April 19, 2014

Guru Report I: Finding the Next Leader of the WBCA Following Beth Bass' Departure

By Mel Greenberg

Besides the nation's top freshman Diamond DeShields departure from North Carolina which is addressed as part of the post under this focusing on Odyssey Sims accepting the Staley Award, there was another departure Thursday, which has a greater effect on the landscape of collegiate women's basketball.

Beth Bass, longtime chief executive officer of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), announced her resignation Thursday and the organization announced action will immediatley be taken to get a search under way for a successor.

With the recent passing of founding CEO Betty F. Jaynes in February and Bass' departure, the WBCA will be heading in a new direction with both individuals gone from the scene running the operation in suburban Atlanta.

Bass was definitely an effective force over the years always looking for new ideas and one who solicited opinions from a wide range of stakeholders in the sport long before Val Ackerman was called upon the NCAA to produce the now famed White Paper released last June.

With the NCAA on the verge of evolving into adjustments to survive the steady attack that has been made on the organization from various sectors and with the ongoing conference upheaval in shifting membership, Bass may have picked the right time to leave.

Bass, a graduate of East Tennessee and a former women's basketball player at the university, was named executive director of the WBCA in 1997 and promoted to chief ecxectuive office in the fall of 2001 succeeding Jaynes, who continued to be inherently active in the organization after holding the CEO title.

Bass was previously in sports marketing at Converse and Nike and the feeling here is she probably won't be on the sidelines for long.

Given her wide range of experience, she could land in positions either in the NCAA, on university executive athletic staffs, a team specific, or something creative maybe either in the Naismith or Women's Basketball Halls of Fame.

Bass could also end up in some print media or broadcast endeavor.

But meanwhile, where does the organization go that she is leaving behind?

Some believe a core group of candidates may already exist on a short list since there is a desire to get a fulltime replacement on board in the next 90 days.

If the Guru were running the search show -- no, not interested, using the phrase for the sake of completing the sentence -- here are people he would be approaching initially to see if there was interest, though some more names could get in the mix.

This group is in no specific ranking order, just a bunch of people he believes would make viable candidates. There might be a few males who could be in the mix but the feeling is an effort will be made to land a female unless someone from the other gender complete knocks the socks off the search committee.

And either way that individual won't appear here but could exist in the business world beyond current athletic affiliations or athletic affilations that may not be collegiate related.

Patti Phillips -- She currently is the executive officer of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA).

In that position, she already has a wide range of contacts to work with from the coaching side, especially in terms of promulgating legislation.

A highlight of her bio at the NACWAA website says:

Earlier in her career, Patti worked for the NCAA as the CHAMPS/Life Skills Program Coordinator, and prior to that, she was the head women’s basketball coach at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas.

Patti is known for her charismatic leadership, her fundraising ability and her tireless commitment to women’s advocacy and leadership development. She was inducted into both the Baker University Athletic Hall of Fame, and O’Hara High School Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Fundraising is an important attribute in light of recent losses of sponsorships, in part due to the national economic situation in recent years, that cost the organization the high school all-star game this season.

There has been different sectors also quietly lobbyng for a senior all-star game involving players not reaching Final Four.

More than a few WNBA coaches have mentioned to the Guru wanting to see that event returned to finals week.

Connie Hurlbut -- A graduate of Penn, Hurbut has worked in operations at the WNBA, servied on the NCAA women's basketball committee, and is currently deputy commissioner and senior women's administrator of the Wetern Athletic Conference.

She is also a member of or was so -- couldn't find expiration term dates -- the WBCA board.

Hurlbut was also one of the four finalists in the search that produced Anucha Browne as the NCAA's vice president of women's basketball.

So, obviously, well connected and definitely well liked in many circles of existing stakeholders.

Nora Lynn Finch -- Currently a deputy commissioner and senior women's administrator at the Atlantic Coast Conference, Finch as seen it all, dating to her days as the top lieutenant to the late great Kay Yow at North Carolina State.

