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Griffin takes U.S. Open break for Hall of Fame induction

Taking a break from running hospitality at U.S. Open, Allentown resident gets inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

 

Mimi Griffin is only mildly concerned about pausing during her induction speech tonight, clicking her two-way radio and saying, “Go for Mimi.”

Because you never know what might need attention at a hospitality tent at Pinehurst.

“What the heck was I thinking?” Griffin said earlier this week as she allayed some parking problems at the U.S. Open golf tournament. “Everybody asks how I’m feeling, and honestly I’m pretty numb. It’s overwhelming, and a bit daunting, but I’m just so grateful and humbled.”

Griffin left her day job Friday running corporate hospitality at the U.S. Open to be recognized for what she called the most professionally rewarding time of her life. Griffin is part of a six-member class, including Lafayette assistant coach Yolanda Griffith, that will be enshrined Saturday, June 14 at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

Griffin, an Allentown resident who played college basketball at Pitt and was an assistant coach at Lehigh, spent 16 years as an analyst for ESPN and CBS. She befriended Digger Phelps, Pat Summitt and Robin Roberts and served as the studio analyst for ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA women’s tournament from 1996-99. In 1990, Griffin became the first woman to serve as a commentator for an NCAA men’s tournament game.

Griffin left the booth in 1999, as many analysts do, to become a coach. She guided son Kyle’s fifth- and sixth-grade team at St. Thomas More in Allentown, calling it the “most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” Griffin said she expected the induction ceremony to be just as emotional. About 60 family members and friends — including husband Bill, son Kyle and daughter Casey — will attend.

“To have the opportunity to bring the people closest to you into one room is pretty overwhelming,” Griffin said. “Honestly, that’s almost incomprehensible to me. Broadcasting was always a gift, an opportunity that I’ll always treasure. To be honored for something that I would have done for free really is mind-boggling.”

Lingering in Knoxville, however, won’t be an option. Griffin’s Allentown-based company, MSG Promotions, coordinates hospitality venues for the U.S. Open, and the induction ceremony happened to be scheduled during the tournament’s third round. Even more improbably, it arrives in the middle of two events.

The USGA will hold the men’s and women’s Opens back-to-back at Pinehurst, a first in golf history. After the men’s tournament concludes Sunday, June 15, the women will begin practice rounds Monday. Griffin’s company is staging hospitality venues for both events.

“This has been difficult,” said Griffin, who directed operations at both U.S. Senior Opens and the U.S. Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club. “This obviously has never been done before, and the learning curve with that has been significant. But I don’t know if there’s a better venue for something like this than Pinehurst. The people here just get it. They view Pinehurst as their own and view it as their jewel.”

For corporate-hospitality purposes, the USGA combined both Opens into one event. MSG Promotions sold packages to companies that included tents and tickets to both the men and women’s Opens.

Despite the increased purchase requirements, Griffin said that hospitality tents sold out quickly, and overall sales surpassed her team’s projections by 10 percent — even without Tiger Woods competing. Corporations will entertain more than 5,500 clients per day during the men’s Open, Griffin said. That number will be about 2,500 for the women’s Open.

The event is far different from last year’s U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia, both in terms of time and space. Griffin’s team assembled hospitality venues at nine different Merion locations — including some of private lawns neighboring the golf course — while this year’s hospitality locations are centralized.

In some ways, Griffin said, that has made this year easier, despite running back-to-back Opens.

“We put 10 pounds of sugar in a one-pound bag last year,” Griffin said. “At Merion, we managed so many different hospitality areas, and it was difficult to traverse the grounds. This year, we have so much space. We’re putting five pounds of sugar into a 10-pound bag.”

Griffin compared this stretch to the years in the 1990s when her golf and basketball careers overlapped. She said the lines blurred occasionally between the two then but hopes to keep them separate, at least during her acceptance speech.

“The theme of my speech is about the people in my life, especially my husband and kids, who gave me the freedom to pursue my passion, which is women’s basketball,” Griffin said. “They didn’t just understand but participated. That has meant so much to me.”

Lafayette assistant to be inducted

Lafayette women’s basketball assistant coach Yolanda Griffith will join Griffin as part of today’s Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Griffith, beginning her second season with the Leopards after two years at Dartmouth, played professionally for 16 years and was a two-time Olympic gold medalist with USA Basketball.

Griffith played in five leagues during her career, including the WNBA and leagues in Europe, China and Korea. The Chicago native was a member of the 2000 and 2004 USA Basketball teams at the Olympic Games.

In her WNBA career, Griffith was a seven-time all-star made five all-WNBA teams, including first-team honors in 1999 and 2005. She is the league’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds with 1,049 and ranks fourth with 2,444 total rebounds. Griffith was named to the WNBA’s 10th Anniversary All-Decade Team.

June 13, 2014 | by Mark Wogenrich, Of The Morning Call

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