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Vol. 49, No. 1 • November 2011 • .pdf version
USBWA's role in women's hoops is 'all about the legacy'
By MEL GREENBERG
Greetings everyone, and here's to another exciting season of men's and women's collegiate basketball coverage from along the sidelines on press row or behind the basket as in the situation in some of the arenas we attend to perform our activity.
Back in the 1988-89, not long after future USBWA Hall of Famer Malcolm Moran (2005) became president, our good friend and colleague gave me a phone call at the Philadelphia Inquirer to tell me two things:
"I'm now the president and can set the agenda, and one of my priorities is to formally establish women's coverage with all that entails, including awards, as part of the USBWA structure.
"Someone has to the do the organizational work, and since there is no one better for the task at hand, congratulations, Mel, you have the job."
And so back in 1990 in the days of a robust national economy, I was able to call in a bunch of IOUs and get some co-sponsors to pony up for our very own breakfast, which was first held in Knoxville, Tenn., at the Women's Final Four.
A few years later, a fledgling young and energetic writer on the women's beat with the Atlanta Journal Constitution named Wendy Parker came along and became a prime helper in going through administrative procedures setting up the women's breakfast and helping to run the show through the years.
One perk Malcolm did allow me, as a reward for being so agreeable, was that we could kind of fashion things in our own image beyond the major awards, as long as what we did was reasonable.
Since there was some catching up to do, at that first breakfast we gave Tennessee's Pat Summitt and Leon Barmore co-coach of the decade awards and honored former Old Dominion star Anne Donovan, an Olympic gold medalist, as our international player of the decade.
We also established a Pioneer Award to cite someone whose work in association with the sport – be it player, coach, SID or writer/ broadcaster – was of such magnitude to foster increased media attention to help grow the women's game.
Over the years, such notables were given the honor, many times as a surprise announcement, as Nancy Lieberman, former Immaculata coach Cathy Rush, former Associated Press national women's writer Chuck Schoffner.
(Aside, I am not in the Immaculata movie hitting theaters Oct. 21 and no one is portraying me. Dickie "Hoops" Weiss is not depicted giving Mighty Macs rides to restaurant, either.)
Along the way, the USBWA women's awards continue to be one of the highlights that schools include when members from their institutions are cited and CoSIDA members remain a backbone of support and strength.
In more recent times, because of the economy, some things have scaled back, but the breakfast has continued and we are grateful to ESPN for picking up the tab.
Of course, many on the women's beat, because of the situation at newspapers, are no longer at publications they worked for decades but have found a life in the new technology on the Internet and remain viable.
Wendy, in fact, who is no longer at the Atlanta paper, sits on our board with the designation New Media. Necessity during the bankruptcy at the Inquirer caused yours truly to pull the "retirement," mechanism in April, 2010, but as stated time and time again, "not to mow lawns."
In fact, since there was no replacement, per se, when I left, I have found myself making "guest star" appearances in print for the Inky when needed.
Otherwise, find me still doing most of what was done in the past, but at melgreenberg.com for the blog or on twitter at @womhoopsguru. And the email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The other in the directory is also still good.
If anything, the one positive from the exit is no longer being a hostage of inside the office and enjoying the freedom of pursuing self-appointed projects such as enhancing the women's side of USBWA.
And so it was that an inspiration occurred while participating on the recent board's teleconference to organize for the season that perhaps the time has come to expand our awards list to match more of the men's awards and, more importantly, start putting names in association such as the Hank Iba coach of the year and Oscar Robertson player of the year.
I already gave our leader Joe Mitch the OK to handle a weekly national player of the week on the women's side, which will be new this season.
And I am working on setting up a women's board beyond the few persons who now informally deliberate for formal actions.
Wendy and I have already begun discussing potential candidates for trophy/plaque enduring names, while other individuals are being solicited to add to the input. We have some strong names already in the pool. The theme when the time comes later on to roll out the announcements this season will be "It's All About The Legacy."
Thus, the plan would be to tie the great names of the women's game in the past with the coaches, players and other individuals of the present.
Any of you are invited to join with suggestions, since we have a little bit of time before pulling the trigger. I already got one great idea from the AP's Jim O'Connell.
I think the public reaction will be great and our event, however we decide to hold it at the Women's Final Four in Denver, should be well received.
Perhaps a place could be found, if we have a sponsor, to permanently house the major trophies for public display, the way the Robertson trophy exists in Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
When completed, our list subject to getting the OK from the group would look something like this.
Player of the Year. (existing but adds a name).
Coach of the Year. (existing but adds a name).
Freshman of the Year. (existing but adds a name).
All Freshman Team (new if approved).
Our Version of the Katha Quinn award. (New, and we have a strong candidate and longtime USBWA member for its name that would be well received.)
Good Guy. (New but perhaps called something else due to gender considerations.)
NCAA Scoring and Rebounding Champions. (New with names, especially if a sponsor can be found.)
Most Courageous. (Existing for men and women and called as is already stated).
Pioneer Award. (Existing, but would re-name Maggie Dixon Award with a change in definition. Looking for a prime sponsor.)
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