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Geno Auriemma: Since when do you have to apologize for winning a game? – The UConn Blog

Jan 19th, 2020

At one point in his career, Geno Auriemma thought he was never going to win an NCAA Tournament game. In UConn womens basketballs first two March Madness appearances, the Huskies were bounced in their first game. Both losses were at home, with the latter coming after Kerry Bascoms game-winning three pointer seemingly defied physics (according to Auriemma) and bounced out.

Kerry even to this day, if someone said pick one player to make a shot to win the game, Id just as easily pick her, he said. That sucker hit the net and came out. I dont know how it did that. It hit the rim twice, hit the net and came out and we lose.

30 years later, Geno still feels like he cant win, even when the scoreboard says as much. For six minutes and thirty-four seconds before practice on Saturday, Auriemma let all his frustrations loose. After two games against AAC foes where UConn didnt play well, the coach responded to anyone who wanted to criticize his team for not winning every game in a 50-point blowout.

Since when do you have to apologize for winning a game? Why, because weve won so much that even winning is not enough? Ill be honest with you, thats bullst. It really is, he said.

I understand why sometimes it just becomes a real weight to carry about. You say, Well thats why you came here. Really? They came here to win games. Were 16-1 (UConn is actually 15-1), why do I have to answer why were not winning by enough or why we miss so many shots or why we turn the ball over. Like why? I thought the object was to win the game. Thats what I thought. If the object isnt to win the game then why are they keeping score?

For 25 years, the Huskies have set an impossible standard for themselves. Nobody has maintained a perch as one of the best programs in the country in that span of time except for UConn. Back in 2017 when Auriemma won his 1,000th game in a row, he explained the amount of pressure that creates on everyone in the program.

I dont know where to set our sights on, Auriemma said. Because wherever you set them, youve already been there, so that makes it very, very difficult right now. It does take a lot out of you, I admit.

So after UConns two closer-than-usual AAC wins, the first response was to compare the results to previous seasons. The 12-point win over Memphis was the Huskies narrowest margin of victory over the Tigers 22 points tighter than the next closest. Thursdays UCF game, a seven-point victory, was UConns second-closets game ever American Athletic Conference play.

But thats exactly Auriemmas point. Hes knows this years squad isnt the same caliber as the Huskies best. Hes said it himself on more than one occasion. To him, its simply part of life in college basketball.

Just look around the rest of the country. Oregon has its best team ever, features arguably the best player in the country and beat the US National Team. But it already has two losses, including one to an unranked Arizona State team. UConn has lost multiple games in a season four times in the last decade and hasnt lost to a team outside the AP Top 25 since 2012.

How come this st happens to everybody in the country but us? So you know, sometimes you look and say Well youre not what you used to be. Who is? Who is? Tell me who is where they used to be and stays there for 25 years. Nobody. Nobody but us, Auriemma said. So when it doesnt look good, its Whats wrong with you guys? I think, to be honest with you, my kids are sick of this. My kids are sick of answering questions about why were not what we used to be, why we dont win like we used to. Why things dont look like they used to. They are really kind of sick of listening to it. Sick of answering those questions.

After losing the programs most prolific scoring duo in Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn has struggled to find its identity on offense this season. With sixteen games already in the books, that struggle has been very public at times. But with who the Huskies are relying on, Auriemma believes its unfair to expect this team to be a machine like past UConn squads.

Theres not one kid playing on this team that has the same role they had last year. Not one, he said. So everything that happens to them is brand new. So theres going to be times where it looks really, really bad. It looks lousy. It looks disjointed. It looks like its a struggle because a lot of these guys were like the second, third, fourth, fifth options on offense last year.

Were asking (Olivia Nelson-Ododa) to be like Pheesa. Theres not a player in the country like Pheesa anywhere, last year or this year. Now were asking a kid who hardly played last year to be Pheesa. It just cant happen. Cant happen. Were asking Anna (Makurat) to come in here and be like Lou. It aint going to happen. Its not going to happen.

A UConn team on a down year is still better than 95 percent of the country, though. Thats why the Huskies were ranked No. 1 this season for a few weeks and are still at No. 4 after losing to Baylor.

Its easy to understand where Auriemmas frustration comes from. The Huskies arent allowed to have bad nights let alone bad years. Its draining having to maintain an standard of perfection while facing every teams best shot.

These are problems every other school across the nation wishes it dealt with. Its what makes UConn, the gold standard in the sport.

For the last 25 years, year after year after year, weve become death and taxes. Were automatic, Auriemma said. You can count on three things, right? Death, taxes, and UConn being number one in the country and undefeated and rolling through everybody and being up 40 at halftime and the parade is what day? Wheres the parade route in Hartford?

Then all of a sudden you realize this st aint easy as we make it look. Because if it was, there wouldnt be a lot of teams that used to be, or are, or are supposed to be really, really good getting their ass kicked on a regular basis.

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Geno Auriemma: Since when do you have to apologize for winning a game? - The UConn Blog

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