When your lifetime achievements place you in a statistical category with immortals and you have won as many championships as John Wooden, saying something that at face value is kind of crazy, holds enough validity to at least be reported on.
UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma called men’s college basketball a “joke” in a teleconference before Auriemma's Huskies appeared in the women's Final Four. The omnipotent coaching king of women’s college basketball criticized the men's game for being outdated.
Then he proceeded to storm to a record-tying 10th National Championship, as his Huskies flushed Notre Dame 63-53 on Tuesday night, to win the 2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball title.
The casual fan would think that Auriemma must have some soccer-sized nuts to be coaching women’s basketball and discrediting the men’s game, but he’s built a modern day empire at UConn comparable to that of the legendary Wizard of Westwood's.
Wooden became a coaching icon while leading the UCLA men to 10 national championships in a 12-year span in the 1960s and 1970s. He seemed to recruit the top ballers in the country each year and found ways to mold them into unselfish, winning athletes.
Auriemma equaled that achievement Tuesday night in Tampa and he now has two more than legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt (the Original Don Dada of women’s college basketball coaches). Auriemma has built a basketball factory at UConn that is unprecedented in the history of women’s collegiate sports.
It’s almost a foregone conclusion that UConn will four-peat in 2016 – all-world baller and Naismith Player of the Year Breanna Stewart’s farewell tour. She’ll be looking to complete the c’hip sweep as a senior and lead the Huskies to their ninth consecutive Final Four.
Maybe it’s time for Geno to make that move into the men’s game. It seems like the women’s game (which in his words is ahead of the times as compared to the men’s game) is getting too easy. He’s got the game on smash, like Jay-Z had it throughout the first decade of the new millennium.
Eventually Jigga man ventured into NBA ownership and is now encroaching on the top agents in the game with the game-changing Roc Nation Sports venture.
Like Wutang said: “Don’t talk the talk. If you can’t walk the walk. Phony n*ggas are outlined in chalk.”
Statistics show that what Auriemma said is true. The New York Times reported last month that the NCAA scoring average was the second lowest it had been since 1952, with teams playing at a much slower pace. This year's possessions per game average is "easily the lowest since 2002, and probably the lowest since at least the 1940s," according to the same report.
I can't front. I've been craving those offensively explosive Syracuse teams of the 80s and UNLV, Loyola Marymount teams of the 90s.
Charles Barkley told me it’s the excitement of March Madness that people come to see anyway, so the decrease in scoring—which he attributes to players leaving college early rather than building a chemistry with other teammates –isn’t a factor in the game’s popularity.
Agree or disagree with Auriemma, the Philly kid kept it gully:
"I think the game is a joke," Auriemma said. "It really is. I don't coach it. I don't play it, so I don't understand all the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator, forget that I'm a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it's a joke."
Auriemma specifically called out the declining quality of offense in the men's game, which has seen a significant drop in scoring over the past decade. "Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor," he said, pointing out that baseball and football both changed their rules to encourage more offense.
"The bottom line is that nobody can score, and they'll tell you it's because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense," Auriemma said. "College men's basketball is so far behind the times it's unbelievable. I mean, women's basketball is behind the times. Men's basketball is even further behind the times."
They unapologetically-brash coach probably got a few calls about that quote, but he doesn’t claim to have the answers or a desire to revolutionize how the game is played either.
“I’ll be the first to say, I’m not John Wooden,” Auriemma said in his postgame interview with ESPN. “I’ve got a bunch of friends that would tell that I’m right. I’m not. But as I said the other day, I just think what we’ve done here the last 20 years is pretty remarkable in its own right..."I’ll let the people who write the history decide where I fit in.”
At the same time, he's not going to let anybody slight the fam.
“I just know that in our sport, from 1995 to today, what we've done against our peers is as good if not better than anybody else has done in their sport against their peers,” Auriemma said. “I don't care whether it's harder in that sport or this sport or that sport.
As a marketing genius and recruiter, Auriemma has few if any peers in college athletics. He’s known as a supreme motivator and a ball-buster or cervix crusher (if you will) of the highest proportions.
He’s the same cat who I interviewed back in 2000 when UConn was led by a pony tail-rocking, point guard princess from a girl's basketball palace -- Christ The King H.S. in Queens, NY. I covered UConn at a tournament at Disney Sports Complex. I asked Geno, “What’s the deal with Sue Bird?” and Auriemma replied, “You must be from Queens the way you asked that question.”
He’s keen, charming, cunning, intense and totally convincing, even when he’s obviously playing to the crowd.
“I know we’ve won a lot of these but I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud of a group of kids that I am of this group because I didn’t trust them in the beginning of the season,” Auriemma said in his postgame ESPN interview. “I didn’t trust them one bit.”
I guess you have to find new ways to motivate yourself when your coaching life is like Fabolous.
If that’s a NCAA women’s basketball c’hip, just throw it in the bag and ship to Storrs, Conn. I have a strange feeling this is just the beginning for Geno. There’s going to be a next challenge. Maybe it’s coaching a men’s team to an NCAA Championship. That’s never been done.