Just because he respects Caroline Doty for what she has meant to the program, and for the physical struggles she has overcome just to play, doesn’t mean Geno Auriemma still isn’t willing to tell his fifth-year senior what the score is when it comes to her contributions to the team.
For example, Geno had a little talk with Doty before the Duke game on Monday.
“I wouldn’t call it a discussion because that involves two people talking to each other. This was more of a presentation to Caroline,” Auriemma said. “I told her that I didn’t think she’d likely rank in our top 12 defensively [UConn has 11 players]. She would be our 12th choice if we were looking for someone to take the other team’s best player out defensively. She understands that.
“But I also told her that’s not why she is out on the floor. I told her, if she is not going to organize our team when she is on the floor and take care of the ball by getting it where it is supposed to be when it is supposed to be and knock down some open shots, there is absolutely positively no reason for her to be playing. None.
“She took it hard, obviously, but what she is learning is her role in some games may be huge; she might make a bunch of threes or play like she played at Oregon [14 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists]. But most times her game is going to go unnoticed in the stat sheet. She will make the pass that leads to the pass that turns into an assist. Or she will help create a tempo or a calmness. And in the second half against Duke, that is what she did.”
Debbie Fisk, the new women’s basketball analyst on the UConn radio network, played point guard for Auriemma on the first Final Four team in 1991 and later coached for five seasons at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. She said telling a player such as Doty the way it is can be difficult for a coach. But it is necessary.
“It can brutal to hear. Caroline is bright, smart young woman,” Fiske said. “And sometimes you don’t want to hear that. But then you realize, yes he is right, and I know she respects him enough to believe him. So, she either has to find a way to make some open shots or be that team leader on the floor. And she has done that.
“Look at how she impacted the Duke game. They were running too fast [in the first half] and picked up a few traveling calls as a result. Caroline slowed the game down to a different pace, the one they needed at the time to succeed.
“Kelly Faris was the star of the game, but Caroline was just as important to the game. She needed to be a presence in that game. And she made most of her time out there. She had that great game in Oregon where speed wasn’t so much a factor. Geno rode her that game, seeing that she was doing all the right things. But there will be times when the body is not going to let her do what her mind wants.”