On Friday morning, UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma jumped on Instagram Live with Rebecca Lobo to discuss the “Best of the Best Bracket” that the team has been running on social media to decide the best player in program history. But the two didn’t just stick to that topic and the coach hit a number of interesting points about his program.
UConn looking to add a transfer
Auriemma said the team is talking with “a couple kids” in the transfer portal and “trying to make something happen”, but he didn’t specify whether they were looking at regular transfers that may need to sit out a season or graduate transfers, who are immediately eligible.
Even if UConn does add someone, its recent history with transfers has been a mixed bag with Evelyn Adebayo, Evina Westbrook, Batouly Camara, Azura Stevens and Natalie Butler all coming in from different schools since 2014. Of that group, only Stevens made a sizable impact with the Huskies — though Westbrook has yet to suit up.
“These things are like flipping a coin, you know? Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t,” Auriemma said. “You have to get the right fit, the right mix, the right kind of kid. Everything’s gotta fall into place and cross your fingers if it happens.”
Geno’s thoughts on Walker’s departure
To this point, Auriemma has mostly remained silent on Megan Walker’s unexpected decision to declare for the WNBA Draft and forgo her final year at UConn aside from a short quote in the press release. However, he finally addressed it with Lobo in more detail, though he didn’t get into any specifics.
“I think any time somebody goes to the WNBA, I don’t care if they’re a senior or not a senior, my first question to them is do you know what you’re getting yourself into? Do you realize this is a whole ‘nother world you’re stepping into?” he said.
While he didn’t hit on the reasons for her departure or his reaction to the news, Auriemma sounded a positive note about Walker’s chances of making it in the league.
“Do I think she’s going to be really, really good there? Yeah. If she gets on the right team, yeah. If she gets on the wrong team, it’s going to be a real big adjustment for Megan. But if she gets on the right team, I think she’s going to be okay,” he said. “One more year of college? Yeah, for some kids that’s exactly what they need. Some kids are like ‘Nah, I’m done. I don’t need this anymore.’ So when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
No decision yet on a new assistant
After assistant Jasmine Lister unexpectedly left the program for “personal reasons”, former UConn forward and assistant coach Jamelle Elliot took over coaching duties for the remainder of the season. But when asked if Elliot was going to stay on staff for next season, Auriemma declined to talk about it.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re in a tough situation here so we have to figure all that out. We have some real issues to figure out here.”
Back in 2018 when then-assistant Marisa Moseley left to become the head coach at BU, UConn announced Lister as her replacement just two days later.
Obviously, it’s a different, more complicated situation. The circumstances of Lister’s departure are still completely unknown and was simply classified as a “leave of absence.” Some things may need to get worked out first before UConn can move forward to hire a new coach.
As for who the Huskies might try to bring on, Elliot is the top candidate considering how her presence helped transform Olivia Nelson-Ododa down the stretch, her ties to the program both as a player and coach and her experience as a head coach, but she may not want to return to coaching full-time.
Based on Auriemma’s answer, the situation seems to be more complex than just hiring a new assistant coach. It’ll be one of the more intriguing storylines to follow this offseason.
Geno against handing out national championship trophy
With the NCAA Tournament cancelled, there’s no way to determine a national champion for this season. While South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has been pining for the trophy on Twitter since the Gamecocks finished No. 1 in the final AP Poll, Auriemma said it’s not that simple.
“We’d have a lot more than 11 (championships). We’d have a lot more than 11,” he laughed. “Just because you’re number one at the end of the season doesn’t mean you’re going to win the whole thing.”
Baylor, Oregon and South Carolina established themselves as the clear front-runners entering the tournament, but anything can happen in March. However, Auriemma did give some insight as to who he thought had the best chance to win it all, hypothetically, if the tournament happened.
“If you ask me to pick among those three, who would win? Whew ... I don’t know,” he said. “The long answer is if I was betting, I’d say that Oregon and South Carolina would play in the championship game if it played out that way. And I would give Oregon a little bit of an edge because of their experience. That’s all.”
Geno vs. technology
Auriemma said that humor is an important part of getting through tough times like these — “You gotta laugh to keep yourself from crying” — so here’s a few entertaining quotes from the coach about his struggle of trying to figure out how Instagram Live works:
“I just can’t be on this nonsense on a regular basis. It took me 45 minutes to load this crap up. I had to ask (UConn SID) Anna [Labonte] ‘What do I do now? I have it here. Anna look how many different Instagram things there are. Which one do I use?’ So now she’s FaceTiming me trying to show me that and now I’ve got my phone. Well how come I can’t get it on my iPad? ‘I don’t think it works on iPads. It only works on phones,’ Labonte responded.
“Well I thought this was America in 2020? You can’t get it to work anywhere wherever the hell you want it to work? What kind of country are we talking about here? ... I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I could be in Washington. I could be in charge.”
Auriemma also talked about why he banned himself from Twitter.
“Because I realized I can’t control myself. So if I’m not on it, I won’t say anything really stupid that will get me in trouble. So I refuse to be on it.”