Geno Auriemma, UConn women's basketball coach and U.S. Olympic team selection committee member, declined to comment on the recent Team USA snub. But he did dismiss any allegations of UConn bias in the selection process and made note of who is always being blamed.
Auriemma spoke with reporters on Thursday in the first in-person Huskies media availability since before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time Auriemma was made available since the Team USA women's basketball roster was announced on June 21.
Auriemma addresses 'UConn bias' in Team USA selection
Many believed Los Angeles Sparks forward and core national team player Nneka Ogwumike was wrongly left off the roster, and alleged a UConn bias in the selection process.
“What I find humorous was the two times I was the coach it was, ‘UConn politics, UConn bias’ because of Geno Auriemma, and I was the coach. And Carol made a point to say, ‘No, it’s the committee that picks the team,’” Auriemma said, via the Harford Courant. “Now, I’m not the coach and ‘Geno Auriemma is still the a**hole.’ And I’m on the committee. So I think there’s a common thread there. Wherever I am, that’s whose fault it is if you don’t like whoever’s on the team.”
There are five players of the 12-player roster who went to UConn. Ogwumike attended Stanford and is currently the only WNBA MVP to not make an Olympic roster.
Team USA is going for its record seventh consecutive gold. Auriemma coached the 2012 and 2016 gold medal winning teams. There was controversy in 2016 when Candace Parker did not make the roster. Breanna Stewart, who had graduated that month from UConn as a four-time NCAA champion, was named to the roster alongside four other Huskies alumnae.
Committee does not address Nneka snub
Auriemma is now a "special adviser" on the Olympic team selection committee after serving as head coach for seven years. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is leading the national team in Tokyo.
No one except Staley was made available by USA Basketball for comment after the roster announcement. It led to the UConn bias calls and conspiracy remarks online. Staley said the fact Ogwumike, who suffered a knee sprain in June but tracks a return before the Games, was not on the roster was heartbreaking.
Committee member Curt Miller was asked about it during his WNBA availability as coach/general manager of the Connecticut Sun, but deferred to national team director Carol Callan.
Auriemma also declined when asked for comment.
“If it was a committee of one, which it isn’t, then I would answer every question and say, ‘All right, ask me why I did this and I’ll tell you why,’” Auriemma said, via the Courant.
He noted "unfortunately, or fortunately" the committee has five members — six if you include Staley, "who is on the calls." Former player and current Minnesota Lynx assistant Katie Smith and WNBA head of league operations Bethany Donaphin complete the committee.
“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is once you start putting a team together, and you have certain picks and if you say ‘one, two, three, four, five, hey those six, they’re good to go,’ well, that’s going to affect the next six picks," Auriemma said of the selection process. "So you can’t just put them all out there individually ... and pick them out of the air. Once you put these four people on the team, now you better complement them with the right other people.”
Team USA will play Team WNBA in the WNBA All-Star game on July 14, which Auriemma said will show the level of talent the United States has right now in that many WNBA players could be Olympians.
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