Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz will be an assistant for the 2014 U18 National Team which will play in FIBA Americas Championship with teams from two continents and the Caribbean. The top four teams then advance to the 2015 U19 World Championship.
“I am honored to have been selected to represent USA basketball as an assistant coach for the U18 Women’s National Team,” Walz said. “Since beginning in this profession, the realization of this endeavor has been a life-long ambition. I am thrilled to be amongst some of the greatest collegiate coaches and hope to contribute both on and off the court. I appreciate USA Basketball for recognizing my passion and will work diligently to help mentor and coach some of the most talented young women in the game.”
South Carolina’s Dawn Stanley is the team’s head coach and and Michigan’s Kim Barnes-Arico another assistant with Walz.
Members of the U18 team will be determined at USA Basketball’s trials this May.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the gone-but-not-forgotten series with Notre Dame was listening to Geno Auriemma describe, in his own unique way, his feeling that the Irish got every imaginable foul call during the reign of Skylar Diggins under the Golden Dome.
No one knows how to plant subtle messages better than Auriemma. And when it came to Notre Dame he irrigated acres for the benefit of officials, past, present and future; for no other reason than to just make them aware of the situation, should it arise again.
He did it because he was acutely aware that how games with Notre Dame were called would have a direct impact on UConn’s ability to win them. Made perfect sense – and great listening.
Louisville was one of Saniya Chong’s major suitors when during her All-American high school career. And UConn’s recruitment of her made perfect sense to Cardinals coach Jeff Walz.
“UConn does a great job of not just going after the top player in the country every year,” Walz said. “We went to Ossining, N.Y., to see Saniya Chong play. And when you looked at her, you thought; here’s a shooter who understands the game. But if you wanted her to be your go-to player, then maybe a school [at a level lower than UConn] may have not been the best place for her. But she is awfully good at everything that she does. She reminds me very much of Mel Thomas.”
Back in the day, as Geno Auriemma likes to say, losing key regular-season conference games meant almost certain trouble for upstart programs like the one he inherited at UConn in 1985.
The landscape was different. The NCAA Tournament was smaller. The way the selection committee viewed potential participants certainly was more provincial.
That’s why beating the Big East establishment during his first six years was so important to Auriemma’s master plan. In most years it was an absolute necessity.
“In the late 1980s, we knew that if we didn’t win the Big East championship, there was a pretty good chance we weren’t going to the NCAA Tournament,” Auriemma said. “You had to beat Providence and Villanova, especially Villanova, the one team it just seemed we couldn’t get over the hump with.
“Now, something like that doesn’t prevent you from playing for the national championship. But back then, if we couldn’t beat Villanova, we couldn’t even play for the Big East championship.”
Since becoming Louisville’s coach in 2007, Jeff Walz has done a masterful job imposing his blue collar, open collar style on a program that was basically faceless before he arrived.
In just six seasons, the Cardinals have been to five NCAA Tournaments and two national championship games, a evolutionary pace exceeding the one laid down by Geno Auriemma at UConn after his arrival in 1985-86.
“We’ve well exceeded our original expectations,” Walz said. “The program had never been past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. We are 15-5 in our five NCAA appearances.
“In the previous years, the program was 3-11 in its 11 appearances. We had to change the culture, change the expectations. And although we are going to graduate a very talented class after this season, we have another one coming in that we are excited.”
Great news from Louisville coach Jeff Walz this afternoon as we all prepare for Sunday’s showdown between No. 1 UConn and No. 4 Louisville at Gampel Pavilion. The game will be for first place in The American between the only two teams without a conference loss so far.
Although Louisville is leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference after the season, Walz says that there have already been substantive talks about a multiple-year deal to play again, likely beginning in 2015-16. Why is this important? Duh? Without Notre Dame, Rutgers and Louisville around next year, UConn is going to need a strong non-conference schedule to keep its attention span in tact – perhaps forever.
The Notre Dame series begins again next year in South Bend. And now Louisville, who has twice lost to UConn in national championship games in the last five years, will likely be back, too.
Under the NCAA umbrella for 32 years, women’s college basketball is barely half the age of their men, who just celebrated its 75th anniversary as championship partners with the governing body of collegiate athletics.
The sport has sought a singular vision, a steadying voice accenting its strength, diminishing its weakness, bolstering what languishes.
So far, unification efforts have proven uneven. They’ve led to brief ascents dashed by long rides on a straight path where slight gains are wiped out by slim losses.
Like its players, the sport is in need a team game, as opposed to one alternately dominated by many individual points of view.
Last week, the direction may have finally changed.
Val Ackerman, the WNBA’s founding president and former head of USA Women’s Basketball, now rumored to be the first commissioner of the reconstructed Big East conference, released her “White Paper.”
More information is beginning to emerge regarding the decision of The American Athletic Conference to hold its first women’s basketball tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
You’ll recall, especially if you enjoyed dining near the XL Center in Hartford, that the Big East conducted the tournament there for the last nine years.
But in March 2014, and maybe March 2015, it will be played at the home of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
Why did it leave Hartford? Well, primarily because of money.
During the summertime, I often reach out to various women’s basketball programs and coaches, for no other reason than just say hello or try to include them in one of the stories I am writing.
The majority of them get it and are a pleasure to deal with.
Some of them don’t get it at all and throw up walls.
Anyway, one of my favorites is Louisville coach Jeff Walz, who has every right to be standoffish since his program has played in two national championship games since 2009, unlike some of the other programs I’ve dealt with. But he’s far from it.
I contacted him the other day to talk about The American’s decision to play its inaugural postseason tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena because I knew it was something he’d long wanted to try.
It’s too bad Louisville will only play in one of them before joining the ACC. But if you look at the The American’s roster of women’s teams, you’d have to think the Cardinals will be in the conference championship game along with UConn.
Anyway, I asked Jeff what he thought and his mind returned to one of the funniest exchanges from last year’s Final Four between he and Geno Auriemma. You’ll remember when Geno joked about the checkered shirt Jeff wore in the national semifinal game against California.
“He looks like a waiter,” Geno said.
Walz laughed it off and is still laughing about it. This is what he said about Louisville playing at Mohegan Sun, the home of Geno’s Fast Break Restaurant:
“I’m hoping to be a guest waiter one night during the Tournament at Geno’s Restaurant,” Walz said.
I see a promotion brewing in my mind…….
Here is a little of what Louisville coach Jeff Walz had to say after the game:
“I’d just like to first congratulate UConn and Geno, his entire staff. They’ve done a great job. They’re a fantastic basketball team, and we knew that coming in here. They played as well as I’ve seen them play this entire year tonight, and they shot the ball as well as I’ve seen them shoot.
“We knew coming in here that we were going to have to try and make them take some three-pointers and they took some (26) and they made some (13). We just didn’t quite have enough tonight. But it’s not because we didn’t compete. And we didn’t compete?? and we competed for all 40 minutes.
“I’m proud of every single one of our players. It’s without a doubt going to go down as one of the greatest runs in women’s basketball. To be a 5 seed and knock off a 4, then?? but the No. 1 of all 1s in Baylor and then a 2 in Tennessee and then come back and beat Cal, I don’t think anybody can argue that, you know, unfortunately we just came up one game short.
“But I’m proud of my players. I’m proud of everyone. I’m proud of my staff support staff. And we’re going to hold our heads high and we’re going to be proud of what we did. And I’ll told these players this is something that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives and I was privileged to coach them and be a part of it.”