NEW ORLEANS — No state teams were in contention for a title, but NCAA Vice President of Women’s Basketball Championships Anucha Browne said the 2013 Women’s Final Four counts as a huge win for New Orleans and Louisiana.
“The New Orleans community has mobilized and made this a tremendous event,” Browne said before Tuesday’s title game between Louisville and Connecticut. “The local organizing committee and the city of New Orleans put on an event that was seamless. It didn’t matter where we were or who we were working with.
“And that’s what the city of New Orleans is known for. They work together and get things done. When you think about the women’s game and where it is right now, this is a great place to be.”
Tulane assistant athletic director Vince Granito, one of three co-directors of the New Orleans organizing committee, echoed those sentiments.
“The feedback we’ve gotten from the NCAA has all been extremely positive,” Granito said.
Although the same organizing committee put on the 2012 Men’s Final Four, Granito said organizers made it a point to show the NCAA it understood the differences between the events. Granito said about 900 volunteers worked in shifts to make the tournament flow smoothly. Browne said 25,000 middle school students took part in youth clinics in New Orleans and that 17,000 youngsters participated in the Tourney Town exhibits next to the New Orleans Arena.
Less than 24 hours after his Louisville men’s team won the national title in Atlanta, coach Rick Pitino addressed the Cardinals women.
Assistant sports information director Kim Pemberton said Pitino spoke to the team before their arrival at the Arena. Pitino also spoke to coach Jeff Walz’s team after first- and second-round wins in Louisville.
Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich admitted he hadn’t had much sleep, but he was running on plenty of adrenaline as he accompanied Pitino to the arena about 40 minutes before tipoff.
“It’s been even better than I thought it would be,” Jurich said. “But there’s no way you can prepare for this. We’re so lucky and blessed.”
Louisville football coach Charlie Strong also was in the crowd. Strong’s team also ended its season in New Orleans, with a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl in January.
Also on hand was former Western Kentucky and Nebraska coach Paul Sanderford, who gave Walz his start as an assistant.
UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel said he enjoyed rubbing in the Huskies’ semifinal victory against Notre Dame since one of his best friends is fellow Brother Martin grad and Notre Dame alum Rod West. West is the former chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors and an Entergy executive.
“He had to buy me dinner (Monday) night,” Manuel said. “So I made him pay for it.”
Baylor star Brittney Griner swept the list of MVP honors by claiming the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Wade Trophy.
Griner received the award named after the late Margaret Wade, who led Delta State to prominence in the 1970s. Griner joins former Old Dominion star Nancy Lieberman and ex-LSU standout Seimone Augustus as two-time Wade winners.
Advocate sportswriter Ted Lewis contributed to this report.
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