hesitantly came out against the measure.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Yolanda Griffith is named "Best Monarch" in the Sacramento News & Review "Best of Sacramento," and it earns her a poem in her honor.

In other Sacramento news, the hullabaloo over a new stadium is reaching bad soap opera status. There's a new plan on the table that officials hope the Maloofs will approve. Suggestions of a "Plan B" are being floated, but are "strongly denied" by City Councilman Steve Cohn.

The pro-arena "Yes on the Q&R" campaign got a $2 million dollar donation and a Sacbee editorial underscores the confusion the bickering between the negotiating parties has created amongst voters, even as people dream of new light-rail stops taking them out to what "might be."

Meanwhile, Bee columnist Marcos Breton is just fed up with the whole mess.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

While there's no legal news to report on the Penn State-Rene Portland vs. Jen Harris case, there is some lawyer news. Linda M. Dardarian and Jessica Beckett-McWalter, two California-based lawyers who work for a firm that describes itself as a class-action and civil-rights group , have joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights in helping to represent Harris.

Over in Happy Valley, per university policy, the school is financing coach Portland's legal defense.

In public relations news, there will be an article focusing on Harris published in October 17th's issue of CosmoGirl.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

(ed. note: The following post was delayed by American football, rantings vs. the NYTimes and inconvenient jobs. It was reinspired by Justine.)

In honor of the Australians winning World Championship gold, the following is an All Aussie, All the Time post.

Aussie! Aussie Aussie!

Oi! Oi! Oi!
"We have worked very hard for this for a long time. To actually be holding a gold medal now is just unbelievable," Lauren Jackson said.

"It is the best thing that has ever happened for women's basketball in Australia.

"We were standing on the gold medal podium and the Americans were getting the bronze medal, so it was nice.
The Storm blog gracioiusly sends out its congrats, there's video of the post-game celebration available (and check out this wild shot of the Aussies), and Mechelle Voepel gives the Aussies full credit.

Post-game stories gave MVP Penny Taylor her due, and she talked about the game's progress. Coach Jan Stirling's triumph over turmoil was celebrated, and the team was honored for capturing the Holy Grail. Interestingly enough, Carrie Graf confirmed her interest in replacing Stirling in the future.

Of note, soon to be married Kristi Harrower's on-court battle during the 91-74 victory continued after the game was over. Seems she and a referee went mano a mano over the game ball. Stripes 1 - Unitards - 0. Hopefully her bridesmaids took good notes in preparation for the bouquet toss.

Today's Townville Bulletin has audio of Erin Phillips, and tells the tale of a happy and, now, healthy Lauren Jackson. Apparently Jackson became ill "whilst returning to Australia from Brazil." Some rebkellians, recalling their freshman year at college, wish the captain a quick recovery.

Fans of women's basketball might be a bit more concerned about the fact that LJ muttered something about "retirement... gold... Beijing Olympics." Seems to me that's reason enough to cheer for anyone BUT the Australians snagging Olympic gold.

While the hometown heros try and enjoy the moment, their victory was hailed as a giant step forward and the start of a new world order. It has also sparked mutterings about Australia hosting the 2010 Worlds (road trip!). There's also talk of a "pay to stay" program to keep Aussie players home and dominant.

Not so fast with the talk of domination, says the legendary Michelle Timms. While the US's aura of invincibility may be over, she expects the US to be ready for bear come 2008.

It sure will be an intersting couple of years.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

Kara Braxton's beau, in some trouble, has been suspended for the rest of the season.
Wurst confirms that the draft lottery will be next month.

Question for the conspiracy theorists among you: What are the odds that whatever year Candace Parker comes out, Chicago will win the lottery?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The WNBA brass have come into Minneapolis this week for league meetings. Tonight at the Target Center they held a small event for local businessfolks and season ticket holders. Donna O, Renee Brown, Jamin Dershowitz, and others were there. I wasn't invited, but security was lax.

A few interesting points:

1. The league and the players are already in negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. (The current CBA expires in a couple weeks, when the league will have to decide whether to exercise its one-year renewal option.) In all likelihood, they won't get a deal done before the impending option deadline, but even after that, they will continue negotiating with the goal of reaching a new deal before the 2007 season starts.

2. Donna talked a lot about corporate sponsorships. Her pitch, which strikes me as pretty convincing, is that the WNBA is a particularly effective (and cost-effective) marketing partner, for two big reasons: (1) WNBA fans are predominantly women, and women make most household purchasing decisions, and (2) WNBA fans are committed to the league, and they will go out of their way to support league sponsors.

As a case study, she discussed Craisins. Craisins had market-by-market promotions, so it was able to measure the effect on sales in each market. It found that marketing through the WNBA brought better returns than any of its other campaigns.

3. Based on a few hints dropped here and there around the room, it sounds like the Lynx will be announcing their coaching hire soon.

(P.s., Craisins are really good. On their own, in salads, in stuffing, whatever.)
Relying in part on Team USA's unexpected loss in Brazil, ESPN is making a big deal about the supposed end of U.S. dominance in sports.

At Volokh, Ilya Somin says we should all calm down.
Ultimately increasing international competition is a net plus - even for US fans - because it raises the quality of play. And when we do win, the victories will mean more because the opposition is now taking the game seriously.
The WNBA and World Championships may be over, but there will still be news and players to track in the off season. Matt Wurst hints that the annual meetings for the WNBA will be in a month. The Draft Lottery will take place at the meetings.

Wurst also reports that .com will have information later this week on all of the league players overseas. Teams like Houston and Indiana are already updating their fans on where the players will be in the off-season.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Sky need a new coach (as do the Lynx). Babcock McGraw says Chicago should look to WNBA assistant coaches, such as Heidi Vanderveer, Bernadette Mattox, or Kevin Cook, who would (she thinks) be less likely to seek men's-side jobs.

Board Junkies, as always, discuss.
The New York Times did finally publish an online AP report on the US National team's bronze medal win: 176 words.

