The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, November 27, 2019
Giving thanks — Must-click women's basketball links — Interview with Carla Berube
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Something I think about quite often is how many of the original Title IX fighters are still around.
While I covered the WNBA Finals, that thought was fairly constant every time I passed the Washington Mystics’ bench, and saw Marianne Stanley there.
Much of the conversation about Stanley, who was named the new head coach of the Indiana Fever on Tuesday, centered around her work with the Mystics. And that makes sense: not only did Mike Thibault’s staff help capture the 2019 WNBA championship, they did so with a futuristic offense. Color me fascinated by how much of those ideas Stanley will carry into the Fever plans for 2020 and beyond.
But Marianne Stanley, long before she assisted the Mystics, was head coach in Washington, winning 2002 WNBA Coach of the Year honors with a Mystics team built and shaped very differently from the Elena Delle Donne-led squad. And decades before that, Stanley coached both Nancy Lieberman and Anne Donovan at Old Dominion, just a name to many current fans, but in many ways the pre-Tennessee of the women’s collegiate game.
Something I am eager to ask Marianne (or she can just email me, as we are fortunate enough to count her among The IX’s readers) is how much the loss of Donovan, one of her greatest players, contributed to a sense that she wanted another shot at running her own team. I know Anne was eager to get back into coaching, and it is a massive loss for the game, for all of us, that she didn’t.
Marianne gets to do something remarkable now, though: to connect the experiences of Lieberman and Kelsey Mitchell, of Donovan and Teaira McCowan, passing along institutional knowledge that lives inside of her. Whatever progress there’s been on equality in sports, and whatever comes next, the immediacy of fighting those fights in real time lives on among many of the coaches who are very much with us, and doing the good work to this day.
I think of folks like Marianne, of Kathy Delaney Smith at Harvard, Ann Meyers Drysdale of the Mercury, people who can tell you where they were when Title IX became the law of the land, and how their lives changed (or, in many cases, didn’t, leading to the first pitched battles of the new law). I’m thankful for those who continue to give back, who can pass on those ideas to all who come after. If Kelsey Mitchell stays in the game as long as Marianne has, she’ll be preaching basketball to someone in 2060.
The Fever got more interesting on Tuesday (and we’re not even talking about the promotion of Tamika Catchings, a disciple of Pat Summitt, to general manager). But they also managed to extend back into the rich history of women’s basketball even as they did so.
This matters. Those pioneers are all around us. And we should be thankful for them. I know I am.
This week in women’s basketball
Here’s the Indianapolis Star on Stanley’s press conference.
Natalie Weiner points out how great, how fast South Carolina’s freshmen are.
Lindsay Kramer details the leap by Syracuse’s Emily Engstler.
Arizona, which entered the AP Top 25 this week, is finding success on the recruiting trail.
Don’t miss this deep dive from Lyndsey D’Arcangelo on the Lindsay Whalen trade.
Jacob Mox at HerHoopStats has your mid-major players to watch.
Jenn Hatfield breaks down the dueling grad transfer campaigns of Chloe Jackson and Te’a Cooper at Baylor.