Thirty years ago, the men's game looked a lot like the women's game, at least in that a coach knew when he recruited a player, he had him for three -- and usually four -- years. We're now in the age of one-and-done, and sustained success (unless you're Duke) is pretty much impossible to come by.
Geno Auriemma, who won his 10th national title earlier this month, is well aware of this fact, and understands that it has allowed for stability to the program he built from the ground up more than a quarter-century ago.
"What happens, too, is the kids get a chance over a four-year period, if they are in the right place, to really create something for themselves," Auriemma said earlier this week, via the Hartford Courant. "Not only for the school and team and that the coaches get a chance to develop you, but you can create a brand for yourself. There probably isn't a basketball fan in America, man or woman, who doesn't know who Breanna Stewart is. If you leave after one year, that doesn't get traction. It's a special quality the women's game possesses."
Interestingly, Notre Dame's Jewell Lloyd said she was forgoing her final year in college to declare for the WNBA Draft. Like Breanna Stewart in a year's time, Lloyd will be one of the top picks, but Stewart, who remains college basketball's best player, has no interest in leaving school before she's required.
"I was pretty surprised," Stewart said of Lloyd's decision. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Obviously, I'm only 20, so I can't do it, but I don't think I'd want to. You come here, college is the best four years of your life. Plus, I have my sights on winning four."
Morgan Tuck, who will be a redshirt junior next year, but will be able to leave school for the WNBA after that if she chooses, agrees with Stewart.
"I was pretty surprised about Jewell," she admitted. "It's not common. A lot of people have opinions about it, but she made the best decision for her. I'm happy for her.
"Right now, I'm planning on staying my fifth year and getting my master's degree. I'm not in a rush to get out. I like it here. A master's can only help me. It's free school. Why not use it? My goal coming in was four national championships. A chance to get five? It would be unbelievable."
Put another way: Playing for UConn doesn't hurt. But Geno Auriemma says he wouldn't change the way he recruited if the women's game allowed players to leave after one season.
"If I knew there was a chance Stewie might go after one year, I'd still recruit her if I thought she was serious about, 'Coach, I want to come to Connecticut and I want to be part of that,'" Auriemma said.
"We've always taken into consideration if the kid fits into what we were doing. I don't care how good they are. There has been a lot of first-team All-Americans we didn't make a phone call to. I didn't think they fit in with what I believe in. So, yeah, I'd do what Coach K is doing. I'd do it the exact same way. I'd go out and try to get the best kids who are the best players."