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1. Diana Taurasi is all the content you need
Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe, Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor took to IG Live last weekend to discuss the 2020 draft, WNBA culture, playing abroad, and much, much more. And while the marathon chat featured plenty of highlights (as well as a healthy amount of drinking and swearing), it was Taurasi’s candidness that stole the show.
First off, she has big plans for the future:
“Everyone is like, ‘Do you want to be a coach? Do you want to be a GM?’ No… I want to (expletive) own [a team].”She has no intention, however, of suiting up for her hometown Sparks.
“Their organization is a s—show. It’s just a mess.”
Approximately how many MVPs has she won?
The spiciest moment of the chat, however, came when Sue, Diana and Penny gave their picks for who the best player from this year’s draft would be. Sue said Chennedy Carter, Penny picked Satou Sabally, while Diana, after much probing, landed on Sabrina Ionescu, to which Sue immediately replied, “I hate you right now. You’re being politically correct.”
Endearing as the banter was, Taurasi also made a point to express her disappointment in the lack of female investors in women’s sports:
“Where are the rich women? I’m so disappointed in the women that have a lot of money.”
Needless to say, quarantine officially has a new hot takes MVP.
2. Muffet McGraw announces retirement
Notre Dame’s legendary women’s basketball coach is stepping down after 33 years at the helm. A Naismith Hall of Famer, McGraw walks away with one of the greatest resumes in college basketball history: two-time National Champion (2001, 2018) four-time AP Coach of the Year, nine Final Fours (including seven in the past decade) 936-292 overall record, making her one of just five D-1 basketball coaches with 930+ wins. (The other four: Geno Auriemma, Mike Kryzewski, Pat Summitt, and Tara VanDerveer.)
McGraw’s greatest contribution to the sport, however, came in the form of her unapologetic advocacy for more women in power. Speeches (like this one) helped turn her into a legend, as McGraw took the torch from the late Pat Summitt in becoming the most vocal critic of the gender imbalance in the college coaching ranks.
— NCAA Women’s Basketball (@ncaawbb) April 22, 2020
Go deeper: See how the internet reacted to McGraw’s retirement
Read former Notre Dame star Ruth Riley’s tribute to her coach
3. Re-introducing: Niele Ivey
Taking McGraw’s place is Niele Ivey, a longtime Irish assistant who spent last season coaching for the Memphis Grizzles of the NBA. McGraw had begun honing in on Ivey as her replacement more than two years ago, and her hiring was made official only minutes after McGraw announced her retirement.
Her resume: Ivey won a national championship playing for McGraw at Notre Dame in 2001. She went on to play in the WNBA before returning to her alma mater to begin her coaching career in 2007.
What she brings: Ivey played a key role in the recruitment of Skylar Diggins-Smith, whose arrival on campus in 2009 helped propel Notre Dame to a decade of dominance.
Diggins-Smith immediately praised Ivey’s hiring, and earlier last month, she posted a video of Ivey in action from back in 2012.
Immediate impact: though she’s only been on the job for a week, Ivey has already secured commitments from two top-20 recruits in the class of 2021: No. 2 Olivia Miles and No. 16 Sonia Citron. Not a bad start for the rookie head coach.
4. COVID-19 relief
Just Women’s Sports is teaming up with athletes across the country to help support No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending child hunger in America.
The numbers: Nearly 22 million American children have lost access to the free or reduced-price meals they rely on due to school closures in the wake of coronavirus.
Our goal: to raise $10,000, or 100,000 meals. We are nearly halfway to reaching our goal, and we need your help to get us past the finish line.
Donate here. No amount is too small, and we thank you in advance for your support in what we know are difficult times.
5. WNBA draftees talk coronavirus limbo, professional transition
We sat down with a group of this year’s WNBA draftees to discuss the abrupt end to their college careers, their experience on draft day, and how they’re preparing for the transition to the pros. Here’s what they said:
On having their seasons cut short:
“Everything builds up to your senior season, and there was no just closure with the way it ended, which made it really sad. Unfortunately with college, you don’t get to retire when you want. You only have four years and then you’re done.” — Haley Gorecki, Duke University
Their reaction to being drafted:
“I just couldn’t believe it. When my name came across the screen, I just jumped up and started running around and screaming. It took me a few days for it all to sink in.” — Sug Sutton, Texas
“Honestly, I felt like I should have been drafted second round at the latest, but I ended up going late third round, which is still a dream come true. But I was definitely confused about my draft level.” — Tynice Martin, West Virginia University
“Oh, it was unreal. Just to see your name come across the screen after not knowing when it’ll happen. It was very nerve-wracking but it was exciting to have everybody around me be super happy and excited.” — Kiah Gillespie, Florida State University
How they’re staying sharp while in quarantine:
“My mentality is still the same. I’ve been working hard my whole life. This pandemic isn’t going to slow me down. It’s not going to stop me. You find ways to stay in shape and to make sure you’re just up to par when it’s time.” — Kamiah Smalls, James Madison University
And how they’re mentally preparing to play with the pros:
“It’s all business now… Now I will be playing against and with the big dogs. And they want your spot. This is the same talk that I had with myself freshman year, but like I said, money is on the line now, so it’s a lot more competitive, it’s a lot more cutthroat and I have to understand that going in.” — Tynice Martin, West Virginia University
Go deeper: read the full interviews here.
