Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Auriemma defends his young team

The question was innocent enough as Geno Auriemma was asked if he liked the way his team responded in practice and during Tuesday's Providence game following Saturday's loss to Notre Dame.

That was all Auriemma needed to go on for more than six minutes about the reaction that follows a loss by the Huskies.

"They (UConn's players) were concerned about my job so I appreciate that," Auriemma said. "I don't how it got to (Providence coach) Phil Seymore but when we talked before the game, he mentioned that too. He said 'are you OK.' He said people were moaning and groaning because we lost so he was concerned. I said that the kids have responded pretty well. They are learning what is involved in all of this. Tiffany Hayes has now lost how many games in her career? Four, I think so she really doesn't have a lot of experience coming off a loss so something you are just stunned, how does this happen. Caroline Doty, the only other year she played and the other 17 games she played, she never lost a game so for her 'how do we react after a loss.' I think it is a learning process and it is kind of unfair to the kids at times, the demands that are placed, the questions that you guys ask, the things that people ask.

Why did you turn it over?
 I don't know, I just made a bad pass.
Why did you miss free throws?
I don't know, I just missed free throws.
Why didn't you call a timeout when you knew Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) was in the wrong place.
Well, I didn't want to give them free throws for the technical because we didn't have any timeouts left.

"There is this stuff that you should always have something for everything and after a while it just gets tiresome. They should be allowed to lose once in a while without facing an inquisition from all of their friends, fans, you guys and I think the older they are, the more they are able to handle it. The young kids they get shell shocked. Those are the things that as a young player, you have to try to figure it out. If you come to Connecticut and you are a young player and you think that one mistake, two mistakes, three mistakes are going to cost you a game and 'oh my God, I am the first player at Connecticut to lose a game.' You get scared and you play scared, I don't know any other place in America where they are afraid to lose a game."

I don't want them to feel that way. It is difficult to impress upon them to just play and don't worry about the outcome. When the outcome isn't what we want it to be 'what happened, what happened, what happened.' You take the Notre Dame as a perfect example, nobody talked about how good our defense was.' They are averaging 100 points a game (actually closer to 85) and they are scoring 60 (in regulation). They turned it over 20 times, one kid (Natalie Novosel) shot 5 for 20 from the floor. Nothing we did well was ever mentioned to any of the kids, it was all what we didn't do to win the game. After a while that gets tiresome, it gets very tiresome. It gets tiresome and you say 'Coach you only have to face that four times in the last four years.' That is what I mean, for these kids losing should be a part of the game. It shouldn't be 'how the hell did you let that happen.' They get scared, they get tentative. If I throw a bad pass it will cost us the game so what ends up happening is if you are not careful you freeze up because you play not to lose instead of playing to win. Our job as coaches is to get us past that, play to win,play to win, play to win, make plays, make plays, make plays as opposed 'I don't want to miss this.'

'That stuff usually shows up on the road against really good teams when you don't have. I've never known a team to win a national championship that didn't have a somewhat solid nucleus of seniors and juniors, some combination of good seniors and good juniors and more than one because it is very difficult for a freshman and even a sophomore to come to Connecticut without that kind of leadership from juniors and seniors and 'I've got it. I'm going to go to Connecticut, I am going to Rutgers, I am going to go to Notre Dame, I am going to go to Duke and North Carolina and I've got it.' No you don't. You are going to be scared
(out of your mind) unless you have some juniors and seniors who are going to be able to talk you through it and that is the hardest thing to learn coming to Connecticut. I kind of felt for them after that loss after that."

There may be people who viewed what Auriemma said as a tantrum but it was not, a stern lecture might be more accurate. He was very composed and cool while making these comments. He usually has his pulse on his teams at UConn and it seemed to me that this was a way to try to ease some of the pressure off a young squad. When UConn played Notre Dame, only eight players got into the game. Five of them were freshmen or sophomores and one of the upperclassmen was Caroline Doty, who has missed almost as many games as she has played because of a string of serious knee injuries.

Auriemma knows the way this team is constructed could result in them being a bit fragile because there are so many youngsters in key situations, If five of his top eight were seniors and juniors I have a hunch that he would be signing a different tune but he doesn't want a bunch of first and second-year players to feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.



Anonymous Joe said...

It would be really interesting to watch the usually voluble Geno "signing" a different tune!

3:34 PM 
Anonymous Joe said...

I have a really good feeling about this year's team, and I am really impressed with Geno's coaching. There is so much subtlety to that man that many people miss because of the persona he uses to shield his team.

3:37 PM 

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