Immaculata's champions from '70s named to Basketball Hall

Judy Marra Martelli was a Mighty Macfor four years.
Judy Marra Martelli was a Mighty Macfor four years.
Posted: April 09, 2014

NASHVILLE - The stars of Immaculata's national champions of the 1970s took a bow Monday after the announcement that they will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I wish I could say this is a dream come true," said Judy Marra Martelli, a former Mighty Macs player who is the wife of St. Joseph's men's coach Phil Martelli. "But who would have dreamed about this back then when I was a little girl? It's just great and thrilling for the Hall to recognize what we accomplished.

"But now this means little girls can dream about days like this."

Cathy Rush's Immaculata teams won three AIAW national championships from 1972-74. They will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Aug. 8. Rush joined the Hall in 2008.

"This goes back to Cathy Rush and all that she did and how far the roots she planted have reached, where we are now," former Mighty Macs player Marianne Stanley said.

Stanley won three more titles as a coach at Old Dominion and is now an assistant with the WNBA Washington Mystics.

Two undefeated teams, Notre Dame and Connecticut, will square off for the NCAA women's title on Tuesday night, and both head coaches have Immaculata connections. Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw and Huskies coach Geno Auriemma were involved in the Mighty Macs' camps.

"Philadelphia has been at the center of women's basketball since Immaculata," said Auriemma, a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee.

"That area of the country produced some of the best players ever, some of the best coaches ever, some of the best teams ever. I'm thrilled that Immaculata is in. We tend to forget: Had they been doing today what they were doing back then, they would be off the charts.

"They did it in an era when not too many people were paying attention. I think it's important for our history that we go back and celebrate them. I'm proud to be from that area. I'm proud to be with all those people that were part of that. I think Muffet and I are part of that."

Said McGraw: "So many people came out of those camps. [Hall of Fame Stanford coach] Tara VanDerveer coached there. I met her way back when I was in high school. Cathy was the first coach to get us on the map and get us excited in the Philly area about women's basketball."

Another of the Mighty Macs former stars, Theresa Grentz, is in retirement after successful coaching stints at St. Joseph's, Rutgers and Illinois.

"We're thrilled and excited to be making history again," Grentz said. "We are looking to another reunion."

Nineteen players performed for the three title teams, including Rene Muth Portland, who coached at Penn State.

Congratulations came from Tim Chambers, the writer, producer and director of The Mighty Macs, the 2009 movie that documented Immaculata's championship run, when the Macs went 60-2.

"They were the original Cinderella team, and the impact of their story forever changed the landscape of women's athletics," Chambers said.

Anucha Browne Sanders, an all-American at Northwestern who is the NCAA vice president of women's basketball championships, saluted the honorees.

"Hail to the champions and their place in history," she said. "We would not be here doing this without what they achieved."

Springfield-bound. Former Georgetown and Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning was elected to the Hall of Fame along with former NBA star Mitch Richmond and NCAA championship-winning coaches Nolan Richardson (Arkansas) and Gary Williams (Maryland). Williams is a native of Collingswood.

The Hall of Fame class will include Temple great Guy Rodgers and longtime NBA commissioner David Stern.

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