After touching on a couple of news items from the WNBA and NCAA, this week’s edition of “This Week in Women’s Basketball” serves as an opportunity to catch up on the 21 individuals and three teams nominated as candidates for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2024.
NCAA announces new media rights deal with ESPN
On Thursday, the NCAA and ESPN announced a new eight-year, $920 million media rights deal. Women’s basketball remains one of 40 collegiate championships covered under the agreement, meaning, unlike the men’s NCAA Tournament, the women’s tournament will not a have a separate, unbundled media deal.
BREAKING: The NCAA has reached a new 8-year deal with ESPN worth $115M per year to televise 40 championships each year — including the women’s basketball tournament as part of the bundle.
No standalone deal for WBB.
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) January 4, 2024
NCAA president Charlie Baker suggests the contract values women’s basketball at $65 million per year, which is more than half of the annual value of the deal and 10 times more than the deal that expires at the end of the 2023-24 season. According to Baker, the NCAA could reward women’s basketball teams that advance in the NCAA Tournament with performance units, a revenue-sharing system used for the men’s tournament. Each men’s team that receives a tournament berth earns a unit, with additional units available for advancing. The revenue from performance units go to a respective team’s conference, with the revenue distributed to the conference’s member schools over a six-year period.
Women’s college basketball coaches, many of whom had lobbied for a standalone media agreement, immediately expressed the importance of implementing a performance units system. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley asserted:
We need that part of it to happen. Not, you know, just for women’s basketball. We need it for women’s basketball, but we need it on our campuses because that’s what’s happening on the guys’ side. We need that to happen, and then I do think you’ll start seeing administrators realize that we are revenue producing, a revenue-producing sport. That’s one of the things that’s holding us back.
Dawn Staley on today’s new TV deal for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament and the importance of units:
“I would much rather see it stand on its own but there’s progress. And I know things won’t happen overnight. There’s progress. This deal lends some respect to our sport.” pic.twitter.com/3gYiQwugsf
— Matt Dowell (@MattDowellTV) January 5, 2024
North Carolina head coach Courtney Banghart, president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, expressed a similar sentiment:
How do you tell [athletic directors] to continue to invest in women’s basketball other than out of the goodness of their own heart? Now, once we get money assessed and money attached to postseason success and you get rewarded, it’s the next step in bringing other people along too as ADs’ hands are forced a little bit.
The new deal does guarantee that the women’s basketball national championship game will be broadcast on ABC for the next eight seasons. The agreement also should encourage ESPN to maintain and expand its commitment to quality women’s basketball coverage. However, the bundled deal still pales in comparison to men’s college basketball’s standalone contract.
The NCAA’s new media rights deal with ESPN for 40 championships, including the women’s basketball tournament, will be worth $115 million per year
Read more: https://t.co/8ZobMNjKRE
That’s more than 3x the previous deal, but is still dwarfed Men’s March Madness pic.twitter.com/RIfjYC7TD7
— Lev Akabas (@LevAkabas) January 4, 2024
Sparks name Pebley general manager
On Friday, the Los Angeles Sparks announced that Raegan Pebley will serve as the organization’s general manager.
Pebley is most familiar to WNBA fans as a television analyst for the Dallas Wings, a post she occupied from 2016 through the 2023 season. Pebely also spent 21 seasons as a head coach at the college level, most recently at TCU. She played collegiately at Colorado before two seasons in WNBA, playing for the Utah Starzz in 1997 and the Cleveland Rockers in 1999.
On the hiring of Pebley, Sparks managing partner and governor Eric Holoman said:
Raegan is an exceptional leader and culture builder. She has deep knowledge of the women’s basketball landscape and brings expertise in player development, talent evaluation, analytics, and organizational leadership. I’m looking forward to partnering with her as the Sparks begin the next phase of our build.
On the opportunity, Pebely shared:
The tradition and legacy of the Sparks has played a key role in the current trajectory and growth we are seeing in women’s sports. I am eager to partner with our players, front office, coaching staff and community as we foster a culture where our players are resourced with all the tools they need as they courageously chase the best version of themselves and compete for WNBA championships.
