We've talked before about Hartford coach and former UConn guard Jen Rizzotti as a possible successor to Geno Auriemma should he ever retire. The Huskies and Hawks played last Saturday and second-ranked UConn cruised to a 102-45 victory.
Still, Auriemma has the utmost respect for Rizzotti. So much so, that he'll put on hold his plans to spend three weeks in Florence, Italy this summer to teach a course at UConn's international branch campus to attend Rizzotti's induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, TN.
"The course wasn't about cheese, wine and pasta," Auriemma said via the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "But when I found out the dates of the induction ceremony in June , I said there was no way I was going to fly back over [from Italy to the United States]. So I just decided to put [the teaching] off.
"Instead, we are going to attend [the induction], spend some time there, do a bunch of things and have a little fun. It means a lot to Jen, a lot to the University of Connecticut. There was a three-year time frame [1992-95] when people got to know Rebecca Lobo. But in many ways, our program was defined by the little kid in the ponytail [Rizzotti] who dove all over the place.
"It's hard for a 6-5 player [Lobo] to inspire many because you realize there's no way you likely will be that tall. But when you saw a little player like Jennifer become national player of the year as a senior averaging 11.0 points a game, every little kid in Connecticut and the country said, 'I can do that.' Just for that alone she should be in the Hall of Fame."
Rizzotti, meanwhile, spoke recently about her future, specifically coaching in the WNBA.
"(The Connecticut Sun) did not interview me or offer me the job," Rizzotti via the Courant's Jeff Jacobs. "I have been friends with [general manager] Chris Sienko a long time. I had the conversation with Chris, not after they fired (coach) Mike (Thibault), not before they did, just in general. I had the conversation before it ever happened, so it wouldn't come to that."
Like a lot of college coaches, Rizzotti isn't ready to make the leap to the professional ranks.
"I told (Sienko) I'm not ruling it out [forever], but right now I don't want to coach in professional basketball," Rizzotti said. "I'm really happy here at Hartford. There's not a lot I'd give it up for. I love what I do. I love where I work. I love the kids."
Jacobs makes an important point: "It's hard to envision UConn not giving Rizzotti the job to replace Auriemma. She has the right stuff on so many levels. Yet it's also hard to say how long Auriemma, 58, will coach. Geno's getting a new five-year deal. He's not going anywhere other than the Final Four any time soon."
So then the question becomes: will Rizzotti wait? And if not, does staying put give her the best chance to land a premier job at one of the other elite college programs like Stanford or Tennessee?
"I hope so," she told Jacobs.