No way Geno Auriemma would have been this brazen if Jim Calhoun was still patrolling the UConn men's sidelines at Gampel Pavilion.
In case you missed it: The Huskies' women’s coach said that college men’s basketball has never been in worse shape and that the current product is “a joke.”
“As a spectator watching it, it’s a joke,” Auriemma said. “There’s only like 10 teams, you know, out of 25 that actually play the kind of game of basketball that you’d like to watch.
“The bottom line is, nobody can score,” he continued. “And they’ll tell you that it’s because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of teamwork. Nonsense, nonsense. College men’s basketball is so far behind the times it’s unbelievable … This is entertainment we are talking about. People have to decide, do I want to spend 25 bucks, 30 bucks to go see a college scrum where everybody misses six of every 10 shots they take or do I want to go to a movie?”
All this coming from a guy whose women's teams regularly beat opponents by 40 points.
If anything, his women's teams have never been more unwatchable. Now playing in something called the American Athletic Conference, Auriemma's 2014-15 squad opened up conference play this January winning by scores like the following: 98-60, 87-28, 92-58, 92-50, 100-45, 96-31, 87-32, 83-49.
If you're a fan of non-competitive games and an endless stream layups, then Auriemma's team is for you.
What Auriemma has done in Storrs is great, no question. But winning these days for him is not even fair. Every elite girl in America goes to UConn. It's as simple as that. Geno doesn't have to recruit anymore.
The fact is, with these comments, Geno is just bored. He can't throw jabs at his peers in the women's game, so he has to target the "bully" next door. He's also a bit insecure. Years ago, there was talk of him jumping to the men's game. Maybe even coaching his hometown 76ers. But Geno didn't jump. He knows where his bread is buttered.
On Tuesday night, I was scrolling through the channels and I saw "2002 Girls McDonald's All-American game" on the ESPNU info guide. I clicked info and saw a summary that read: "The 2002 Girls McDonald's All-American game featuring Nicole Wolff and Barbara Turner." Stunningly, both girls would wind up going to UConn. I was non-sarcastically stunned to think anyone would actually watch this, so a clicked on it. Sure enough, some ESPN intern had made an oopsy. It was actually the 2002 Boys McDonald's game, featuring Carmelo Anthony.
With Geno's comments, it's just hard to think that so many people in this country are wrong. The TV ratings for the men's game dwarfs that of the women's game. It's not even in the same atmosphere.
Important note: I was lucky enough to have covered both the men's and women's UConn teams in the early 2000s as a student reporter. In 2003, I got a free trip to Atlanta to cover Auriemma's team win that year's women's Final Four. The next year, I got to see Calhoun's boys win in San Antonio.
I really, truly enjoyed both experiences. But the UConn men winning in 2004 felt like a true "spectacle." The 2003 UConn women winning in 2003 felt like a glorified high school state championship. That's how I felt. Hopefully that doesn't make me sexist.
Another Storrs-related anecdote: The very second the 2002 UConn women completed a perfect 39-0 season, winning the national title, I rushed to my dorm window expecting to see and hear something that resembled a riot. I opened that window.
Crickets sounded. Literally, no joking because I remember writing this on AOL Instant Messenger that night - crickets - cutting through a brisk northeast Connecticut night.
UConn's true fan base wasn't in Storrs that night. They were at the Bickford's in Enfield.
In the popularity contest, Geno has always been losing. It's obvious that still bothers him.