This allows us to come up with a rough estimate on their coverage of the Men's National team vs. Women's National team. You probably have a good guess as to what the numbers will be but, just in case, let me prepare you with a quick flashback to sports editor Tom Jolly and his explanation of how the Times makes "coverage" decisions.
We report the results of all Liberty games, albeit usually in short items. Again, it's a question of resources. Except for the major teams, we're less about covering events and more about reporting on the bigger stories that transcend a particular sport.
So, with no further delay.... drum roll please!

Men: 16,600 words. (lots and LOTS of articles by NYTimes writers)
Women: 1,100 words. (All AP)

To put the numbers in perspective, the 870-word column by Selena Roberts on the men's team entitled "A Team Worth Waving The Flag For" on August 24th all but matched their entire coverage of the women's team. Roberts' piece opened opened:
AMERICA'S pride-reclamation project is not assembled with high-maintenance basketball players who find accommodations like the Queen Mary 2 too cramped for their night-crawling habits. That was Athens, the Olympics and the distracted Allen Iverson. This is Japan, the FIBA world championship and the delightful Chris Paul.
and ended
The players could do everything right. They could pass with unselfishness, rebound with effort and react with integrity -- all qualities rarely associated with an American team filled with N.B.A. players -- and they could still lose.

Victory may be the only acceptable outcome to some. But here is an alternative: In the American climate of athletic gloom, freighted by cheats and louts, a group worth feeling good about is a team redeemed.
In my response to the Times' editors and Roberts, I started by rewriting her first sentence:
"AMERICA’S pride-reclamation project is not assembled with high-maintenance MALE basketball players who find accommodations like the Queen Mary 2 too cramped for their night-crawling habits.

I wish you had used added identifier throughout your piece.

Granted, in Athens, Dawn Staley was rightly frustrated that often the attention/coverage the women's senior team received was framed in contrast to the men's team. But, then again, there's a reason you were writing this article about the Men's National team, not the Women's National team....

The Women's Senior team has always been a team "Worth Waving the Flag For." The women fight tooth and nail for the privilege to play USABasketball. Their commitment is unending and uncompromising. The women's national team has never needed "redeeming." They don't need someone to teach them to be respectful.

Though it would be nice if they got the respect they deserved.
Clearly, as this latest demonstration has shown, they won't get it from the New York Times.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The US shook off their semi-final loss to Russia like it was bad dream and turned the bronze medal match-up into a Brazilian nightmare. Diana Taurai's 28 points (11-15 FGs, 6-7 3pt FG in only 16 minutes), complimented by a well-rounded game from Tina Thompson (15pts/7rebs) and Tamika Catchings (11pts/9rebs) led the US to a rout of the host team, 99-59.

While these Championships may have ushered in "the future" in the person of Candace Parker (10/6 in 14 minutes), the game marked the end of two international careers (at least World Championship): Janeth Arcain and Sheryl Swoopes.

"They are two of the all-time greats," said Anne Donovan. "As her opponent I'll be happy to see (Arcain) retire, but as someone I admire greatly I'd like her to stick with it.

"And I can't say enough about Sheryl. She wasn't able to perform the way we know she can due to injury, but her leadership was second to none."

The post-game press conference features audio from Anne Donovan, Taurasi, Brazilian coach Antonio Barbosa and Janeth. Additional quotes, box score and photos are also available.

Since we can't fail to mention of the New York Times' "coverage," here's today's fun fact: At 12:26est they posted over 1,000 breathless AP-words on the US's early deficit in the Ryder Cup.

As of 4pm, there was no report on the US team's bronze medal. You've got to be wondering if the Times still thinks the women were "eliminated" by the Russians. Ironically enough, Russian victories over Andy Roddick and James Blake might eliminate the US from the Davis Cup -- something the Times did manage to report on.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Clay Kallam admits that there's plenty of blame to go around for the US loss to Russia but, he says, "Donovan can, and should, be held accountable for a multitude of sins, either of commission or omission."

Contrary to the NYTimes article that suggests the US was "eliminated," the team has a little over a day and a half to regroup and prepare for their bronze medal game against Brazil. It won't be an easy game, explains the USA Basketball preview. "For one thing, the Brazilian fans have been raucous to say the least. They're very passionate, loud and never sit down and shut up. They've been a huge boost to the emotional Brazilian squad."

Assistant coach Mike Thiabault talks about the Brazilian team and fellow coach Dawn Staley reflects on the last time a US squad was in this position: 1994, when Staley was still playing and the great Teresa Edwards was her teammate.

Diana Taurasi goes bilingual talking about the loss and Tina Thompson discusses the team's disappointment and lessons learned. There's also audio from Sue Bird and post-Friday practice talk from Anne Donovan.

The US-Brazil game is scheduled for Saturday 8:30am (EST) on NBAtv (rebroadcst on FSN). In the gold medal match, the Australians prepare to face the Russians (1pm EST), but may be hampered by injuries to Kristi Harrower and Penny Taylor.

For anyone interested, it appears that, for $5.95, you can watch or download archived copies of almost all of the championships games.
The US National team's dream of defending their World Championship ended last night when Russia defeated them in the semi-finals 75-68. Russia had control of the game throughout. Though the US made strong runs in the fourth quarter, they were done in by a horrific offensive output in third quarter and great shooting by the Russians (46% on 2's, 57% on 3's) .

The post-game press conference included Anne Donovan, Sheryl Swoopes, and Russians Igor Grudin and Tatiana Shchegoleva. Additional US player quotes and photos are available at the USABasketball site.

Mechelle Voepel writes a thoughtful and perspective offering piece about the loss. "Of course, Donovan will be second-guessed on that (not playing Cheryl Ford) -- and everything else. Team USA couldn't win forever, so some coach was going to have to take that "first loss in a million years." It's too bad it had to be Donovan, someone who has given so much to USA Basketball in her career as a coach and a player."

In the other game, Australia overcame Brazil's early lead and enthusiastic fans, and moved into the finals with a 88-76 victory. Saturday's schedule will see the US face Brazil for the bronze and Russia will battle Russia for the Women's World Championship.

