Two-minute drill with Debbie Antonelli
People talk about "March Madness," but the whole basketball season must get pretty zany for a busy mom, huh?
"The balance is very challenging, but all I can say is my husband allows me to do it. He and the boys can manage while I'm gone, but I'm always a phone call away from being home. But the guys are used to it because I've been averaging 80 games a season for 10 years. But you're right, "March Madness" is hardly a phrase for me; it's called college basketball deployment."
You do so many college games, men and women. Looking ahead to the women's NCAA tournament, who do you like as a favorite and as a darkhorse?
"I really like Baylor because Brittney Griner is unique and special to our game, unlike anyone we have ever seen. We've never had a 6-8 woman who can do the things she can do. And Kim Mulkey is a terrific coach. My darkhorse would be Maryland. They have all the tools you would need. I evaluate like this: Can you defend the post and do you have enough depth to defend? Can you score in the paint, back to the basket and off the bounce? Do you have a 'go-to' player? Well, Maryland has that and has Alyssa Thomas, who is just a sophomore and the most powerful player in our game. And Maryland has offensive balance."
Same thing with the men's tournament?
"I've been impressed with Florida State as a darkhorse. They don't get the national respect the North Carolinas and the Dukes get, but they play defense and have the same characteristics Maryland has on the women's side. As for the favorite, I spent four years as the director of marketing at the University of Kentucky. My time at Kentucky coincided with Rick Pitino's years at Kentucky, so I have a strong affinity for Kentucky."
Kentucky, of course, is in the SEC East. People talk about that division being so tough in baseball and other men's sports, but if there were divisions in women's basketball, all six SEC East teams would make the NCAA tournament. What does that say about the job Dawn Staley has done at South Carolina?
"Dawn has done a terrific job and I'd like to give credit to (South Carolina athletic director) Eric Hyman and the administration for being patient and allowing her to build it the way she knew she needed to build it to compete. They have a veteran, savvy backcourt that emulates Dawn's personality and competitiveness. At the beginning of the year, (Markeshia) Grant, (La'Keisha) Sutton and (Ieasia) Walker couldn't hit a shot if they were in the gym by themselves, and now they make plays and they stretch the floor. What Dawn has done is incredible."
I know you have been involved in a lot of charity projects. Which ones are particularly close to your heart right now?
"My son Frankie has been a part of the Charleston Miracle League since its inception. Frankie has Down Syndrome, so we do Special Olympics and Miracle League and we have the time of our lives. Frankie is an absolute stud -- smart, handsome, charming, athletic and he has a lot of friends; he just happens to have Down Syndrome. And I'm on the board of directors for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. She was my coach at N.C. State, and had a 23-year battle with breast cancer and died in 2009. We started her fund in 2007 and since then, not counting this year, we've raised $4.7 million with $2.5 million already working in grants for clinical trials."