Tag Archives: Temple

Black Girl Magic, LeBron James, Deaths of Sports Icons Defined 2016 Sports Year

30 Dec
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Simon Biles won gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The Last Hurrah for Ryan Howard and Bernard Hopkins, LeBron James-Male Athlete of the Year 

By Chris Murray                                                                                                                 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on about 2016, it was a year where the one constant was death.

While the pop culture world got hit the hardest with the losses of such icons as Prince and David Bowie, the Sporting World got knocked around a bit as well. We lost boxing icon

ImustbetheGreatest

Muhammad Ali Shook up the world with his stunning upset of Sonny Liston in 1964. His death in 2016 highlighted was the most visible in  year when a number icons in sports and entertainment passed away.

Muhammad Ali this year. The General of Arnie’s Army, golf legend Arnold Palmer, also left us. So did basketball coach extraordinaire Pat Summit and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.

Even sports media felt the sting with the losses of John Saunders, host of ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and Craig Sager, easily the most colorful man in the NBA.

Although we’re still in mourning over the loss of these shining stars, and cherishing the memories of their brilliance, the Sporting World gave us more than a few reasons to cheer in 2016. It was an up year for some and a down year for others, but one thing it wasn’t was boring.

Here’s a look at 2016 in Sports…

One Last Hurrah for the Big Piece: Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard played his last season in a Phillies uniform in 2016. Photo by Webster Riddick.

This year, we said goodbye to a man who played a big part in breaking Philadelphia’s longtime championship drought, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Because 2016 marked the end of his contract, Howard will be a free agent and will most likely leave the team that he led with his bat from 2005 to 2016.

During his tenure with the Phillies, Howard’s ability to hit towering home runs and drive in runs helped lead the team to the 2008 World Series title, two National League pennants, and five consecutive National League East titles.  Howard was the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 National League Championship Series and was also winner of the National League Rookie of the Year, and National League MVP awards.

Unfortunately, a combination of age, injuries and a team in rebuilding mode mandated that Howard and the Phillies part ways. Howard will most likely play for someone else and while it’s a shame that he won’t be allowed to retire here, Phillies fans will always appreciate the Glory Days he brought to the franchise.

The Year of Black Girl Magic

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Claire Smith is the first woman to receive the Baseball Hall of Fame’s A.G. Spink Award and will be honored during in Hall of Fame weekend in July. Photo courtesy ESPN.com

In December, former Philadelphia Inquirer baseball columnist Claire Smith became the first woman to win the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award from Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. She was honored for her pioneering work, which included paving the way for women to enter MLB locker rooms to do interviews, just like their male counterparts.

That Smith received the award this year makes perfect sense because 2016 was the year that the Sporting World was hit with all kinds of Black Girl Magic.

Black female athletes from Africa and the African Diaspora (which includes the United States and the Caribbean), served notice to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with, most prominently during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

There, Black women excelled in everything. And I do mean everything.

Gymnast Simone Biles was named the Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year.

If you watched one minute of her gymnastic performances during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the reason she won this award became obvious.

The diminutive Texan was the darling of the games, leading the Final Five—Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Aly Reisman, and 2012 Individual all-around Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas—to a team Gold Medal and also winning three individual gold medals including the individual all-around. Biles stunning performances in the floor exercise dazzled audiences around the world and her grace and athleticism were definitely a joy to watch.

But while she responsible for a nice chunk of the Black Girl Magic on display in Rio, Biles was only the beginning. Black women also showed that they could excel in places they’re not normally associated with like the swimming pool and fencing ring.

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Simone Manuel became the first Black American woman to win a gold medal in swimming at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,

Stanford University’s Simone Manuel became the first Black woman to win a gold medal in swimming when she tied with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak to win the 100-meter freestyle, setting Olympic and American records in the process. She also helped the 4X100 meter medley relay team take home a gold medal and won silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4X100 meter freestyle relay.