The NY Times gave the game a photo and 140 words.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

USA Basketball's preview of tonight's semi-finals match-up against Russia (6:45est) also includes audio from assistant coach Gail Goestenkors, point guard Sue Bird (who last off-season played with and against some her upcoming opponents), as well as Sheryl Swoopes and Cheryl Ford.

For a look at the Russian team's stats, go here.
Lee Michaelson of FCP has more on all of the quarterfinal games from yesterday in the subscriber section.
The National team's quarter-finals victory inspired the New York Times to publish 394 words from AP (online) about the game. Parker broke Katrina "Tree" McClain's record of 11 blocks in a tournament record. "I know she was a three-time Olympian and a great player,'' said Parker when told about breaking McClain's record. It means a lot. It means my defense is improving and its an honor.''

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The World Championship semi-finals are all set.

After an agita-causing first quarter that ended with the US holiding a one point margin over Lithuania, 27-26, the US regained its form and powered to a 90-56 win. Led by Candace Parker's 18 points and Tina Thompson's 15, the US win means they will face Russia, which defeated Spain 60-56, on Thursday. The two teams met earlier in the tournament, the US emerging a 90-80 victor.

As always, the USABasketball provides game photos, the box score, additional post-game quotes, as well as press conference audio. Tonight's audio features Anne Donovan and Katie Smith, as well as Lithuania's coach Algirdas Paulauskas and 16-year-old Aurime Rinkeviciute. (As a side note, though only 16, Aurime is not the youngest player in the tourney. That distinction goes to Canadian Kelsey Adrian.)

In the other half of the bracket, Australia handled France with relative ease, 79-66. Their semi-final opponent will be Brazil, who overwhelmed the Czech Republic 75-51.

Random note of interest: the wnba.com AP game report was longer than that of the current target-o'my-wrath, the New York Times. The .com also offers a photo gallery from the game.
Matthew Horovitz is one of the lucky few down in Brazil in the World Championships and has an update on Tuesday's practice on .com's blog.

Katie Smith, Tina Thompson and Tamika Catchings also checked in with blog entries on their experiences.

Katie writes about transitioning from the WNBA Championship to USA Basketball and marvels at playing with Candace Parker. Tamika and Tina also are enjoying playing with the phenom and having two special young fans with them - Tina's son, Dyllan and Tamika's nephew, Cannon.
Pelton runs the efficiency numbers from Brazil. Guess who the two best teams are?
As the US prepares to meet Lithuania in the quarterfinals tonight, Sheryl Swoopes confirms this will be her last World Championships.

Candace Parker's impressive play continues to be a big story. She's the focus of an article on the Fiba site, while Oscar Dixon over at USAToday checks in on Parker's growth.

The Lynx site does a Q&A with rookie Seimone Augustus, and the veteran Tina Thompson gets some well-deserved attention from Mechelle Voepel.

A side note from the "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" camp. If you're watching tonight's World Championship on NBAtv (6.45est) or the replay on your local FSN station, you might consider sending each organization an email of support.

For all we rage against the lack of coverage of the women's game (yes, I'm still counting: the women's victory over the Czechs earned'em a whoppin' 47 AP-words in the NYTimes), it's important to acknowledge those that DO make the effort to cover the game.

NBAtv can be reached through the WNBA. You can contact FSN here.

If you're interested in other contacts, or need some helpful hints on activating for media coverage, check out womensbasketballonline.com's Media Tips as well as their WNBA page for media outlets.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More details from Full Court Press about their on-site coverage of FIBA World Championships. Two free article cover yesterday's games, including the US win over the Czechs, as well as Day 3 of the tourney (US win over Russia). The coverage includes every other game of the day.

Check it out. If you like what you read, a subscription will get you access to articles on Day 1: US/China et al., Day 2: US/Nigeria et al., US/Cuba (Eight-Final Round, 1st games) and US/France (all Eight-Final Round, second games).

Listen to the US/Czech post-game conference with Donovan, Catchings and a Czech player and assistant coach. USA Basketball has also posted additional quotes and game photos.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Well, it wasn't the kind of a game you want to write home about, but the US did defeat a stubborn Czech team 63-50. Previously, Michelle Voepel (amongst others) had expressed concerns about the number of turnovers the US has had in earlier games. They weren't as much an issue this game (12), but the offense was.

The US led 31-28 at the half, their lowest output and closest margin this tournament. Overall they shot an anemic 33% from the field and that, combined with very poor free throw shooting, may points to tired legs despite Donovan's generous distribution of minutes. Fortunately, the team's defense was a classic smother: they limited the Czechs to 27% shooting (only 22 points in the second half).

The round-robin phase done, Wednesday will find the US in the quarterfinals where they'll face Lithuania. Australia, the other undefeated team in the Championships, will face France (at the Boomers' site, you can check out Tully's blog). In the other games, Russia will battle Spain, and host Brazil (maybe Janeth-less) will contend with the Czech team.

Clay over at Full Court Press reminds us that their reporter Lee Michaelson is in Brazil covering the games. A reminder to college basketball fans: subscribing to any scout.com site at the premium level gets you access to FCP's subscription stories.
In college ball news, the WNIT has announced they're expanding their post-season field to 48.
In World Championships news, there's a Q&A with coach Anne Donovan over at the Storm site, Minnesota Lynx's Svetlana Abrosimova has been blogging, and check out the photo galleries from the US/Russia game and Australia/Canada game.

Over at ESPN.com, Mechelle Voepel sings the praises of Diana Taurasi and wonders about the impact Anne Meyers will have on Diana and her Mercury.

You can check out a preview of tonight's US/Czech game (6:45EST, NBAtv) here and find live stats at fiba.com or here.
One of the delights of being a women's basketball fan is reading Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale's blog. Her latest entry spotlights freshmen: Her son, starting at Norman High School (where she coached for before she arrived at Oklahoma), and the five youngsters joining her team. Says Coale of her new players:
They’re making my seniors feel old so you can only imagine what’s happening to me! Last weekend at the tailgate before the football game one of these precocious newbies spotted some gray in the top of my head, and she almost lost her mind. “Coach!” she screamed. “When did your hair start turning gray?” And I said, “About two months ago when you guys got here!”

