The biggest question begging for an answer Friday – and it didn’t matter who tackled it – is what was said, promised or arranged by USA Basketball to make Geno Auriemma jump into the pressure cooker again.
“When people asked me if I was going to do this again, I said exactly how I was feeling. I had done it. it was great and it was unbelievable. But I felt like it was time to move on,” Auriemma said in a USA Basketball release.
“But before Mr. Colangelo, Carol and Jim Tooley [of USA Basketball], and General Dempsey and his wife, Deanie, it was very persuasive about what this means to the country. When they tell you how much they admire what you have done and want you to do it again, it means a lot. It look a long time to make the decision. But in the end, I was reminded that the opportunity to represent your country is not one you take lightly. It is not one that comes around too often. I was humbled by the request and am honored to do it again.”
Since he returned from London in August 2012, the program’s fifth straight gold medal in women’s basketball secured, Auriemma had said he didn’t want the job again. He said the travel was too much, the pressure too great, his time away from his UConn players too significant.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Auriemma, a lover of mint chip ice cream, went so far to say last season a second tour of duty as senior national team coach would be like eating a second bowl of it – good, certainly, but decidedly less satisfying.
But that’s all history now, like everything else he’s done as head coach at UConn. Later Friday at Gampel Pavilion, Auriemma will officially dig in, accepting another term as coach of the 2014 World Championship and 2016 Olympic team.
Among his former players to sound off was Maya Moore, who played for Auriemma at UConn and on the 2012 team.
“Playing for coach Auriemma challenges and excites me as a competitor,” she said. “I love his passion and personality as a coach. He loves his players, loves the game and I am thrilled to have another chance to play for him and represent the country.
His appointment, known internally since mid-August, was widely predicted by those in line to replace him. It was also the result of USA Basketball’s persistence. It made him realize what it had long concluded; no one was more qualified for the job, either on or off the court.
Auriemma, who won eight national championships at UConn, becomes the first to repeat as coach of the women’s national team. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski just accepted his third term with the men’s program.