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April 6, 2015
THE MODERATOR:¬† Joining us on the dais from UConn, head coach Geno Auriemma and five student‑athletes, Morgan Tuck, Kaleena Mosqueda‑Lewis, Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse.¬† Questions?
Q.¬† Geno, I'm guessing a lot of your freshmen weren't even born during your first championship run in'95.¬† And the players who maybe were don't remember a time where UConn wasn't a powerhouse.¬† So, can you give us some insight onto the challenges you and those maybe early'90s players faced that these players have never and will never face?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† We've been really lucky the way that you would like the way programs get built, that there's some kind of blueprint for it and that every coach would aspire to have that same blueprint.
You take a job that not a lot of people want at a school that has never had success, then you win a little bit and a little more and a little more, and you win with players that are not being recruited by the bigger schools, the really good schools.¬† And little by little you end up winning a National Championship in 1995.
Doesn't always work out that way. ¬†And we were lucky that it did.¬† A lot went into those first 10 years.¬† And it went from hoping we make the NCAA Tournament and then hope we win a game in the tournament because we lost our first two games, the first two years we were in the tournament we lost in the first game that we played, hoping we get to the regionals and then hope we ever get to the Final Four.
So it was always like I hope we can do this, I hope we can do this.¬† So what's changed that these guys haven't had the experience is there's no like I hope we do this.¬† It's all this is what we're going to do.¬† And in some ways I think they missed out on the excitement of getting there.¬† But they get to enjoy all the fruits of what all those other players did.¬† And now they come here with a different set of expectations, this is what we're going to do.
Some of the kids that I recruited, I want to help build a winning program and I want to maybe go to a Final Four.¬† Stewy says I want to come to Connecticut, I want to win four national championships.
It's a different world that they live in, different expectations that they have.¬† And I'm lucky that I got to be part of all that.
Q.¬† Can you sum up Kaleena's career and what she's meant to this program?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† I had a coach tell me the other night that Kaleena is a one‑dimensional player.¬† I thought it was pretty funny because Kaleena's freshmen year she had 31.
And to me, the beauty of somebody like K is that because she's such an incredible shooter, that if you're not paying attention, you think that that's all she does.
And yesterday she had seven assists.¬† And she's probably our best screener.¬† She's one of our best passers.¬† She gets in the way defensively once in a while and causes her man to‑‑ she confuses the offense the way she plays defense.¬† She makes you think she's guarding you but she's really not.¬† That's a real talent that not a lot of players have.
But over the last four years, she's become a really good basketball player, somebody who is very dependable and reliable and somebody you can count on.¬† And that didn't used to be the case when she was a freshman.¬† And each year after that.
And that's what you want players to do.¬† You want them to grow and become a little more than what they are coming out of high school.¬† And she's had an incredible career and she's put her name in the record books, and those memories will last a lifetime.
Q.¬† Among the five of you, which one of you I guess are the biggest UConn history buffs, that maybe grew up following those early 2000 teams?¬† And if any of you guys are, what do those teams mean to you, even though you just watched them on TV?
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:¬† I didn't like watching basketball very much when I was little.¬† So I really didn't get a chance to watch as much as I probably should have.¬† I know them now because they come back and visit.
Q.¬† Any of the rest of you?
UNIDENTIFIED PLAYER:¬† I wouldn't say like the early 2000s because we were in grammar school and I don't think we were all into basketball as much as we are now.¬† But I know definitely middle school and high school all of us pretty much got to watch some of the games and got to aspire to be there one day.
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† You have to rephrase that for Kia Nurse because in high school she was watching the dogsled races in Alaska.¬† This is a different Yukon.¬† You have to be specific with her if you want her to answer.
Q.¬† Geno, you're a Philly guy so you appreciate and understand the underdog.¬† A lot of times the city reflects and represents that.¬† It's been a long time since your program or team has been an underdog in a game.¬† Is there any part of you that misses that, what Muffet has today, the idea that nobody believes you can win and to sort of overcome popular perception?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Yeah.¬† I mean, I think we all aspire to be in that situation at some point in our lives, you know, where you're going to capture the imagination of a lot of people.¬† It's that whole Rocky Balboa thing in Philadelphia.¬† The city has a statue of a guy who made a movie, a fake boxer, in front of one of the great art museums in the world.¬† You know what I mean?¬† It's a crazy city.
