Fully understanding/appreciating Geno | The Boneyard

Fully understanding/appreciating Geno

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alexrgct

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As well-documented as UConn rise and reign has been, sometimes I wonder if people have properly evaluated just how extraordinary Geno is.

Consider the following:

· Geno inherited a program with NOTHING. No history (11 years in existence, only one winning season), no resources, no facilities, not a big local talent base, nothing that seemed like a foundation upon which to build a powerhouse.
· Everyone knows what happened next. Over the next 10 years, he built the program up, culminating in a national championship and a perfect season in 1995.
· And everyone knows what happened after that. Even though he didn’t win another one between 1995 and 2000, UConn was right there the next four seasons, and Geno kept amassing talent. This set the stage for five straight Final Fours, four national championships, and the establishment of UConn as the premier brand (yes, even more than Tennessee). Despite a few relatively off years following that run, UConn continues to set the bar for success (consecutive undefeated seasons, 90 wins in a row, you know, that kind of stuff), remains the premier brand, and is poised to be as dominant as it’s ever been.
· Meanwhile, many of the powerhouse programs that were around when Geno first took the reins at UConn (Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, USC, Texas) have faded away. Other programs have come and gone, or at least not been able to maintain championship success consistently (see UNC, Texas Tech, Purdue, and yes, even Notre Dame and Stanford). Maryland won it all in 2006 but hasn’t really come close since. Baylor won it all in 2005 and is back in the picture again, but even they haven’t had the consistency you’d want of an emerging powerhouse. Texas A&M seems headed in the same direction. All of this in spite of the fact that coaches’ salaries have gone up exponentially, and women’s programs now have greater access to facilities, world-class S&C programs, and other goodies that were out of reach for most in 1985.
· In short, without the kinds of advantages an emerging program would have now, Geno did something that hasn’t come close to being replicated since.

So, I have to ask: is Geno not fully appreciated? Why has no one else been able to do what he’s done?

Some possibilities:

· Geno is uniquely wired. When most people have good outcomes, they interpret that as reinforcement and validation. The problem with that is that you continue to do what got you the positive outcome, and that can be limiting. Geno seems to view success as an opportunity to change, to think bigger, to recruit bigger, to be a better coach himself. Sometimes, I think programs are competing with the UConn of today when the reality is that Geno has a bigger vision for three years from now that they really should be competing with.
· Chris Dailey. She probably could run a top 10 program herself if she wanted to. Perhaps it’s the tandem, and the continuity thereof (while bringing in fresh assistants below them) that’s unique and special.
· Exposure- even though other programs have resources, they don’t have a basis for the kind of exposure UConn/Geno does (proximity to ESPN, having uniquely marketable third-tier rights, Team USA involvement, etc.).

What else? Can you think of other things that make Geno or the program he’s built unique? Do you think what he’s built can really be carried forward by someone else after he retires?
 

sarals24

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Great post.

Part of the thing that I find amazing about UConn is how he's gotten the players to buy into his way of success. How many high school AAs have come to UConn and never started? Part of that is recruiting kids without egos, but another part is getting them to realize that paying their dues now will pay off big time in the end. Tina Charles is a perfect example. KML might be another one. Maya Moore didn't start as a freshman until it was necessary.

For kids that are all-everything in high school and probably promised the world by other college coaches, I find it remarkable that top recruits still choose to come to UConn. Next year we could possibly have three top-5 high school players on the bench to start the game. Any of them would be program-changers elsewhere. I'm sure they already know they might not start, and will have to fight for playing time.

I also think it's amazing how Geno has adapted to his players. Part of the reason I think Tennessee has struggled recently is that Pat still recruits and plays the same way she did in the 90s. Get big, strong fast kids, throw up shots and crash the boards. Hope everyone else is intimidated by the name on the jersey. It works to a point, but she won't have the same prolonged success Geno and Co have had. If he keeps coaching another 10 years I bet her wins five more NCs, at least.
 
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The thing that makes Geno standout is that he lacks the limiting factor that almost all coaches have in any sport. He has the charismatic personality to recruit and make people follow, but he also has complete control of the X's and O's details. There is no technical genius behind the throne. He owns the program's offensive, defensive, and recruiting philosophies down to the smallest details, but doesn't micromanage and empowers his players and assistants to take ownership and make decisions for himself. He sets the highest standards for his players, but doesn't alienate them.