Elsewhere in the water, Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman to make the U.S. Water Polo team, helped lead the team to a gold medal. In the gold medal game against Italy, Johnson, the team’s goalie, had eight saves.

Ibtihaj Muhammad made news when she competed with the U.S. Sabre Fencing team while wearing the hijab of her Muslim faith. The team took home a bronze medal and Muhammad’s performance showed that you can be an observant Muslim and an athlete simultaneously.

But while Black women in non-traditional sports took center stage, that didn’t mean that Black women didn’t continue to excel in places where they’ve traditionally ruled, such as in track and field. Led by the United States, the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica and the African continent, Black women won gold medals in all but three track and field events at the Olympics.

From Michelle Carter’s gold in the shot put to Brianna Rollins, Kristi Castlin and Philadelphia’s own Nia Ali sweeping the 100-meter hurdles to the exploits of the Jamaican track team, Black women showed, to paraphrase Emmy-award winning actress Viola Davis, that all that’s needed for them to excel is opportunity. They made the most of it…and then some.

All Hail The King (James)

LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With the Cleveland Cavaliers went down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, LeBron James put his Cleveland Cavaliers on his back and helped them win three-straight elimination games to give the City of Cleveland its first pro sports title since 1964.

James, the Associated Press’s Male Athlete of the Year, became the Finals Most Valuable Player by performing the historical feat of leading in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocked shots, and assists. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that it’s something that neither Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson nor the athlete James compared to most often, Michael Jordan, was able to do.

They’re all Hall of Famers. This year, his achievements put LeBron James in the same rarefied air.

No Joy In Mudville

ben-simmons

Can Ben Simmons lead the 76ers back to glory? He was the Sixers No. 1 draft pick in 2016.

Because the Philadelphia Eagles, the Phillies, the 76ers, and the Philadelphia Flyers are all in some form of rebuilding mode, the closest that Philadelphia sports fans got to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup was the couch in front of their television sets.

While the Eagles, who will miss the NFL playoffs for the third straight year, made some noise when rookie Carson Wentz went undefeated in his first three starts, they came back to earth with a deafening thud after the bye week. Coming into the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, Wentz has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3, 537 yards with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The Sixers also gave their fans hope by picking LSU’s Ben Simmons with their first-round lottery pick. The good news is, Simmons can handle and pass the ball like Magic Johnson.

The bad news is, and this should be no surprise to Sixers fans, he’s injured. And as if often is in Sixers World, it’s a foot injury.

But there is some hope for optimism now that Joel Embiid has finally recovered from his foot injury and has emerged as the team’s best big man.

Villanova Wins the National Championship, Penn Wins Ivy League Crown, Penn State Temple Football Bowl Bound Again

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Villanova won its first national championship since 1985 with a buzzer-beater win over North Carolina.

In one of the most exciting games in the history of the NCAA Tournament, the Villanova Wildcats won the men’s basketball national championship on a last-second three-point shot by Kris Jenkins.  It was probably the greatest championship game of all time and they were honored by the city with a parade down Broad Street. Although I know one Philly sports fan who thinks that parade should have gone to an actual Philly team, but the Wildcats do play some of  their games at the Wells Fargo Center and they were embraced by the entire Delaware Valley during their run to the title.

Like, for example the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and the Temple University Owls.

For the second straight season, the Quakers won a share of the Ivy League football title. They became league co-champs with Princeton by defeating Cornell University 42-40. Junior running back Tre Solomon gained 173 yards to lead the 7-3 (6-1 in the Ivy League) Quakers.

The Owls proved that the team’s 2015 football season was no fluke by winning the American Athletic Conference championship with a 34-10 win over Navy and notching it’s second straight 10-win season. The effort was enough to get head coach Matt Rhule noticed by the Big 12’s Baylor University, and he left to try and salvage a program that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last couple of years. The Owls also lost the Military Bowl to Wake Forest when the comeback they were mounting fell short.

But this doesn’t take anything away from an outstanding year for the Owls. If anything, it gives new Temple head coach Geoff Collins something to shoot for.

