There are few college basketball coaches busier than Geno Auriemma. When he’s not flying somewhere, he’s usually speeding on the ground trying to get somewhere else on time.
Such was the case Saturday night when UConn’s women’s basketball coach ran late for cocktails to this appointed date as guest speaker at St. Joseph University’s inaugural Hall of Fame induction.
Still, Auriemma wouldn’t have missed it. The invitation came from two of his multitude of friends, Blue Jays’ athletic director Bill Cardarelli, and former player Debbie Fiske, the university’s associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and radio analyst on the UConn women’s basketball network.
“I didn’t wake up 3 months ago and say, you know what, I need to go to St. Joseph’s and speak at their Hall of Fame induction ceremony. That’s not what you do in life,” Auriemma said. “What you do in life is things for people you care about, people that have had some kind of influence in life, like Bill Carderelli and Debbie Fiske.
“When they ask you to do something, you do it. And that’s the reason I’m here. This [the induction] is a very important night for them. It means a lot to the school. It means a lot to the players. It means a lot to the coaches. They could’ve asked anyone to [speak] and they asked me. Anytime you get inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s a big deal, so for the people who were here tonight, it’s a big deal. In my own way, I wanted to be part of it.”
This spring and summer brings a different, more familiar pace to Auriemma’s life. No longer a part of USA Basketball’s program, he’ll basically be doing what he;s always done; recruit, restructure his eight-time national champion and relax.
Meanwhile, it’s already turning into a busy time for his players. Five report to USA Basketball training camps this week.
Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson have been invited to try out for the U-19 national team. Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will be in camp with the World University Games team.
Stefanie Dolson would have joined Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis if not for her injuries. And Kelly Faris is now a rookie with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
“Right now, the players haven’t been doing anything because they’ve been getting ready for exams and graduation [which was Sunday],” Auriemma said. “But, I think in their own way they’ve been able to get in the gym and do what they need to do to stay in shape.
“And I think when they go to the Trials they’ll do exactly what they do every other year when they go. They’ll work hard, impress the committee and make the team because that’s what they do.
“Anytime you get invited to play for USA basketball it’s a big deal. And I know that they’re going to be prepared once they get there, that’s for sure.”
One of the things Auriemma will deal with this season is figuring out how to implement an important rule change recommended for implementation in women’s college basketball this season.
If approved, teams will have only 10 seconds to cross the mid-court line after the ball is first touched by an offensive player.
“I think it was short-sighted by us for all those years to not have it,” Auriemma said. “The committee has finally realized we need to keep the game moving, going forward. I’d also like to see the day when we see a 24-second shot clock and eight seconds to get it across just like we have when we play over in Europe.
“I think that anything that makes the game quicker [is good]. I don’t mean faster, I don’t mean out of control, I don’t mean crazy. But anytime it makes you play quicker, it makes you have to be a better player. And I think the one thing that we have to do is constantly challenge our players to be better players.
“The fact we don’t have a 30-second shot clock in high school is not great, because that would force them to be a little better players. And I know there’s a reason for that, and that’s not criticizing, economics are a big part of that. I understand that. But I think anything that makes players play a quicker makes them better players. So I think this is a great rule.”
Soon enough, Auriemma will be at it again, preparing for the 2013-14 season and the start of the new American Athletic Conference.
The AAC will begin its inaugural meeting late next week in Florida, at which time it is expected to announce who will run it, how its schedule will play out and where its postseason tournaments will be held.
“We’ve got some people rehabbing injuries,” said Auriemma, referring to Dolson and Brianna Banks [knee]. I think when August comes around [the start of the school year] we’ll be in good shape.
“There’s a lot of time between now and October 15th when we start practice so I just want October 15th to come and us be healthy.”