Shortly before leaving for the 2012 London Olympics, USA women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma stood with his arms folded at the team's training facility in Washington, pondering all that had led him there.
He said he was tired of the world travel. He said he felt enormous pressure to win gold. And he said he would be one-and-done as Olympic coach. And he said it in a way befitting his Oval Office status in the game.
"If nominated, I will not run," Auriemma said. "If elected, I will not serve."
Until recently, Auriemma steadfastly stuck to that story, dismissing suggestions that he was still USA Basketball's choice for the job with varying degrees of annoyance.
That was until a few weeks ago, when the persuasive administrative body of USA Basketball finally prevailed upon UConn's eight-time national champion coach.
On Friday at Gampel Pavilion, Auriemma, relaxed and enthused again, will be reintroduced as USA Basketball's women's senior national coach. This next term will conclude with the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, U.S. women's national team director Carol Callan and USA and WNBA executive Renee Brown will attend.
Auriemma, 59, was traveling Thursday and not available for comment. And his current UConn players, a few of whom might play for him in 2016, were advised to withhold comment.
"I am not as surprised as I would have been had he accepted the job [after the 2012 Olympics]," said Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, who won gold in Beijing in 2008. "He is a little more distanced from things now. But more power to him. He did a great job in London. He's willing to take it on again and he is more than capable of handling it."
Auriemma apparently changed his mind before an appearance at Mohegan Sun on Aug. 22 to present Tina Charles and assistant Jen Gillom with their Olympic rings. Callan was there to make the presentation. A source told The Courant Thursday that he had agreed to take the job by then.
Until then, Auriemma remained publicly adamant in saying that he would not return. When asked before the UConn basketball season in November, his answer was to the point.
"One time is enough," he said. "It was a great experience."
And as recently as the Travelers Championship in June and his own charity golf event at the Hartford Golf Course, he denied that he wanted the job.
But many WNBA coaches considered likely Auriemma successors, Seattle's Brian Agler, Washington's Mike Thibault, Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve and Indiana's Lin Dunn, all told The Courant that they heard the job was being held for Auriemma.
The coaches said USA Basketball wanted to build a women's program to model the one Duke's Mike Krzyzewski will run for a third time.
Charles, who played for Auriemma at UConn, the 2010 World Championship and 2012 Olympic team, will probably be on the 2016 team.
"He's so able to evaluate the game of a player," Charles said. "It's always an honor to play for him. He's a great guy. He brought us so many words of wisdom. It was a great time in my life to be a part of that Olympic team."
Some said that coaching the national team wasn't everything he expected.
"It was an adjustment for him and the players," Gillom said. "Geno realized the mentality for the professional player is totally different. You can't demand as much from them as you can from a college player. The players needed to adjust to his way; he's a coach who likes to yell to get his point across. Many [pros] are not receptive to that. And it took a while."
Once those issues were resolved in Auriemma's mind, Gillom said he was more than happy to return.
"I think all he needed to do was get away from it for a while," said Gillom, who was one of Auriemma's assistants during his first term. "The closer you are, the more inclined you are to think you want to be away from it all. Then you take a step back and observe. I've seen him at some of our [WNBA] games. And he seemed to like it."
Gillom said the delay in hiring the new coach — Auriemma's first assignment began in April 2009 – was the best sign that USA Basketball was trying to persuade him to return.
"He knows the game. He demands a lot from his players," Gillom said. "And if he doesn't get that in return, you are not going to play for him. The players know that now. Geno is real and I think the players will understand and respect that. He is who he is. The players know that."