Before too long, Caroline Doty’s journey through the depths of injury and rehabilitation and elation of winning national championships at UConn will be over.
In fact, the fifth-year guard now has no more than 11 regular season and nine postseason games remaining before her career comes to an end.
But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t time to learn new things – or for Geno Auriemma to make demands of her.
Such was the case prior to UConn’s 30-point win over Duke Jan. 21. Auriemma sat Doty down, looked her in the eye and laid it out for her.
“I wouldn’t call what we had a discussion because that involves two people talking to each other,” Auriemma said. “This was more of a presentation to Caroline.
“I told her I didn’t think she’d rank in our top 12 defensively [UConn has 11 players]. She understands that. But I told her that’s not why she is out in the floor. I told her, if she is not going to organize our team when she out there, and get the ball where it is supposed to be when it is supposed to be, and knock down some open shots, there is absolutely positively no reason for her to be playing. None. She took it hard, obviously.”
Saturday night, after playing only 14 minutes and not scoring in UConn’s monotonous 67-31 win over Cincinnati, Doty said she listened to every word.
“You have to take it as a challenge. That’s the only way you can take it,” Doty said. “And it’s not the first time he said those things to me. You get a little emotional when you hear it, but you also know the only way to respond is through performance and taking care of the ball.
“I had a turnover tonight [just one] and that is unacceptable. I have to run the offense, keep everyone together. When I don’t do that, I’m insignificant to the team. There was nothing for me to say to him. I mean, you can say what you want. But it comes down to how you perform.
“Coach is always right. It doesn’t matter what I think. When he tells me something, when he has expectations of me, I will take it as a challenge and try my best to overcome.”
Debbie Fiske, the point guard on UConn’s first Final Four team, the former coach at the University of St. Joseph and now radio analyst for the Huskies, said it’s not easy for a veteran to hear those kinds of things.
“It can brutal to hear. Caroline is bright, smart young woman. And sometimes you don’t want to hear that. But then you realize, ‘Yes he [Auriemma] is right’ and I know she respects him enough to believe him. She has to find a way to make some open shots or be that team leader on the floor. And she has done that.
“Look at how she impacted the Duke game. They were running too fast and picked up a few traveling calls as a result. Caroline slowed the game down to a different pace, the one they needed to succeed.
“Kelly Faris was the star of the [Duke] game, but Caroline was just as important, if not actually as much in the stat sheet. She needed to be a presence in that game. And she made most of her time out there.”
Doty, with a monstrous brace on her left leg, has had bright moments this season. Her performance at Oregon on Dec. 31 [14 points, five three-pointers, 12 rebounds] prompted Auriemma to say it was the best game she’d ever played at UConn.
“And Geno rode her that game, seeing that she was doing all the right things,” Fiske said. “But there will be times when the body is not going to let her do what her mind wants.”
But Auriemma wants her to focus tightly on her role as caretaker and stabilizer when he plays her. That is her role, likely her only one from here on.
“Caroline was a Kelly Faris-type athlete,” Auriemma said. “But as time goes and you look back, and you realize that you really can’t do many of those things anymore, it’s pretty depressing and demoralizing.
“You need to be pretty strong [mentally] to change the way you play basketball after you have played it for so long [another way]. It’s been tough for her and I am proud of her.
And if she doesn’t, no matter how he feels about her personally, he has told her he will not play her as much as UConn pursues an eighth national title.
“With coach you need to focus on what he says and not how he says it,” Stefanie Dolson said. “You need to listen to what he says and respond to it. He may sound mad, but you just try to focus on the content.”