Eve of Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Goes Calmly for Connecticut's Auriemma.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass._ On a night that was surprisingly devoid of the vast numbers of sportswriters who intensely cover the University of Connecticut national powerhouse women’s basketball team on a daily basis, it was left for the Guru to be Huskies coach Geno Auriemma’s media babysitter on the eve of his induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame that will occur Friday night.
The Hartford Courant’s Jeff Goldberg was the only one spotted early Thursday evening before Auriemma and his wife Kathy arrived for the first event of the weekend – the reunion and awards dinner.
The calm is not expected to last long, however, with much more of the famed “horde” expected to be attending Friday morning’s news conference introducing the inductees.
“I might enjoy this a lot better next year when they don’t have you doing a million things,” Auriemma noted to some well-wishers who were in the ballroom at the Marriott-Springfield Hotel.
Auriemma’s biggest concern at the moment is the acceptance speech he has to give after he is presented Friday night by Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay, a former St. Joseph’s and NBA Philadelphia 76ers coach who has longtime ties to the Philly scene as does Auriemma.
“They told us four minutes,” Auriemma, who was born in Italy, said of the limitation given the six inductees. “That’s not a lot of time to move your hands around. At the moment, I’m into a heavy negotiation with (former 76ers star) Charles Barkley to get a little more time and get some of his minutes but he’s asking for a lot.”
Barkley will also be enshrined along with NBA Detroit Pistons president Joe Dumars, former NBA star Dominique Wilkins, former Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt and Italian national coach Alessandro Gamba.
Thursday night’s event was the annual informal setting in which past enshrinees and the new inductees get a chance to renew acquaintances and make new ones.
Judging by the way the notables from the men’s side approached Auriemma, there were few new associations to be had.
He was involved in conversations with such individuals as Maryland men’s coach Gary Williams, TV commentator and former NBA coach Hubie Brown, former 76ers player and coach Billy Cunningham, and former St. John’s men’s coach Lou Carnesecca.
Auriemma saluted the legendary “Loouie,” commenting that “When you and Jack Ramsay coached, you were teachers of the game. Today, coaches are entrepreneurs.”
Three awards that are the highest given by the Naismith folks outside of inductions were also presented Thursday night.
The Curt Gowdy media awards went to TV’s Bill Raftery, a former Seton Hall men’s coach, in the electronic division, and the Los Angeles Times’ Mark Heisler in the print division.
Many years ago Heisler worked at the Inquirer alongside the Guru so there were things for us to discuss, as well.
Longtime Women’s Basketball Coaches Association executive Betty Jaynes received the Bunn lifetime achievement award and was only the second woman to be accorded that honor.
The Guru now signs off because of the late hour after posting two blogs and the early wakeup call to attend the morning press conference. Geno’s presentation at that event will be yours truly’s responsibility for the Inquirer’s print presentation in Saturday’s paper.
But we’ll also be back here on the blog with coverage of the before and post reception activities at the Hall Friday night as well as any further news that we mention in the blog below this involving Marianne Stanley’s potential hire as an assistant women’s coach at Rutgers.