• January 26, 2022

A Tribute to Mel Greenberg: Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2021 Curt Gowdy Print Media Award Winner

On September 10, 2021, sportswriter Mel Greenberg was honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy Print Media Award. The following are excerpts from the Hall’s press release announcing that Mel would get the Award:

A pioneer in the coverage of women’s basketball, Mel Greenberg began following the women’s game in 1975. Greenberg began his career with the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1969.

Covering the sport proved difficult when there was little to go on for information, comparison, or measurements of success. He began collecting the necessary information and the voting commitment of coaches to produce the first-ever women’s poll, a Top 20 national ranking of the best teams in the women’s game. The poll debuted in November 1976 and within two years The Associated Press approached Greenberg and officially attached the organization’s name to the poll. As the popularity of the women’s game grew, The AP poll aided the capacity of other newspapers to cover the growing sport.

The unofficial historian of women’s basketball at the collegiate and professional levels, Greenberg has covered every women’s NCAA Final Four since its inception in 1982 and continues to follow local programs at Temple, Villanova, and Rutgers. He is a regular contributor for the WNBA…In 1991, the WBCA established the Mel Greenberg Media Award to “recognize a member of the media who has best displayed a commitment to women’s basketball and to advancing the role of the media in advancing the women’s game.”

Unfortunately, due to a programming glitch in a computer app (years ago it would have been called a clerical error), the Hall of Fame forgot to invite me to say a few words about Mel upon his honor.

Had the Hall invited me and given me two minutes to speak, this is what I would have said:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Andy Lipton. And it is a privilege to pay tribute to Mel Greenberg.

But I have to tell you, there is a funny thing about Mel. He doesn’t look like a female basketball player. Yet for over 45 years, with smarts, understanding, hard work, and empathy, Mel has been a meaningful and tireless champion of women’s basketball and as a consequence, women’s athletics.

Mel joined the long journey for equal rights for women back in the 1970s. He has shown up day after day, year after year, decade after decade, and is still at it. Still part of that long journey.

You see, Mel has what I would call “stick with it-ness”.

And today, Mel is criss-crossing multiple states, taking trains, planes, subways, cabs, Uber, Lyft, you name it, to get to basketball games and basketball-related events, going to his all-night eatery haunts, and staying up all hours of the night to get the story done. Reporting what happened and telling us stories.

Although we didn’t meet at the time, Mel and I first crossed paths on a sunny day in March 1969.

We were in the same beautiful huge building, under the same beautiful ceiling, at the same time. The ceiling was slightly domed shaped, consisting of yellow and golden brown metal slats running from the center to the perimeter, looking as if sunlight had entered. The building was about a year old. At the time, I think we still called the building the new Garden. The new Madison Square Garden.

My mom’s cousin Mershe had gotten my cousin Allan and I tickets to the NIT Championship game. You don’t have to take it from me, but the NIT was still a very prestigious tournament, up there with the NCAA Tournament back then, for a number of reasons. There were over 17,000 people in the Garden for the championship game.

The building was modern with wide seats that were soft and cushiony. Each tier of the arena was delineated by different colored seats. Mershe got us great seats, in the best section, the red seats. Second row behind the bench. As a junior in high school that was living big. When I had to pay my own way to go to a game, I was in the cheap seats, high up in the blue seats, and if I splurged, I was in the second worst tier, the green seats.

Mel was there because he was the team manager for the Temple Owls, who were playing Boston College in the championship game. Temple was coached by Harry Litwack.

I was there because I wanted to see Bob Cousy coach his last game at Boston College, hoping it would end in victory for BC. The Cooz had announced he was retiring as coach of BC when the season was over.

And in the consolation game, Tennessee played Army.

We were sitting behind the Army bench in the consolation game and the Boston College bench in the championship game.

As it turned out, Mel’s Temple team won the championship game and Tennessee won the consolation game.

Tennessee was coached by Ray Mears, to this day, a legendary figure in Knoxville. Army was coached by a young Bobby Knight. And on the Army team was a young cadet by the name of Mike Krzyzewski .

Bob Cousy, Harry Litwack, Bobby Knight, and Mike Krzyzewski were all subsequently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. And now Mel, you are being honored by the Hall of Fame.

Congratulations Mel. Well deserved.

Andy Lipton is a free-lance writer and independent filmmaker. He is a contributor to Mel Greenberg’s website Womhoops Guru and to his twitter account.

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