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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

New Connecticut Sun coach dishes on UConn's Kia Nurse

When Curt Miller's name began to emerge as a candidate to become the new coach of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun I couldn't help but reflect back on the recruitment of current UConn guard Kia Nurse.

There was a sense that Miller's relationship with the Nurse family (he coached both Kia's older sister Tamika and aunt Raquel) might just be enough for Nurse to say no to UConn's late recruiting push and head to play for Miller at Indiana.

Miller brought up the recruitment of Nurse without any prodding when he was introduced as the Sun's new coach in a press conference at the Cabaret Theater inside the Mohegan Sun Casino on Thursday.

"I really wanted Kia Nurse at Indiana before I left, I worked my tail off to get Kia," Miller said. "I coached Kia's sister at Bowling Green, I coached Kia's aunt at Syracuse and it was coming down to Indiana and Syracuse for Kia Nurse so I shot him (UConn coach Geno Auriemma) off a text saying 'do you really need another good player? Can you please throw me a bone and let me end up with Kia?' I think Kia's family would have killed me if she would have come to Indiana and I would have left but that is the kind of relationship we had. I think we got a text back 'sorry for you' or something sarcastic.

"I can still remember sitting in Washington, D.C. at an AAU tournament and Kia was playing. Shea Ralph was sitting in front of me, I was standing over her shoulder. I watched her pick up her phone and start to text Chris Dailey. They don't even know this happened but I watched Shea text Chris Dailey saying 'have you ever seen the Nurse kid play?' my heart sunk below my belt because I thought we were really going to get Kia Nurse. I turned around and text my staff things that I absolutely can not repeat right now that we are absolutely in trouble. I have great respect for them and I appreciate anything that they said kindly about me throughout this process."

Miller was scouting the UConn/Ohio State game in November and he approached Auriemma and politely asked him that if anybody involved in the Connecticut Sun coaching search contacted him that he could put in a good word for him. Both team general manager Chris Sienko and CEO Mitchell Etess mentioned Auriemma giving Miller a stamp of approval as being important in ultimately Miller being hired.

Miller also said that one of the things he was most impressed by in his dealings with the Auriemma-run UConn program is how the players on the court rush over to help up a teammate after they draw a charge or dive on the floor for the loose ball and he stressed those things as priorities in his head coaching stops at Bowling Green and Indiana. Miller was also an assistant coach on the Syracuse team that stunned UConn on Jan. 2, 1996 but joked "I don't think UConn probably dwells on that loss too much."

After the press conference I asked Miller to talk a little more about the Nurse family.

"The Nurse family are a class act and tremendous people," Miller said. "As you see, Darnell is now in the NHL, Kia's thriving at UConn but don't forget about the oldest daughter Tamika who started her career at Oregon and finished playing with me at Bowling Green and was a tremendous athlete herself. It is just an incredible family, humble and a pleasure to be around. I am really happy to see Kia having all the success at UConn.

"I coached Kia's aunt, I coached Kia's sister so I remember Kia when she could barely dribble the basket so to watch where she has come from and to know that we had a special relationship and even though I didn't get a chance to coach her but to know that our friendship exists and I am her biggest fan. I am really happy for her and excited to see where her game will go. As I said, I ended up not coaching her at the college level but maybe I will get to coach her in the pros."

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