As we usher in the New Year, we’d like to invite our readers to take a brief look back at the best and worst of women's basketball in 2012. As you read, bring your love of the game and your sense of humor with you.
Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever – We love Catch for all she is on and off the floor and even the die-hard fans in Minnesota aren't too upset that Catchings got a ring. The 2011 MVP and five-time defensive player-of-the-year put the Indiana Fever on her back and willed this team to a championship over the hugely favored defending Minnesota Lynx, despite the injury of running-mate Katie Douglas. There isn’t a more deserving player and Catchings' trophy case is now complete!
NCAA Women’s basketball – A record 8.1 million fans attended women’s basketball games during the 2011-2012 season and another 4.8 million watched the national championship game on TV. Thanks to fans for spending your hard-earned money on our game.... now keep spending it liberally and try to throw a few dollars toward the WNBA as well.
The Baylor Bears – Behind All-Americans Brittney Grinner and Odyssey Sims, the Bears completed an record 40-0 season -- the first team, male or female, in NCAA history to accomplish that feat -- and won the NCAA National Championship with a victory over Notre Dame. Griner also dunked and shot-blocked her way into the NCAA record books and will go down as one of the best to ever play the game, especially if the Bears can repeat.
Best Coaching Tirade
The jacket-throwing incident by Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve - This was easily the most entertaining moment of the 2012 WNBA finals as Reeve, completely irate with the WNBA officiating, ripped off her jacket, gave it several good swings before throwing it aside, and shook her fist at officials until she was restrained by her players and assistants. It got her a technical and inspired her team to a win in Game Two, but wasn't enough to get the Lynx to a title repeat.... And it did get a lot of hits on YouTube.
Most Inspiring Team
Oklahoma State – After the tragic death of head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna in a plane crash, associate head coach Jim Littell took over the team and led the Cowgirls through the difficult season which ended triumphantly with a WNIT Championship.
Most Inspiring Person
Pat Summitt – After courageously coming forward and sharing her diagnosis of early-onset dementia, Pat Summit stepped down this spring, ending 38 years of unprecedented success at the University of Tennessee. Her leadership and courage has now been channeled into the Pat Summit Foundation, which raises awareness and research funds for Alzheimer's. She continues to inspire all of us.
2012 USA Senior Women's National Team – Team USA defeated France, 86-50, to claim its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal -- the most of any team sport -- and continue American dominance of international women’s basketball. Led by repeat gold-medalists Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings, with significant contributions from Olympic newcomers Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Angel McCoughtry, the New York Times dubbed them the “Recurring Dream Team.”
Best Olympic Moment
Liz Cambage dunk - The 6-8 Aussie putting down the first dunk in Olympic women’s basketball history was the most exciting women's basketball moment during the Olympics. According to Liz she had no plans to dunk, it just happened in the Opals' defeat of Russia. The Aussie first probably irked U.S. coach Geno Auriemma since he had given the green light to Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles to dunk and had them regularly practicing the flush during Team USA workouts.
Minnesota Lynx Seimone Augustus and LaTaya Varner - The couple publicly announced their engagement and wedding plans and also spoke out against a ballot measure in Minnesota to ban same-sex marriage (which was voted down). We salute them for standing up for what they believe in, and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and teammates for supporting them. If more people knew gay couples were this hot, they might reconsider their archaic ways.
LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell - She always looks stylish and trendy on the sideline, even while expecting. Caldwell smartly hired Shyra Ely, a former Indiana Fever player turned fashion stylist, to help her find hip, sexy wardrobe options. (It must be working: Caldwell’s baby-daddy is the sooo fine Justin Fargas, a former Oakland Raider.)
LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell (Photo courtesy of LSU Athletics)
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey – Coach Mulkey's wardrobe is reaching legendary status and has become a regular topic on twitter. The ensemble she wore on national TV during the 2012 NCAA semifinal game was trending as the “dip and dots” outfit.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey (Photo by Kelly Kline)
Baylor associate head coach Damien McKinney - While most male coaches keep it simple with the standard suit and tie, we applaud Damien for stepping out during the national championship game with this larger-than-life tie. It's a good look, if you're into bibs.
Baylor associate head coach Damien McKinney. (Photo by Kelly Kline)
University of Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell - The dancing prowess of Matthew Mitchell has reached epic proportions. For the third year in a row the head coach has performed a dance during the Wildcats' Midnight Madness festivities. It started three years ago with the "Dougie"; last year he did a Michael Jackson tribute; and this year Mitchell performed an M.C. Hammer dance. It takes a lot of guts and a good sense of humor for a six-foot-five dude to put on parachute pants and a zebra print jacket. Watch for yourself.
Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry – Hate to say it, but “Baby, you ain’t a star" -- at least when it comes to music. Stick to basketball and lose the attitude! (Watch McCoughtry's debut music video and decide for yourself.)
Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma suggesting we lower the rims in women’s basketball. Just keep winning championships, Geno! The Huskies don’t seem to have any problems scoring on the 10-foot rim, and statistics show women's shooting percentages are no worse than the men's as things stand.
Chamique Holdsclaw arrest - The Tennessee and WNBA legend allegedly stalked her former-girlfriend, Tulsa Shock forward Jennifer Lacy, breaking the windows out of her Range Rover with a baseball bat and firing a gun into the car. The matter is still being worked out in court and Holdsclaw could be facing jail time. Please, if you're suffering from depression, don't get a gun, get a mental health counselor.
Liz Cambage's no-show in Tulsa - Cambage "missed" her first flight, "missed" her second flight and then finally had her agent release a statement saying she was too tired from the Olympics to come play in the WNBA. Really? You’re 19 years old! Just admit the truth -- you don’t want to play in Tulsa!
Tina Thompson - The legendary lipstick lover broke the WNBA career-scoring record in 2011 and this year she became the first WNBA player to reach the 7,000-point plateau… and still counting! That’s what happens when you play for 16 years!
Worst Team Owners
Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler of the Atlanta Dream - There was plenty of competition for this one, but co-owners Brock and Loeffler caving to the antics of spoiled star athlete Angel McCoughtry and firing head coach Marynell Meadors was one of low points of the WNBA season. The duo then elevated assistant Fred Williams to head coach and G.M., who never coached the Utah Starzz to better than a fifth-place finish in the West in his last gig as a WNBA head coach. Our prediction: Atlanta can keep dreaming about winning a championship.
Best WNBA Hire
Washington Mystics hiring Mike Thibault – Many were fearful the Mystics were about to close up shop, but that door was slammed shut once Washington hired Thibault, the winningest active coach in the WNBA and just a few games short of overtaking Van Chancellor for the league's all-time honors. If Thibault can have half of the success he manufactured in Connecticut, it might make up for 15-years of coaching mistakes in Washington.
Worst WNBA Hire
Bill Laimbeer to the New York Liberty - Okay, this is really a good hire, but we have to keep up Bill’s image as a “Bad Boy.” We actually love this move by New York and think he will be the right mix of old-school coaching and smart-aleck personality to turn the Liberty around.
Best NCAA Hire
University of Tennessee hiring Holly Warlick - Passing the legacy of Pat Summitt to the player and coach who had been beside her for four decades was the right thing to do. With Warlick at the helm, still more success is in the future for the Lady Vols.
Adrian Wiggins – In what Mississippi athletic director Ross Bjork described as a "sad day for the University of Mississippi, our profession and most importantly our student-athletes," Ole Miss fired its new head coach before he had coached his first game with the Rebels, along with newly hired assistants Kenya and Michael Landers, after the administration found evidence of academic and recruiting misconduct in the program. Two junior college transfers were also ruled ineligible to play in the scandal. Ole Miss self-imposed a one-season post-season ban and will likely get slapped with more once the NCAA finishes their investigation.
Phoenix Mercury head coach Corey Gaines - Was it tanking or just a severe rash of injuries? Replay the WNBA draft lottery on Youtube and see the “shXt-eating-grin” on Gaines' face when the Mercury received the No. 1 draft pick . . . aka Brittney Griner. It’s obvious he rolled the dice and won big! That brings up our next category . . .
Worst Excuse for Missing a Game
Diana Taurasi's dental work - The Phoenix Mercury star player only played eight games for her WNBA team all season and had various excuses, including a post-Olympics dentist appointment, which not only infuriated Phoenix fans but hurt the WNBA in general. Especially after Taurasi played more minutes than anyone else on Team USA during the Olympics. Who knows, maybe she'll get an endorsement from Crest or Colgate.
The Best 11,000 Euros Ever Spent
FIBA fine Taurasi - Let's give DT her due. When FIBA made a uniform rules change to "promote the game" by requiring female athletes to wear tighter (no more than two centimeters between the skin and the uniform), shorter shorts (no closer than 10 centimeters inches above the knee), Taurasi said, "Hell No!" and refused to comply with the new rules. She happily racked up more than 11,000 Euros in fines and kept ballin' out in normal basketball attire. "They want to make basketball sexy, but it isn't sexy. It's a sport. ... If you want sexy uniforms, go read Playboy!" was Taurasi's response to the rule, which FIBA has also enforced to prevent Muslim and Israeli women from wearing hajibs, body-covering spandex or even t-shirts under their uniforms in compliance with religious modesty rules.
Geno Auriemma's $80,000 donation to the Sandy Hook Memorial Fund - Auriemma’s funds along with other donations will offer aid for current students of the elementary school, siblings of those killed and any dependents of the teachers or adults who lost their lives in the tragic shooting in Newton, Conn.
- Candace uncovered on the ESPN the Mag
- High heeled affair for SEC coaches
- LSU's Caldwell gives birth to a baby girl