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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

UConn coaches speak at leadership conference at Pentagon

A star-studded lineup of the best college basketball coaches in the country held court at a leadership conference at the Pentagon earlier this afternoon. Both UConn was the only school with two coaches there as Geno Auriemma was the only women's basketball coach on the panel and UConn men's coach Kevin Ollie was also a part of the event.

We'll start with the news. In the question and answer portion of the conference, Ollie said that June 10 is the date that UConn is supposed to visit the White House to be recognized for winning the national title or in the Huskies' case, national titles.

Auriemma, who knows a thing or two about having an audience with the President at the White House, was quick to point out that is a tentative date.

"Things change quickly in this town so put that in pencil," Auriemma said.

It was a very good panel and the bantering back and forth between Auriemma and his close friend Jim Boeheim of Syracuse was priceless.

The best stuff from Auriemma came towards the end. Texas Tech men's basketball coach Tubby Smith mentioned earlier that he was one of 17 children. So when Auriemma discussed the challenge of doing school work after his family moved from Italy and he spoke little or no English he said "I lived in this house and there were more than 17 people and the only difference between Tubby's (situation) is I didn't know any of them."

Multiple coaches could be heard cracking up at that zinger. But Auriemma was just warming up.

"I remember going to school and when you don't speak English, you are looking at the board and they are writing things on the board, the teacher is speaking or whatever. This was 1961, there wasn't programs 'English as a second language.' The nuns weren't saying 'stay after school, I am personally going to tutor you and teach you English.' They just told you in June all the smart kids are going to third grade, all the dumb kids are staying in second grade so you better figure out how you are going to get to third grade.

"I think sometimes as coaches up here, our players want too much information. They want to be told everything about how to do things and what could happen in any situation, they want you to tell them how to react in that situation.  My big thing is I am going to give them just enough information and say 'figure it out.' Once you learn to figure things out, no matter what happens down the road you will figure it out. So rather practicing plays all the time, we practice how to play because when you get to the Final Four, you are not going to be able to run your plays, you are going to have to make plays, you are going to have to play basketball. This idea of 'figure it out' really gives them a sense of ownership. I have a freshman on my team, we were running something and she just drives it and makes a layup. There is a dead ball and she goes 'Coach, I can take this kid. Is it OK if I do it again?' Like 'no, I don't want you to shoot layups the rest of the day.' They want approval for everything and I say 'figure it out.'

In the past Auriemma has given thoughtful responses to the pressure faced by people serving in the military who are as old as the players he is coaching and he did so again today.

"I ask questions over to my players sometimes that if you don't rotate over and take the charge, you are late and the guy scores. If you don't set a really good screen and we don't get somebody open, we don't get a chance to shoot the ball. If you don;t make a really good pass to that guy who is wide open, we don't get a chance to shoot it what is the worst that happens? We lose the game. What happens tomorrow morning? Your friends haven't disowned you.,Your parents still love you. You still have your scholarship so what is the worst that can happen when you didn't do the things that we asked you to do in a basketball game? I have said that there are kids your age all around the world in the military that when they don't do what they are supposed to do the way they are supposed to do it the way it is supposed to be done, it has serious consequences not just for them but for their team, for the families. So when you start taking every single thing that you are supposed to do as seriously as those kids  your age take their job in the military then you understand what passion is, what commitment to detail is and when your teammate expects you to do something, you do it."

One of Auriemma's favorite stories when he is asked about the intensity of his practices was used by the Hall of Fame coach today.

"We try to find what the competitive spirit, the competitive nature is," Auriemma said. "I know all the coaches do it, if you are working on defense you might have four guys on defense and five guys on offense so you make it difficult for the defense. Now you add another player and you are playing four against six and that is really difficult. You get to see if the players embrace it or whether they fight it. One of the best teams I've ever had, we are working on zone and we have all five guys out there playing and we put eight offensive players out there and they are flying around trying to get to all eight of these guys and you could see when they did get a couple of stops, the emotion that came through them (because) what they did was really hard to do. A week later we were playing six against five and they looked at me and said 'what, you don't think we are any good, we can't guard eight anymore?' All of a sudden their competitiveness was 'I don't want to play five against six anymore, I want to play five against eight.'

"What you try to do as a coach is you put your players in positions where they are going to fail 90 percent of the time but that 10 percent of the ti\me when they do it, they know that they have done something exceptionally difficult to do and they have done it. That is how we build confidence in our team so when we play five on five, no matter who we are playing against, plus I have the best players in the country."

Swin Cash has been traded from Chicago to Atlanta in exchange for Courtney Clements and a swap of third-round picks in next year's draft.

Cash joins an already loaded frontcourt for Atlanta including Angel McCoughtry, Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle. She also lives in Atlanta so perhaps that played a role in this deal.

Also, the Connecticut Sun announced that it has waived third-round pick DeNesha Stallworth.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Send Geno and Ollie to Afghanistan to play ball with the Men And Woman Troopers Of The USA Military !

1:28 AM 

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