But I think it's part of the lure of sports, that feeling that‑‑ let me tell you what it's like to be the underdog, what I think, what it was like for us when we were in that situation.
When you're the underdog, all your game plans are about this is what we're going to do, we're going to do this, we're going to do this, and then we're going to do this and we're going to beat their ass.¬† And everybody gets all fired up, yeah.¬† And you go out and you play.
When you're in our situation, I get up every day and I go, damn, if they do this, this, and this, we're going to lose.¬† So it's a flipped way of thinking, because when you're the underdog you think all things are possible.¬† All you have to do is play the perfect game and all things are possible.
And, yeah, I miss being in that situation.¬† But hopefully history holds true.¬† The underdogs don't have a really good record against the top dogs.
Q.¬† Geno, I'd like to see if I can get your players to chime in on this first before you address it.¬† But here you are on the verge of a tenth title, and it's been said that the reason being is that you've been able to collect the best players.¬† For the players, when did UConn come up on your radar?¬† If you didn't watch them on TV or didn't know as much about their history, when was it that you became aware of UConn as a national power?¬† And, Geno, when did that happen for you when you were able to start recruiting that type of player that could put you in the situation where this program is right now?
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:¬† As Morgan said, once we started getting really serious with basketball, it wasn't easy to know who the‑‑ we knew who the powerhouse was, and a lot of times that was UConn.¬† And we've grown up watching them since we were high school, junior high, and that's when we got interest from UConn and then created the relationship with the coaching staff.
And once you do that, you pay attention to the teams more because you want to see how they're doing and think about going there.
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† All right.¬† Stewy was National Player of the Year in high school.¬† And Morgan Tuck was All‑American.¬† K was All‑American.¬† And maybe Player of the Year senior year, although some other people thought some other people were.¬† And Moriah was First Team All‑American and Kia was All‑Canadian.
If she hasn't already been up here, when Muffet comes up here and brings her five starters, they were all First Team All‑Americans at some point in their careers, if I'm not mistaken.
And any other coach that brings their starters up here at this point in time, generally speaking, has five of the best players that played in high school playing on their team.¬† That's how you get here.
I don't think any of the coaches should apologize for getting the best players.¬† I think that's part of the job description when you sign up to be a coach.¬† A lot of coaches think it's noble and honorable to recruit bad players and make them better.¬† I've been there.¬† It sucks.¬† You don't get to play in March when you have that kind of team.
We hear that all the time:¬† You've managed to collect the best players.¬† That's true.¬† Honest to God, that's true.¬† There's a lot of kids that graduated the same year that Kaleena Mosqueda‑Lewis did.¬† A lot of them.¬† They're not here.¬† They're All‑Americans, they went someplace, but they're not here.¬† It's something else, once you get them here, to get here.¬† This is not easy.¬† Whether you have the best players or don't have the best players.¬† Getting here is not an easy thing.
And I think any coach that coaches at the level that we're trying to play at right now‑‑ it's like, well, yeah, you know, you have Maya Moore and you had Diana Taurasi and you had Stewy ‑‑ they start naming all these iconic players I've coached.¬† Yeah.
I don't know of any really good coach that coaches bad players to the Final Four.¬† Every coach is blessed to have the best players when they get to the Final Four.
Q.¬† Coach and players, what do you remember about the last game between you guys and Notre Dame back in December, and maybe tell the media here where you think that Notre Dame team has come and where have you come as a team?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† It was early in the season for both of us, obviously.¬† Anytime you play a really good team on the road that early, you don't know what's going to happen.¬† We could have easily as gone out there and gotten blown out.¬† We were down 10 kind of early in the game.
I don't think any of us expected to go up there and just outscore them by 30 the rest of the way.¬† That was a surprise.¬† I think that they were missing one of their best players.¬† And you look at their team now, and they're a different team, they're a better team.
I think they were more centered around the great talents that Jewell Loyd brings to the team, and I think they're more versatile now.¬† They have more players doing more things.¬† And we've changed a lot since then as well.¬† And we've found out a lot about ourselves as well.¬† We've gotten better at every area of the game.¬† And I think that the two teams that are playing tomorrow night are not the two teams that played against each other in December.
