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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, February 09, 2015

UConn's Auriemma, South Carolina's Staley eager to work together again

There was a press conference today when DePaul's Doug Bruno, South Carolina's Dawn Staley and Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx were named the assistant coaches on the 2016 Olympic team coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma.

Considering all three of them were on Auriemma's staff when the U.S. won the World Championship for Women, this was not exactly stop the presses type of news. What struck me was that the Auriemma and Staley shared a stage about 6 1/2 hours before they would meet in the most anticipated game of the regular season.

"I don't think it has any bearing on what we are doing right now and what we are doing right now has any bearing on tonight," Auriemma said. "This is a celebration for us as a staff and USA Basketball in general. What happens tonight it is not about me sitting here, Dawn sitting there. I am not going to win or lose (Monday's)  game, Dawn is not going to win or lose tonight's game. When we get up tomorrow morning, there are going to be lots of other games that we have to prepare for. If this was the NCAA tournament maybe it would be a lot more difficult to pull something like this off but it is February, this is bigger than any game we are going to play."

Staley, DePaul's Doug Bruno and Cheryl Reeve were Auriemma's assistant coaches on the U.S. team which won the 2014 World Championship for Women and it was hardly a surprise that they remained as the members of Auriemma's staff. In past years, once a coach was named to the women's national team staff they have remained during the Olympic cycle unless it was a WNBA head coach who no longer coached in the league.
Still, Auriemma admitted to having a sense of comfort in having the same group of coaches he worked with during the run to World Championship glory. Auriemma is appreciative of having somebody like Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist as a player, be a part of his staff.
"They bring a different perspective they see things that maybe you don't see as a coach, they feel things that happen on the court, they can talk to the players and understand what it is like to be in that situation,' Auriemma said. "It is really good to have people like that, we haven't worked together much but in the short time, it has been beneficial to me."
Auriemma is not alone in believing Staley can relate to the U.S. national team players, especially the younger ones.
"She was in the position I was," said UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart, the youngest member of the U.S. World Championship squad "She played USA Basketball at all different levels and it is cool to see her experience compared to my experience. Now she is a college coach, she knows what I was going through and she is fun to be around."

Bruno, the only assistant coach who also served under Auriemma during the 2012 Olympics, said that Auriemma and Staley were able to put the competitive fire that goes into a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown type of game behind them because "this is a statement of these two people where the game is bigger than themselves."

Staley downplayed any time conflict that went with heading to the press conference. She also seemed to derive particular pleasure that her entire South Carolina team was at the press conference.
"I wouldn't be doing anything as this moment except getting ready for LSU, the game plan is in for UConn," Staley said. "For me it is a blessing, I am glad they are here  to see what it takes to get to this level."

With USA Basketball officials on hand, World Championship rings will be presented before tonight's game.

Auriemma, Stewart, UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, former UConn video coordinator Keith Anderson and former UConn star Sue Bird are all expected to receive rings. The rest of the team members will get their rings over the course of the WNBA season with the exception of Diana Taurasi, who is not playing in the WNBA this season so we'll have to see when she gets her ring.


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