Auriemma on Auriemma
The UConn women's basketball team celebrated a night of historic achievement. A record-setting 89th straight win. A career-high 41 points from senior Maya Moore. A congratulatory phone call from President Obama. Coach Geno Auriemma and his team were answering questions about the Huskies' dominant 93-62 victory over Florida State, the winning streak and what it meant to him and his team.
And then it happened. Shortly after Auriemma's phone call with the President, a reporter asked the UConn coach to address his controversial comments following Sunday's 88th straight win. You know, when he said that people were only paying attention because his team was threatening a men's record and accused those who cover men's basketball of being "miserable bastards." Yes, those comments.
On Monday, I wrote a post defending Auriemma and I stand by that defense today. On Tuesday night, Auriemma addressed the reporter's question directly, honestly and with humor, exactly as expected.
First, Auriemma recalled the question he answered when he made his comments, about what the achievement signified in the world of sports.
"It can signify whatever you want it to signify," he said. "People that love women's basketball are thrilled to death about it ... Sports fans that appreciate something that's really unique are thrilled. Those people that love men's basketball and don't give two rips about women's basketball, we're not going to change their mind and I don't care."
Auriemma's assessment of the three groups is spot on. Personally, I'm in the second group. I don't consider myself to be a big women's college basketball fan, but I am absolutely marveling at this UConn team and this 89-game (and counting) winning streak.
Second, Auriemma talked about the "miserable" basketball writers forced to cover the streak.
"The reason they're being forced to cover it is because it's a team that's breaking a men's record," he said. "When we won 70 and 71 and 72, there wasn't all this because it was just a bunch of girls beating a bunch of girls and let's just do what we always do ... and I was fine with that. I wasn't criticizing anybody. I wasn't demanding more recognition. I wasn't demanding more coverage. I never said that. All I said is that I'm amused that it takes a men's record to get this kind of attention. I'm OK with it. I wasn't bitter about it."
This is what I said on Monday. Auriemma rightfully called out the media for only now paying attention after barely blinking an eye when this same team set a new women's basketball record last year.
Finally, at the end of the press conference, Auriemma was asked about UCLA coach John Wooden's grandson Greg being in attendance at the XL Center and what it meant. This was the UConn coach's best answer of the night.
"I'm not up here trying to tell you that you should make any judgments on who's better or who's not. We're not talking about that. I'm talking about the actual journey that was taken and how it was done and what these kids did," Auriemma said. "That's all I've ever wanted. For these kids to be appreciated for what they do and how they do it, not to be compared to how Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes did it. That's not the point of this, it never has been. We've never asked for it, I've never asked for it. I've never asked for more attention. I've never asked for more attention for my team ... I just asked for everybody to admire what these kids do and how they do it and how hard it is to do it."
Listen to this man. He may be brash and you might not like him, but he speaks the truth. These women deserve to be admired and applauded on their own merits for this remarkable achievement. It's not a lot to ask.