Shortly before leaving for the 2012 London Olympics, USA women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma stood with his arms folded at the team’s training facility in Washington, pondering all that had led him there.
Sue Bird, one of the greatest point guards in women’s basketball history, may also be its most surgically repaired.
Ask her how many operations she’s had in her career, which began at UConn in 1998, and Bird starts counting them on both hands.
“Are you including my nose?” she said. She finally settles on nine.
The latest, to remove a large cyst that had grown in a bone in her left knee on May 9, is keeping her out of the WNBA for the first time since she joined the Seattle Storm in 2002. But she was with her team Sunday, watching it defeat the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
We ask Geno Auriemma the question just ab0ut every three months: Do you want to return to coach the 2014 World Championship and 2016 Olympic team. So far he has steadfastly said no. But to this point, USA Basketball still has not named a replacement.
On Friday in New Jersey, Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said it was “Geno’s job” if he wants it. And on Sunday, Seattle coach Brian Agler, considered a strong candidate for the job, also said he wouldn’t be surprised if USA Basketball is still trying to talk Auriemma into taking the job again.
Agler said he hasn’t been interviewed by USA Basketball.
It was quite the season, as it usually is with UConn. It featured 35 wins, three losses to Notre Dame, two All-Americans and an eighth national championship.
Not bad for five months work.
Here are some things to remember about it all played out:
UConn lost only four games this season. Three were to the Fighting Irish, which made some people fighting mad and was the reason there was so much concern about their paths crossing again at the Final Four. But those three defeats were by a combined 12 points, In fact, if you add their loss to Baylor, UConn’s margin of defeat was just 18 points in four games. Entering the national championship game against Louisville, its scoring margin all season was +32.7. They beat the Cardinals by 33.
Now that her junior year is about to enter its stretch run, Stefanie Dolson’s mom sat her down the other day to discuss her options for life after college.
“I’m just trying to figure it out, slowly but surely,” Dolson said.
This scene is sure to repeat all across the nation. But there is a difference in the Dolson household: If things go according to plan – the way they’ve gone with the UConn women’s basketball program since 1995 – her first job won’t be on the bottom rung of some corporate ladder.
It will be on the top, playing professional basketball in the United States and overseas. And she’ll be making good money doing it.
“Playing professionally is a dream many of us have,” Dolson said. “It is something that I want and that I have worked for. If the opportunity eventually presents itself, than that’s what I will do that. If not, then I hopefully will find a job that I love.”
Since the WNBA began play in 1997, few programs have enjoyed as much inclusion as the Huskies. During the 2012 season, UConn placed more players in the league (13) than any other.
On this current UConn team, ranked third(19-1) and on a seven-game winning streak heading to Saturday’s game at St. John’s, there are a number of players poised to continue the tradition.
That will begin with senior Kelly Faris, the Huskies all-purpose guard.
“She is terrific player,” Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault said earlier this month. “She is what you want in a college player because you can use her in so many different spots. She is strong enough and tough enough to defend power forwards. She is such a great defender who is really improving offensively. She has great instincts and is a great athlete.
“If Kelly keeps improving, there will not be a question about her. She is getting better at knocking down outside shots and even looking for them, which I think she stopped doing for a while last season.
“But I tell you this, if you had to pick a kid to represent your program, she is a pretty good one.”
Among the spectators at Saturday’s UConn-Cincinnati game at he First Third Arena was Seattle coach/GM Brian Agler.
Agler said he was there scouting Kelly Faris, which is interesting because the Storm has the sixth pick in the 2013 Draft and teams usually don’t waste valuable time looking at players they feel they can’t get.
Agler said league rules prevented him from speaking specifically about Faris’ ability. But he did say this about UConn players in general – and he has coached Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Svetlana Abrosimova with the Storm.
“I can tell you that UConn are almost always ready to play in the WNBA after they graduate,” Agler said. “They just seem to get better as they get older.”
Agler said Bird just made her Euroleague debut with Moscow last week and had 10 assists after missing the first part of the season rehabbing hip surgery at UConn. She is teammates this winter with Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker.
“People look at Sue and think of her as a girl next door type. But she has a lot of toughness,” Agler said. “She is persistent and takes good care of herself. But she has played a lot of basketball and the years of wear and tear take a toll. She’s looking at beginning of the end of her career; it won’t be anytime soon, but sometime in the next five or six years. She wants to finish strong and we’d like her to do it here in Seattle as healthy as possible.”
Agler heard from Abrosimova’s agent last week who expressed her desire to return to Seattle. Agler said he’s in the process of putting the team together.
As for the draft …
“It has the three players who most think will go 1-2-3 [Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins]. I don’t know about that. There are other players who can make impact,” Agler said. Agler added he has 20 to 25 players targeted and will really start to scout hard in the conference tournaments.
As for the Huskies …
“My prediction before the season was that UConn was going to make a run at the title,” he said. “They are a year older, had a great recruiting class and they are hungry. Everyone talks about UConn’s ability to run and score, but they are such good defenders.”