Geno Auriemma yells less these days.
Compared to practices with Auriemma’s seven-time NCAA champion University of Connecticut Huskies, the U.S. women’s head basketball coach is dialed down at Olympic practices.
“When my children were 17 and 18, you had to raise your voice louder because they weren’t really paying attention,” said Auriemma, the 27-year UConn head coach. “Now that my kids are 29 and 27, you kind of talk to them like adults.”
Auriemma, who holds the NCAA basketball record 90-game winning streak, said he ends up asking as many questions of his 12 Olympic players as he provides answers.
“They’ve played at this level much more than I’ve coached at this level so I’m constantly asking them, ‘Do you think this will work?’ I let Diana (Taurasi) say what she thinks and I ask Sue (Bird), and Sue kind of explains to me what Diana means,” he said with a laugh.
The U.S. women’s basketball team is riding a 38-game Olympic winning streak, and hopes to secure its fifth consecutive gold medal, and seventh overall. The Americans enter semifinal action Thursday after finishing pool play atop group A with an unblemished 5-0 record.
Six former Huskies comprise half the roster, including Bird, Taurasi, Swin Cash, Tina Charles, Asjha Jones and Maya Moore. Auriemma said their familiarity with his system helps the other half of the team.
“When I see something and one of my former players reacts immediately, the non-UConn players see and then react,” Auriemma said. “It registers with them without me having to go over and over it again and again as if you had 12 brand new players.”
Auriemma added he knows it is not possible to go back in time to when his former Huskies were still playing at UConn. But having coached half his team before makes his job a little easier.
Cash, part of UConn’s national championship teams in 2000 and 2002, said Auriemma has mellowed a bit, but remains sarcastic and funny. Cash added her former Husky teammates are focused on the entire team – not on separating themselves – and she believes they have been careful to include everybody.
“I think the one thing about this team is nobody has had to be the greatest of all greats,” Cash said. “You come in and doing what you do best is enough for this team.”
Auriemma said while the personalities of his six former players have not changed much, they have added dimensions to their games. “More than anything, it’s the level of trust that I have with them because I know when it comes to winning, they aren’t going to let anybody down,” he said.
“They have the potential to be one of the best women’s Olympic teams ever. You know what they say, ‘When you have good guards, you can have a good team. When you have great guards, you can have a great team.’ We’ve got great guards.”