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September 6, 2013

Geno Auriemma

Carol Callan

CAROLINE WILLIAMS:  Welcome, everybody, and thank you for your patience.  I'm sorry about the delay, but the press conference went a little bit long.  As you all have heard, today we announced the head coach for the USA Basketball Women's National Team for 2013 through '16.  Geno Auriemma will be returning to USA Basketball.  With me in the room here I have Geno as well as Carol Callan, the National Women's Team director for USA Basketball.
I'd like to have them start off with an opening statement each and then we'll go ahead and turn it right over to questions from everyone on the line.
CAROL CALLAN:  Welcome, everyone.  We're glad that you would join us on this very sunny, nice day in Connecticut.  We're delighted that Geno has agreed to serve four more years as our national team coach.  We are in the midst of a streak of five straight gold medals.  Geno guided our team the last three years to a World Championship in 2010 and the Olympic gold medal in 2012.  He is obviously a great coach in terms of results, but he is equally a great leader in what he does with women's basketball with USA Basketball internationally and the respect that he has around the world by our competitors.
We're just thrilled to have Geno serve again as our national team coach.
GENO AURIEMMA:  Well, I said earlier that it's an incredible honor any time you get asked to do something as important and as significant as what USA Women's Basketball is, and the opportunity to do it again and to have the confidence from people that I have tremendous respect for and care so much about that they think that I would be the person that they would want being in charge of USA Basketball I think means the world to me.  I'm looking forward to getting started over the next three years and winning a World Championship and winning another gold medal.  I'm delighted and I'm anxious to get started.

Q.  Carol, as I understand, Coach Auriemma's involvement represents a departure from the tradition of having a new coach for each quadrennium.  Could you address the factors that went into the decision to blight that tradition of rotating the position around?
CAROL CALLAN:  We've for years had great continuity in our athletes.  If you go back, Teresa Edwards was a five‑time Olympian, Lisa Leslie a four‑time Olympian.  The list of three‑time Olympians is a little big bigger:  Dawn Staley, Katie Smith, and most recently, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi.
We find success when we have our players repeat, and as our committee started to talk about this choice of a coach moving forward, we felt continuity was important, and when we asked Geno to do this again and he agreed, we were thrilled.
I think continuity is really the key factor.  As you know following women's basketball like you do, our players play year‑round.  When you go back to 1995 when we had a full‑time hired national team coach, we were together for an entire year, and then we hired a national team coach '97 to 2000.  So again, a little bit of a different way that we dealt with things.
And then we started to then rotate again every four years without hiring a person.  The men obviously have found great success with Coach K, who's going to do his third time, so I think when you're looking at what's best for USA Basketball and what you need to do to continue to win gold medals, we felt this was what we needed to do, to have Geno do this again, represent us again as the coach, and work with our players.

Q.  Could you also address the importance of continuity in the coaching ranks because of the difficulty in getting the same players together for the training camps?
CAROL CALLAN:  Sure.  If you look at the last four to really eight years, but even more so the last four years, we played 52 games in one year in preparation for the '96 Olympics.  On that team we had two returning Olympians, Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain, and 10 first‑time Olympians.  And when you train together for a year, that continuity wasn't all that important yet.  All of those 10 that were first‑time Olympians had come through our system.  And we do have a system starting now at the 16 and under age group.
So we were able to train for a long time together, and even 1997 to 2000, same thing; we had a lot of games that we could have in preparation.
If you fast‑forward now to the last four years, we virtually had maybe 20 games in preparation over a four‑year period.  So the great news for athletes that they can play year‑round, make a living at this game, is really good for them, and it's great for us because they're very well skilled individually in the international game.  What we need to do is refine them in the team strategies.
And as we start to reduce the number of days that we're together, the continuity of the coach is incredibly important.

Q.  This is for coach Auriemma.  I wanted to ask you about, you don't need to do this in terms of your legacy.  It's already cemented; you're already a Hall of Famer.  But I wonder why you're willing to take this on.  This is a lot more responsibility.  You have a very busy life.  What was it that made you say, hey, I'm going to go ahead and do this again?
GENO AURIEMMA:  Were you tapping the phone calls that I had with Carol and everybody else at USA Basketball because that's exactly the questions that I asked.
You know, after I asked all those questions of myself, really, it basically came down to I don't need it, you're absolutely right, I don't need to do it.  I don't need it for any either material things or any legacy or any of that stuff.  I don't, you're absolutely right about that.
What ended up turning the tide for me, so to speak, was I want to do it.  I want to do it because there's a sense of‑‑ if it would have been a really bad experience, I wouldn't want to do it, but I really had a great time.  I really enjoyed the whole four‑year experience last time.  And in the end when it was presented to me the way it was presented, I thought to myself, yeah, you know, it is something that I really want to do.  I could tell myself all along, no, no, no, but when I did really sit down and think about it and was forced to make a decision, it's something I wanted to do and something that I just felt like I want to do it.  That's the best answer I can give you is I just feel like I want to do it.