The much-maligned James Franklin became the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year by leading the Nittany Lions of Penn State to the Big Ten Football Championship. The team scored a come from behind win against Wisconsin thanks to the performance of running back Saquon Barkley and a stout defense. While many thought that Penn State should have gotten into the College  Football Playoff thanks to its victory over Ohio State, the teams two losses mean they’ll be going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day against the University of Southern California.

Bernard Hopkins Falls to Father Time

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Bernard Hopkins looked as old as the 51-year-old man he is in his loss to Joe Smith Jr. Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com

After getting literally knocked out of the ring by Joe Smith Jr. in his most recent fight, some say it should be.

From the moment he turned 40, Hopkins has waged a valiant and sometimes successful against Father Time.  But in the end, the 51-year-old Hopkins found out what every athlete eventually does: time is undefeated.

While Hopkins hasn’t said whether or not he’ll retire, the prevailing hope is that he will. To do otherwise will probably do him more harm than good long term.

Like I said, 2016 has been an up and down year. But now that it’s over, it’ll be interesting to see what 2017 will bring to the Sporting World.

No matter what it is, I’ll have it for you.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Temple Owls: Best Team in Philly in a Bad Year for City Sports Teams

28 Nov
TempleOwls2015

The 2015 Temple Owls Football team has been the only bright spot in a bad year for Philadelphia sports teams.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

To say that this has been an awful year for Philadelphia’s professional sports teams would be an understatement.

The Phillies spent the entire Major League Baseball season in the National League East’s basement. The Flyers didn’t make the National Hockey League playoffs. We’re not even going to talk about the 76ers and the fact that they haven’t won a game yet this season.

Even the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that most sports fans have traditionally seen as the ray of light in the Professional Sports darkness here in Philadelphia, are giving fans fits. At the beginning of the year, these fans had visions of Super Bowl 50 dancing in their heads.

Now, nothing would make them happier than hearing the news that head coach Chip Kelly is heading back to the college ranks. Especially after the debacle that was last Sunday’s 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Eagles defense, the team’s lone bright spot, became part of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s highlight reel as he threw for five touchdown passes.

Right now, the only thing standing between Philly’s sports fans and collectively jumping off the Ben Franklin and/or Walt Whitman bridges is the Temple University Owls’ football team.

No, you read that right. The college football team that set the record for consecutive losses is the only team holding it’s own right now.

In a year when fans in the city of Brotherly Love have had little to cheer about, the Owls have been the best team in the city and the best FBS college football team in the state.

This weekend, Temple (9-2, 6-1) will be playing for the American Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division title when they take on the Connecticut Huskies (6-5, 4-3) Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

If the Owls win, they will take on the winner of the Navy-Houston game in the AAC Championship game. At the beginning of this season, no one would have thought Temple would be the best team playing at Lincoln Financial Field season.

No matter what happens on Saturday night, the 2015 season has been special for Temple and for the city because they’ve given normally cynical, angry fans something to cheer about in a bad year for Philly sports teams.

When the team upset Penn State in front of a packed house at Lincoln Financial Field, you had the sense that this was going to be a different season for Temple football. The team won it’s first seven games, and came within a play or two from upsetting sixth-ranked Notre Dame, another sell-out game that led to a visit from ESPN’s College GameDay and turned the City of Brotherly Love into the nation’s largest college town.

Led by head coach Matt Rhule, a guy who doesn’t come off as one of those college football coaches who cares more about his ego than his team’s success, the team has played with passion. You can’t coach football or any team for that matter in this city without wearing your emotions on your sleeve, and Rhule appears to understand that.

Temple quarterback P.J. Walker is currently the best quarterback playing at Lincoln Financial Field. He’s thrown 17 touchdown passes, only six interceptions, and has passed for 2,209 yards. He has the ability to make plays in the pocket and to extend plays with his feet.

Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who was recently nominated for the Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defensive player, has been the Owls enforcer in the middle. He leads the team in tackles (107, 65 solo). Matakevich was tailor-made to be a linebacker for a Philly football team.

