Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oranges and Apples

Last night the Connecticut women defeated Notre Dame in what is being described as a close game. The final differential was ten points.  By Connecticut victory standards this is close.

Gene Auriemma, the coach of the victors, won his tenth championship. This ties a record with John Wooden the legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins who had a string of victories in the sixties and seventies with the then Lew Alcindor, Walt Hazzard, Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich and other future NBA stars.

Does it make sense to compare Gene Auriemma's successes with John Wooden's?

The answer is mostly no, but not 100 per cent no.

To win ten basketball championships on the college level you have to win big games and win them consistently. Auriemma is 10-0 in championship games.  Remarkable.  In addition, you have to be able to recruit.  Auriemma must be brilliant at this.  Women basketball players who are great can get full rides at dozens of Division I basketball schools.  How come Auriemma seems to always get the best of the best.  He must be an excellent recruiter.

Third you have to be able to coach the great talent you get.  When one watches the Connecticut Huskies women play, even a layperson can see that the team is well coached.  And, significantly, when you get great players to join your team you must be able to address the egos that come with the talent.  He must be able to do this and do it well.

So, in many ways what Auriemma has done is comparable to what John Wooden did at UCLA.

However, there are some big ways that this is Oranges and Apples.  There are not nearly as many excellent teams in women's basketball as there are in men's basketball.  The idea that on any given night a team can knock off another team, does not apply to women's college basketball.  In the first round of the tournament Connecticut could not lose if every one of their players were out drinking until dawn the night before.  The talent disparity is just too great.

In the women's basketball tournament like in men's basketball, one has to win six games to win a championship.  However, the wear and tear on your team before you get to the tournament is not nearly the same for a squad like Connecticut.  During the regular season Connecticut beat RANKED teams--that is teams ranked in the top 25--by 18, 34, 31, and 25 points.  They won some games by over 50 points.  So, it is not as if each contest was a game that could be lost.

In the tournament Connecticut won its first three games by 56, 36, and 51 points.  In the sweet 16 Connecticut won a game by 51!

In John Wooden's day he had to win four games to win the championship, but each game could have been lost. During the regular season he had to win his conference to even get to the tournament. That, especially with USC in the conference, was very difficult. Now, several teams from a conference can be invited, but then Wooden had to win a tough conference and then win four games against difficult teams.

Gene Auriemma is the best women's college coach there is.  He coaches well, he coaches excellent players well, he finds the very best players to come to Connecticut, and he wins championship games. It may be relatively easy to get to the championship game, but he still has to win the games. And he is 10-0 in championship games.

He should be compared to other women basketball coaches and in this regard he is not only the best, nobody can touch him.  I do not believe other coaches could take his players and win 10 championships. They might win a lot of games, but they would not be able to be 10-0 in championship games or even get to ten championship games.

However, to equate his work to the accomplishments of John Wooden is like comparing Oranges to Apples.

Oranges are not better or worse than apples. They are just different.

No comments:

Post a Comment