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A 36-27 halftime lead turned into a second half rout as Diana Taurasi's 15 points and Tina's Thompson's 12 helped the US to a 76-41 victory over France. The post-game press conference with Taurasi and coach Anne Donovan here, and there are additional team quotes available.

Unlike previous games, today's third quarter was the team's strongest offensive output. Like every other game, the US defense was stellar, holding France to 2pts in the fourth quarter. In the last two games, the US has limted opponents to 17 (Cuba) and 14 points in the second half.

Next up, the dangerous Czech team., which defeated Russia today.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

After a day of well-deserved rest, the US National team took on Cuba and, in a pun borrowed from the USABasketball site, smoked'em 90-50. You can listen to the post-game press conference here. Tennessee sophomore Candace Parker continued her outstanding play, scoring 16 points and snagging 9 rebounds. Tina Thompson and Diana Taurasi chipped in 13 points apiece.

Note to FSN viewers looking for the replay: double check your listings. New York has the game on tonight.

In other games of note, Australia snuck by the surprisingly strong team from Spain, 72-68, while France upset Russia, 74-64. France will play the US tomorrow.
In a good news/bad news day for Rutgers, they add Chelsea Newton to their staff, and lose guard Matee Ajavon for three months due to leg surgery.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Sacramento Bee reports on the high drama surrounding the Sacramento new-arena saga

Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof went public Thursday with an impassioned recounting of the ways in which they say they were betrayed last week in negotiations to put an arena in the downtown railyard.

In an emotional, 90-minute session with The Bee, the Maloofs defended their reputation against those in the community who say they just want to move the team. They also said they were "blindsided" by a plan for the railyard that they say shortchanged them on both land and parking.
A Bee editorial sounds less than impressed with the Maloofs' tale of woe:
If an arena is ever to be built there, the financing will be a tough call for many voters, no matter what the deal's details may be. But who would have thought that the Maloofs themselves, by withholding campaign money and suspending negotiations on the final details, would offer for many an increasingly compelling reason to vote No?
The US improved to 3-0 with a win over Russia, 90-80. With the win, the U.S. claimed the Group C number one seed, advances to the second round where it will face Cuba on Sept. 16.

Before the game, Anne Donovan (now sporting glasses?) spoke with the French press, and a link is available to the post-game press conference.

USA Today reports on the game (using staff and wire reports they come up with 263 more words than the NYTimes). The AP picture of Candace Parker going up against Maria Stepanova makes Parker look... small?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Good news from the W on the viewership and attendance fronts.
In Sacramento, the Maloofs have walked away from the arena talks.
Before switching gears to focus on the World Championships, Voepel reflected on the weekend that saw the Shock win it all; Sharapova giving Billie Jean King the thanks she deserves; Martina ending her career on a winning note and the death of a golf legend from Minnesota.
Other blogs and diaries from Brazil:

Svet writes about being a back up PG for Russia and points out that all of the Lynx won their opening day games.

Linda Hargrove was apparently inspired by the DC BasketCases and is reporting from Brazil for Mystics fans.

The Storm are devoting their Off the Record blog to covering the Championships for Sue, Lauren and Izzy.

Tully not only writes about the games and her teammates, but includes great pictures.
Once again, every member of Team USA scored and the Americans trounced Nigeria 79-46. Nigeria never recovered from a brilliant first quarter by the U.S. where they built a 25-4 lead.

Team USA connected on more than 50% of their shots for the second game in a row, but did not shoot the three ball as well as in their win against China. DeLisha Milton-Jones, Tina Thompson and Seimone Augustus led a balanced scoring attack by combining for 33 points.

The one possible area concern for the team going into their big game with Russia today is turnovers (22). But Coach Donovan hopes it was an anomaly.

Voepel discusses the turnovers, the stellar defense by the U.S. and Ann Richards in her latest column.
The "Good Old Days" are back for the National Champion Terps.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Over at the Christian Science Monitor, Ross Atkin is more than willing to acknowledge the WNBA in his "We're Just Fans" blog, especially when fans take the time to annoy...um, I mean, inform him.

Heck, when the New York Times gives you lemons (45 AP words on the US Women's National Teams victory, y'all), it's nice to find others that will help you make lemonade.
Next up for the US? Nigeria, coached by HoustonComets assistant Kevin Cook. Several familiar faces on the team for WNBA and college fans: Mfon Udoka (Comets), Chineze Nwagbo (Syracuse), Ugo Oha (George Washington) and Enjoli Izidor (Stanford).

Be sure to check out two blogs on the games: a local and two visiting Americans.
Rumblings from cities interested in WNBA franchises: Alburquerque, Bentonville, and... the Bay Area?
In a gratuitous insult to Sulka, Merc owner Robert Sarver went out of his way to say in the press conference yesterday that he'd be trying to hire Meyers for a couple years. Meyers said she turned down the job a year ago.

She will also have some role, still undefined, on the men's side of the organization. But right now, said Meyers, "the Mercury is my priority."

(Recycled: Timber's famous ode to Meyers.)
Katie Smith and Cheryl Ford could not take part for obvious reasons, but most of the rest of the Shock enjoyed a celebration of their championship yesterday with their fans.
Getting the game clock to start may have been more difficult than Team USA's opening contest aganist China. The Americans rolled to a 119-72 victory as Anne Donovan took advantage of her deep roster.

Former UConn backcourt mates Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi led the way with 20 and 17 points as the team shot 50% from 3 point range and nearly 58% overall from the floor. Coach Donovan did not have many complaints on her team's performance on either end of the floor.

While it was strange to watch the team without Lisa Leslie, Yolanda Griffith and Dawn Staley, Voepel says the team is still riveting to watch, even if the game is not.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Did you miss the commentary from Hall of Famer Ann Meyers in the WNBA Finals? If so, the Mercury may be your new favorite team as Meyers was named the new GM of the Phoenix franchise.

