During Thursday’s media session, his first availability since his comments to the Courant Monday about how he feels women’s basketball can improve, Geno Auriemma expanded on the issue for what he said will be the last time this season.
Here is a little of what he had to say. And as usual, it was extremely interesting…
On the opinions that were offered nationally on his ideas, which centered around a lowered rim:
“Sometimes you just have to uncover all the morons that live in this country that like to comment on things. So sometimes you throw something out there and they come from underneath their rocks and they have something to say. For me, it’s just a test a lot of times. So I didn’t just make that up that we should change something. And all the people that have their opinions, I would say `Listen, if you don’t change anything that doesn’t bother me one bit. We’re going to win our 30 games every year and we’re going to go to the Final Four.’ So I’m not advocating any changes because I want the University of Connecticut to have an advantage or I think what we’re doing is not great. I’m not talking about me and my team. That’s not what I’m talking about.
“Did you know that 109 Division I men’s teams last year shot 45 percent or over. Do you know how many women’s teams? Eleven. But according to a lot of the experts our game is fine. You know how many teams in the Big East last year shot 40 percent or less from the floor? Eleven. Eleven teams in our league shot under 40 percent from the floor. But it’s OK. The game is pure, and I like that about our game.
“There’s no dunking, which I never said there was going to be dunking. It’s not the men’s game for all the people that went crazy about, `Why should we make it the men’s game?’ I never said we should make it the men’s game. All I said is I would like to have a scenario explored where women can have the same success around the rim that men have. Is that a lot of ask?
“I can’t make it happen by myself. There’s been a lot of us that have been trying to make the 10-second rule happen. You don’t see it happening do you? So the things that I think about are not about making Connecticut Basketball better. I never think about what to make Connecticut Basketball better. How can you make us any better? The things that I’m thinking about are 10 years from now what’s going to make the game of women’s basketball better? Or are we just going to stay the same? So I’ll just shut up and I’ll wait and see what other suggestions everybody else has that they haven’t had in the last 10 years that’s going to grow our game.
“We’re in the entertainment industry. That’s what people don’t understand. And maybe I’m able to speak to it because we do sell tickets here at $24 a ticket. So we are in the entertainment industry here regardless of what people think. People want to come and be entertained by the way we play. They can spend that $24 somewhere else. Go to the movies. Go to dinner. Do something. But they choose to come to a game. Is it too much to ask that they come to see a game where teams make shots more times than they miss? And it’s not about our team. We shoot 47 percent from the floor in a bad year. So I’m not advocating any changes because UConn women’s basketball needs to get better. I’m trying to help those teams that can’t figure out why they only get 200 people to come watch them play every night. I’m not worried about me. I’m not worried about us. That’s where people are missing the boat. And does lowering the rim help? I don’t know. That’s just a suggestion.
On how the game has been changed in the past…
“They widened the lane because of Wilt Chamberlain. And all the purists said, `Oh, my God, what are you doing? Well, can you imagine the lane now with where it was? Remember the world came to an end when we added a 3-point goal. Imagine basketball now without the 3-point line? It’s things like that. And, well, we’re demeaning women. We’re admitting we’re inferior. I hate to say it, but we’re already playing with a small ball so aren’t you already admitting that it’s not the same as men’s basketball? We don’t have a 10-second line. Aren’t you already saying it’s not like men’s basketball? I didn’t say it’s men’s basketball. But these kids … I don’t care whether it’s Diana Taurasi. I’ll give you one player on our team that never misses a layup. Breanna Stewart. You know why? She has a 71-inch wingspan. So every shot she takes she’s up near the rim. That’s why she doesn’t miss layups. Everybody else is throwing the ball up towards the rim. I’m not making this up. This is the honest to God truth. So what are you going to do to help those kids that don’t have a 71-inch wingspan to get the closer to the rim? That’s all this is about.
“Things evolve and I think you have to be broad minded to say, `OK, how does it evolve?’ I’m just throwing things out there. You don’t have to lower the rim. You don’t have to do anything. Just leave it the way it is. But I think if we want to get to where other sports are in terms of appealing more to more people you have to evolve. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not advocating … I come from Italy. We led the world in thinking the world was flat. So who the hell am I to say anything? You know how many years it took us to figure out it was round? What the hell do I know?’’