Geno's The One

By Mel Greenberg

Who says Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma can't keep a secret.

As the Huskies came down the stretch of the season through the Big East and NCAA tournaments to complete a perfect season, Auriemma had aready accepted the Olympic head women's coaching position making him and not former Temple coach Dawn Staley the one with Philadelphia roots to guide the United States' efforts toward a gold medal at the 2012 games in London.

Auriemma's former longtime assistant Tony Cardoza, who became Staley's successor, learned of Auriemma's appointment Tuesday when word gushed out in advance of Wednesday's official announcement that wil occur at Connecticut.

"I think it's tremendous," Cardoza said Tuesday night during the annual postseason dinner for the Temple men's and women's teams. "I'm excited for him. I can't wait to call him."

Asked whether she had a chance to be one of Auriemma's assistants with the U.S. squad, Cardoza smiled and crossed her fingers.

In reality, a USA Basketball committee names the staff, athough Auriemma will get to submit his own list of candidates in addition to others that the committee will consider.

The most recent guidelines called for the entire staff to consist of two persons from the collegiate world and two from the WNBA.

  When the U.S. won the gold last summer in Beijing, China, Anne Donovan, who had been a WNBA coach, was the head coach and the WNBA Connecticut's Sun Mike Thibault was an assistant along with Staley and Texas' Gail Goestenkors.

  Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, is the first collegiate coach since Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, who spent a year away from the Cardinal in 1995-96 to help the Americans recapture the gold at the Atlanta Games.

  The world is different now and Auriemma likely will not have to temporarily leave Storrs since there will not be a year-long tour  in the manner of the '96 squad that also had an extra mission to build interest toward establishing pro women's basketball in the United States.

  But there are some question as to the behind-the-scene events that led to Auriemma's appointment, which, understandably, he is most deserving.

  Since the conclusion of the games in China, inquiring media had been told by USABasketball types that the oversight committee for the next quad had to be named first before action would occur in choosing Donovan's successor.

 Staley had been considered the favorite, though Thibault was also a worthy candidate.

  But in light of the time line, the new committee was not in place when Auriemma was chosen.

 And in terms of Staley, did she alert USABasketball on her own that she didn't wish to be considered this time because of the work it was going to take to build her new program at South Carolina?

  Or for the same reason was she offered and then turned it down prior to USA going in Auriemma's direction?

  Meanwhile, the previous rule stated the Olympic head coach had to be a WNBA head coach at the time of selection.

    That rule was changed, obviously, and a USABasketball source said that the action is never publicly announced.

     One wonders also whether Auriemma's appintment is an insurance policy toward stability heading into the London games.

     Since 2000, the governing accent in USABasketball had been tilted in favor WNBA personnel on the senior national committee and in staffing the premium competitions.

     However, in these days of economic downturn one can hear musings from inside the league in which some WNBA types now refrain from talking about the long-range state of things.

   Auriemma's appointment does provide that if the WNBA's future should suddenly get short-circuited three years down the road from now, the impact would be less as the next games approach.

    Furthermore, with the potential for a strong UConn flavor on the court in 2012, it makes sense for Auriemma to be on the sidelines where he would already have past experience in dealing with the individuals on the squad.

   Ironically, for now, Auriemma could be gaining a bit of a recruiting advantage over his counterpart Pat Summitt at Tennessee.

  In the 1980s, the word used to be that the way to the Olympics was through Knoxville.

  However, that road now could clearly weave through Hartford and Storrs.

    -- Mel