She later moved into administration with the Wolfpack and was also the first chair of the NCAA Division I women's basketball.

It would be tough to coax her out of Greensboro, N.C., the headuqarters town of the ACC, but Finch is a dynamic speaker that when has the floor, people listen.

During the recent Final Four the extremely media accessible Finch was chased by a slew of reporters seeking comment on a myriad of topics needing expert perspective.

Carol Stiff -- Once upon a time the longtime executive at ESPN was a women's basketball coach. Having navigated the television world, she brings strength from the business side and media side.

It is known that Stiff was originally sounded out by NCAA high command if she had interest in the VP position before they assembled the search committee and obviously in working ESPN, the NCAA knows her and she knows the NCAA even as things continue to evolve.

Theresa Grentz -- There are many people out there in the underbelly who think, when her name is mentioned, that Grentz, who has a strong business savy, would be ideal.

Like Finch, Grentz is another one that when she speaks at events, guys walk away impressed by the presentation.

She was a founding member of the WBCA and was a past president. Her coaching background includes success at Saint Joseph's, Rutgers and Illinois.

Grentz was the dominate player of her time when Immaculata won the first three national titles and those teams as a group were recently announced to be among the inductees to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August.

She is already a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame has just written a book that is making its way to the market place.

Running her own ship, Grentz has been conducting clinics and speaking on the circuit.

She is definitely someone who can span the entire generation range of coaches.

Another past president who was a mover and shaker during her term is Wendy Larry , the former longtime Old Dominion coach who is currently in charge of women's basketball at the Atlantic 10.

As Beth Bass came from a different area, it wouldn't hurt to tap Debbie Antonelli, who besides her extensive broadcasting gigs also holds the title of The Voice of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

It would take much to pry her from her current career -- she also played at North Carolina State under Yow -- but perhaps given an aide or two to delegate day-to-day activities, Antonelli may be able to retain a chunk of her broadcasting life.

Sue Donohoe -- Currently in charge of the Kay Yow fundraising endeavor in the battle against breast cancer, she was the previous top women's basketball honcho at the NCAA.

A former assistant coach to Gary Blair back in the day, obviously Donohoe knows how the plumbing works at the national organization, though the way things keep changing maybe the Guru shouldn't make a snap assumnption.

And if not Donohoe, her former right arm at the NCAA, Michelle Perry ia running her own consulting business in athletics and certainly would be worth sounded out for interest.

If the search wants to go in a different direction perhaps Dana Hart , in charge of the show at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame could be solicited since much of what she does now brings expertise that wouldn't be much of an adjustment at the WBCA.

Speaking of the WBHOF, incoming inductee Mimi Griffin would be excellent, given her work in the golf world but that same work probably makes her an untouchable.

When Betty Jaynes became the first head of the organization, it meant giving up her coaching career at James Madison.

Getting someone to do likewise today without paying a hefty price might be too much to ask.

But one ideal person to think about is Penn State coach Coquese Washington who will be the next WBCA president and has a law degree and was once president of the players association in the WNBA following her playing degree at Notre Dame.

Washington was also the top assistant to Muffet McGraw at her alma mater when Penn State came calling.

Courtney Banghart at Princeton is also someone who could probably excel in the position but also someone who would rather stay on the court sidelines for now since there is an Ivy title to be reclaimed next season.

Anyhow that is that for starters. We'll see where things are after the hunt gets organized.

Like the Guru says at the end of the next post and all posts concerning events still open ended, stay tuned.

-- Mel

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Guru Report II: Sims Accepts Staley Award While DeShields Bolts North Carolina

By Mel Greenberg

Though a final buzzer is sounded and champions are declared, the news doesn't seem to take much of a break this days in the world of women's basketball.

Yes, this is the time the coaching carousel continues to do most of its spinning but that has become the norm over the years, though when a big name crops up either by retirement, or move to another vacancy, or by termination, the action becomes the headline of the moment.