He’s tough, gritty and takes a blue-collar approach to the game making him a player former Eagles great Chuck Bednarik would appreciate.

Even if the Owls lose to UConn on Saturday or lose in the AAC Championship game, it’s still been a great ride and they’ll still go to a nationally televised bowl game.

But no matter what happens, the Owls have made Philadelphia a college football town again…which considering how the pros are playing, didn’t take a lot…

Bring on the Fighting Irish: Unbeaten Temple Ready for No. 9 Notre Dame at the Linc

30 Oct

TempleNDlogo

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Temple's P.J. Walker has a monumental task ahead of him in Saturday' game against Notre Dame.

Temple’s P.J. Walker has a monumental task ahead of him in Saturday’ game against Notre Dame.

PHILADELPHIA—The City of Brotherly Love will become one of the nation’s largest college towns this weekend with all the pomp and circumstance accompanying the game where unbeaten, No. 21 Temple (7-0, 4-0) will try to prove it belongs among the elite teams in college football when it takes on No. 9 Notre Dame Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field in front of nationally-televised audience.

As an event, this game is probably the second biggest thing to happen to Philly since the recent visit of Pope Francis. It’s so big that the cast and crew of ESPN’s College Game Day will take over Independence Mall for it’s weekly college football preview show.

That’s right, you’ll get to see Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso, who Temple fans hope will wear the head of the Temple Owl (meaning he’s predicting a victory for the Cherry and the White.)
In other words, for this weekend at least, the entire city will be Temple University’s Main Campus.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Owls will face their biggest non-conference challenge in a Notre Dame squad that is still in the running for the four-team College Football Playoff. If Temple can pull off the upset, it can make its own case for a seat at that table.

But despite all of the distractions, and let’s face it, College Gameday and everything that goes with it is a distraction, Temple head coach Matt Rhule said the focus of his team is not going to change in terms of doing the things they do well.

“To focus on what we can control and to focus on what’s next and embrace the moment …The only thing we can do is control how we play,” Rhule said. “We have great leadership from our older guys and as I told them it has be to about us and how we play. We can’t control how good Notre Dame is. We can control our preparation.”

The Notre Dame (6-1) squad the Owls will be facing is a team that’s had its share of adversity and has somehow fought its way through it. Even though the Fighting Irish lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire to a season-ending ankle injury, DeShone Kizer has stepped in to fill the void and has done well.

Notre Dame wide receiver and Philadelphia native Will Fuller has the attention of the Temple defense.

Notre Dame wide receiver and Philadelphia native Will Fuller has the attention of the Temple defense.

Kizer has passed for 1,370 yards, completed 65 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdown passes. It also helps that he has some solid weapons at his disposal. Notre Dame’s best receiver is Philadelphia native and former Roman Catholic star Will Fuller, who leads the Fighting Irish in receiving with 32 catches for 702 yards and eight touchdowns.

Temple’s defense, which ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense, will also have their hands full with running back C.J. Prosise, who is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He has gained 922 yards and has scored 11 touchdowns.
On the offensive line, the Fighting Irish are led by a pair of mid-season All-Americans in center Nick Martin (6-4, 301) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (6-5, 315).

“They have a really good offensive line, really solid up front,” said defensive lineman Matt Ioannidas. “They have a really strong tailback, but our defense is going to match up well against them. We’re excited to play them.”

Offensively, Temple has its own set of weapons in quarterback P.J. Walker , who’s having a solid season passing the football. He’s completing close to 60 percent of his passes and had nine touchdowns. In the win over East Carolina, Walker completed 19-of-35 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown. He said his team will be ready for the Notre Dame defense.

“They’re a talented group,” Walker said. “They got a lot of big guys with a lot of speed, but we feel like if we’re playing our game we’ll be alright.”

Running back Jahad Thomas said the Owls have to come into the game focused on beating a Notre Dame defense, led by All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith, who leads the Fighting Irish in tackles.

