Joan Cronan Day: Saturday, June 8

Marvin Westwestwords

June 8 will be another Joan Cronan Day.

We still need proclamations from the mayors to make it official. A little something from the governor and a short salute from President Trump would help. Yes, this is that big a deal.

With or without royal approval and endorsements, the show will go on.

Joan Cronan, women’s athletic director at the University of Tennessee for almost half her life, will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. If you listen closely, you might hear an angel applauding before the crowd at the Tennessee Theatre rises in a thunderous ovation.

Cronan was the umbrella for the Pat Summitt era. Joan budgeted for greatness. She supported and advanced the Lady Vols in other sports, but it was Pat and basketball that brought back eight national championships.

Cronan is honored to share celebrity status on her day. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame will also embrace:

Valerie Still, Kentucky’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, 1982 and 1983 All-American, the first Wildcat woman to have her jersey retired. She became the leader of the Columbus Quest pro title teams in the short-lived American Basketball League.

Ruth Riley, Naismith Award winner for 2001, another two-time All-American, the scorer and rebounder who led Notre Dame to its first NCAA championship. She did some other stuff – 2003 WNBA MVP, twice a star with the champion Detroit Shock, 2004 Olympic gold medalist.

Carolyn Bush Roddy, two-time national junior college All-American at Hiwassee, scoring and rebounding leader of the famous Wayland Baptist Flying Queens in two of their national AAU championship years. Carolyn qualifies as a veteran selection – which means she probably should have been inducted long ago.

Ticha Penicheiro, born in Figueira da Foz, Portugal, became one of the all-time great point guards in women’s baskets. She was a Wade Award recipient and two-time All-American at Old Dominion and Colonial Athletic Association leader in assists and steals. She led four championship teams in international play and won all-star honors with the Sacramento Monarchs in the WNBA.

Nora Lynn Finch will be honored as a contributor. She certainly is one. She coached at Wake Forest and Peace College. She was an administrator at North Carolina State for more than 30 years, most recently senior associate athletic director. She became associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference. She chaired key NCAA committees, moved a few mountains and received lifetime-achievement awards.

Beth Bass will be honored as another contributor. She played at East Tennessee State and went for a world record in knee operations. She stopped after three. She moved on to UT as a graduate assistant in marketing and promotions and earned her master’s degree. She moved as a women’s sports executive from Converse and NIKE. She went from being a catalyst for corporate investment to CEO of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. She helped launch support for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

This is the 21st class of honorees. The special day will begin at 11 a.m. with a free autograph session with Joan Cronan and the other inductees at the Hall of Fame, 700 Hall of Fame Drive, Knoxville.

If you go, note the Pat Summitt Rotunda at the entrance. The courtyard outside, smartly shaped like a basketball, is made of numerous bricks with personalized inscriptions.

A VIP reception is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre (all-inclusive tickets are $275). The induction ceremony, beginning at 7, costs $125. That includes an after-the-show celebration at the Hall of Fame (Ticketmaster outlets, Tennessee Theatre box office and 800-745-3000).

The hall will be open on Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday hours are 9 to 3, Sunday 8 to 2. The hall mission is to honor the past, celebrate the present and promote the future of women’s basketball. Before you ask, the big basketball atop the building weighs 10 tons and is 30 feet up.

Like I said, this is a big deal.

Marvin West invites reader comments and questions. His address is [email protected].

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