Fans react here here and here.
Not familiar with some of the players to watch during the World Championships? Melissa has updated her great blog with 10 Players to Keep an Eye On.

Also, over at FCP in the subscriber section Rob Clough breaks down Team USA.

Over on .com, Matt Wurst will be updating his blog with World Championship news and information.
It looks like the Lynx may not be the only team looking for a new head coach.

As Charley Walters reported earlier, Dave Cowens is expected to leave his Chicago Sky position for an assistant coaching job with Flip and the Pistons.

The Detroit News article also mentions that current Pistons assistant (and Minneapolis native) Don Zierden is a candidate for the Lynx job.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What was rumored has now become official: Marianne Stanley has left the New York Liberty to join the Rutgers coching staff. She will replace Sue Wicks - now at St. Francis College - as an assistant to C. Vivien Stringer.

Also, USAToday's Oscar Dixon weighs in (from Brazil?) on the US National Team:
The undersized United States basketball team opens the FIBA Women's World Championship on Tuesday not only without Lisa Leslie, but also trying to avoid the embarrassment of the men's and women's teams both being denied gold medals on the global stage.
Just so you know, no pressure.... He also offers brief blurbs on four teams to watch.
In news of the "other teams" competing down in Brazil, Canada -- which boast's Charlotte's Tammy Sutton-Brown and Monarch's rookie Kim Smith -- is looking to end years of near misses. The Australians are confident and guard Tully Bevilaqua keeps fans up-to-date with her on-going diary-blog.

According to local sources (thanks, BCBG25) there's a good chance their first opponent, Lithuania, may be disqualified because of...missing shots. Malaria shots. (So sorry, couldn't resist the pun.) It would stink if organizational mis-management -- or a re-routed plane -- costs the team a chance to play.

To find out more about China, the US's first opponent, check the USA Basketball site. Australian and Mystics fans will be familiar with China's head coach, Tom Maher.
Katie Smith and Cheryl Ford are on their way to join the National Team in Brazil in anticipation of the FIBA World Championship, which starts Tuesday. US games will be broadcast live on nbaTV, and rebroadcast at midnight on FSN. First up? China.

Sunday, the US beat the Brazilian team 73-53 in a 3-quarters, *somewhat* "friendly" game. Over at rebkell, two imports and one local promise to attend the games and write up reports. There may even be some podcasting involved.
The Monarchs aren't loving it. "It's still a hollow feeling," coach Whisenant said. "But the players recognize that the sun will still come up and life will go on."

Sacramento has a bunch of free agents and therefore a bunch of question marks in the offseason.
The Shock are loving it. Coach Laimbeer: "This one's better because of the longer road it took to get there." (But the '03 win felt pretty good at the time.)

At the Freep, Chris Silva asks if the Shock will change anything next year. Silva thinks Elaine Powell might go (no way, no day); almost everyone sees Riley as part of a trade.

Clay says the Shock are now America's team, and purists can like it or lump it: "if... you were hoping the basketball gods would hand down some kind of moral edict, it’s time to haul out that old John Wooden video... because the basketball gods apparently had more fun watching Deanna Nolan [elevate] and listening to Bill Laimbeer complain."
The indefatigable Pilight uncovers some evidence that the W has brand-new fans: a sports-marketing exec explains how his hardheaded pal became a Shock fan, and Mariah's Auburn Hills concert drew about 6,000 fewer fans than the team she sent to downtown Detroit.

That's good news for the Shock, and good news for proponents of downtown arenas everywhere-- but iffy news for the Storm, who will probably move to a suburban arena if they stay in the Evergreen State.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A tip of the hat to Martina Navratilova who, one month from 50, finished tennis her career with an exclamation point: winning the US Open Mixed Doubles title with Bob Bryan. That makes 59 Grand Slam titles. Today she was inducted into the US Open Hall of Champions.

Thanks for the memories, Martina.
Game 5 was a tough, back-and-forth contest that went (almost) to the wire. Sacramento was the better team in the first half, and the Monarchs went to the locker room with an eight point lead.

"Coach (Bill Laimbeer) was very mad at us at halftime,” Deanna Nolan said. “We weren’t diving for loose balls, we were making too many turnovers. He thought we just gave up."

Nolan, who had been just 4 for 13 in the first half, came out and hit her first five shots. (When she's on, she's really on.) Detroit's furious run that quickly replaced the deficit with a lead. The sold-out Joe Louis crowd started rocking.

In the final minutes, the Monarchs put together a comeback, pulling to within one possession with 33 seconds left. But Katie Smith, the first player to win titles in the ABL and WNBA, hit a jumper to ice the game. “I knew I was going to find a shot and knock it down,” she said. “I knew that it was over after it went though. It was a great feeling. This series was a lot of fun.”

Sacramento was left wondering what happened -- how did things go so wrong again in the second half? Paul reports that over the course of the series, the Monarchs won the first half by 37 points, but Detroit won the second by 28. Sacto had a first half rebounding advantage of 16, but a second half deficit of 37.

After the game, fingers began to point. Bee columnist Ailene Voison lays the blame squarely at Ticha's feet.
Starting point guards on defense-oriented teams can't shoot 29 percent in a best-of-five series championship series. Those days are history.
She says Whisenant should have played Haynie more, and she wonders whether the Monarchs should bring Penicheiro back next year.

For his part, Coach Whiz blamed some players, including DeMya Walker, who didn't warm up properly at half time. "It's too late after the fact to go out a little bit stiff because you don't get out of the locker room soon enough." Walker had no points and three turnovers in the second half.

Nolan took home the MVP. She finished with 24 points, 4 assists, 4 boards, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. "She's extremely talented, can jump waist-high and shoots the mid-range jumper as well as anybody in the WNBA," Whisenant said.