Any horse racing fans in here?¬† Anybody know who Steve Cauthen is?¬† Who did he ride?¬† He rode Affirmed.¬† Anybody know who the jockey for Alydar was?¬† Hard to remember.¬† I have no idea because he didn't win any of those three races.
Q.¬† Moving off horse racing‑‑
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† That's why people become famous, because they ride the best horses and they coach the best players.
Q.¬† You mentioned back when you first started it was a hope to do something and now it's an expectation.¬† Is it ‑‑ I don't know if easier is the right word, but for these players to I guess kind of advance further?¬† And you said expect it.¬† So, I mean, they have to expect it, too.
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† They do.¬† They do.¬† They come to Connecticut expecting to win National Championships.¬† But you know what?¬† We had a team from 2005, after Diana graduated our team in 2005, 2006 and 2007, that didn't make the Final Four three years in a row, and the world was ending in stories as we knew it.¬† We would never be any good again.¬† Our time was over.¬† Our program was history.
Those kids all came to Connecticut expecting to win national championships.¬† Expecting to do it and then being good enough to do it and then paying the cost of what it takes to do it, those are all variables that you don't know going in.¬† So whatever expectations these kids have, they still have to come and prove it.
They don't just show up in September, go to practice, and somebody says here's when the championship game is and here's when the parade is, here's your schedule:¬† You have English at 10:00, you have history at 11:00, you have math class at 2:00, and the parade is April12th.¬† It doesn't work that way.
Q.¬† You have a chance to pass Coach Wooden if the team wins with 10 national championships.¬† I believe you had nine, if my memory is serving me‑‑
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† He has ten.
Q.¬† Tie.¬† There's always been this criticism that it's too easy to do in women's basketball, but it strikes me when he won his it was in an era about 30‑odd years after the beginning of the NCAA Championship for men, and you're winning it about 30 years after the beginning of the NCAA Championship for women.¬† Can you see a comparable development string and that as we look forward the competition will grow wider?¬† There are 40‑odd‑thousand high school girls playing basketball, and one would think that the talent could wind up elsewhere, too.
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Those are the similarities in the era that the game is played now and similar‑‑ I was in high school during that run for some of that run.¬† So obviously I was a big fan of UCLA just like every other kid that played high school basketball.¬† You might not know a lot of kids playing college basketball, but you knew who UCLA starting five were.¬† And they did get all the best players.
You read the stories about UCLA and their freshmen team.¬† When they weren't eligible, the freshmen team beat the varsity and varsity were returning national champions, four starters back.¬† They did have the greatest collection of talent.¬† But still gotta go out on the court and still gotta win the games.
And, yeah, the NCAA Tournament was different.¬† You win four games, you win the National Championship.¬† The first two probably played a bus ride from Pauley Pavilion or certainly in that area.¬† So we do have a lot of similarities between where we are now and where the men's game was then.
And you look at where the game has gotten to today on the men's side and what the popularity of the men's basketball tournament is.¬† Is it going to be‑‑ are we ever going to be that popular like the men's tournament is?¬† I don't know.¬† Women's sports in this country, team sports especially, have always had a hard time reaching that status.
I think in this country individual women sports are more celebrated than team sports.¬† Women's tennis or women's golf or women's skiing even.¬† Will we ever get there?¬† I don't know.
Will there be more good teams?¬† Yeah.¬† Like I said the other day, look at South Carolina.¬† Look at Dayton.¬† Things take time.¬† UCLA hasn't been what it was since.¬† Things do change.
Q.¬† Last year it seemed there was a lot of attention for tomorrow night's game with off‑the‑court stuff.¬† Is it nice that the focus this year is what's going to happen in between the lines tomorrow?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Nobody likes to have more fun than me with stuff when I can.¬† I try not to take myself or‑‑ I think that's one of the reasons why we generally play pretty well during this time of the year, because we don't take ourselves that seriously.¬† We understand what the deal is.
So when it gets to be more than that, I'm not really comfortable with it, because it didn't seem like it was fun.¬† But it's really good right now.¬† I think on the outside people might not really understand the level of respect that we have for them and that they have for us.
So no matter what anybody says or does or thinks, it's there and it's always been there and it will always be there.¬† Always.
