By now, most followers of women’s college basketball are familiar with Geno Auriemma’s outburst criticizing the fans of his UConn team for not showing up in bigger numbers to the team’s games in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, held at the school’s Storrs, Conn. campus.
Auriemma took issue with the fact that less than 6,000 fans showed up to watch the Huskies mercilessly pummel their first two opponents, saying that they were “spoiled” and that they just assumed that the team would be going to the Final Four.
Here’s a newsflash for you, Geno: it’s not a terribly unreasonable assumption that UConn, winners of the last two NCAA titles and 112 of its last 113 games, will breeze through the first two rounds of the tournament. UConn is just that good, and Auriemma deserves plenty of credit for making that the case.
However, this column isn’t a diatribe about the abject lack of parity in the women’s game, with a handful of elite programs (led by UConn, Stanford and Tennessee) lording it over the rest. Rather, I think it’s high time that Geno Auriemma took his talents to the men’s game.
For starters, let’s be realistic: the women’s game will not approach the same level of fan passion and interest as the men’s game any time soon, especially when March Madness rolls around. I’m not trying to be sexist or claiming that men’s basketball is somehow intrinsically better than women’s basketball. For whatever reason, fans (and the networks and TV dollars that follow them) would much sooner tune in to a men’s game than a women’s game, and I’d bet my last dollar that, if the UConn men ever hosted an NCAA Tournament game as a top seed, that the arena in Storrs would be standing room only.
Because of this disparity, Auriemma should either quit whining or go where the fans are and coach a men’s team. Based on past experience, he’s not going to quit whining anytime soon—he made similar statements when UConn was chasing the record for consecutive victories set by John Wooden’s UCLA teams. Geno is like that annoying kid on the playground who will do anything to get attention, and when he doesn’t get the same recognition and appreciation as men’s basketball programs, he goes and cries to the media about it.
So the obvious solution is then to follow the TV cameras and head to the men’s game. Though I can’t think of an example of a women’s coach making the jump to the men’s game, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be possible; after all, it’s the same sport. Given his astounding success at UConn, some coach-needy men’s team out there would certainly hire him (Tennessee would have been an ideal landing place). Auriemma’s team would get all the media attention that he so clearly craves, and he would never again have reason to complain that winning didn’t bring the fans out in droves.
I have to admit that a selfish part of me wants this to happen just so I can watch Auriemma’s histrionics when his team hits the inevitable rough stretch. Geno hasn’t had to deal with too much criticism of his coaching—after all, how do you criticize a guy who’s lost one game out of his last 113? Yet, he still appears to think that what he’s facing is too much, saying (sarcastically) that he should let fans “guest coach” a quarter at a time.
Just think about it: if he’s this entertaining and sardonic when he’s outrageously successful, what is it going to look like when he’s in the middle of a four-game losing streak? When his team gets bounced from the tournament in the Sweet 16? When he takes to the podium to announce that Fictional U. has accepted a bid to the NIT?
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Auriemma achieves the same heights in the men’s game as he has in his tenure on the women’s sideline in Storrs. If that happens, I will immensely regret the day I wrote this column, as I watch the collective sports media slide inexorably into the orbit of his gigantic ego.
Kabir Sawhney wants Geno Auriemma and Pat Summit to both coach at the same school. He also forgot that he is not writing for the Connecticut’s newspaper, The Daily Campus. Remind him of his true (Cardinal) colors at ksawhney “at” stanford.edu.