In general, steroids are frowned upon in the sports community. Extensive testing ferrets out offenders, punishes them accordingly and that, along with the public humiliation, is usually enough to keep the problem in check. But when Geno Auriemma compares the U.S. Olympic team to "UConn on steroids" we know exactly what he means. Partly because Auriemma has been known to say outrageous things, but also because he's led the Huskies to seven national titles and would know better than anybody what top-flight basketball looks like.
The national team is in Washington, D.C. in preparation for the London Olympics and Auriemma spoke with the media this weekend about competing on the world's biggest stage.
"But at the Olympics, you are surrounded by the best athletes in the world, at every position," he said via the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "A coach is simply selected; the players earn their way in by reaching the finish line faster, landing a vault a little better. It's kind of overwhelming. You want to feel worthy of it."
"Winning for USA is expected," he expected. "We've won four gold medals in a row. We might be the most dominant team in the Olympics since the Red Army [Russia] teams. We are supposed to win and we are supposed to win by a lot. It's a lot for the players to carry around. There are no parades if you win the silver medal."
Auriemma's team will face Brazil on Monday in the nation's capitol before heading east to Great Britain. The 12-man team includes six former Huskies, including Asjha Jones, Sue Bird and Swin Cash, three players who entered UConn together in 1998. While comparing this bunch to the Dream Team is hackneyed at this point, like that 1992 juggernaut, anything less than perfection will be considered a failure.
"The Olympics are so big in the United States," Mike Thibault, coach of the Connecticut Sun, who assisted Ann Donovan on the 2008 gold medal team in Beijing, told Altavilla. "But the World Championship is especially big all over the world. I don't know if the players sensed how many people were tuned into what was happening over there [in the Czech Republic]. When you grow up, you aren't necessarily thinking about growing up to playing for the World Championship.
"But every game they play in the Olympics is on television. People know it's a big deal. Everyone is watching; other athletes, too, especially those at the Games with you. For those playing for the United States, the sense you are playing for something much bigger than just the sports, the United States, is perhaps the coolest aspect of it all."
Made even cooler by winning a gold medal.