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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Geno said Olympic pressure is "like UConn on steroids."

Having built one of the most successful programs in collegiate sports history, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma knows a thing or two about heightened expectations.

In each of the last two seasons the Huskies have reached the Final Four only to lose in the national semifinals. The result is that Auriemma faced questions on what went wrong.

Now Auriemma is preparing for his Olympic duties and with the U.S. being the four-time defending champions, Auriemma realizes that anything less than another championship is unacceptable in many people's eyes.

"It's like UConn on steroids, that is what this is," Auriemma said after a Saturday morning clinic at the DC Armory which kicked off the festivities for the U.S. training camp in Washington, D.C." If you win then you didn't win by enough. If we lose, God forbid it's how the hell could you lose. Well, they pay their players too, their guys are pros too.. 

"It's like at UConn, every game that you play people think that the other team is the Washington Generals. 'Who are you playing tonight? We are playing so and so. Oh, there's no way they can win. Really, why not? Then why are we keeping score?' You have to understand that. It is what it is. The pressure is inherent with the job."

Auriemma does take issue at the idea that he is under tremendous pressure as he looked at the place of basketball in the big scheme of things.

"I turn that around a lot of times and I will for this team too," Auriemma said. "There are a lot of people out of work today so pressure is you try to pay your mortgage. When you have the best team and somebody says go win the Olympic games I don't know that's pressure so I try to get them to understand what real pressure is. Real pressure is a single mom trying to raise three kids with $30,000 (a year in salary), that is pressure. You taking a charter over to England and staying at the best hotels and leaving whenever you want 24 hours a day playing basketball and saying 'yo, go beat those guys.' Guess what, if that is 
pressure to you then you have a rude awakening ahead of you."

That being said Auriemma knows he has the most talented and deepest team in the Olympics and that brings heightened expectations.

"If you think about it, if you have Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles as two of your centers, you've got two guys who are MVP candidates in the WNBA," Auriemma said. "I don't know when that ever happened. Then you have Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) in the backcourt. It is pretty hard to pick a better backcourt. You have Tamika Catchings who is the MVP of the league and Angel McCoughtry either leading the league in scoring or close to it every year. It was like when I watched the men's team last week when I was in Las Vegas. I took a picture of the guys who are on the bench. I sent it to my son and said 'yo, these are the subs.' That is what separates the U.S. from everybody else; the quality of play from 1-12 and no other country (has that). 

"They (other teams) know that. I am not saying anything disrespectful to any of the other countries. Hey, Lauren Jackson is as good as anybody in the world. Russia has some players who are as good as any other players in the world. I think what has given us the edge in the last four Olympics is that there are more of them in the United States and that is why we are expected to win all the time. We are like Spain in soccer, Italy in soccer."

With the clinic in the books, the U.S. will hold the first of two practices tonight before facing Brazil on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in an exhibition game at the Verizon Center. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.

The men's Olympic team held an open practice after the clinic with the stands full of U.S. military personnel and their families.


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