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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, March 17, 2014

UConn's Auriemma's thoughts on upcoming Selection Show

There are plenty of coaches around the country anxiously awaiting the release of the Division I women's basketball bracket.

UConn's Geno Auriemma is not one of them.

There's no drama surrounding whether UConn will be in the tournament or even what seed the Huskies will be. The only question is whether the Huskies will be the No. 1 seed in the Louisville or Lincoln regionals. 

"We will find out tonight," Auriemma said while addressing a sold-out crowd at the monthly Middlesex Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell. "I don't think it is going to be a mystery. We will be a No. 1 seed some place. Notre Dame will be a No. 1 some place and who the other two are, I don't know. What region we are going to be in? I don't know and I don't really care. It doesn't really matter at this point. Who is going to be in our bracket doesn't really matter. At this time of the year what are you going to do? You worry about yourself. You worry about what you are going to do instead of the opponent. This is my favorite time of the year because you don't get to focus on an opponent because even though you might know tonight who you are going to play in the first round, you have no idea who you are going to play if you win that game or if you win the next one or you win the next one but you really do get to focus on the inner game, you do get focus on what your players are feeling, what they are thinking and how they are and those are the things that I like the most. Getting ready to play an opponent, that is fun and all of that but really getting your team into a state of mind of being ready to win is what I enjoy the most. Getting into who they are as individuals and who we are as a team."

When Auriemma was introduced, he said he was not going to speak for very long. Well, my tape recorder stopped just short of 30 minutes from the time that he stepped behind the microphone including an entertaining question and answer session which included him agreeing to leave a couple a pair of Final Four tickets if UConn get there.

Here are some of the highlights: Auriemma heaped praise on UConn president Susan Herbst and AD Warde Manuel, who were both in attendance and then said "now that (garbage) is over in case things don't go well next week."

On CCSU men's coach and former UConn assistant coach Howie Dickenman 
"When my son was born Kathy asked me, he said you know we have to find Godparents because that is what Italians do. I am sure other people do the same thing but that is kind of what we do just in case the kid decided he hates his parents, he has two other people he can go to. A lot goes into that decision. If something were to happen, who would you trust to raise your child and it took about 13 seconds for us to decide that Howie Dickenman was going to be the Godfather to my son and is as close of a friend and somebody I admire as much as anybody I met in my 30 years at Connecticut.

To Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube (also in attendance)
"Nathan thank you for those incredibly warm remarks you made about your wife and I and I am sorry but my schedule, I am not going to be able to play in the Travelers Championship (Pro-Am) this summer, I am heading to a three-day conference on 18th-century Russian literature but I will be watching in television."

On men's selection show and UConn being back in NCAA tournament
"We talk a lot about winning, we talk a lot about basketball in this state and this is the best time of the year. It was really rewarding and a lot of fun to sit there last night, I couldn't wathc the selection show because I was out recruiting. I left yesterday morning, caught a flight at 7 o'clock and went to go see a game, landed, drove an hour to the game, drove an hour back to the airport, made a connection and got home at 1 o'clock. When I got to the game there were a couple of other coaches from other schools and they asked me where my charter plane had landed and I said when we get to be really good, I will probably have a charter but right now I have to slum it like everybody else so those of you you go around thinking I've got it made, no I don't compared to some other people. Travel takes you away from a lot of things, number one is your family. You miss out a lot of things and last night I missed out on the selection show. I wanted to see it because I wanted to look up on the board and see who UConn was playing because last year ..."

On UConn football coach Bob Diaco
"I don't have the vocabulary of Bob Diaco so I can't explain it like he can. You guys heard Bob talk, right? He is coming in September? You've got to be here for that. He is from Notre Dame. He didn't go to Notre Dame so he isn't that bad. He grew up in New Jersey and he coached at Notre Dame for a couple of years so he only a little bit of that Irish stuff but you have to listen to this guy talk. This guy uses words and phrases that no football coach has ever used in the history of football. Larry (McHugh, former head coach at Xavier High and Chairman of UConn's Board of Trustees), tell the truth, you were a football coach and a great football coach, have you ever heard a guy talk about football like he does?

When is the last time you heard a football coach say 'what are you teaching at practice?

We are teaching destruction. We are looking for players who have violent hands.

Really?

Violent hands.