Q.¬† Can you talk about your vision of what good offense is supposed to look like, and do you think that if more teams ran offense like these two teams do, the games would be easier to watch?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Yeah.¬† Yeah, you know, I think in any sport, in any sport people are kind of drawn to players who make things look easy, five players who pass the ball to each other, cut, help each other get open, get an open shot, knock it in.¬† That draws people like, wow, how did they do that or I like the way they do that.¬† In any sport.¬† Doesn't matter what the sport is.
I grew up in Philadelphia.¬† So I saw one version of hockey back in those days:¬† We touch the puck.¬† We throw into that corner.¬† Five guys are going to run after it.¬† Three guys are not going to come out of that corner; they're going to the hospital.¬† And then we're going to score and we're going to win.¬† So that's one version of the hockey that I grew up with.¬† Then there's the Edmonton Oilers version of hockey.
So there's a lot of ways to win but some ways I think are just more appealing.¬† And you don't have to necessarily have the best players.¬† Look at Dayton again, because it's more recent, a perfect example of a team that figured out this is what we have, how do we make these guys into a good offensive team.
And basketball is a beautiful game.¬† I don't know if Harvey is still here.¬† But he wrote a great book about the Knicks in their heyday with Bradley and DeBusschere and Reed and those guys.¬† And part of the beauty of the team was how well they played together and how they moved the ball.
And that's why I get on my players all the time, let's get an open shot and let's try to make half of them.¬† And let's get a shot from inside ten feet and let's try to make 70 or 80percent of those.¬† Why?¬† Because if you don't make them then why am I paying you‑‑ like not giving them money‑‑ like you're getting a scholarship.¬† Let's not get confused here.
Q.¬† Geno, obviously to get to where you are and where you have been, it requires an obsession, attention to details, standards, things that have been with you a lot of years.¬† But also beyond the Xs and Os, it's like college, you're dealing with people, college, you're dealing with March.¬† Sometimes you seem very fascinated with.¬† What is your general philosophy toward dealing with people and dealing with getting them to play their hardest?¬† Are there certain things that they're very important to you that make you learn that are vital that you've always got to have with you?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Yeah, and I've been through a lot of different cycles.¬† Early on my career in my career I thought that I could control every situation that I was in and make it turn out the way I wanted it to turn out.¬† And I realized at some point in my career that no, I can't.¬† And even to this day, like even going into tomorrow, I'm going to worry about things that I really have no control over.
So once I realized that was the case and I learned to just let that part go and spend more time with my players and getting them to feel and think a certain way about how we're going to play, how we're going to perform, that believe in the way we practice, believe in our training, believe in our preparation, and not put the emphasis on winning, not put the emphasis on what happens if we lose.
And I had this conversation with them just recently.¬† I think one of the reasons why we win a lot, other than good players, one of the reasons why we win a lot this time of year is we're not afraid to lose.¬† We don't play with any fear of losing.¬† And I think sometimes that kids, adults, they paralyze themselves with fear of what if we lose, what if I screw this up, what if I miss this shot, what if I turn the ball over.
Like there's this paralyzing nature that comes with that.¬† So as a coaching staff, we try really, really hard to eliminate that from our way of thinking.¬† And to be honest, that's the best we can do.
Once you get into March, you're not going to get a lot better physically.¬† We're not going to get bigger, quicker, faster, stronger.¬† If we sucked at guarding ball screens, we're not going to get a lot better at it.
So it's more of that kind of mentality as opposed to anything else.
Q.¬† You've always spoken very highly of Jewell Loyd on and off the court.¬† What makes her a great player?¬† What makes her a great person?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Well, I liked her a lot better in high school before she told me she was going to Notre Dame instead of coming to Connecticut.¬† I don't like her as much now.
I watch her play and I think there's something about her that is different than any other woman playing college basketball today.¬† It's just something, she just has something, she has the way she moves, the way she touches the ball, the way the ball comes out of her hands.¬† She just has something.
And not very many players playing men's or women's basketball have that.¬† And she plays with a confidence.¬† And she knows she can make any shot.¬† She knows she can do‑‑ when she touches the ball she knows she can do anything with it.
And she does it in a way that's very classy, I think, I just admire everything about her.¬† I wish she was a little bit older, you know.¬† Then she wouldn't be here tomorrow night.¬† So that's a big part of it.
I wish she was a little bit older, that way she'd give Diana and those guys on the Olympic team a run for their money.¬† She's that good.¬† She's that good.