“It’s not that we’re getting excited to play the Irish, but we know it’s a great opponent ahead of us, but we’ve got to come out and do the things we’ve been doing and just be ready to play,” Thomas said.

Dawn Staley Carves Her Own Basketball Legacy Coaching in Her First Final Four

3 Apr
Dawn Staley has been a winner throughout her basketball career.

South Carolina Dawn Staley has been a winner throughout her basketball career. She will be making her first appearance as a coach in the 2015 Final Four when her Gamecocks take on Notre Dame in Sunday’s national semifinal contest in Tampa.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When we think of iconic figures in Philadelphia basketball, we almost always point to male basketball players like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving and Allen Iverson, three guys that would be atop a roundball Mount Rushmore if it existed here.

But, there’s one more person you need to add to that list of Philadelphia basketball royalty and her name is Dawn Staley.

Staley, who will be taking her University of South Carolina women’s basketball squad to the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida, has done just about everything in basketball and is just as worthy as her legendary male counterparts.

When Staley’s South Carolina women’s squad takes the floor against Notre Dame in Tampa, it’ll be her first trip to the national semifinals as a head coach and her first visit since her collegiate days when she was leading the Virginia Cavaliers to three straight Final Four appearances.

Transforming a once dormant Gamecocks women’s basketball program into a national powerhouse is a testament to her North Philly roots and a rock-hard determination to succeed in the face of enormous odds, something she reflected on during a conference call with Final Four coaches earlier this week.

“I’m most proud of being able to cut the bottom of a milk crate out, nail it to a piece of wood, and put it on that electrical pole,” said Staley, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist. “And I used to really‑‑ I perfected a bank shot off of a wooden basket in a crate.

“So I know I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life and my basketball career, but that’s truly hard.  I won a lot of horse games on the streets of Philly learning how to perfect the bank shot under those circumstances.”

It was that competitive fire that helped her turn a struggling Temple’s women’s basketball program into a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic-10. From 2000 to 2008, Staley’s teams won 172 games and captured four A-10 titles and made six NCAA Tournament appearances.

Quite a few of her players from those Owls teams have gone to play well at the professional level in this country and internationally. Most notably, Candice Dupree who helped lead the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA title.

Coming to South Carolina and coaching in a tough Southeastern Conference that includes perennial powerhouse Tennessee, winners of seven national championships, was an even tougher task for Staley than reviving Temple’s program.

In her first year, Staley’s squad won just 10 games. Four years later, the Gamecocks went to the Sweet 16.

But Staley said it wasn’t easy. She needed to get talent good enough to make South Carolina into a national powerhouse. Some of that talent is homegrown from the state of South Carolina.

One of those best players is junior guard Tiffany Mitchell, a two-time SEC Player-of-the-Year who is averaging 14 points per game and she landed a Parade national high school player of the year in 6-foot-5-inch freshman A’ja Wilson, who is averaging 13 points per game.

“It takes talent.  It takes great people, and it takes a commitment, a commitment of discipline,” Staley said.  “So once we got those things in place, our program started to move in the right direction.  We didn’t always have that.  Seven years ago, we didn’t have that.”

For all the times Staley has been a part of winning traditions as both a player and a coach at the collegiate level, she has yet to win a national championship. As a player, she came close in 1991 when her Virginia squad he experienced a heartbreaking overtime loss to Tennessee.

Staley said if South Carolina wins the women’s national championship this weekend, the trophy is not just for her, but for all the people who shaped her playing and coaching career along the way including former Temple head coach John Chaney.

“So I take all of those people who helped me along the way and who also experienced that awful feeling of not‑‑ you know, that void of not winning a National Championship,” Staley said. “Hopefully, the cards are in our favor this year, and hopefully I’ll be able for all of those people who played an integral role in my life.”

 

 

 

Women of Power: Hoops Legends Staley and Cooper-Dyke Coach Game They Play–Superbly

17 Feb

By Scott Talley 

For the Chris Murray Report 

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

It is often said that great players don’t make great coaches.  Apparently this adage was never communicated to Dawn Staley or Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.

