One late Sunday afternoon in April, then-DePaul assistant coach Jasmine Lister went out for a run after watching the Blue Demons practice. Midway through her own workout, Lister’s phone rings. It’s head coach Doug Bruno.
“Jas, you still around?” he asks.
“I went for a run coach, I’ll be right back,” she replies.
“Well come back right now,” Bruno says without a hint of whatever’s happening.
Immediately, Lister turns around and begins sprinting through the streets of Chicago back to the facility. Her mind is racing.
Did a player get hurt? Did I forget to do something like call a recruit or tell him where he was supposed to be?
She bursts into the office out of breath.
“Are you alright?” Bruno asks.
Lister says she’s fine and waits for him to break whatever news he called her back for. That’s when Bruno tells her.
Longtime UConn women’s basketball assistant Marisa Moseley accepted the head coaching position at Boston University. Geno Auriemma wanted Lister, a former grad assistant with the Huskies, to replace Moseley as the team’s newest assistant.
“What, no? Are you kidding me?” says the shocked Lister.
It was certainly no joke. However, she didn’t have much time to let the news sink in.
“You kind of have to wrap your head around this because it’s going to move pretty quickly since recruiting is next weekend,” Bruno told her.
While he certainly didn’t want to lose his assistant, Bruno knew he needed to let Lister go to UConn. It didn’t hurt that he had a good relationship with Auriemma and Chris Dailey through USA Basketball.
“You’d be in really good hands,” he said.
She agreed and after filling out the paperwork and everything else, Lister was out recruiting the next weekend, now donning UConn gear.
Fast forward a few weeks and Lister is still struggling to wrap her head around the entire thing.
“I couldn’t believe it really,” she said at Auriemma’s Fore the Kids Golf Tournament. “I knew Marisa had potentially wanted to go for that job (at BU) but I didn’t know who they were even thinking of replacing her with. So for it to be me, it was so surreal and I was so grateful for it.”
Her two seasons as a GA from 2014-2016 gave Auriemma and the rest of his staff a good grasp of the type of coach that Lister could eventually be.
“When you spend two years with somebody you get a sense of who they are as people,” Auriemma said. “She’s incredibly hard working, she’s really smart, she’s very throughout and she’s really engaged with all the coaches and players.”
However, she needed to get away from Storrs in order to get some experience as an full-time assistant coach as opposed to just a graduate assistant.
“It was huge and it was very beneficial because [Washington and DePaul] were two completely different programs,” she said. “I needed it as a coach, so for me to learn that and then bring it back here at UConn — we’re not going to change up everything we’re doing here — but just to have that outside experience is kind of cool.”
Once the position opened up on the coaching staff, Auriemma had only one name in mind to fill it.
“When Marisa got that opportunity to go to BU, it was a pretty easy decision (to hire Lister),” he said. “That took about 5 seconds, we knew we were going there all along. Fortunately she said yes.”
However, there’s a big difference between being a GA and an assistant. In basketball, grad assistants are glorified managers and aren’t allowed to actually coach during their two years. Now as a full assistant, Lister will have a wealth of new responsibilities from coaching, recruiting, game-planing, and everything else in between.
She’ll work with the guards, but that doesn’t mean she’s exclusively going to coach those specific players.
“We’re trying to work with the post players on the perimeter and what not,” Lister said. “We’re trying to get more guard skills with everybody so we’ll be working with everyone.”
That mix is something Auriemma is focusing on this year as he felt they got too focused on what specific position they were coaching in the past.
“We fell into that a little bit, sometimes people get caught up in who works with your post players and your guards,” he said. “There’s an awful lot that goes on in our individual stuff and our practice that players are going to end up being coached by everybody.”
Of course, the coach also couldn’t help but get a small jab in at his players to illustrate why whatever position an assistant is assigned to doesn’t really matter this season.
“I look around at our team and I don’t seem a lot of post players. I see a bunch of big guards, so what difference does it make?” he quipped.
While some things vary from program to program — recruiting methods, style of play, etc. — Lister has already seen a common thread that distinguishes the good programs from the elite ones.
“Everybody has their different leadership styles and it works for different programs,” she said said. But [Auriemma and Bruno] have the same style in their standards that they play at and the way they approach basketball and life in general.”