I like that. I was looking for a wide receiver and quarterback myself but I am hoping that Bria Hartley's boyfriend (Shakim Phillips) who is a wide receiver on the football team becomes more famous than her, that would be great."

Of course he spoke about his own players as well.

On Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
"Kaleena lands on her elbow and missed (eight) games and she is ready to come back and she gets mono and then she is out a coupole of weeks. It has been one thing afer another with her and she is not able to get going but Stefanie Dolson has been amazing, Bria Hartley has been an All-American, one of the most competitive kids I have ever coached."

On Saniya Chong
"Saniya Chong our freshman was great in November, December but transferred in January. I have been looking for her since we got back from Christmas (break). I said 'what country did they take you back too? I am not sure but hopefully when the NCAA tournament comes everything changes."

On Kiah Stokes
"I try not to think about her because she drives me crazy, if you line Kiah Stokes on every other player on our team and somebody came to Mars and I said point to our big kid who is a first-team All-American, they wouldn't point to Stewie or Stefanie, they would point to her because she looks like she be an All-American player. Then she will get 10 rebounds, block five shots, we will throw her the ball and she will look at it like somebody just gave her a hand grenade. She will go into the game, get a double double and the next day won't remember how she did it. She is just infuriating.  She is the nicest kid I have ever recruited, smart, Dean's List, everything, the nicest kid in the world."

Then there is this incredible stuff on Breanna Stewart
"Somebody said to me 'Coach, you have not been in a lot of close games and how do you think you would react, how do you think your team would react if you were in a really close game in the NCAA tournament? I said I would call timeout, they would all look over and it was a three-point game, one-point game, who knows? They would all sit there and they would look at me and I would look at them and go 'all right, here is what I think, I think we are going to inbound the ball and then we are going to throw it to Stewie. Anybody got a problem, with that? They are going to go 'nope.' So we are going to go out, throw it to Stewie and we are going to win so the reporter goes 'that's your strategy?' I said 'that's my strategy and everybody we play against knows that is what we are going to do and if we don't do it all the commentators are going to go 'that has to be the dumbest coach in America, he's in the Hall of Fame? I know enough to just throw it to Stewie which brings me to Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart. People ask me all the time 'who is the best player you have ever coached and I hate answering that question it is like asking you who is your favorite child? I can answer that question because I have a favorite. It is hard to answer who is your favorite player because players come in different shapes, sizes and personality types so it would be hard to pick one over the other. We've got a player this year who is pretty much different from any other women's basketball player that I have seen in a long time. I have coached a long time, I have coached the best players in the Olympics, I have coached the best pros and there has not been anybody who has gone to college and does the things that this kid does and that is not to say that she is the finished product.

"There was an incident at Mohegan Sun the other day when we were playing Louisville, she had just given up two layups and the kid came off the screen and flopped like she wanted a foul. She fell down and Stewie got (upset) so she stood there staring at the kid who fell down and her kid has the ball at the 3-point line. So while she is looking at the kid who is on the floor, she just turns around and looks at the kid with the ball and the kid shoots a 3 right in her face. I take her out of the game and said 'what's your problem.' She said  'I was mad.' I said 'well, if you were mad why didn't you block her shot?' She said 'I was too mad.' I said 'well now you are going to really be mad, sit down.' She is still a young kid."

Of course Notre Dame and Tennessee came up during his talk.

"Everybody said it would be great if you play Notre Dame, two undefeated teams. Anytime people start planning for that kind of stuff, it doesn't happen. Last year you shouldn't even go to the NCAA tournament because Baylor was a done deal, nobody was going to beat them. Well, funny things happen so I am not prepared on who is going to be playing who, where and when for the national championship but I just know we are going to be close to it, we will be around it and if all goes well we will see what happens.

On being afraid of Tennessee
"Not anymore than you would for anybody else, those days are gone, over and done with. They are good just like a lot of other people were good. Maybe we play them, maybe we don't but that whole thing is over. Once they stopped playing us it went away. I don't think anybody cares that much about that game. I think the game everybody wants now is the Notre Dame/Connecticut game. I think we found out it is not that important who you play as long as Connecticut is one of the opponents, everybody is going to be interested in the game."

Finally, when asked for a recruiting update he said that they have a big weekend coming up in May with some of the top players in the Class of 2015 and if they get commitments from them, they will be four of the top five players in the class and he raved about the quality of their personalities even more than their games without naming names of course.

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