Geno Auriemma is at the point of his career where he can both enjoy and empathize with the successes and struggles that former players and assistants are having as head coaches.
This season has brought much good news; milestone victories for Carla Berube (200 wins) at Tufts and Tonya Cardoza (100) at Temple. Jen Rizzotti's work at Hartford speaks for itself.
But at Cincinnati, the progress has been slower for Jamelle Elliott, now in her fourth season with the Bearcats. She had won only 12 conference games in 3 ½ seasons before Saturday's game against the Huskies at Fifth Third Arena.
One year after they finished 16-16, injuries had left the Bearcats 0-5 in the conference. Only Pittsburgh, which lost to Georgetown on Saturday, is worse off at 0-6.
"It is always a struggle when you take over a program," Auriemma said. "Jamelle is pretty hard on herself. They [Cincinnati] can have the same exact injuries we have and we can withstand them because of the depth of the talent we have. But when you are building a program, and you lose a couple of key guys, [sometimes] you don't recover from that. I know they played a couple of games that were really tough on them."
Cincinnati, which has won just twice since Dec. 15, was blasted by Louisville and South Florida earlier this month.
Auriemma's career began in similar fashion. He was 43-39 in his first three seasons and won only 18 of 44 conference games before things began to get good in his fourth season.
"The first year you work on adrenaline," Auriemma said. "You begin to believe that once you put your fingerprints all over [a program] that it is going to change, that you are going to be able to will it so."
"Your second and third years are a lot harder. You are so dependent on the kind of players you have and everything going right. You always wonder if you can get over a certain hump. Can you finish .500 in the league? Can you beat the top teams? Can you be competitive every single game? There are always a lot of questions you can ask yourself. It is very difficult, especially at a place that hasn't been successful for a long time."
Auriemma spent time Friday night with Elliott, as he always does when the Huskies and Bearcats play. She received a three-year extension through 2018 last summer.
Good Team, But Incomplete
The injuries that have kept freshman Morgan Tuck (knee) and sophomore Kiah Stokes (shin stress reaction) in and out of games this season are probably not going to improve much before the end of the season. Auriemma understands how much not having his two young posts at full speed means. "We're a good team without them," he said. "But I don't think we can be a great team unless they are able to make a contribution."
"Kiah provides us a look that we don't have with Stefanie Dolson. And Morgan gives us a completely different look altogether. I want to get them into the flow as much as possible going forward."
Kelly Faris entered the weekend no longer leading the nation in assist/turnover ratio. With 82 assists and 29 turnovers, her 2.83 ratio was second to Texas A&M's Adrienne Pratcher (3.10). Faris had committed 18 of those turnovers in the past five games… The Huskies are still leading the nation in points scored, scoring margin, field goal percentage, field goal defense and assists. … Faris (95) and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (137) are close to becoming the 37th and 38th players in UConn history to score at least 1,000 points. Stefanie Dolson reached the milestone on Jan. 19. … UConn came into the game having trailed its first 18 opponents for only 22 minutes of a possible 720. And 16:39 of it came in the loss to Notre Dame on Jan 6. They have not trailed by more than nine points this season.