Q.  If I could follow up, it's so different coaching athletes and adults like Sue Bird or Diana Taurasi or Tamika Catchings versus a raw kid with a lot of talent like a Breanna Stewart.  What's it been like to balance those two things, not necessarily at the exact same time but really at the same time in your life, and are you able to kind of relish both, because they take different types of coaching in a way, dealing with athletes at different stages in their careers.
GENO AURIEMMA:  It does, and that's a good point, it does.  But coaching at that level, that highest level, and working with‑‑ when you think about the team that I coached in London, we had some 20‑, 23‑, 24‑year‑olds, 25‑year‑olds, and we had some 32‑year‑olds, players that have played in the WNBA one years, two years, and some that have played for 10 years.  So even within that team, there was a different dynamic.
But coming back to coach at Connecticut from that experience, I think made me a better college coach.  I think it gave me more of a perspective.  I think when you're coaching in college, you tend to take every practice as the end of the world, every game‑‑ you lose a game in November and you think it's the end of the world.  And oh, my God, we're not going to be any good, or a kid doesn't play well for a week and you think they're never going to be any good.  And I think being around a national team where it's more about the big picture‑‑ I came back, and in some ways I was much more able to take the ups and downs, the highs and lows that go with college coaching and understand it better, and it helped me appreciate the struggles say that Breanna Stewart was going through and know that it's a process, and in the end it'll work out.  I think I learned that from the players on the national team, that they go through and prepared to play, and some days they're great, some days they're not so great.  Five minutes into the game they may be playing really well, they may not, but if you're just patient and you wait and you wait, eventually they do what they're really good at, and it really taught me an important lesson.

Q.  I know you don't pick the team, but I'm curious your thoughts on who the developing best young point guards are going to be, because we've had this with the USA, this great handoff of Teresa Edwards and Dawn Staley and Sue Bird, and obviously Lindsay Whalen and Sue Bird are fairly close in age, and I'm thinking that a 20‑something point guard is going to be somebody you're going to want to develop over the next four years.  I'm just curious who you think that pool of candidates might be.
GENO AURIEMMA:  How about you and I do this thing on ESPN.com where we get people to vote for their favorite players like the All‑Star Game and put them on there?  What do you think?  It'll be you and me, Michelle, we'll put it out there.

Q.  ESPN would love that.
GENO AURIEMMA:  You know, we've talked about that, and one of the things that we've talked about is that, as important as winning the gold medal is identifying, like you said, who are going to be those key players in 2020, and who are going to be those next‑‑ that next generation of great players and leaders that, as you said, have been identified and passed down.
You know, this is 2013.  I would say in the next couple of years we'll be able to identify‑‑ I mean, going into 2012 Olympics in London, I don't think we got there and said, hey, Elena Delle Donne is somebody that we think can be a great player for USA Basketball and she could be the next great superstar, but you know what, you watch her play in the WNBA after one year and you go, you know what, that's somebody that I think is going to be part of that next generation.
So those players kind of identify themselves, and we have to do a good job of bringing them to training camp, putting them in situations where they can gain the experience that they need, but I think Elena is just one example of someone who's coming into the WNBA as a young player and immediately proving I'm one of the best players in the world and I'm hoping that the Olympics and the World Championships and whatever are going to be able to give a player like that the experience that will help her in the Olympics, whether it's 2016 or beyond.

Q.  Kind of related to that, there's been a mentality with the American players that they've been really committed to this, even when they're tired, even when maybe it's tough on their schedules, that they've really committed to the national team, and that's actually passed over several generations.  Is that another thing that's important to you is that you're basically helping raise this next generation, to have that same kind of commitment to doing this?
GENO AURIEMMA:  Yeah.  Yeah, I think that's really important.  And I would venture to say that it can get harder and harder because people's schedules get much more difficult and the demands on their time are even greater.  The fact that, as Carol said, these kids start playing when they're 16 years old, USA Basketball becomes as important to them as their college team.  So by the time they get to the WNBA and to playing overseas, USA Basketball is an important part of their lives, and I want to make sure, as I'm sure everybody else does, that all those kids in college now and all those young players in the WNBA and overseas, that they have the same level of commitment that Sue and Diana and Tamika Catchings have right now because of the fact that this will be their fourth Olympics for those guys.
I think that is part of our mission, and that's why this particular cycle, the next couple years, is going to be a little different and in some cases more important than the last one we just had.

Q.  In the written statement that was issued today by USA Basketball, you cited a number of the folks that we all know in terms of Carol and Jim and Jerry from USA Basketball, but you also mentioned General Dempsey and his wife.  I assume you're talking about General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  If that's the case could you talk about how they played into your decision?  Obviously it's an additional work responsibility for you, coaching the national team.
GENO AURIEMMA:  I think when I was asked that question a while back, I was referring to my interactions with the general and his wife, and not just him but other members of the military and the interaction that Carol and myself and USA Basketball, that we've had with those people.  And you get a tremendous sense of the commitment that they have to their country and how they approach that commitment.  And they live that commitment every day.
And it made a big impression on me, in that sense that when you're asked to do something, when you're asked to represent your country, when you're asked to serve on this level, watching them and being around them and listening to them, it had a huge impact on me.  It's something I'll never forget.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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