Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.
The Weekly is now a newsletter! Subscribe to get it in your inbox every Thursday before it hits the site.
From The UConn Blog:
- Azura Stevens opens food trailer in hometown
- UConn in the WNBA: 2020 Schedule Highlights
- Megan Walker tests positive for COVID-19
- UConn in the WNBA highlights from team media days (Video)
Last week’s Weekly:
- Brenna Stewart is ready for the WNBA season (The Next)
- UConn legends Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi say suiting up for 2020 WNBA season was their only option (Associated Press)
- Renee Montgomery: An Open Letter to Senator Kelly Loeffler (Medium)
- Molly Bent assigned to UPenn as part of FOCUS missionary (Manchester JI)
- UConn Legend - The Great Maya Moore (97.9 ESPN)
- Which Under-The-Radar Offseason Acquisitions Are Ready To Break Out? (Winsidr) — Azura Stevens, Morgan Tuck and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis all mentioned.
In The News
Hartley re-ups in Turkey
Bria Hartley is set to return to Turkey during the WNBA offseason for the second straight year. The two-time national champion re-signed with Galatasaray Basketbol in Istanbul, the team announced on Saturday. It’ll be the former UConn point guard’s second year with the club.
Hartley is the sixth former Husky to have publicly signed with a team in Europe, joining Batouly Camara (CB Bembibre, Spain), Katie Lou Samuelson (CB Avenida, Spain), Megan Walker and Gabby Williams (Sopron Basket, Hungary) and Evelyn Adebayo (Phantoms Boom, Belgium).
Charles likely to opt out of WNBA season
After a blockbuster trade in April sent her from the New York Liberty to the Washington Mystics, Tina Charles is unlikely to suit up at all this season. The former UConn star didn’t travel to the bubble in Florida with her team as she awaits a decision from an independent medical panel on whether or not she’ll be medically excused from playing this season. While all players have the option to opt out, only those who receive a medical waiver will be paid.
Earlier this week, Elena Delle Donne (who committed to UConn and spent 48 hours on campus before leaving) had her medical request denied. The reigning WNBA MVP suffers from Lyme disease and had a note from her personal physician which advised her not to travel to the bubble.
Charles’ reason for pursuing a medical opt-out has not been disclosed.
Last week, we went through some of the best stories from The Same River Twice by John Walters, a behind-the-scenes look at the 2000-01 UConn women’s basketball team. This week, we look at what’s changed since and also wrap up some other loose ends.
What’s changed and what hasn’t
This upcoming season will be exactly 20 years since the 2000-01 campaign. Two decades is a long time and plenty has changed since. However, a lot really isn’t that much different, especially when it comes to the man in charge of everything.
Thought a lot has changed around Auriemma, the coach’s tongue is still as sharp as always:
“I’m in a state of depression right now because I don’t have anyone to get mad at anymore. My whole reason for being has gone out the window. It’s no fun if she’s not going to turn the ball over, take dumb shots and commit dumb fouls. It’s taken all the joy out of coaching,” he said after the team’s 99-70 win over No. 3 Georgia.
“Svet understands English when I talked about offense, but when it comes to defense, well, that’s another story,” Auriemma said about Svetlana Abrosimova as a freshman. It almost sounds like something he’d say about Anna Makurat nowadays.
Finally, there’s this quote from Auriemma after Diana Taurasi threw a no-look pass out of bounds during a fast break drill.
“That’s unbelievable. I’ve been coaching 25 years and I’ve never seen as often as I’ve seen the last three days how many new ways you can find to turn the ball over on the break. You continue to try to prove that you can make this pass after I tell you all I want is a wide-open layup that a guy can have a heart attack and still make.”
Some things never change.
Other parallels to 2000? Just like today, UConn wasn’t allowed to lose. After a disappointing loss on the road to Notre Dame, Auriemma released some pent-up frustration.
“The reaction after Notre Dame, it’s hard to understand,” he said. “We’re 50-2 (in the last two seasons) and if the reaction is going to be like that after every time we play poorly, then if I was a kid I would say, ‘What’s the point?’ We’ve created such an amazing standard that we can’t live up to it and I think that’s kinda sad.”
The coach expressed a similar sentiment this past season when he went off on a six and a half minute rant — “since when do you have to apologize for winning a game?”
Another classic trope from Auriemma is saying that his former teams are superior to the current squad. He did that back in 2001, too.
“We used to have a team where I said, ‘Pass it from here to here’ and they’d do that. And we used to win. Now they’re smarter than me,” Auriemma said.
For Chris Dailey, her job is drastically different since her early days on the staff. As an assistant coach back then, she had to do the budget and also had to teach a physical education class (which I’m fairly certain UConn doesn’t even offer anymore) — jogging. She gave a final exam for the class which she expected everyone to get an A on. Except one pre-med student. When he turned it in, Dailey advised him to check a question again. He declined.