6. Chelsea Gray talks Ionescu’s potential, draft day memories
Los Angeles Sparks guard Chelsea Gray is more than a little familiar with draft day uncertainty. After injuring her knee during her senior year at Duke, Gray had no idea where’d she go in the 2014 WNBA draft.
“I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was excited to be there, and I tried to just embrace it, but, unless you’re supposed to go in the top three, you don’t really know when your name is going to be called. I was jittery at the table, and every time the person walked up to the podium with the little draft card in their hand I was like, ‘Is it me? Oh my God, my name didn’t come up. Okay, breathe, drink some water.’”
She was eventually taken 11th by the Connecticut Sun. What followed was a rookie season spent on the bench as she worked to rehab her knee.
“I had a very difficult experience my rookie year. I was injured, I gained weight, I didn’t play as much as I thought I should. Only three to four hours a day were dedicated to the team, and I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my time.”
Gray went on to win a WNBA championship with Los Angeles en route to becoming a 3x WNBA All-Star. In looking at this year’s rookie class, she has both high hopes and praise for No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu.
“I hope and I think she’s going to be great, but I just want her to play as freely as she did at Oregon. Because all of these fans, and the fame… it puts a lot of weight on people. I hope she doesn’t have that. I hope she’s able to play free, play the game, and get triple-doubles. I hope she achieves at the highest level until she plays the Sparks. Then she can have a bad day.”
Go deeper: read our full interview with Chelsea Gray.
7. NWHL expands, PWHPA says no thanks
The future of women’s professional hockey remains as murky as ever. The National Women’s Hockey League announced last week that it’s expanding to Toronto, while the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) will continue its boycott as it waits for a new league to emerge.
Why Toronto? It’s a hockey hotbed of course.
But more importantly, after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded last year, there was a massive hole in the hockey landscape.
The NWHL wants to build from the ground up, and establishing operations up north is a huge step for the league.
What the PWHPA wants: After the CWHL shut down last year, nearly 200 women’s players announced they would not participate in any North American league (i.e., the NWHL) until they were given better funding and support. In short, they want a new league, and not just any new league, but one created in partnership with the NHL.
What they’re saying: “We believe there needs to be an affiliation with the NHL,” said PWHPA leader Jayna Hefford following the news of the NWHL’s expansion. “History tells us the only women’s leagues that survive are aligned with established men’s leagues. We’re adamant that there needs to be a connection there.”
It’s worth noting that the NWHL’s expansion has been met with silence from the NHL, which has neither endorsed nor commented on the move.
Conveniently enough, the NHL has been sitting on the “WNHL” trademark since 1998.
Looking ahead: at this point, reconciliation between the NWHL and the PWHPA seems impossible. The PWHPA is currently planning to provide counter-programming for a second straight season (largely exhibition games and youth clinics) as they wait for the NHL to make a move.
However, if a new league doesn’t quickly emerge, the PWHPA might slowly see more and more of their ranks defect and return to the NWHL. The first five players to sign with Toronto were all initially members of the PWHPA.
Go deeper: read our interview with Team USA’s Hilary Knight, the de-facto face of the PWHPA, on what hockey needs and why she left the NWHL.
8. NCAA laxers are making moves
A slew of the country’s best college lacrosse players will be playing in a different jersey next season, taking advantage of the NCAA’s decision to grant all spring-season athletes an extra year of eligibility. All four of these athletes will be enrolling in graduate programs at their new universities:
Kerrigan Miller: USC → UNC
All-American and 2x Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year
Sammy Mueller: UVA → Northwestern
3x All-American Midfielder
Gabby Rosenzweig: Penn → Duke (pending admission)
All-time points leader (247) and record holder for most goals in a season (98) at Penn
Kaeli Huff: USC → Stony Brook
Pac-12 First Team midfielder
Editor’s note: Thanks for reading this story, which is part of a weekly series in partnership with Just Women’s Sports, a platform that promotes coverage of women’s sports. Visit their website or sign up for the newsletter here.
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