Q.¬† Jose Velazquez was the jockey.
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† You had to Google that.
Q.¬† I wanted to ask you about Morgan Tuck and the psychology of kind of coaching somebody right now that's suddenly nationally being called underrated, overlooked, and could you just talk‑‑ you can get mileage out of that at key times.¬† Could you talk about‑‑ because very rarely do we come up and ask you about somebody who has been overlooked on one of your teams.¬† It's been sort of every drop has been squeezed out of their publicity.¬† Could you talk about as a coach addressing that and bringing her through the National Championship, obviously being very motivated by being overlooked?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† I think it came up recently how‑‑ the reason why she might appear to be overlooked is because of the way Stewy towers over the game right now.¬† And Stewy casts a pretty big shadow.¬† So within that, it's easy to look at our team and say those other guys are pretty good but they're not Stewy.
Then she didn't play last year.¬† So the fact that she didn't play and we won a National Championship and went undefeated, it was like she must not be that vital.¬† She must not be that important.¬† But if somebody just came to our practice every day for a month, they would think Tuck was the National Player of the Year.¬† That's how good she is every day in every area.¬† You're right about it's hard to be under the radar on our team, I understand that.
But there can't be ten players in the country better than Morgan Tuck.¬† But I understand.¬† I really do.¬† And all those kids, whenever people say, well, Tuck should have made All‑American, my response is, okay, which one of those ten kids would you take off.¬† They all deserved it, too.
I think right now what Morgan is showing is that I'm not Stewy, I'm not Kaleena.¬† I'm not Moriah Jefferson.¬† But there are things that I do that nobody else on my team can do.¬† And that to me is the beauty of Morgan.¬† She doesn't try to be anybody but herself.
Q.¬† Brianna Turner didn't play in the first matchup you guys had.¬† Now she's back in the lineup, playing exceptionally well.¬† What changes does she pose for you guys and how do you go about stopping her?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† You watch her and physically she just runs right by you.¬† If she can't run by you, she just jumps over you.¬† So she impacts the game in a way that the rest of their post players can't.
She impacts the game on the defensive end with her athletic ability and her length the way some of the other post players at Notre Dame can't.
So obviously there's an element now in the mix tomorrow that wasn't there in December.¬† How do you stop her?¬† I think at this time of the year, I don't think there's any such thing as stopping anybody.¬† I think you just try to make them uncomfortable a little bit.
Tomorrow we have to try various things to make Notre Dame uncomfortable.¬† They're a great offensive team.¬† And trying to stop one person or trying to take them out leaves you vulnerable to so many other things.
So they're having the same discussions at their staff meetings that we have.¬† So I don't think there's any stopping to be honest with you.
Q.¬† On the subject of Coach Wooden, what stories do you have about him?¬† Did you ever meet him?¬† Did you ever talk to him?¬† Did you subscribe to his philosophy of the pyramid of success?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Well, we are a lot different.¬† Come from different eras, different backgrounds.¬† I couldn't tell you one piece of that pyramid, because at the time that I was growing up and they were winning every game, I was more interested in, you know, how good Mike Warren was.¬† I was more interested in how Valley shot the ball or why Shackleford was so good, or, holy shit, they've got Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe and they're still winning like that.¬† So I didn't pay attention to the other stuff.
And I've told this story a bunch of times, and it's probably nothing.¬† It loses its luster after you tell it enough times.¬† But I did meet him one time.¬† I was fortunate to be at the same clinic he was.
And I got introduced to him because I asked to be introduced to him.¬† And it was like I never knew my grandparents, but it was like sitting there and talking to your grandfather.¬† I'm 61, so I was probably 45, 46, 47, maybe.
And he put his hand on my knee and patted it a couple of times and we talked for about 10 minutes, 15 minutes.¬† He did all the talking and I just listened about basketball, about how he enjoyed watching the games and why I reminded him of when he coached blah, blah, blah.¬† And I thought that was pretty cool.
And then the next thing you know, we win the National Championship in 2004.¬† And Sports Illustrated makes these things and Diana's on the cover.¬† This little thing on the top:¬† "Why I love UConn Women" by John Wooden.¬† So it's a nice article by Coach Wooden about why he loves UConn and how unselfish we are and we move without the ball, blah, blah, blah.