“He’s obviously a moron,” she said to Auriemma. “He doesn’t deserve to get into medical school.”
Tales from the recruiting trail
Some of the best insights the book provided were the stories of how certain players and coaches made their way to UConn, starting with Auriemma himself.
If Pat Meiser-McKnett had it her way, Auriemma never would’ve gotten the job. An associate athletic director at UConn in 1985, Meiser-McKnett wanted to hire a woman to coach since the three previous coaches were all women. However, when she met with the team, they said they just wanted the best coach.
After Auriemma was finally hired, he made Dailey his top target as an assistant. And he refused to take no as an answer.
“He begged me,” Dailey said, which Auriemma denies. “He asked me in May and called me all summer until I said yes at the end of July. I was his first recruit.”
When Shea Ralph came to Storrs for her visit in September of 1996, she promised to call her mother the night she arrived. Four days passed without Ralph phoning home. Soon, Kathy Auriemma’s phone rang.
“Just tell me this,” the worried mother said. “Is my daughter still alive?”
As for Diana Taurasi, UConn may have an AAU team called Love and Basketball to thank for landing the eventual GOAT. As a Southern California native, Taurasi nearly committed to UCLA so she could stay close to home. However, the Bruins lost an exhibition team to Love and Basketball during the recruiting process, which instantly soured the school for Taurasi.
“Mommy,” she told her mom on the phone, “do you know how miserable I would be if I was there?”
The greatest (coaching) team of all-time
The 2000-01 team may have failed in its goal to become the greatest team of all-time on the basketball court. But looking back, the collection of coaching talent on that team is jaw-dropping.
There’s Auriemma of course, the greatest coach in the history of the sport, along with Dailey, the best No. 2 of all-time. His two assistants, Tonya Cardoza and Jamelle Elliot, both went on to become head coaches at Temple and Cincinnati, respectively. Graduate assistant Stacy Hansmeyer became an assistant at Oklahoma from 2002-2011.
As for the players, Ralph joined UConn’s staff in 2008 and has been there ever since. In 2018, an anonymous poll of Division I coaches by High Post Hoops named Ralph as the current assistant that will make the best head coach.
Morgan Valley is now the head coach at Hartford, Tamika Williams (now Jeter) is an assistant at Ohio State, while Kelly Schumacher (now Raimon) and Asjha Jones are both WNBA assistants with the New York Liberty and Washington Mystics, respectively. Maria Conlon took over as the head coach of Notre Dame-Fairfield this past season and helped guide the team to a No. 1 state ranking.
On the administrative side, Svetlana Abrosimova is the general manager of the Russian National Team, Swin Cash is the New Orleans Pelicans’ Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development and Sue Bird, who is still playing, worked in the Denver Nuggets front office during the 2018-19 WNBA offseason. Ashley Battle also works at the NBA as a basketball operations associate.
If you’re counting, that’s three Division I head coaches, three DI assistants, two WNBA assistants, one high school head coach and four administrators (not including Auriemma and Dailey).
Best of social media
We have have to do an all-time uniform power ranking in the Weekly sometime in the near future:
Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield appear happy to be teammates again:
Loving this Phee-Crystal reunion so far (plus, they’re roommates in the bubble!) pic.twitter.com/mk3Xr4OWIh— Alexa Philippou (@alexaphilippou) July 11, 2020
From the Getty Archives, a photo of Geno Auriemma clearly excited to have just won the 2002 national championship:
Going through the Getty Archives and found this photo of Geno, supposedly having just won a national championship: pic.twitter.com/F9FkADAHxG— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) July 14, 2020
Paige Bueckers: Good at basketball.
Breanna Stewart will be rocking these custom kicks in the bubble:
View this post on Instagram
I had the amazing opportunity to customize these shoes for @breannastewart30 of the @seattlestorm. Breanna wanted to highlight and recognize the LGBTQ community. She also wanted me to include the transgender flag as part of the design. #SolesBySir #1of1 #customKicks #BreannaStewart #standUp #Transgender #TransgenderPride #LGBT #customs #WNBA #blackLivesMatter #timeForChange #Customs #nikeBasketball #KicksForHer #KOTD #LGBTQ #her #makeAStatement #equality #LOVEisLOVE
Stat of the week
UConn’s five-player freshmen class makes up 50 percent of the Huskies’ roster for this season. That’s the highest percentage for any team under Geno Auriemma.
Just a reminder that UConn is one of four schools ever to have both its men’s and women’s basketball teams win a national championship — and the Huskies are the only one to win it in the same year, which they’ve done twice in 2004 and 2014. The 2024 Final Four is only three years away...