So things are looking up for the UConn men's basketball team. They landed two big-time recruits this week and it sounds like Jim Calhoun will coach another year if not more.
But success is relative, even in Storrs. The men are defending national champions, but their perch atop college basketball is a precarious one. The nation's best player, Kemba Walker, has taken his game to the NBA, and recruiting is a cut-throat affair, where achievements are measured year-to-year, class-to-class. The UConn women's team, however, is a different story.
Coach Geno Auriemma and his assistants, are annually the best recruiters in the country, and the Huskies' record proves as much. Auriemma has seven national titles since 1995. More evidence of UConn's influence across basketball: WNBA and national teams are chocked full of current and former Huskies.
But don't confuse causality -- it's not the case that Huskies players automatically earn the benefit of the doubt because of their pedigree. It's the other way around: by virtue of playing for Auriemma -- and with some of the best talent in the country -- UConn players are, well, usually better. Professional or international competition isn't an overwhelming experience because it's not much different than what they face(d) daily during their time in Storrs.
Former Huskies guard Jen Rizzotti now coaches at Hartford. And this summer, she's heading up the Under-19 US National team. She's familiar with the type of player UConn produces.
"Connecticut is recruiting the elite players in the country," Jen Rizzotti said. "It's not like USA Basketball is picking UConn kids and giving them an advantage, it's the other way around. UConn is recruiting the kids that USA Basketball covets."
The Hartford Courant's John Altavilla notes that the Under-19 team currently has five current or soon-to-be Huskies on the roster. And "fair or not, the positioning of all this young talent together, under the careful eye of one of their greatest players ever - Rizzotti - will give UConn a tremendous competitive advantage as it moves into its next era."
Which, intentional or otherwise, works out well for Auriemma. It means that his players return for the college season with international experience. It's also appealing to recruits because those opportunities are rare … except, it seems, at UConn.
It's a great gig if you can get it, but it's not like Auriemma hasn't worked to get the program to this point. Sure, he's been lucky, but he's also been very, very good. And that doesn't look to change anytime soon.