With Pebley assuming the general manager position, previous general manager Karen Bryant will transition to other roles. According to the organization, “Bryant will continue to collaborate with ownership on strategic initiatives and business operations.”
2024 Naismith Hall of Fame nominees
Just before Christmas, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced eligible candidates for the Class of 2024, a list that included a number of players, coaches and pioneers from the women’s game. While all finalists will be revealed during the NCAA Final Four on Saturday, April 6, it’s worth celebrating all nominees:
- Leta Andrews: Already a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Andrews is the winningest high school basketball coach in US history. She coached girls’ basketball at five Texas high schools across 52 years, beginning in 1962 and retiring in 2014.
- Seimone Augustus: Recently announced as a Class of 2024 inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Augustus, with her signature, silky-smooth game, led LSU to three-straight Final Fours (2004-06), helped the Minnesota Lynx win four WNBA titles (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) and contributed to three Olympic gold medals for Team USA (2008, 2012, 2016), while also earning her a number of individual accolades at both the collegiate and professional levels.
- Jennifer Azzi: After starring at Stanford, Azzi was a member of sport-shifting, gold medal-winning 1996 Olympic team. A founding player in the ABL, Azzi played three seasons for the San Jose Lasers before joining the WNBA, playing four seasons for the Utah Starzz/San Antonio Silver Stars. She was inducted in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
- Doug Bruno: Bruno still stalks the sidelines as the head coach at the DePaul, in the midst of his 38th season with the Blue Demons. A 2022 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Bruno has led the Blue Demons to 25 NCAA Tournament appearances. And as he discussed with Stephanie Kaloi, Bruno also spent two seasons leading the WBL’s Chicago Hustle.
- Cheryl Ford: The third pick in the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock after a standout college career at Louisiana Tech, Ford was a member of Detroit’s three WNBA championship teams (2003, 2006, 2008). Ford also was the 2003 WNBA Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-WNBA honoree, a four-time All-Star and the 2007 WNBA All-Star Game MVP.
- Becky Martin: The head coach at Baltimore’s McDaniel College for 37 seasons, Martin won 554 games, reaching the Division III NCAA Tournament six times and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in 2004. First a standout player for McDaniel, Martin took over as head coach in 1981, a year after her graduation. She maintained the position until 2018, when she took a medical leave due to pancreatic cancer. She lost her battle with the disease in 2021.
- Debbie Miller-Palmore: A star for Boston University from 1977-81, Miller-Palmore was a two-time All-American and finalist for the Wade Trophy, accumulating an array of statistics as she led the Terriers to 66 wins over her four seasons. She was selected to Team USA for several competitions, including to the 1980 Olympic team that would not compete in Moscow due to the US boycott.
Congratulations to Debbie Miller-Palmore ’81 on her induction into the Bronx Basketball Hall of Fame!!! One of 15 new inductees, she will be honored at the organization’s awards dinner in November. #ProudtoBU pic.twitter.com/aAaWmw4TlS
— BU Women’s Basketball (@TerrierWBB) August 7, 2023
- Marian Washington: Inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004, Washington spent one year as an assistant coach at Kansas before becoming the head coach of the Jayhawks, a position she held from 1973 to 2004. She also was an assistant coach for the 1996 Olympic team.
- Dean Weese: A women’s basketball coaching lifer, Weese coached at the high school, college and professional levels, winning 1,207 games over a 42-year coaching career that began in 1957. As a high school coach in Texas, he won a total of 10 state titles. In six seasons (1973-79) as head coach at Wayland Baptist College, he led the Flying Queens to a 193-30 mark. The 2000 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee also coached the WBL’s Dallas Diamonds for the 1979-80 season.
