On the day USA Basketball announced Geno Auriemma had accepted a second term as coach of the women’s national team, I asked him if he had requested anything in return from them.
You know, a favor – or two
Specifically, I was wondering if Auriemma had asked Carol Callan or Jerry Colangelo whether he could have a say about who would be on his coaching staff.
I figured that’s kind of important for the mental health of a coach getting ready to spend another four years traveling the world.
And let’s face it, USA Basketball owes Auriemma big-time. If it has any consideration for the difficulty Auriemma had making the decision to coach its team again, giving him the assistants – and, ah, security director – he can work with is an easy request to accommodate.
I had been told one of the things Geno might ask for, if he returned, was that Jen Rizzotti could be on his staff.
Consider what a great opportunity this would be for him as he begins to reach the end of his Hall of Fame career and she continues to build her’s.
When Rizzotti, his former All-American point guard and Hartford’s coach since 1999, was named to be a “court coach” for last week’s Olympic training camp in Las Vegas, I figured my information was on track.
But there’s a long way from Las Vegas to the 2014 World Championships in Turkey and even longer to 2016 and Rio de Janeiro. And frankly, I wasn’t sure Rizzotti was even interested in being officially named to his staff.
Until I asked her Thursday.
“Well, if they ask me if I am interested in the job, and they haven’t asked me, let’s be very clear about that, then yes, I would take it,” Rizzotti said. “But I have no idea if they are even interested in me in that capacity.”
In the past, USA Basketball has worked with a four-person staff, and depending on who the head coach is, the staff is split evenly between WNBA and college coaches.
During his first term, Auriemma worked with his great friend, DePaul coach Doug Bruno, and a pair of WNBA coaches assigned to his staff by USA Basketball, former Atlanta coach/GM Marynell Meadors and former LA and Minnesota coach, Jen Gillom.
Until USA Basketball says something different, we must assume the configuration of the staff this time around would be similar. That means one college assistant and two assistants from the WNBA.
Meadors is no longer in the WNBA. Gillom is an assistant with the Connecticut Sun. It seems clear Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve and Chicago’s Pokey Chatman are the front-runners for the WNBA spots.
The college coach is less certain, but if the crew invited to work with Geno in Las Vegas is any indication of what USA Basketball is thinking, then Rizzotti, Bruno and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley are the contenders.
If it’s up to Geno – and let’s hope it is – I would think he would want both Rizzotti and Bruno with him; and if USA Basketball insisted, Reeve and Chatman, as well.
If USA Basketball tells him he can bring only one college coach along, my guess is that it’s going to be Rizzotti and that Bruno would understand and support the decision.
“I wouldn’t have gone to Las Vegas [to work at the camp] if I wasn’t interested in doing this,” Rizzotti said. “I know USA Basketball has a long history of promoting coaches who have worked in their system and shown loyalty to them.”
Rizzotti said she has discussed the situation with her husband, Bill, who is one of her assistants at Hartford. Her sons, Holden (8) and Conor (5) are getting old enough to perhaps better handle any long absences that would result from their mother taking the job.
Her history is long and successful. She has been head coach of 2010’s U-18 team and 2011’s U-19 team that won FIBA gold. On those teams she coached future national team contenders like Diamond DeShields, Alexis Jones, Kayla McBride, Chiney Ogwumike, Bria Hartley, Stef Dolson, Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck.
Before that she was an assistant on Bruno’s 2006 U-18 team that featured Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen, to name a few.
Rizzotti is ready to be a USA national team assistant. If asked she will serve. And thyen, she will be ready in 2020 to coach the Olympic team.