When you win as often as Geno Auriemma has in his first 29 seasons at UConn – and let’s face it, a winning percentage of 86.9 percent constitutes a trend – you would think game day might be the favorite time of his day.
That would be incorrect. Auriemma loves practice. He loves to plan them and run them. He loves his whistle. And he especially loves to extend practice when he doesn’t see what he expects.
“How come no one ever talks about what coaches go through; we are people. We have emotions,” Auriemma said.
And this year, his 30th at UConn, has not witnessed any diminishment in that enjoyment. But it has been different.
“Every day at practice [last season] was easy because the players on last year’s team never had a bad day,” Auriemma said. “But hey, as has been the case for 30 years, every year there’s a new team and something new to deal with.”
This season it’s a quiet quartet of freshmen. Kia Nurse, Courtney Ekmark, Sadie Edwards and Gabby Williams have been strictly in the observation stage, hardly a peep comes from any of them. But Auriemma says that’s expected. And he knows each has the capacity to provide.
But it’s not only the freshmen that sometime adapt slowly to the rigors of practice. And what fills Auriemma with the most frustration is when he senses one of his players doesn’t make the connection between preparation and performance.
“Anyone who accomplishes great things does it because they want to,” he says. “Anyone who doesn’t, doesn’t because they also want to.”
Think about that for a second …. Ok, let’s move on.
“There are kids who say, ‘Well, when you need me I will be there and if you don’t need me, I don’t need to be there [be ready].’ That’s selling yourself short a little,” Auriemma added. “You should strive to prove that you should start ahead of someone else or play more minutes than someone else. It’s about coming out every day and sustaining [performance].
“If you go to practice for a week and you have two really good ones and five mediocre ones you are probably a mediocre player. If have five really good days and two bad ones, you are probably a really good player.
“Kids need to understand that it’s here [practice] where you learn to be a good player. I don’t want to hear anymore of this crap about how some guys are game players, not good practice players.
“I’ve never met anyone that was a great game player who didn’t have tremendous work ethic and practice habits. The challenge for everyone, at least those who come here, is learning how to practice with such consistency that you know you are going to perform consistently when you go into a game.”