But this championship belongs to Smith more than anyone. After the game, she spoke with Voepel and reflected on her career.
It's important to never forget where this game came from. To give the mindset to the younger generation: Don't take it for granted. Don't just expect this is going to be here forever and it will keep growing and growing. You have to keep this thing moving.
As Voepel says, no one has done that better than Katie Smith.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

It's official: Geno's in the Naismith Hall of Fame. The Courant's all-Geno section is still here.

Geno thanked family, players, and the university that welcomed them: "Connecticut is the only place I've ever been a head coach, and Connecticut is the only place where I've been able to grow as a person, as a teacher and as a coach."

Basketball, he added, is "a bunch of people trying to get together to accomplish something that individually, you can't do by yourself.... If I can be a part of a team for the rest of my life, I'll be a lucky guy." Former players interrupted his speech with cheers.

It all began with lasagna from Geno's mom.
Lots of coverage for today's game five: the Shock praise the Joe and claim the Mo. Coach Laimbeer says the downtown Detroit arena will fill up; his team is even bringing a "Palace of Auburn Hills" banner to make sure it feels like home.

Katie Smith has two ABL championships and two servings of Olympic gold; today she can win her first WNBA ring. (Even those of us who aren't Shock fans like that idea.)

Nancy Lieberman answers Bill's critique: "My job is to state my opinion and state my analysis. I'm well entitled to tell you that Ruth Riley and Swin Cash haven't played well at some points." The Freep's Chris Silva breaks down matchups.

Kara Lawson says it's an effort-and-character test for the Monarchs, which strikes me as admirable but mostly wrong. Few folks doubt the Monarchs' determination; it's their offensive skills, and their physical endurance, that Detroit has tested most.

Voisin says coach Whisenant must pass his own endurance test. Whiz himself tries to make sense of "the most unusual series I've been involved with ... One team has played really, really well or another poorly. It's our turn to play well, but I'm sure Detroit doesn't feel that way."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Clay says Detroit's mental state will decide game five. Pelton picks the Monarchs.

Pelton also points out that the Shock have scored about the same each game: 71, 73, 69 and 72. If the Shock let the Monarchs score, the Monarchs win; if not, Detroit will bring it home.
Coach Laimb Evil Bi A knowledgeable, if boastful, Shock insider claims game five at the Joe will sell out.

Joe Louis Arena claims to seat 20K; hockey sellouts come in just under that mark.
Does Voepel agree with Ted? She sure comes close: "Frankly, when the WNBA Finals began, many of us had a vision of a great series. We're now going to the fifth game, but … we're still waiting for the first really good one."
The prospective owners of a prospective Arkansas WNBA team want to build an arena in Walmartville Bentonville; they also want the team to play at the U. of Arkansas in Fayetteville if their own arena doesn't get built on time.

The university has now said no: that arena won't host events without student-group sponsors. (The Chicago Sky, by contrast, make a college arena their home.) The prospective owners say they're still looking around.
Pilight says the problem with this year's Finals is that the teams are too similar. But he still thinks that the '97 and '01 Finals were worse.
Team USA passed their first test with a 56-49 win over Australia in an exhibition game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

With Dawn Staley now on the sidelines as an assistant coach and Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes not playing, it was a new look for the Americans. Tina Thompson had game highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds and Team USA held Australia to only four second quarter points.

Thompson and Candace Parker each had three blocks as the defense helped overcome a sometimes stagnant motion offense. But Coach Donovan believes the offense will come around.

After playing the host team in an exhibition game on Sunday, USA will open with their first tournament game on Tuesday against China.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Is this the worst WNBA Finals ever? Here are five reasons why we might answer that question in the affirmative.

1. Throughout the Finals, the basketball has been overshadowed by annoying sideshows — Laimbeer vs. microphones, Laimbeer vs. the refs, Laimbeer vs. ESPN.

2. The games have been blowouts. Margins of victory in the first four games: 24, 10, 20, and 20.

3. The games have been sloppy. So far, Detroit and Sacto have combined for 117 assists and 137 turnovers.

4. The Shock are probably going to win, and no one in Detroit seems to care. In 2003, the championship run created a huge buzz. For whatever reason, that hasn't happened this year. As Dean Howe details today, attendance was absurdly low for Game One, and for Game Two, Detroit had to hand out thousands of freebies to fill the stands.

5. For the decisive Game 5, the home team is kicked out of its arena by a shitty pop music concert. Plus, it's on a Saturday afternoon when both Michigan and Michigan State have home football games.

An exciting, competitive, basketball-focused Game 5 can still rescue us from this malaise. Let's hope it does.
Duke has organized some pre-game events FOR STUDENTS before tonight's USA/Australia match-up. Starting at 5:30, there with be free food, give aways, an address from Diana Taurasi and Alana Beard, and free tickets for any student who wishes to attend.

Beard is looking forward to playing at Cameron again, saying tonight's "friendly" is more than a practice. "This is our step towards winning the gold."
On the eve of Geno Auriemma's induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame, Mechelle Voepel goes all Frank Capra "It's a Wonderful Life" on us as she imagines a world without Geno.

Up in Connecticut, Carl Adamec traces Auriemma's history through the experiences of his players Diana Taurasi, Svetlana Abrosimova, Rebecca Lobo and Kerry Bascom. Rich Elliot talks about the career Geno found by accident.
This is not a joke: Sacramento scored 2 points in the fourth quarter. In a title game, in a game to avoid going back to Detroit, in game that they could have won... they scored 2 points in the fourth quarter.

It was supposed to be a party. Instead, it was a disaster.

The hackneyed "respect" angle apparently worked for Laimbeer. "It was a fun game for our team because the last two days, we have watched us be maligned by ESPN's Doris Burke and Nancy Lieberman in particular, calling us all kinds of mean, nasty ugly things," he said.

Voison says Laimbeer whined his way to a masterpiece. (At least we didn't have to hear it on the broadcast all game long.) Graham Hays says that last night's game actually validates those who have criticized Bill and his team.
Simply put, the Shock are vulnerable to criticism precisely because they're capable of playing like they did on Wednesday night.
Katie Smith was fabulous on both ends. "We played a little harder, and we played a little smarter, and basically, that's how we ended up where we were," she said.