Staley, one of the most decorated players in women’s basketball history is now head basketball coach of the University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks.  At first glance, it would appear impossible for Staley to match her athletic resume, which includes being a two-time National Player of the Year (1991, 1992) while starring at point guard for the University of Virginia, playing on three gold-medal-winning Olympic teams, and 2013 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  However, the Philadelphia native is well on her way to achieving coaching greatness.

The Lady Gamecocks entered the 2013-14 campaign on the heels of two consecutive 25-win seasons, including a stellar record of 25 wins and only eight losses last season.  And with March approaching, Staley’s nationally ranked team is a virtual lock to make this year’s NCAA Tournament, also known as the “Big Dance.

This season, the Gamecocks are 23-2 overall and are first place in the Southeastern Conference with an 11-1 recording including Sunday’s road win over No. 19 LSU.

Staley arrived at South Carolina in 2008 to turn around the Lady Gamecocks’ basketball fortunes after a highly successful run as head coach of Temple University, where she posted a 172-80 record in eight seasons, including six NCAA Tournament appearances.

 

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women's basketball.

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women’s basketball.

Like Staley, Cooper-Dyke was often the center of attention during a spectacular playing career.  The fiery guard’s highlight reel included playing on two NCAA championship teams at the University of Southern California, winning an Olympic gold medal, leading the Houston Comets to four consecutive WNBA titles, and 2010 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

As a head college basketball coach, Cooper-Dyke also has mirrored Staley by turning losing programs into winners, including success stories at Prairie View A&M, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Texas Southern.   When former Los Angeles Lakers standout Michael Cooper was unable to get the job done as head coach of the University of Southern California’s women’s team, Cooper-Dyke received a call from her alma mater.

Upon accepting the job she said:  “I’m very excited to coach every one of these USC players.  I’m excited about the talent we have.  I’m excited to teach and learn and motivate and really see them blossom into the players they can truly become.”

True to her words, after only a few months on the job, Cooper-Dyke’s Women of Troy are showing signs of returning to national prominence, including a home-and-home sweep of rival UCLA this season.

Under Cooper-Dyke’s leadership, USC is 16-10 overall and 9-5 in Pacific-12 Conference play and are in a three-way tie for second in the conference.

Since the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball in 1982, basketball has remained the most popular women’s sport and in recent years the talent has grown by leaps and bounds.  The sport’s continued rise will no doubt be fueled by coaches like Cooper-Dyke and Staley, who are committed to helping young women be successful on and off the court.

As Staley said during her Hall of Fame induction speech:  “I knew I had made the right decision to coach when I started to care more about my players than the win, and I really like wins…”

Scott Talley is a freelance writer and public relations consultant based in Detroit, Michigan. 

 

 

Preserving Smokin’ Joe’s Legacy

21 Oct

Led by their professor, Temple architectural students want to preserve Joe Frazier’s Gym as a historic landmark

Along with Temple students, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is hoping to turn Joe Frazier’s Gym into a historic site. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If you’re a native North Philadelphian or even just a boxing fan riding up North Broad Street and West Glenwood Avenue and you see a furniture story with a myriad of “50% off Mattress” and “Free Lay Away” signs underneath of what used to be Joe Frazier’s Gym, it doesn’t seem quite right.

It was once the training headquarters for one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champions of all time. It also served as a safe haven that transformed the lives of young Black men and women living in a neighborhood surrounded by crime and drugs.

“Joe and (his son) Marvis helped turned some of these young men from the streets of North Philadelphia into people who have had the opportunity to grow and develop and become vital in the community,” said Vernoca Michael, a Frazier family friend and the owner of the soon-to-be sold Legendary Blue Horizon.

But like his relentless spirit in the ring, the sign, “Joe Frazier’s Gym,” towers above Broad Street as a reminder that “Smokin’ Joe” was an icon that truly represents the gritty, hardworking blue collar spirit of a city unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeves.

