Warde Manuel, UConn’s athletic director, was raised in New Orleans where he was a Parade All-American defensive lineman at Brother Martin before going to Michigan to play for Hall of Fame coach Bo Schembechler in 1986. He played football for two seasons before a neck injury ended his promising career.
“Being from New Orleans, there’s a clause in my contract [five years, $10.86 million] that says it was going to get ripped up if we didn’t win and get him back to the city,” Geno Auriemma joked last week.
Manuel said he was also kidding the women’s team before the season.
“I told them, ‘Ladies, you are responsible for getting me back home,” Manuel said.
Three To Watch – One In New Orleans
One of ESPN’s major preseason promotional vehicles this season was its “Three To Watch” featuring Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne and Baylor’s Brittney Griner.
Only one of the them played in Sunday’s Final Four – Diggins.
“Yeah, we weren’t fortunate enough to have any of the three to see that ESPN talks about all the time,” Auriemma said. “So we had to do it as a group rather than rely on one person. But that’s always been the case at Connecticut. We don’t build our program around one person, no matter whom it is.
“We don’t aspire to be that, when we have players like Tina [Charles] and Maya [Moore] and Renee [Montgomery] and Diana [Taurasi] and Sue [Bird] and Sveta [Abrosimova] and Shea [Ralph] … I could go on and on. It was always in the context of we’ll let them decide, each player, how big their role is going to be.
“And because of their personalities and how big their personalities were, they just became superstars. And we don’t have anybody with that personality this year. We just don’t. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has the kind of basketball game, the kind of skill level that if she had a different type of personality she would be like Maya or like Diana in terms of how she would act, but she doesn’t have that yet. Maybe she’ll get it next year.”