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Did Frese really have to go there?

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published November 23. 2013 4:00AM

Storrs - Full disclosure: I wasn't there when Brenda Frese, the women's basketball coach at Maryland, said this:

"I said this all along. They went from nine All-Americans to seven," she said after the UConn women dusted the Terps in College Park last week, even without Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck. "If they lose a couple more, Geno will start having to coach like the rest of us."

Whoa.

Get back, Jojo.

Did she really say Geno Auriemma doesn't have to coach?

Now it's possible that Frese was trying to be funny. Even so, there's the occasional element of truth behind every joke. Geno doesn't have to coach because his players are too good. Roll out the balls and que sera sera.

This much we know, however: Frese and Auriemma aren't candidates to, you know, exchange cannoli recipes. It's one thing if Harry Perretta or Doug Bruno, longtime friends of Geno, tease him. It's another from a coach whose roster isn't exactly bereft of All-Americans either.

The implication that Auriemma's life is easier than everyone else's in women's basketball is ? correct. Because he made it that way. Nobody handed him the keys to a Lexus here. The best players come here now because they want to. They want to get better, win championships and understand the general awesomeness of being involved in something bigger than themselves.

Here's what else I know: When Auriemma has the best players, UConn goes undefeated. (Think about that). When he doesn't, UConn still contends for (and sometimes wins) national championships. And if you've ever seen his spleen venters in practice, you'd know he's not exactly sitting with his feet up for two hours sipping Cabernet on winter afternoons.

Curious thing, coaching. You work your ascot off to get the best players and then the masses conclude that anybody could win with that talent. You assemble mediocre talent and you can really coach because you "do more with less."

Excellence doesn't get the gas mileage it used to, apparently.

Nobody had asked Auriemma to comment publicly about Frese's musings, all the way into Friday night, when the Huskies were back at Gampel Pavilion for an enthralling endeavor against Boston University. File this under "it's a tough job but someone's got to do it."

So Geno ? the floor is yours.

"It's a recurring theme stated in different ways," Auriemma said. "Well, of course UConn gets the best players and that's why they win national championships."

Then the coach began to warm up.

"That's like saying the only reason Nick Saban wins is because he recruits a lot of pros," Auriemma said. "I thought that was the point of our job. Go out and get the best players. If we get them, make them even better. If we don't, make the kids you do get even better, too."

Plus, name the team in the history of organized sports that ever won a thing of significance without really good players. Answer: none.

"Last time I checked, except for Louisville last year - and they had a bunch too - every team that we've beaten for the national championship for the most part has had five All-Americans on the floor at all times," Auriemma said. "It's not like we're the only ones who are getting good players.

"One thing I'm proud of is we don't lose too many games we're not supposed to lose," he said. "Very rarely is there an upset at the University of Connecticut. Our players are really good when they come out of high school. And they get a lot better here. They get a lot better here than they do at most other places."

And there's ample evidence to support that.

Again: Frese may have been going for a few laughs. Heaven knows that the lovey-dovey game of women's basketball could use some flavor other than vanilla. But Frese picked on the wrong dude.

"Maryland did win a national championship and they happened to have seven high school All Americans on their team," Auriemma said. "I don't know a coach that wins at this level that doesn't have high school All-Americans. Trust me. I've tried to do it. It's not possible."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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