Geno Auriemma: 'Recruiting enthusiastic kids is harder than it’s ever been'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday March 19, 2017


No matter how much a team wins or loses, a coach wants his players to always be energetic and enthusiastic. For all the winning UConn women’s basketball does, Geno Auriemma says it’s becoming harder to find in recruiting.

A clip from Auriemma at last year’s women’s Final Four has made its rounds in coaching circles this weekend, because it’s a message a lot of coaches understand.

A reporter asked Auriemma about his bench always getting up and cheering throughout games, even when they’re up big. Is that something he looks for? Does he teach it? Is it passed down by upperclassmen? Here was Auriemma’s full response:

Recruiting enthusiastic kids is harder than it’s ever been. Because every kid watches TV and they watch the NBA or they watch Major League Baseball or whatever sport they watch, WNBA, doesn’t matter, and what they see is people just being really cool. So they think that’s how they’re going to act. And they haven’t even figured out which foot to use as a pivot foot, and they’re going to act like they’re really good players. You see it all the time. You See it at every AAU tournament, see it at every high school game.

“So recruiting kids that are really upbeat and loving life and love the game and have this tremendous appreciation for when their teammates do something well, that’s hard. It’s really hard.

So on our team, we, me, my coaching staff, we put a huge premium on body language. And if your body language is bad, you will never get in the game. Ever. I don’t care how good you are. If somebody says, ‘Well, you just benched (Breanna Stewart) for 35 minutes in the Memphis game a couple of years ago.’ Yeah, I did. ‘That was to motivate her for the South Carolina game the following Monday?’ No, it wasn’t. Stewy was acting like a 12-year-old. So I put her on the bench and said sit there. It doesn’t matter on our team.

“The other coaches might say, ‘You can do that because you’ve got three other All-Americans.’ I get that, I understand that. But I’d rather lose than watch kids play the way some kids play. I’d rather lose. And they’re allowed to get away with just whatever and they’re always thinking about themselves. Me, me, me, me. I didn’t score, so why should I be happy? I’m not getting enough minutes, why should I be happy? That’s the world we live in today, unfortunately. And kids check the scoreboard sometimes because they’re going to get yelled at by their parents if they don’t score enough points. Don’t get me started.

“So when I look at my team, they know this. When I watch game film, I’m checking what’s going on on the bench. If somebody is asleep over there, if somebody doesn’t care, if somebody’s not engaged in the game, they will never get in the game. Ever. And they know that. They know I’m not kidding.

“We only have 30-something games. If you’re lucky, what’s this, 30 what — 37. 37 games. You can’t get up for every one of those games? You can’t be excited for every one of those games? And you’re on scholarship. Now, you’re playing on the best team in the country and you’re going to mope? Seriously? That’s the way we handle it. Now, they might be faking it, I don’t care, but they’re not moping, there’s nobody moping.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.