Geno says the sys­tem is bro­ken, no easy fix to this

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports - By Doug Bon­jour

PHILADEL­PHIA — It was a cloudy Mon­day morn­ing in the City of Brotherly Love. A few rain­drops would even­tu­ally fall.

Mean­while, in­side the Daniel Pa­trick Moyni­han Court­house in New York — 100 miles north of where Geno Auriemma hud­dled with re­porters for Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence me­dia day — the fore­cast was far more omi­nous. The col­lege bas­ket­ball fed­eral cor­rup­tion trial, a black eye for the NCAA, had re­sumed.

Adi­das ex­ec­u­tive James Gatto, for­mer Adi­das con­sul­tant Merl Code and Chris­tian Dawkins, an aspir­ing agent, are ac­cused of fun­nel­ing money to the fam­i­lies of mul­ti­ple high­pro­file men’s bas­ket­ball re­cruits. They face charges of wire fraud and con­spir­acy to com­mit wire fraud. Each man has pleaded not guilty.

Fol­low­ing the pro­ceed­ings from afar, Auriemma, now in his 34th sea­son as the UConn women’s coach, is fairly cer­tain that the sport he re­mains at the cen­ter of is not plagued by the same, ugly prob­lems.

“No­body’s go­ing to in­vest hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in a kid com­ing out of school when the money

they in­vest is more than that kid’s ever go­ing to make,” said Auriemma, speak­ing at the Philadel­phia Air­port Mar­riott. “The fi­nances are dif­fer­ent. It’s all about the money, so we don’t have that is­sue. What­ever may go on on the women’s side is kind of silly stuff.”

That’s not to say, of course, that Auriemma, is un­con­cerned about the way the NCAA con­tin­ues to han­dle its busi­ness. He feels quite the op­po­site, in fact. The Hall of Fame coach was fairly blunt Mon­day when asked about cor­rup­tion in col­lege ath­let­ics, say­ing that for any­thing to im­prove, sys­tem­atic changes need to be made.

While the level of cor­rup­tion is dif­fi­cult to quan­tify, Auriemma re­counted a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion with an­other coach that went some­thing like this: “I said, ‘How many teams in the top 20 are do­ing some­thing they shouldn’t be do­ing?’ He said, ‘15, on av­er­age.’”

In other words, yes, there are prob­lems.

“Some­thing’s go­ing to have to change,” Auriemma said. “The way the sys­tem is right now, it’s bro­ken. Peo­ple don’t want to ad­mit it. They want to con­tinue to live in this fan­tasy land, but it’s bro­ken. Ev­ery coach knows it’s bro­ken. That’s know­ing that 90-plus per­cent of the coaches in Amer­ica are do­ing it the right way.”

Auriemma does not re­side in this so-called fan­tasy land. He lives far, far away from it, well aware that the un­der­belly of col­lege bas­ket­ball reeks of greed, envy, jeal­ously, de­ceit — you name it.

“The whole sys­tem is go­ing to come un­der at­tack — not in­di­vid­ual play­ers or coaches,” he said. “The whole sys­tem needs to be re­vamped. Peo­ple say, ‘For what?’ I have no idea.”

Auriemma’s con­cerns about the women’s game are of a dif­fer­ent na­ture. With play­ers trans­fer­ring at a higher rate than ever be­fore, Auriemma fears the NCAA soft­en­ing its re­stric­tions to al­low play­ers to change schools with­out hav­ing to sit out a year. Call it col­lege bas­ket­ball’s ver­sion of free agency.

The NCAA re­cently mod­i­fied its trans­fer rules, al­low­ing play­ers to bolt for an­other school and re­ceive a schol­ar­ship with­out hav­ing to ask their cur­rent school for per­mis­sion.

“If that ever gets changed where kids can trans­fer with­out hav­ing to sit out a year, I think it’s go­ing to be the be­gin­ning of the end in some ways,” Auriemma said. “The team you have in the first se­mes­ter is not al­ways go­ing to be the team you have in the sec­ond se­mes­ter.”

The Huskies have dipped their toes into the trans­fer pool more in re­cent years, al­beit to mixed re­sults. Azura Stevens and Ba­touly Ca­mara be­came el­i­gi­ble last sea­son after trans­fer­ring from Duke and Ken­tucky, re­spec­tively, fol­low­ing the 2015-16 cam­paign. Guard An­dra Espinoza-Hunter, a for­mer five-star re­cruit out of Ossin­ing High School in New York, trans­ferred to Mis­sis­sippi State just seven games into her UConn ca­reer last Fe­bru­ary.

Stevens, a 6-foot-6 for­ward, was a key part of UConn’s Fi­nal Four team, av­er­ag­ing 14.7 points and 7.5 re­bounds per game. How­ever, she sur­prised the Huskies by declar­ing early for the WNBA Draft. Ca­mara, mean­while, had a much smaller role, av­er­ag­ing 1.3 points and 1.3 re­bounds in 4.8 min­utes per game off the bench. Auriemma said that the 6-2 for­ward has strug­gled “a lit­tle bit” to ad­just on the court.

“We’re try­ing to zero in on cer­tain roles for all of our kids,” he said.

Jes­sica Hill / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma dur­ing the an­nual First Night cel­e­bra­tion, in Storrs on Oct. 12. Auriemma re­cently weighed in about the cor­rup­tion that is plagu­ing col­lege bas­ket­ball.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.