The culmination of all of the hard work that UConn coach Geno Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey, assistant coaches Marisa Moseley and Shea Ralph and film coordinator Keith Anderson put in to make the London Olympics a success last summer for the U.S. Women’s National Team will be realized tonight at the XL Center.
USA Basketball National Team Director Carol Callan will be on hand to present them with commemorative rings for their involvement in team’s gold medal run during a ceremony before UConn squares off against Pittsburgh. The ceremony is slated to begin at 6:56 p.m.
“I didn’t even know that that was part of the deal until (UConn Director of Basketball Administration) Sarah (Darras) talked to me about it that they were going to try to do during the DePaul game here when DePaul was here,’’ Auriemma said. “But up until that point I didn’t know it was going to happen like that. So it’ll be nice. It will be nice for … CD already has a World Championship ring that we got (in 2010), but Shea and Marisa and Keith and all the people that were involved with us over there it’s a pretty good moment for those people because nobody knows their contributions. Everybody could see ours. I was coaching. The players were playing. But the people in the background it’s a great moment for them. It really is.’’
The ceremony was tentatively scheduled to be held Feb. 10 against DePaul at Gampel Pavilion when Blue Demons head coach and Olympic assistant coach Doug Bruno were in town. But USA Basketball opted to unveil the rings during the NBA All-Star Game in Houston Feb. 17. That was where Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore received their rings.
Auriemma will also receive the Order of Ikkos medal, which was established in 2008 to recognize the coach for having a vital role in the success of their Olympians.
“Obviously, that’s a great accomplishment for him,’’ UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “I know he’s not huge on accolades and it being about him because he’s been here. He’s done it and he doesn’t need anymore type of thing. And it’s usually all for his players. But being an Olympic coach and having a gold medal that’s something that … I keep saying very few people even get to come here, even fewer people … There’s a handful of people that get to have that experience or are even asked to be a part of that. And the fact that it was probably no doubt going to be his spot, his position to be the coach, I think it’s a really great accomplishment. It says a lot about who he is and what kind of coach he’s become and the type of players he builds. And the fact that half the team were his past players …’’
Six of Auriemma’s former players were on the 12-person National Team roster – Sue Bird, Cash, Tina Charles, Asjha Jones, Moore and Diana Taurasi. That was special in its own right. But having his entire coaching with him in London meant a great deal.
“It means everything,’’ Auriemma said. “I don’t know how you can function … I don’t know how coaches would do it with just a whole brand-new staff of people that aren’t really familiar with what you want, especially when you have so little time. Like if you had as much time as some of the other teams where you’re talking months and months of preparation maybe it wouldn’t matter. But when you’re talking two or three weeks and that’s it it’s all the difference in the world to have Chris, Shea and Marisa there because the teaching thing just happens so quickly.’’
Auriemma might be excited about receiving his ring. Just don’t expect him to wear it.
“And as far as wearing it, I don’t wear any of them,’’ Auriemma said. “I remember the first year we won the national championship I thought it would be pretty cool to wear a national championship ring to some functions so that everybody could go `Oooo, that’s your national championship ring.’ And that lasted about two weeks because as soon as somebody shakes your hand your finger starts to bleed because it’s so big and so clunky … And people are like grabbing your hand and it digs in. You’ve got like scars from it. And then I see some guys they can’t wait to wear them. They’ve got two of them on there. They going around like, `Hi, I’m Coach So-and-so.’ So it’ll be nice to get it. It’ll be nice to add to our collection. But …’’
UConn junior Bria Hartley (3×3) and freshmen Moriah Jefferson (U-18), Breanna Stewart (U-18) and Morgan Tuck (U-18) will also be honored tonight for winning a gold medal as part of USA Basketball last summer.