And after getting beaten up for much of the series, the Shock's posts played great. Detroit dominated the boards and points in the paint. Yo had a double-double, but she shot only 3 for 13, and she didn't look like herself. After the game, she apologized to fans. "We know we stunk up the place tonight, and we have another game," she said.

So we head back to Detroit for Game 5. But we head to Joe Louis Arena rather than the Palace. Why? Because Mariah Carey is at the Palace. Normally, this sort of thing would upset me, but I can never stay mad at Mariah, no matter how many times she lets me down.
Good news: When the US National team faces off against Australia tonight at 7pm, you can follow the game through live stats.
Marion Jones's 'B' sample came back clean. "I am absolutely ecstatic," she said.

Wojnarowski says her reputation will remain sullied.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Two wire stories follow up on the addition of Ford, Snow and Parker, and the absence of Leslie.
More fan notes from Raleigh: the National team's practice at Duke, amongst other things...
The final three members of Team USA were named today - Candace Parker, Cheryl Ford and Michelle Snow.
Josh Centor, over at the NCAA's blog, is surprised when someone tells him that Title IX is stupid. He disagreed but wasn't able to convince "the critic," which explains why the Women's Sports Foundation is so active in defending Title IX.

By the way, in anticipation of their 27th annual Salute to Women gala, the WSF has a fundraising auction up and running.
The Monarchs can win it all tonight-- or Detroit can rally and force game five. Laimbeer won't wear a mic, thank Zeus. "We're telling ESPN today to basically stick it," he explained.

Kristin Haynie, who is playing easily the best ball of her pro career, tells State fans that her Monarchs remind her of State: "We kept winning, kept winning and we still didn't have the respect."

The Bee's Voisin ralllies hometown fans; beat reporter Gutierrez sums up the Sacto season, from slow start to rocket-propelled finish. Coach Whiz: "I knew logically it would take all season for us to be close to a championship-level team."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Want a WNBA-themed Discover card? Here's how to get one. Far be it from us to encourage you to get new credit cards, but if you want a new credit card anyway, choosing this one could help keep a big sponsor on board.
While "new-arena-drama" haunts the future of both Sacramento and Seattle franchises, Save Our Sonics and Storm offers up some optimism for Washingtonians. In California, though, a thoroughly "wait-and-see" editorial response to Measure R on the November ballot in support of a new downtown arena points out a number of unanswered, and important, questions.
In Sacramento businesses send a shout out to their Monarchs, while coach Whisenant reflects on the prickly relationship he has with center Yolanda Griffith. Erin Buescher earned some cold cash for her circus three, and teammate Chameka Scott has been busy blogging about the Finals.

In the Shock camp, the pressure is on the guards as they face a do or die game four. Voepel asks the team about their toughest road wins, pointing out the last three times the Shock have played at Arco -- going back to 2005 -- Detroit hasn't just lost, but has been blown out.
As Helen notes, the league has fined coach Laimbeer for his digs against the officials in and after game three. (These sorts of fines come down on the men's side regularly; it's no surprise to see the W wield them too.)

Clay wants to penalize Bill for other reasons: coach Laimbeer "deserves to have his wallet lightened [for] embarassing women's basketball by his inability to get his team to play hard in the WNBA finals...

"Coaching isn't about witty remarks in the postgame press conference, or working the officials, or basking in past glories. Coaching is about preparing a team to play."
In hoops (media) legend Mel Greenberg's latest post, he wonders whether Detroit's Swin Cash, recently fined Bill Laimbeer and assistant coach Rick Mahorn might be pondering a Friday night flights to Springfield, MA; touches on the vageries of attendance; and paws over the numerous in-flux WNBA GM and coaching positions.
Compliments of USA Basketball, cstv.com has a wonderfully extensive Q&A with Anne Donovan. She reflects on her long history (almost 30 years) playing on and coaching National teams. Here, Donovan speaks to the on-going success of the women's team:
Q: How important is it to the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team program to have a core group of athletes who are passionate about playing for their country return again and again to don the USA jersey?

AD: It's the biggest reason we've been able to keep the gold in our hands. Having that quality of athlete motivated with so much pride for what the red, white and blue represents. It is the sole reason we've been able to hang onto the gold. Athletes like Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes who were committed to the growth of this program, who carried the torch. When Teresa Edwards moved on, they carried the torch. The fact that they're still with us and eventually they'll pass that torch to Sue Bird, (Tamika) Catchings, (Diana) Taurasi and a handful of others. That consistency is so important. It's a mind-set, it's a mentality, it's a sense of pride that you can't necessarily cultivate. Lisa Leslie, she had it the second she walked into USA Basketball. Same thing with Sheryl, Dawn, I think that those kinds of things need to live on in order for our tradition to continue."
Meanwhile, down in Raleigh, Duke coach Gail Goestenkors watches Tennesse's Candace Parker try out for the final three slots open on the National Team and wonders what might have been.

The team will also host area servicemen and servicewomen, as well as their children, at practice today as part of the USA Basketball Hoops for Troops Program presented by State Farm. You can see photos of the practices here.

Still no word who the final members of the team will be, though there is a USOC teleconference with Donovan and "players to be named" tomorrow at 2:30.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lighter news from Sacto: Nolan sank a halfcourt shot at practice. Say what you will about the rest of her game, but Deanna can shoot.

Also in Sacto, Clay more or less liveblogs game three: sometimes a Maiga-Ba jump shot is just a cigar.

At the official blog, Wurst fights off cliches.
Via pilight: Arkansas thinkers speculate about the still-notional Bentonville WNBA team. (NWA there means Northwest Arkansas, not an airline.)
Karra Porter's book "Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League, 1978-1981 gets a nice review from the Boston Globe. You can read an interview with the author, an excerpt from the book as well as three chapters that weren't included in the book here. You can also check out Porter's website on the WBL here.
Laimbeer last night: "That's three games in a row that they get all the calls and we get nothing. That's embarrassing."

