NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 07: Jeff Walz, head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, speaks with Antonita Slaughter #4 in a game against the California Golden Bears during the National Semifinal game of the 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at New Orleans Arena on April 7, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Louisville won the game 64-57. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Louisville coach Jeff Walz is passionate, appears to be well-liked by his players, and clearly knows what he's doing. The Cardinals are in the finals after arguably the biggest upset in women's college basketball history, beating Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen before dispensing with Tennessee and then Cal in the Final Four for a chance to meet the Huskies for the national title Tuesday. But Walz also has a sense of humor, one that was on full display during his pregame press conference.
“This is going to be my last game at Louisville. It’s been a great six years for me. As a women’s basketball coach, you often wonder what you are going to do [after]. I’ve been to three national championship games in my career [one as a Maryland assistant, two as Louisville coach].
“And now that Geno has given me the opportunity to be a waiter at Geno’s restaurant, I don’t know what the hell else anyone could want out of life. So my goal is to become the head waiter, not just one who sits in the back of the place. I want to be the best damn one he has. I will talk to him after the game Tuesday to see when I can start, to see if we can talk the contract through. Hopefully, we can get things taken care of. It will be an honor to work in his restaurant.”
The Geno, obviously, is Geno Auriemma, who also knows something about joking around. The UConn coach made a crack Sunday about Walz's red and white plaid shirt looking like a tablecloth, and going so far as to offer Walz a job in his restaurant. Upside: Auriemma even said Walz wouldn't have to wear a tie.
“I ran into Shoni Schimmel’s parents on the way over here, and they said they’re all for it [Walz leaving]," Auriemma joked. "And the Schimmels are transferring to Connecticut. So that’s the plus side of him resigning or retiring.
“He doesn’t dress well enough to work in the front room of my restaurant, so he’ll be bussing dishes and taking out the trash in the back until he fixes his attitude.”
But the fun and games go out the window at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the last college basketball game of the 2012-13 season tips off. And the odds are stacked against Louisville. As the Courier-Journal's Michael Grant notes, the last time the Cardinals beat the Huskies, Schimmel, one of the team's best players, was two months shy of her first birthday.
“It definitely bothers me because they are a rival for us,” Schimmel said. “But UConn is definitely a good team, and for them to have that 20 years on us shows how great of a program they have. Our program is rising now and getting back on the charts.”
A win against a red-hot UConn team would go a long way in accomplishing that.