And he goes on and on about our team, and he says:¬† I've never met their coach, but he seems like a nice young fellow.¬† When I read that, I'm like, okay, so much for my impression that I made on Coach Wooden.
Q.¬† You have such a vast knowledge of sports history.¬† So you know that sometimes the most dynastic team in sports, how well prepared they are, something weird can happen in a championship game, a weird bounce or whatever.¬† You're 9‑for‑9 in championship games.¬† Is that something that you're most proud of, that every chance you had to win a championship you've won on?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† I think when I look back on our career at Connecticut and our success, that is‑‑ especially in a one‑and‑done environment, it's like college football bowl game or the NFL, where you're undefeated during the regular season and you have one bad night, one bounce of the ball goes the wrong way and doesn't mean the best team won, but you didn't win.¬† That other team won.
So to be in that situation for us nine times and have it all work out our way, that's kind of improbable, when you look back.¬† You don't realize while you're doing it, but when you bring it up like that and you really force yourself to look back, man, I really can't explain it either.¬† Can't explain it.
And I said this yesterday, for those of you that were here, it's going to end.¬† It might end tomorrow.¬† Might end if we're in that situation next year, following year.¬† This isn't something that's going to last forever.¬† Not going to win every single championship game that we're in, if we're in some more, but up to this point, man, it is something that's really hard to explain.¬† And I'm just incredibly grateful.
Q.¬† When you're talking about Jewell, you described her and this sort of intangible way, it's like that that old song (indiscernible) gotta get rocking.¬† I don't know what it is, but you only know it when you see it.¬† Is that what you're saying?¬† And, also, is‑‑
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Yeah.
Q.¬† ‑‑ it seems as if in the tournament early in the season she knew she had to carry the team.¬† Turner developed, other people developed, but in the tournament she's back to the feeling I've got to do too much?¬† Have you seen any of that?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† I think the great players all feel that way.¬† Like at this time of the year, they want to be responsible for winning because they feel like it's their responsibility.
So, yeah, in addition to all the intangibles, she makes shots from all over the floor.¬† And I think being the leader of that team, I think she probably does feel a sense of I've got to put the team on my back and I've got to carry them.
And sometimes that is a heavy load to carry, you know.¬† But you look at the way Lindsay Allen has played in the tournament, you're right, having Turner back and that kid Cable had only one bucket yesterday, the only one she had to have.¬† Taya Reimer scoring more points.
Everybody's doing a little more.¬† And I think that's why they are where they are.¬† We have training camp coming up in May for the U.S. National Team.¬† I'm going to get into her stuff, I'll figure her out a little more when she comes to training camp.¬† I'm going to straighten her out.
Q.¬† A little off topic, but this morning Lisa Leslie got enshrined or inducted.¬† Talk about her, her impact on the game, and as a fellow Naysmith Hall of Famer, what does that mean?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† We were saying earlier, the game is older than 30 years, but the NCAA Tournament, the NCAA taking over college basketball for women was in the early'80s, I believe.¬† And since that time there's been like some names that eras and the names, you know, whether it's Sheryl Swoopes winning a National Championship and doing all that or more recently the Brittney Griner era or the Diana era or Maya, guys on my team.
There was for a long time the Lisa Leslie era, in college, in the WNBA, in the Olympics.¬† She was a towering figure in women's basketball.¬† There's never been a woman built like her that could do the things that she did.
And she might have been the kind of forerunner for guys like Stewy.¬† The impact that she had on the women's game.¬† At the time, it didn't get the attention that it's getting now.¬† But I'm glad people remember.¬† Because sometimes people forget.¬† I had a chance to be on the coaching staff in Sydney when she was on the team.¬† And she was once‑in‑a‑lifetime kind of player.
Q.¬† Got a conference‑related question for you.¬† Your colleague Jose Fernandez got a contract extension and raise today.¬† I presume you would think that was well deserved.
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† How big was the raise?¬† Pretty big?¬† Good.¬† He owes me a lot of dinners when he used to cry that he didn't get paid enough.
I met Jose on a recruiting trip in Sacramento‑‑ not Sacramento.¬† Where did they play the Rose Bowl?¬† Pasadena.¬† Met him on a recruiting trip, and at the time I had no idea who he was.¬† And he had been the assistant at South Florida.¬† So I kind of knew that maybe and he had just gotten the job.