Even looking at other HOF coaches it is not hard to pick out on the limiting factor that ultimately holds their program or team back in some way. I think that is much harder to pick out with Geno. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be his in-game coaching in big games. He'll lose some games that a coach that is a better in-game manager probably wins. But Geno also doesn't get a lot of practice since he does everything else so well.
 

sarals24

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Who would you say is a better in-game coach? I can't think of any, to be honest.
 
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The thing that makes Geno standout is that he lacks the limiting factor that almost all coaches have in any sport. He has the charismatic personality to recruit and make people follow, but he also has complete control of the X's and O's details. There is no technical genius behind the throne. He owns the program's offensive, defensive, and recruiting philosophies down to the smallest details, but doesn't micromanage and empowers his players and assistants to take ownership and make decisions for himself. He sets the highest standards for his players, but doesn't alienate them.

Even looking at other HOF coaches it is not hard to pick out on the limiting factor that ultimately holds their program or team back in some way. I think that is much harder to pick out with Geno. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be his in-game coaching in big games. He'll lose some games that a coach that is a better in-game manager probably wins. But Geno also doesn't get a lot of practice since he does everything else so well.
You're thinking he should have found a way to beat ND last year.
 
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The Deal is this, Geno is right something around 98% of the time, and the other 2% can be argued by many and could go either way, the guy is really smart and surrounds himself with really smart assistants and he lets them do their jobs and they do damn good work. We have all seen what he has done and any of us would count ourselves quite lucky to be as good as Geno in what we do. Sonny44 said it well "He's the Vince Lombardi of WCBB"
 
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You're thinking he should have found a way to beat ND last year.

Not really, I don't react to a single game that way. And I'm not upset about losing that game the way some UConn fans are. Sometimes it is just not the better team's day and they lose because of the variables in basketball. I'm really thinking of the last fifteen years that I have been watching him coach. And it has more to do with the lack of practice on the part of Geno and his players than a lack of ability.
 
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Who would you say is a better in-game coach? I can't think of any, to be honest.
I can think of some that I believe are slightly better, but I'm not really interested in debating the coaching abilities of other coaches. Remember I said if I had to pick a limiting factor. It is obviously not much of one because Geno has had plenty of success in pulling out close games over the years, but I think there is enough evidence both in the games themselves over the years and his own reflections after the fact to indicate he could be better. That some of the qualities that make him the very best in other areas don't transfer as well to that specific situation.
 

Zorro

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I would say that Geno is much more like Don Shula than Lombardi. Shula was a winner, but cared about his players as human beings. Lombardi won games, lots of them, but he was a very unsavory character, imho. It was all about Vince. He never hesitated to play players who were risking aggravating serious injuries, if it would increase his chances of winning. Shula would not have done that, and neither would Geno, under any circumstances. I don't think comparing any coach to Lombardi is a compliment.
 

UConnCat

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I would say that Geno is much more like Don Shula than Lombardi. Shula was a winner, but cared about his players as human beings. Lombardi won games, lots of them, but he was a very unsavory character, imho. It was all about Vince. He never hesitated to play players who were risking aggravating serious injuries, if it would increase his chances of winning. Shula would not have done that, and neither would Geno, under any circumstances. I don't think comparing any coach to Lombardi is a compliment.

I've always liked the comparison to Shula, particularly what Bum Phillips once said about him: "Don Shula can take his'n and beat your'n, or he can take your'n and beat his'n." I thought Geno might have been able to beat some of his own teams were he to coach the opponents.
 

Olde Coach

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I can think of some that I believe are slightly better, but I'm not really interested in debating the coaching abilities of other coaches. Remember I said if I had to pick a limiting factor. It is obviously not much of one because Geno has had plenty of success in pulling out close games over the years, but I think there is enough evidence both in the games themselves over the years and his own reflections after the fact to indicate he could be better. That some of the qualities that make him the very best in other areas don't transfer as well to that specific situation.

IIRC - Geno has coached 8 NCAA Finals. And won 7!

That is a pretty good record in the biggest games of all.

I can't think of any other coach except Anson Dorrance who comes close to that.
 

MilfordHusky

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I think Geno is 7-7 in finals.

I agree with Scotter's point. I thought the ND games in 2001 and 2011 were winnable. Same for Stanford in 2008. But he is far more likely to win what looks like a tough game by 10-30 than lose it.

One of the things that make his program is the geographic location--between NY and Boston, but in a state with no pro sports.
 
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IIRC - Geno has coached 8 NCAA Finals. And won 7!

That is a pretty good record in the biggest games of all.

I can't think of any other coach except Anson Dorrance who comes close to that.

Not really what I'm talking about. I think Milford understood my point pretty well.
 
