New news first: UConn is bidding for the subregional round of the 2014 NCAA women’s basketball tournament at Gampel Pavilion. Even though new NCAA rules allow schools to host regional finals on their home floors, UConn remains philosophically opposed to it and will not proceed in that direction. Of course, that’s not to say Bridgeport might not be awarded another regional, which would just move the home games down I-95 again, like last year.
As for Geno Auriemma’s decision: It was made known to USA Basketball on Aug. 17, less than a week before he appeared at Mohegan Sun Arena to present Tina Charles and Jen Gillom their championship rings. Any denials you may have heard since were simply efforts to misdirect.
He said Friday that USA Basketball actually contacted him with the job offer on July 31, ironically the day the Huskies visited the White House to celebrate their national championship.
Tina Charles, who played for Geno at UConn before the 2010 World Championship and 2012 Olympics, was asked why she thought her coach so vigorously denied that he would take the job. “To get the media out of his face,” she said.
Good point. One problem. Women’s basketball needs more media in its face or it will forever be relegated to Roller Derby status in many areas of the nation.
USA Basketball rolled out the heavyweights to prevail upon Auriemma. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deanie, talked national obligation with Auriemma. Geno met the general and his wife during his last tour of duty and has spoken constantly of how much respect he has for him. He said having dinner with him was one of the great thrills of his life.
When asked who from the government talked to him, Geno said the information was “classified.”
No definitive plans have been made about future training camps, except for the likelihood Auriemma will hold his first in early October. It is not known where are when. USA Basketball and Auriemma are in the process of contacting the dozen Olympians from 2012 to try to convince them to play again
Geno said he did not ask USA Basketball about assistant coaches. That seems doubtful to me. I am sure Geno has made his request and it was likely a part of the arrangement to have him return. He gets one college coach and you might want to think about Hartford’s Jen Rizzotti and Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale before moving on. Those two hold very special places in his heart. As for the two WNBA coaches, Lin Dunn, Cheryl Reeve, Brian Agler and Mike Thibault form a solid core of candidates. Pick two, any two.
If there were other candidates for the head coaching job they quickly canceled themselves out. Kim Mulkey of Baylor got herself into trouble with the NCAA and Brittney Griner. Muffet McGraw didn’t want it. Dawn Staley did not have enough momentum. And all of the WNBA coaches, as gifted as some are, just didn’t excite anyone. Had Geno said no, my money was on Staley, which of course is an NCAA violation.
Geno takes this job full aware of its time commitment. He also knows things did not go as perfectly as he planned the first time around. His schtick didn’t resonate with many of the players, even some of his former UConn players who didn’t like to be spoken to in the way Geno was speaking to them. The players didn’t like feeling they were still in college, It was an adjustment on both sides and those players who didn’t like Auriemma better get used to it and move on.
What do you know, Geno will get his chance to coach Elena Delle Donne after all. She is going to be the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year. She may make its first team. She will be a top-shelf contender for one of the two roster spots vacated by Asjha Jones and Swin Cash. And that’s just for starters.