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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A little USA Basketball talk

After a longer than anticipated trip to Chicago for tomorrow's DePaul game, I now can get around to talking about the naming of Geno Auriemma's Olympic staff.

My initial plan was to arrive in Chicago in plenty of time to make it to the USA Basketball press conference today. That was before US Airways set back customer service several decades today. Not only did they expect people flying into areas under winter advisories to voluntarily give up their seats to take a later flight (sure, I'd love to sit in an airport for 12-18 hours because you overbooked your flight) but the people in Philadelphia refused to hold the doors for another 5-10 minutes even though about 10 customers taking a flight out of New Haven were on the connecting flight from Philadelphia to Chicago. We got to the gate about 5-6 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart but were told we were too late.

OK, my travel rant is over.

While I didn't make it to the press conference, I was able to catch up with DePaul head coach and U.S. Olympic assistant coach Doug Bruno (officially named to the staff today along with Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors and Washington Mystics assistant Jen Gillom) and USA Basketball women's national team director Carol Callan.

Callan spoke about the importance of continuity as the same staff which helped the U.S. win the World Championships in 2010 will be coaching the U.S. at the Olympics later this year.

"It's incredibly important," Callan said. "When you take Geno and these three coaches together, we don't have a whole lot of time to train and a whole lot of time to sit together, prepare leaidng up to it and for them to be able to come in for three days before we even head over the Europe, it is like an old shoe, you just fit right in. They understand their roles, they know what Geno wants, they know the players. We want
players to play over and over again but we also want coaches to coach over and over again so it is invaluable. It is a comfort level, it is an intelligence level and we are already coming in at this level rather than starting fresh every single (year)."

Callan said part of the purpose of doing this announcement to coincide with tomorrow's game between Auriemma's Huskies and Bruno's Blue Demons is that it gives her a chance to talk some things through with Auriemma not the least of which are his thoughts on the available players. The men's program just released its player pool and Callan said "I think soon. Nothing planned but the plan is to do something soon. Part of this weekend, we're not going to take Geno too far away from his (UConn) responsibilities, but there are a couple of things I want to get his opinion on and one of them is let's get deadlines and time lines on certain things."

Callan said ideally she'd like to Olympic team to be named in the spring, perhaps in late March or early April if for no other reason so that the players can make plans to get friends and family over to London.

She said the team will likely gather at an East Coast location for a few days before heading to Europe. Playing a group of non-Olympic WNBA All-Stars is not an appealing option but playing international teams both in the U.S. and then in Europe is a better way to prepare in the mind of the USA Basketball folks.

"It would be nice to do something here, have a nice kickoff, send off thing," Callan said. "Our history has been if we go to Europe, we try to train on the East Coast, if we go to Asia we try to train on the West Coast I think while we have significant time to when we have to play our first game in London, that transition  body clock wise is important as well. It helps if we start on the East Coast and we already have that piece done.

"We are talking first to opponents to where we think we can get some games. Typically what we do is when the WNBA breaks and they have now released their schedule so I guess their last round of games before the Olympics is around the (July) 13th. Typically what we'll do is gather domestically, get a couple of days in. In the past we have played a WNBA all-star team and we are kind to try to do more international things so w are in the process of putting that together. We have already announced that we are going to play Great Britain in Manchester, England on July 18. That leaves us a five-day period of that and really needing to be in London. I hope in next month or so we will have that all tied down as we can even announce what we were doing, put the blueprint (together)."

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