Former Inquirer sports writer Mel Greenberg is this year’s winner of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award for print media, basketball’s highest national honor for the profession.
Greenberg, 74, has covered women’s hoops for nearly 50 years, many of them for The Inquirer. He is the first Gowdy Award winner in its 31-year history to be honored specifically for women’s basketball coverage.
In 1976, seven years after Greenberg was hired as an editorial clerk in the newsroom, he launched the first national women’s college basketball rankings. In 1994 it became the Associated Press poll, and its profile rose toward that of the wire service’s men’s basketball and football polls.
Nicknamed “The Guru” for his deep knowledge of women’s basketball at all levels, he has told the stories of the sport’s most famous figures. And while it may be a coincidence that many of them have ties to the Philadelphia area, it’s no coincidence that they’d all vouch for the Philadelphia native’s work: Geno Auriemma, Dawn Staley, Vivian Stringer, Cathy Rush, Cheryl Reeve, Marianne Stanley, Muffet McGraw, and more.
“Mel commands a certain level of respect that no one else does,” Stringer told The Inquirer in 2007 when Greenberg was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. He was the first journalist to be inducted into that Hall.
When Greenberg retired from The Inquirer in 2010, Auriemma said: “More than any other writer or member of the media, Mel made an impact on the way people viewed the sport and he’s a huge reason why the game has attracted more coverage.”
And as former Inquirer sports editor Jay Searcy, who pushed Greenberg to launch the women’s hoops poll, put it: “He was an instant star among the coaches, but nobody at The Inquirer knew it.”
Greenberg is also a member of the Big 5 Hall of Fame (inducted in 1992); the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame (2002), the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (2018); and the Klein College of Media and Communication Hall of Fame (2019) at Temple University, his alma mater, where he was a student manager for the 1969 men’s NIT champions.
In 1991, Greenberg was named the inaugural winner of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Media Award, and the award was named in his honor. In 2005, he won the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Jake Wade Award, given annually to a media member.
Since leaving The Inquirer, Greenberg has run his own website and a popular Twitter account. He also has continued a tradition that has been another hallmark of his career: being a friend, mentor and opener of doors in journalism to countless young people entering the profession. Many of them have gone on to help grow media coverage of women’s basketball in Philadelphia and nationwide.
Greenberg is the fifth former Inquirer or Daily News writer to win the Curt Gowdy Award, following Dick Weiss (1998), Phil Jasner (2004), Mark Heisler (2006), and David Aldridge (2016). He will be recognized at the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in a ceremony this September.
Staff writer Joe Juliano contributed to this report.