- Chris Weller: From 1975 to 2002, Weller served as head coach of her alma mater, Maryland. She finished with 499 wins, in addition to eight ACC championships, two NCAA Final Fours and one AIAW Final Four. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Congratulations to our legendary Hall of Fame coach, Chris Weller, who is receiving the Coaches Legacy Award from the Maryland State Athletics Hall of Fame tonight! pic.twitter.com/3JeDZtH7kK
— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@TerpsWBB) November 10, 2023
- Andrew Yosinoff: In his 47th season as head coach of Massachusetts’ Emmanuel College, Yosinoff has secured the most wins in Division III women’s basketball history, with 905 and counting. Among active coaches across all levels of women’s basketball, he sits behind only Stanford’s Tara Vanderveer and UConn’s Geno Auriemma. With a winning percentage of .750, Emmanuel has had only two below .500 seasons under Yosinoff.
- Penny Taylor: In her 19-year pro basketball career, Taylor played in the WNBL, WNBA and EuroLeague, in addition to representing Australia on the international stage. Her accolades include two Olympic silver medals (2004, 2008) and a World Championship gold (2006) with the Opals and three WNBA championships with the Phoenix Mercury (2007, 2009, 2014), in addition to a number of individual honors.
- Michele Timms: A founding player in the WNBA, Timms played five seasons for the Phoenix Mercury, earning an All-Star honor in 1999. As a member of the Australian women’s national team, Timms won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics and a silver medal in 2000.
Congratulations to three greats of Australian Basketball in Penny Taylor, Andrew Gaze and Michelle Timms who have all been announced as candidates for the @Hoophall class of 2024. pic.twitter.com/ijD6XEJcHN
— Basketball Australia (@BasketballAus) December 27, 2023
- Amaya Valdemoro: A three-time WNBA champion with the Houston Comets (1998-2000), Valdemoro first starred in the Spanish League and EuroLeague, capturing a collection of team titles. She also represented the Spanish national team for 18 years, winning five EuroBasket medals and a World Championship bronze in 2010.
Women’s veteran nominees
- 1982 Cheyney State NCAA Final Four Team: Coached by the legendary C. Vivian Stringer, who was enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2009 and is a 2024 Outstanding Contributor to the Game award winner, the Lady Wolves are the first and only HBCU to advance to a Final Four. Two members of the team—Yolanda Laney (mother of New York Liberty star Betnijah Laney) and Valerie Walker—also are nominated for induction. The Cheyney State team also is slated to be honored by the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2024 with the “Trailblazer of the Game” award.
- Edmonton Commercial Grads: Established in 1912 and active until 1940, the Canadian women’s basketball team remains the North American women’s sports team with the highest winning percentage, winning 95 percent of their games played against opponents in North American and Europe.
- Nashville Business College: The dominant AAU women’s basketball team in the 1950s and 1960s, Nashville Business College won 10 AAU national championships, including eight in a row. The “Nabucos” were led by the great Nera White, who was inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. Another NBC star—Alline Banks Sprouse, an 11-time AAU All-American—is a 2024 Hall of Fame nominee, as is John Head, who spent 17 of his 31 years coaching women’s basketball as head coach of Nashville Business College. Head was inducted in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999; Banks Sprouse was inducted in 2000.
- Harley Redin: Served as the head coach of the Hutcherson Flying Queens of Wayland Baptist University for 18 seasons, from the mid-1950s to early 1970s. As coach, Redin won his first 76 games, 131 games in a row and six AAU national championships, finishing with a winning percentage of .867. Among the players he coached was fellow 2024 Hall of Fame nominee Lometa Odum, who played for Wayland for four seasons, earning four-straight AAU All-American honors. She also was MVP of the 1956 AAU Tournament. Redin was inducted in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, while Odum was enshrined in 2011.
- Hazel Walker: Walker’s basketball career spanned 37 years, with four years of high school, 14 amateur years and 19 professional years. As an amateur, Walker played for five teams and was a seven-time AAU All-American, winning four national championships in the mid-1930s and early 1940s. As a professional, Walker played three seasons for the famous All-American Redheads before establishing her own team, Hazel Walker’s Arkansas Travelers, in 1949.