Mora thrilled to join a group of accomplished UConn coaches
Southington — Geno Auriemma, who has one more women's basketball national championship ring than fingers, put some pressure on one of his fellow UConn coaches on Monday.
"I think he's going to be amazingly good," Auriemma said about Jim Mora. "If he can't get this done here, it's just not doable."
Just what a head coach taking over a losing football program wants to hear before his first game.
When informed of Auriemma's comments, Mora responded: "No pressure, Geno."
Mora was in winning company at the UConn Coaches Road Show Monday at Kinsmen Brewing. He joined Jim Penders (baseball), Dan Hurley (men's basketball), Laura Valentino (softball) and Auriemma at the event.
Penders and Valentino led their respective programs to Big East regular season titles this spring while Hurley and Auriemma guided their teams to the NCAA tournament last winter.
"UConn is obviously a lot more than just the basketball success," Hurley said. "Men's and women's basketball has been amongst the best in the sport, historically. But also UConn has a championship level athletic department."
All five UConn coaches spoke to the media on Monday and then mingled with fans before taking their seats on the stage in front of about 250 fans. To get the coaches all in one room at the same time is rare given their busy schedules.
"It's neat," Penders said. "We have such beautiful facilities, but one of the negatives is they silo us a bit and we don't get to cross-pollinate as much as I think we'd all like to, so I think this is an opportunity to do that and hang out a little.
"It's not too bad on an off-night to be spending some time with some folks. ... It's always good to get out and see people who are passionate about UConn. We have that in common, so it's fun."
Mora is the new guy in the club.
Since being hired last November, Mora has been visible around campus and in the community. He's attended UConn games. He's spent time getting to know other UConn coaches and observing from the sidelines.
"I've been to a lot of games," Mora said. "I've tried to see every sport play multiple times. I've gotten to spend a little time with Danny and Geno the first week that I was here. Coach Penders and I speak every once in a while.
"One of the great things about being a coach on a college campus is being able to interact with coaches in other sports, because I think good coaches are good coaches. And obviously we have a legend on our campus. So, whenever you can glean information from someone like that that can help you, it's an amazing opportunity and try to take advantage of it as much as possible."
Penders shares something in common with Mora. They're both sons of Jims who were both coaches.
They traded text messages earlier today because a football recruit — a placekicker — expressed an interest in playing two sports.
"He got right back to me," Penders said. "He's been great. He's just been super visible on campus. He's been at our games. I haven't had a chance to meet his fiancee yet. I was looking forward to hopefully doing that tonight. ... They've been very supportive of what we're doing. We'd like to do the same for him."
Back to Auriemma.
After putting the pressure on Mora with his comments, Auriemma talked about the promising football season ahead.
"Go 6-6 and we should have a parade based on the last four, five, six, seven seasons," Auriemma said. "So, there's no doubt in my mind they'll win."
Mora appreciates that Auriemma has faith in him. He's going to try to live up the high standard set by his fellow UConn coaches.
"It's nice to have that support," Mora said. "I have felt nothing but support since I got here. It's really incredible. When you're around guys like coach Penders — they just won the Big East regular season title — and you're around Geno and Danny, and really everyone else on this campus, there's just a high level expectation and a very high standard.
"I take it as a challenge. We have to be able to meet the standard of UConn athletics. It's not easy to do, but I like hard things. I've kind of relished it."
The UConn Coaches Road Show makes its second and final stop on the tour Tuesday night at the Two Road Brewing Company in Stratford.