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What else? Can you think of other things that make Geno or the program he’s built unique? Do you think what he’s built can really be carried forward by someone else after he retires?

One thing that makes UConns program unique is CPTV, Having every game on TV is an invaluable
recruting tool. We tend to forget what CPTV has done for UConn since 1994
 

HuskyNan

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I think one of Geno's strengths is that he's willing to continue learning about the game, including accepting responsibility when he's been wrong and learning from his mistakes. He acknowledged he screwed up the ND Final Four game last spring.

Another strength is his willingness to adapt. He's changed how he recruits, changes his strategies to match his players' strengths (he calls it "covering up our flaws"), and changes his approach with each player to get the best out of her. I actually think this is one of Geno's greatest strengths.
 

arty155

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I think one of Geno's strengths is that he's willing to continue learning about the game, including accepting responsibility when he's been wrong and learning from his mistakes. He acknowledged he screwed up the ND Final Four game last spring.

Another strength is his willingness to adapt. He's changed how he recruits, changes his strategies to match his players' strengths (he calls it "covering up our flaws"), and changes his approach with each player to get the best out of her. I actually think this is one of Geno's greatest strengths.

Pris Nan, what’s the rundown please, so how did he change recruiting? Sorry, I seem to lack implanted WCBB memory prior to 2003.
Arty
 

HuskyNan

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Pris Nan, what’s the rundown please, so how did he change recruiting? Sorry, I seem to lack implanted WCBB memory prior to 2003.
Arty
Another replicant? My goodness, we're overrun with them.

In previous years, Geno had said he liked to be sure that a girl was continuing to develop into her junior year of high school before he offered a scholly. He said that he's seen too many phenoms flame out that year as their abilities plateaued. However, this philosophy caused the infamous recruiting dry spell that occurred right after the Ann Strother class came to UConn. Geno conceded that he needed to begin offering scholarships to girls earlier or he would risk continuing to lose recruits.
 

meyers7

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Even looking at other HOF coaches it is not hard to pick out on the limiting factor that ultimately holds their program or team back in some way. I think that is much harder to pick out with Geno. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be his in-game coaching in big games. He'll lose some games that a coach that is a better in-game manager probably wins. But Geno also doesn't get a lot of practice since he does everything else so well.

I agree. Although he has been getting better at in-game coaching over the past few years.

I always thought it was because he prepared his team so well going into the game, that became his Achilles heel. i.e. if they were so well prepared why would they need to change in-game? I think only recently has he realized even if they are very well prepared, there is still room for in-game changes, AND (the big point) doing so doesn't diminish (or reflect badly) on the pre-game preparation.
 

alexrgct

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Well, here's the second part of the equation: can anyone follow in his footsteps and keep the program where it is now? Sadly, I believe the answer is no. The program will have the history and resources to continue attracting top talent, but the other qualities that are uniquely Geno are going to be tough to carry forward, even in a disciple like Jen. It's one thing to recognize what makes him great, but quite another to live and breath those qualities.
 

meyers7

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IIRC - Geno has coached 8 NCAA Finals. And won 7!

That is a pretty good record in the biggest games of all.

I can't think of any other coach except Anson Dorrance who comes close to that.

Nope, Geno is 7 for 7. Never lost a NC game. I believe Dorrance has lost 3 (but has won like 21)
 

ThisJustIn

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Well, here's the second part of the equation: can anyone follow in his footsteps and keep the program where it is now? Sadly, I believe the answer is no. The program will have the history and resources to continue attracting top talent, but the other qualities that are uniquely Geno are going to be tough to carry forward, even in a disciple like Jen. It's one thing to recognize what makes him great, but quite another to live and breath those qualities.

I think if whoever replaces Geno tries to BE Geno, they/we/the program is in deep doo doo (anyone a Hill Street Blues fan? remember the Lucy Bates faux pas when she stepped in to Esterhaus' shoes?). It's one of the reasons I think someone NOT from the UConn stable would have a better shot at being themselves and making any needed shifts to the program.

Oh, and they better be hot.
 

alexrgct

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I think if whoever replaces Geno tries to BE Geno, they/we/the program is in deep doo doo (anyone a Hill Street Blues fan? remember the Lucy Bates faux pas when she stepped in to Esterhaus' shoes?). It's one of the reasons I think someone NOT from the UConn stable would have a better shot at being themselves and making any needed shifts to the program.

Oh, and they better be hot.
Caroline Doty for HC in 2022!

Oh, you said not from the Geno tree.

Lil' Wayne thinks Skylar Diggins is the right gal for the job.
 
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