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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Geno Auriemma Thinks About Coaching Men to Prove He’s Legit

You won’t find a more impressive coaching resume than that of UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. In his 25-year coaching career at Connecticut, Geno has won seven championships and qualified for the NCAA tournament all but three times. His Huskies haven’t lost a game since they were bounced from the Final Four in 2008. Despite his mind boggling success, Auriemma is left wanting more.

The truth of the matter is Auriemma will never get the credit he deserves because he coaches women’s basketball. Both the men’s and women’s teams at UConn are in the highest division of competition, but women’s basketball is treated as a lesser league. Geno has never been hesitant to acknowledge that.

“I know a lot of guys in the men’s game and I always feel ‘yeah you know, if you were any good you would be in the men’s game.’ I think winning one or two national championships on the men’s side puts you at a level that people think you’re one of the greatest, or greats of all time,” Auriemma said in an interview with ESPN. “I think you could win six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 15, and there’s still a part of me that thinks ‘well, you’re doing it in the women’s game.’ That’s the perception out there.

What I do is hard to do. We make it look easy. And that’s the reason why I ever contemplated even coaching a men’s team, just to prove ‘you guys aren’t as smart as you think.’ That I can win games on any level.”

It’s not a mistake that Geno alludes to men’s and women’s college basketball as being different levels. By definition, they are the same. Both the men’s and women’s teams at UConn are Division 1 programs. The NCAA and NBA are different levels. Men’s and women’s collegiate athletics are not.

That is, however, the world we live in. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not all bogus. There’s a reason Auriemma’s teams haven’t lost in almost three years, yet an undefeated season in men’s basketball is unheard of. The competition is not as steep.  There are less teams and that is likely a result of there being less opportunities for girls to play basketball at a young age.  Natural athleticism and the ability to dunk are also huge factors.

Auriemma has taken his program to such incredible heights that recruiting has become increasingly easier. Does the UConn staff work as hard on the recruiting trail as any in the country?  Of course, but if you’re the best women’s high school basketball player in the country where are you going to enroll — Tennessee, UConn, Baylor, Stanford?  There aren’t as many schools to choose from as there are in the men’s game, and that’s a reflection of a sport with a lesser level of competition.

Geno Auriemma could retire today with one of the greatest coaching resumes in history — in any sport.  Like it or not, he’ll have to prove himself in the men’s game if he ever wants to have that resume 100 percent validated.  It may not be fair, but it’s the world we live in.



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