Auriemma: Saving the players from themselves…and other amusements

I don’t think there’s a coach alive who hasn’t taken a player aside and told her she didn’t play well that day, or she seemed to be distracted, or her mental preparation wasn’t what it should have been, or her concentration was lacking. Coaches have lots of phrases to deal with poor performances without humiliating the player.

Then there’s Geno Auriemma.

He has a myriad of phrases to deal with poor performances, and maybe he does share them with his players, but he also shares them with reporters. And the Courant, to its discredit, then gleefully reprints them:


“Geno Says Fans Deserve Money Back After Poor Effort By Bench”

I’m not saying a coach doesn’t have the right to expect more, or expect better, and what I don’t know about basketball could fill a good-sized national park; but despite Auriemma’s disgust with his team’s effort, they won by 18; their second team played a Division One first team even, and UConn remains undefeated.

Courant sportswriter Mike Anthony who wrote this morning’s article said of the cosmic failure of an 18-point win, “…Auriemma measures performances differently than just about any other coach.”

Oh please.

If we weren’t all drinking the Kool-Aid and counting our banners, we’d realize that he’s coaching kids, young adults—you pick the nomenclature—how about human beings?—who deserve respect for the effort they’re putting out. At the very least, they don’t need to be vilified publicly as transgressors were on the town green three-hundred years ago. Rooting for those kids is easy, but his reminding us that there’s a reason the second team doesn’t play much is unnecessarily cruel. They’re the second team! Does he think they don’t know they lack the skills of the starters? Do they have to read about in the paper?

The hypocrisy beggars belief. His claim that he’s trying to “save them from themselves” rings false when he singles out one player and says “you can’t give up more layups than she gives up.” I doubt if she feels saved. Or motivated.

In his utter frustration, Auriemma said that if he could have his way, he’d reimburse the spectators: “I’d give every person who came their money back.”

Easily done. Most of the crowd of 7,477 probably kept their ticket stubs. Have them send them in. Fifty bucks a ticket on average—that will set the coach back just under $400,000. That’s a pretty good chunk of his $2.4 million yearly salary and would mean lots of checks to sign, but to fulfill a wish, well here’s the chance.

Before you remind me that the players love him, I’ll concede that, to a point. He gets them to win. And the fans love him for the same reason. But if I had a daughter playing for a coach like that with a better than even chance of winning a national title, and she told me she wanted to transfer to a school with no chance, I’d help her pack (and hope I didn’t read in the Courant about what a loser she was).

Maybe Mike Anthony is right about Auriemma measuring performances differently, but can’t we do the same…maybe measure his performances by the grace, generosity, and decency shown to every member of his team afterward, irrespective of the score?



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