To hear Coach Geno Auriemma tell it, the other UConn basketball news of the day -- that the men's team had been put on probation and coach Jim Calhoun had been suspended for three Big East games next season -- had nothing to do with the women's uninspired performance early in Tuesday night's game against Seton Hall, the conference's worst team.
We know this because during his post-game press conference, a subdued Auriemma made it clear that he hasn't given the ruling much thought because, frankly, he hasn't had time.
"I haven't read it," Auriemma said Tuesday night. "When it came out at 3 p.m., I wasn't around so I don't know what anyone has said about it or what anyone's reaction was to it. I haven't had a chance to read the exact content [of the NCAA report]."
"We all knew that at some point in January or February that there would be some kind of announcement, so no one is surprised," Auriemma added. … "But I don't know how people feel about what was said. I haven't talked about it even with my coaching staff. So I don't know what to tell you."
As for his team's lackluster first-half performance, Auriemma seemed unconcerned. “These games are natural. … It’s a natural occurrence, especially when you come off Saturday (UConn beat Notre Dame, 78-57, and regained the No. 1 ranking), when you play a game like that. One day you’re playing a game that’s for first place in the league and the next day you are playing a team that’s tied for last in the league."
And that's right. It's sometimes easy to forget that this women's team is actually comprised of humans, not perfectly crafted basketball-playing robots. This helps explain Maya Moore's observations after the 80-59 victory. “This wasn’t the level of focus that we want to start a game with … It’s too late in the season for us not to all come out with the same focus and intensity. It’s definitely something that shows we need to continue to work and get better, even though the postseason is right around the corner. There’s still work to be done.”
And finally, some housekeeping. Following Saturday's win over Notre Dame, Auriemma said that hearing the UConn fans cheering upon seeing than then-No.1 Baylor had lost was the "…dumbest thing I've ever heard." Rebecca Lobo can explain what the coach really meant. By way of the Hartford Courant.
Lobo said she thinks Auriemma was simply sticking up for his players, whom he sometimes believes are taken for granted because they win all the time.
"Typical of him, but I don't think he meant it the way it may have been perceived," Lobo said. "It seems to me it was more of a shot for making that the loudest cheer, as opposed to a pass Maya threw or for Stefanie Dolson.
"He wants to make sure that he and his players aren't taken for granted. Not that he'll ever be, but his kids are playing very special basketball with really only six players and one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest, woman ever to play. I think he wants to make sure everyone understands who Maya is and they don't take the success of the team for granted."
Duly noted. But as I wrote Monday, given Auriemma's success in Storrs, he's earned the right to speak his mind.