And we were just sitting there, and I just met him five minutes earlier and we were just sitting around talking blah, blah, blah, and he said:¬† What are the chances I get you to come down and play us down there.¬† I said I don't really need a lot of arm twisting to come to Florida to play a game in the middle of winter.
So we came down and we played them.¬† And the following year they came to our place.¬† And we beat them pretty good down here, down in Tampa.¬† They come to our place the following year and we barely won the game in overtime. ¬†I remember telling him that day done, the series is over, we're not playing you guys anymore.
I didn't get into this so you guys could take us into overtime.¬† I was expecting come down here, go to Burns or Molly Os over here and smoke cigars and have a great time.¬† And it dawned on me right then and there, he coached the team and he did things, I thought if they ever get pretty good players, they're going to be really tough.¬† And it took a long time for the school to realize what they had because they kind of strung them along for a long time.
And what happened today with him, long overdue.¬† Long, long overdue.¬† He's one of the best young coaches in America.¬† And they're lucky to have him.
Q.¬† You talk about paying the cost.¬† And with Stewart, when did you get a clue that she could take what you would throw at her?¬† Was it before she got here or did you have to wait until she gets to you?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† Hard to tell when kids are in high school how much they can handle, physically, emotionally.¬† You really can't tell.¬† Sometimes you mean get an inkling, but with Stewy, there was none.
There was no foreshadowing anything.¬† Only her amazing talent.¬† When she got to Connecticut, it was pretty evident her freshman year that she was going to be great.¬† But I'm glad it went the way it went her freshman year, because she couldn't take you being hard on you.¬† She couldn't take the other teams being physical with her.
It was all brand new to her, the physical pounding that she took, the way people just‑‑ you saw her yesterday, the way people just foul her on every possession, trying to get her out of her game.
And for about a month, month and a half she lost her confidence.¬† She lost her ability to play basketball because it was such a shock to her system.¬† She had never been under that kind of duress in her entire life.¬† She's 18.
And since she was 14, it was a magical ride for her.¬† Everything she touched turned to gold.¬† That freshman year, that kid she got knocked senseless.¬† And you know what, show you how tough she is, when March came around that year, she just took over the tournament, after doing nothing all of January and February.¬† That's when I realized that this kid's got something that very few kids have.
I still don't really get on her as much as I did like some other players.¬† But when it's a big game and big plays and big moments, man, I've had some great ones, but this kid's something else.¬† She's something else.
Q.¬† The UCLA men were a dynasty.¬† The Yankees have been a dynasty.¬† The Patriots are a dynasty.¬† How do you feel about that word being associated with your program?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† I don't know.¬† I guess everything needs a moniker.¬† Everything needs to be labeled, I guess.
I think since 1995, in the last 20 years, we've been as good and as consistent in our sport as anybody else has been in their sport.¬† I never‑‑ and the guys that cover our team on a regular basis‑‑ I never compare our sport to any other sport.¬† I don't compare our team to any other teams.¬† I don't compare what we do to what anybody else does.
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.¬† I don't care whether it's harder in that sport or this sport or that sport.
I understand all that.¬† Don't get me wrong.¬† But given the rules that we play with, with all the people we compete against, I'm pretty proud we've done it the way we've done it for as long as we've done it.
Q.¬† I was just curious, at the end of the game last night, I couldn't help but notice your reaction where you threw up your arms, and it was as if to say here we are, here we go again.¬† Was that the overriding emotional feeling that you had at that moment and what do you suspect it will be like if you reach that same moment tomorrow night and you're able to thrust your hands up in triumph again?
COACH AURIEMMA:¬† That moment was‑‑ I don't want to say it had any connotation about anything.¬† Really, it didn't.¬† We have some real strengths on our team and there are things that we do that are really, really good.¬† If Moriah Jefferson is knocking in 3s, we're really hard to play against.¬† We're really hard to play against.
If Moriah Jefferson specifically and Kia Nurse are knocking in 3s, we are really, really hard to play against.¬† So really when Moriah knocked in that 3, for me it was like‑‑ I don't know it was Easter Sunday, right?¬† So maybe like I hope there's a whole bunch more of those where that came from.¬† That's kind of what that was.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Thank you, Coach.
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