Temple University architecture professor Dennis Playdon, Temple architectural major Ann Dinh and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are spearheading an effort to persevere Joe Frazier’s gym as a historic site in Philadelphia.

“Joe Frazier was not only an icon in the boxing world, but also in the neighborhood,” Playdon said. “He was a symbol of hope and life in the neighborhood. He was a surrogate father to many people in the neighborhood.  In preservation we have come to understand that building themselves are not people who are thinking about preservation, but they are the vehicles by which the history of people are continued.”

Dinh, who is one of the students leading the project to save the gym, said buildings like Joe Frazier’s Gym are an important part of Philadelphia’s culture and and history.

“They hold history and stories in those walls and we have to maintain those stories for future generations and let those stories be heard,” Dinh said. “We, as a younger generation, have to keep Joe Frazier’s legacy and keep his commitment to the community alive.”

Frazier had trained at the gym back in the late 1960s and it was turned over to him by his management group when he retired from boxing back in 1976.  Frazier lost the gym in 2008 because of back taxes.

Recently, Temple University had a film screening for a documentary that not only chronicled Frazier’s boxing career, but also took an in depth look at the former heavyweight champion’s relationship with his son, the local residents of the community surrounding the gym.

The film entitled, “Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears,” was directed by Mike Todd. It was shown at Temple’s Reel Theatre last Tuesday along with a panel discussion afterward to raise community awareness of the efforts to save the gym. The film can currently be seen on Hulu.com.

“I feel that this film has a level of importance in preserving Joe Frazier’s legacy, especially the gym to give you a visual image of what the gym once was,” said Quenell Jones, the film’s director of photography. “Hopefully, the students here at Temple University along with the teachers can continue to push that envelope to preserve (Frazier’s) legacy. This film shows how much of a community advocate Joe Frazier was.”

The key to making sure the gym is ultimately preserved as a historic landmark will be to find a suitable buyer. Playdon said the obstacle here is that whoever buys the place has to maintain the leases of the business currently occupying the building.

“The problem is that the leases that are given to these furniture people are sort of unfavorable to buyers, who shy off because they will say, it’s not a favorable investment if they have to inherit the leases,” Playdon said.

The first thing that needs to be done it is to designate the gym as a local landmark, said Brent Leggs, field representative for the Northeast office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“What we want to do is to protect it,” Leggs said. “We don’t want it to be demolished and we don’t want the remaining historic fabric to be lost (such as the inscription), ‘Joe Frazier’s Gym’ that’s etched in the granite in the building. We want to protect the historic fabric that remains there.”

Leggs said the National Trust for Historic Preservation also wants to list the gym in the National Register of Historic Places. He said listing it here could make the gym attractive for future investors.

“Listing it in the national register provides an economic incentive which a future developer can use to reduce their construction costs in reserving the project,” Leggs said.

Leggs said the NTHP is not trying to buy the building itself, but they are hoping they can use their marketing power and brand recognition to attract a buyer who is interested in preserving the building.

“We can help them in determining what the future use may be- a public use that has a community purpose and benefit,” Leggs said.

Michael said it’s going to take partnerships between the public sector and private sector and the sheer determination of the community to help save historic buildings like Joe Frazier’s Gym and the Blue Horizon.

“We’re going to have to take that same oomph, that same determination, that same ability and turning into making sure we save this history,” Michael said. “A lot of that history will be transformed into young people looking at what has gone before and how others made it and inspire them to make it. We must continue this history for the sake of our young people.”

Maryland puts Temple Away Late in Mistake-Filled Contest

8 Sep

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and CM Report

The Maryland Terrapins came into Saturday’s game against the Temple Owls as a 10-point underdog.

However, odds-makers don’t play football and by halftime, the game was a 23-point blowout in favor of Maryland as a listless Temple squad was being drowned by a stingy Terps defense and in a sea of its own penalties and turnovers.