On Thursday three major events occurred, one that was previous announced and two others that came out of nowhere.

Two of the three will be addressed in this blog and the third is actually in front of this post directly above.

The day began here with a trip to the Union League in center city -- a first-ever experience for the Guru to one of those places of exclusive membership in town such as one that was portrayed years ago in the Eddie Murphy et al early in the movie Trading Places.

The occasion was the second annual Dawn Staley Award that goes to an outstanding guard in the nation and is sponsored by the Phoenix Club, which was founded by Michael G. Horsey, CPA, in 2008.

The original mission was to honor outstanding male and female high school and collegiate players from the city's Public League.

Staley, the legend out of North Philadelphia who later went on to success coaching Temple and who now is coaching South Carolina, is one of the all-time greats in the city and overall region.

This year's honor went to Baylor senior Odyssey Sims of Irving, Texas, who earlier in the week was drafted second overall by the WNBA Tulsa Shock, which makes her a teammate of last year's Staley winner, Skylar Diggins out of Notre Dame.

Lurleen Jones, the retired legendary girls coach of University High, introduced as the event emcee Vera Jones, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network who also was an assistant at Dayton, Indiana and Florida Atlantic, and has written several books and also graduated from Syracuse.

The first honor given was the legends award to Donald Hunt, longtime sportswriter for the Philadelphia Tribune, who has chronicled African Americans in the city and beyond.

Staley, one day removed from learning South Carolina native A'ja Wilson, the top high school prospect in the nation, had committed to playing with the Gamecocks, introduced Sims, who was then very gracious in her remarks.

In attendance were Sims' mom, Pamela Thompson who said she was going to see as many WNBA games on the Tulsa schedule as possible, and Baylor assistant Toyelle Wilson, who just finished her first season under head coach Kim Mulkey.

Previously, Wilson coached Prarie View to three straight Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and ensuing NCAA Appearances.

She is a native of Voorhees, across the Delaware River from here in South Jersey.

The La Salle coaching staff also attended. Head coach Jeff Williams is a previous recipient of a legends honor from the Black Women in Sports organization.

The Wilson declaration to South Carolina adds to what already was a top five freshman class harvested by Staley, who can expect to find her program not more than a few notches if that many below two-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut when the preseason polls start showing up in magazines in the late summer before the rankings of the Associated Press media panel and the USAToday/ESPN coaches vote follow in late fall.

When it was noted to Staley the generation she is acquiring is quite different than her day she shot back with a smile, "It works two ways," meaning they will have to deal with her.

Staley already has a busy summer ahead since she will be coaching the U-18 for USA Basketball in the FIBA Americas championships and could still land on Auriemma's staff for the FIBA World Championship in the fall that features the top players on the planet.

Wilson picked South Carolina over Connecticut, Tennessee and North Carolina, making it an extra tough week for the latter when it was learned Thursday while we were lunching that UNC's Diamond DeShields, the nation's top freshman, was leaving the Tar Heels for parts yet to be determined or announced.

DeShields' team upset Staley's Gamecocks, the number one seed in the Stanford regional, before losing to the host Cardinal in the Elite Eight.

Shields, who won nearly every freshman honor, is the first person to leave a program after having won the award from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

However, and ironically, Kelsey Bone, who this week was traded from the WNBA New York Liberty to the Connecticut Sun as part of the mega-deal involving Sun center and former UConn star Tina Charles, was considered minimally a top five pick when she chose South Carolina as a freshman and then left for Texas A&M.

Back in time Michelle Marciniak, the famed "Spinderella" star out of Allentown, Pa., left Notre Dame after one season for Tennessee, where she later led the Lady Vols to a national title.

Rutgers, in recent seasons, has lost highly regarded high school all-Americans after a season.

DeShields could end up at Tennessee, one of her last options at the time of her selection, or she could end up back home at Georgia.

Stay tuned.

-- Mel

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