Over the course of the Finals so far, Sacramento has shot 70 free throws. Detroit has shot 71.
It took a while, but Detroit fell apart again. Monarchs fans got exactly the game they expected: tough D all day, contributions from the reserves, no big star, but an attractive constellation, able to capitalize on opponents' mistakes.

Griffith got lots of rest, and Haynie looked great. "We have to be the spark plug," she said. Lawson scored no points, but she made a good decoy. "We're going inside until they stop," she said. "There's no point in shooting three's when we can run it inside."

As with game one, this match was no ad for the league: Detroit had twenty-three turnovers to Sac's eight, the Monarchs' first-quarter offense consisted entirely of Walker, and Sac's runaway win had as much to do with Detroit's failed chemistry tests as with the defending champs' teamwork.

The game had some wondrous late moments, though: Buescher's third-quarter turnaround circus-shot trey, with one second on the shot clock, broke Detroit for good. "I just turned around and did some ice-skating moves," she said. (She later flattened Braxton with a questionable screen.)

ESPN's announcers got sick of coach Laimbeer's verbal attacks on the refs. Coach Laimbeer had blame to spare for his team: "In the middle of this game, we stopped playing." He also noted that Riley "is getting her butt kicked."

Game four starts Wednesday at 8:30pm (ESPN2): the longer delay between games could be good for Sacto (because Yo plays better with rest) or for Detroit (more time to forget Sunday). Some fans excoriate the Shock's poor effort; Detroit fans defend their bad-boy coach.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma will enter the Naismith Hall of Fame this Friday, and the Hartford put together a series of articles and photographs tracing his career.

Landscape Artist: Sherri Coale will never forget the night in December 1999 when the circus came to Norman.

To Know Him Is...: Former players tell tales.

At Times Rocky, They Meet At Top: Geno and Pat, Philly Wiseguy Vs. Southern Lady
Big news (pun intended) for the Women's National Team: citing family reasons, Lisa Leslie has announced she is withdrawing from team. This will be the first time in 14 years that a women's senior national team has competed without Leslie on the court.

That now leaves three spots open on the roster, and some serious concern about experienced post play, especially with wily Yolanda Griffith also withdrawing. Down in Raleigh, the Selection Committee will be paying special attention to 6'5" Michelle Snow and 6'3" Tennessee sophomore, Candace Parker these next few days. One must also wonder if they've been keeping an eye on Detroit's Cheryl Ford.

Needless to say, this makes the Thurs. Sept. 7th game against a reportedly well-rested Lauren Jackson and her Australian team even more intriguing. Tickets are still available here.
Pelton picks Sacto today-- "comfortably," even. The Arco crowd should help.
Chat with USA Basketball and Mystics teammates, Alana Beard and Delisha Milton-Jones Tuesday at 3pm.

The Women's National team continues its practices in the Raleigh-Durham area. At 5pm today, the team returns to Beard's old stomping ground, Duke, for an open practice. A fan reports on their previous open practice at UNC.
Good new writing at the official fan blog: Melissa and other Sun fans handle their grief, while pilight Kevin Brown compares the MVP ballots from '03 (when LJ won even though her team missed the playoffs) to the situation this year, when Diana's eye-popping numbers make her a contender.

Had the Mercury played as well in July as they did in August, she'd have my vote; had they done so, they'd have made the playoffs easily.

Raw-data hounds and stats fans should bookmark the (slightly misnamed) official Lynx blog, where Paul keeps crunching the numbers for each playoff game, even though his our Lynx are long out of it. Fun fact from Friday: Haynie was the only Monarch with a positive plus-minus on the night. Will she see more action this afternoon?
The league has announced the All-WNBA teams: Leslie led all vote-getters, Ford, Taj and Augustus made second team, and the Monarchs have not a single player on the ten-person list.
Game three begins today at 4:30pm Eastern (ESPN2). The Monarchs will try to regain focus.

Yo says this series is harder than last year's: "This is not Connecticut. This is Detroit. They won't fold over, and this is not guaranteed." (Sun fans: "Ouch." Maybe she only means the Shock aren't injured.)

Coach Whiz confirms that the Monarchs' fold on Friday was largely about fatigue: "We just hit a wall there physically. I started seeing my players didn't have any zip." Will the Arco Arena fans provide some?

UPDATE: Pelton correctly predicted games one and two; any prognostications for game three?
Via pilight, Jessica Moore's awesome journey: from Alaska to the Sparks to France, via UConn and (less happily) Charlotte.

Moore says she "was pretty shocked" when L.A.'s coaches "felt I earned" a starting position. "Defensive energy was something our team really needed. And that was something I was good at."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

UConn frosh Jacquie Fernandes will blog for the Norwich Bulletin this year. Cool.

Fernandes went from unknown, to walk-on, to scholarship Husky, within six weeks last spring; she'll be Geno's first in-state recruit since Maria Conlon, who left in '04.
Via Stever, another look at USA Basketball's training camp at Duke.

Team USA plays Australia (a.k.a. the Opals) in an exhibition match next week: tickets are on sale now.
Sacramento led early but fell down late; Detroit tied the series wiith a furious rally.

The Shock trailed for three quarters, then outscored the defending champs by an astounding 25 to 9 in the fourth. Smith scored all her 16 after halftime; Nolan led everyone with 21.

Penicheiro, who shot 0-8, blamed herself. "I knew ... they were going to double off me and leave me open," she said. "I knew I was going to have to hit open shots and stay aggressive, and I didn't do that. I had a terrible game."

Cash, who quarreled with coach Laimbeer Wednesday, showed up in force. Laimbeer: "That's the stat line I envisioned for [Cash] ... That's what we want from her every game."

The Donna met the press before tipoff, deflecting the usual questions about attendance. The Palace filled up in the Shock's '03 championship run, when the city had no other summer or fall teams that won; this year saw over 9K Wednesday, over 15K (announced) Friday-- not bad, but not quite what it once was.