UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma is nothing if not a showman. And we don't mean that in the Barnum & Bailey top hat and megaphone sense, but in an understated, subtle way that gets the point across without beating you over the head with it.
Such was the case Wednesday when Auriemma spoke at the East Hartford Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He touched on many topics including the 2011-12 season, in which he'll be without one of the best players to come through Storrs, Maya Moore, who is now lighting it up in the WNBA.
"I watched us play a lot with four guards and one big guy," Auriemma said about the Huskies' 10-day, four-game exhibition to Italy in August, according to the Hartford Courant. "There's an eagerness to play beyond Maya Moore. There's like this anxiousness, this is what the opportunity is that we've been given and we really, really want to take advantage of this. …. And the young guys, there was a huge difference from the first day of practice to the last day in Europe. A huge difference in the way they played."
And while expectations are always high for this Huskies team, Auriemma isn't afraid to undersell, perhaps to motivate his players, or maybe he's working on some new stand-up material (we're guessing the latter). Either way, it worked: he got our attention (along with everybody else) even if he was joking.
"I don't think we're going to win the national champion this year," Auriemma said. "Now if the other guys screw it up, which they're capable of doing, we have a chance. … I think we can be as good as anybody in the country but our inexperience might cost us.
"It's one of those years where we're going to have to catch a couple of breaks, which is good. But next year and the year after, we won't lose a game."
We were thinking the same thing. There's no way this team will win more than five games, what with sophomores Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartely, fresh off the U-19 US National Team world title this summer, leading the way. And sharpshooting senior Tiffany Hayes won't help, nor will the best recruiting class in the country.
While were weren't on hand, we can only imagine that everybody chuckled, thought to themselves "Yeah, right," and returned to their bagels and coffee as Auriemma started in on his next bit.
The UConn coach also talked about Jeff Hathaway, the athletic director who stepped down recently at the request of the university. Unlike Jim Calhoun, who made little secret of the fact that he wasn't a Hathaway fan, Auriemma said he was disappointed by the decision to replace him.
"I thought the athletic director we had was really good," Auriemma said. "But times call for a change. A new president comes in and a new administration comes in and they have a vision of where they want to go. Changes are made. I think [new AD Paul Pendergast] certainly brings a different perspective and a different approach than [Jeff Hathaway] had."
We're not sure if "different perspective" is good or bad in Auriemma's mind but we suspect that, like Calhoun, he'll get what he needs without much protestation from the administration. Such are the benefits of always being in the hunt for a national championship.