But in the second half, the rejuvenated Owls rallied back to cut the lead to within two late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Terrapins got a late touchdown to put an end to the Temple comeback and came away with a stunning 36-27 victory over the Owls Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

“It was a really a tale of two-halves,” said Maryland head coach Randy Edsall. “The first half we went out and capitalized on big plays and turnovers and then it reversed itself and they made some big plays. To have our guys come on the road against a quality, which Temple is, to fight through adversity to put that last drive together, it really showed me about the heart, the soul and character and belief that these kids have in one another.”

On the Temple side of the field, head coach Steve Addazzio  and his team will look at this game and ask themselves what the heck  happened, especially in the first half when Maryland jumped out to a 26-3 lead at halftime. Temple quarterback Chris Croyer said the team lacked intensity in the first half.

“We were playing very sloppy and we didn’t come out as fired up as we should have been. We came out very slow,” Croyer said.

The Owls simply couldn’t get out of the way of themselves in the first half and at times during the second half. For the game, they committed five turnovers, three in the first half.  They had a couple of bad center snaps over the head of quarterback Chris Croyer’s head led to a safety and slowed down another drive. There were some dropped  passes by Owls receivers and a blocked field goal.

“We didn’t get a rhythm going for a lot of reasons, most of which are three turnovers (in the first half),” Addazio said. “It’s hard you turn the ball over, you’re off the field. .. You don’t get a rhythm that way. Then you’re just calling plays, you’ve established nothing.”

Temple committed five penalties for 60 yards in the first half.

Maryland’s defense held the Temple running game to just 52 yards. Matt Brown gained just 31 yards on 10 carries after gaining 146 in last week’s win over Villanova.  Inexplicably, Temple passed the ball just three times in the first half. But found some rhythm in the second half, Croyer completed 7-of-18 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns.

After the first quarter ended with the game tied  at 3-3,  Maryland seized control of the game in the second quarter and took a 10-3 lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Perry Hills to senior tight end Matt Furstenburg.

Later in the second period,  Maryland upped the margin 17-3 on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Hills to Marcus Leak.  The four-play, 62-yard drive was helped by a 15-yard penalty personal foul penalty by Temple.

On the Owls next possession, Sean Boyle’s center snap in the shotgun sailed over Croyer’s head and the Owls quarterback recovered the ball in his own endzone for a safety.

Seven plays after getting the ball on a free kick, the Terps got an 11-yard touchdown run by Hills to give the Terrapins a seemingly insurmountable lead at the half. The last scoring drive of the half was aided by a roughing the passer penalty by the Owls.

“I don’t what it was on defense, a couple of dumb penalties, personal fouls and missed opportunities today,” said Temple linebacker Nate Smith.

In the second half, things seemed to be going Temple’s way when the Owls recovered a fumble on Maryland’s first play of the second half.  It took just four plays and 35 yards for Kenny Harper’s one yard run to cut the lead to 26-10.

But the Terps refused to fold and marched 67 yards in 12 plays for a 26-yard field goal that gave Maryland a 29-10 lead. The big play on that drive came on a third and 17 play from the Maryland 18 when Hills hit Marcus Leak for a pass that was good for a 39-yard gain.

On its next possession, Temple got a 62-yard touchdown pass from Croyer to C.J. Hammond to cut the lead 29-17.  When the Owls got the ball back they moved from their 40 to the Temple 23, but another bad snap by Boyle pushed the ball back to the 47. They managed to move back to field goal range and settle for a field goal.

The Owls had another opportunity for points after recovering a Maryland fumble at the Terps 12.  But Temple wound up with nothing after Maryland’s A.J  Francis blocked would what have been a chip shot field goal by Brian McManus.

Temple got the ball back one play late when Maryland’s Wes Brown fumbled at the Terps 49. Three plays later, Croyer hit Jalen Fitzpatrick for a 35-yard touchdown pass and that’s as close as Temple would come.

Maryland marched 75 yards in 11 plays to the seven-yard touchdown by running Justus Pickett that sealed the game for the Terrapins.