On this week's SI Media Podcast, UConn Huskies' head coach Geno Auriemma discusses talking with Tiger Woods, social issues and more.

By Richard Deitsch
November 13, 2017

If you watched the top-ranked University of Connecticut women’s basketball team roll over No. 10 Stanford on Sunday afternoon—a 75-53 win at the site of the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio—you got a sense of why they are the overwhelming favorite to win a 12th national title. The Huskies have the nation’s best starting five by some margin (including returning All-Americans Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams, Canadian Olympian Kia Nurse and sophomore point guard Crystal Dangerfield, who scored a career-high 24 points against Stanford) and added the nation’s top recruit (wing Megan Walker) along with 6’6” Duke transfer Azurá Stevens, an All-ACC player as a sophomore two years ago. I would not expect UConn to lose in 2017–18.

As the guest on this week’s Sports Illustrated Media podcast, I asked Geno Auriemma, the head coach for the UConn women’s basketball team, how he would a view a potential invite (or non-invite) from President Donald Trump, given that decision has become of interest in sports. His answer was interesting and it doesn’t take much to surmise that his team is likely to decline.

Said Auriemma: “That’s a good question because it has been handled a lot of different ways and it is one of those things where: why am I even being asked that question? Why is my team even being asked that question? That was never asked. That was just assumed. That was just taken for granted. So now what has happened that has made this question have to be answered? Just that in itself makes you think, ‘You know what? This isn’t the same as it always was.’ People will say visiting The White House is a great honor. Well, that was never in question before. So now why are people questioning it? And now what are you going to do about that? Well, why are you asking? Well, there must be a reason for it? So maybe that has changed. I don’t know.

So I would ask my players. Think about it: I understand what the Golden State Warriors did. God bless them. And I understand what a lot of other teams have done. Some can’t wait to go. Some said no. Understand where I am coming from: I coach a women’s team. I coach women’s team where five or six of my players are daughters of immigrants. I have one Muslim on my team. The stuff that they have read, the stuff that they have heard addressed towards women, towards minorities, towards immigrants, I am going to ask them. And you know what? They are going to follow their conscience. I have a lot of faith in my team and I know exactly what they are going to say. And we will deal with that if and when that opportunity comes up. Hopefully we will be in a position to have to answer that question.”

 

In the podcast Auriemma discussed why he started his own podcast (Holding Court with Geno Auriemma) and why he wanted to host it; what it’s like to ask questions as opposed to answering them; why he opted to have Sue Bird, Kyrie Irving and Tiger Woods as his first three guests; what he took away from his hour-long talk with Woods; how he would classify his interview style; future interviews with John Calipari and Charles Barkley; why he hopes to extend his podcast guests to be people such as Doris Kearns Goodwin; why he decided to go on the “Pardon My Take” podcast and what he thought of that experience; his thoughts on people in sports such as Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich being very forceful publicly with their politics; why Auriemma has become more politically active on his Twitter feed; how often he talks about social issues with his team; whether the loss to Mississippi State relieved a burden for this year’s team, and much more.

You can subscribe to the Sports Illustrated Media podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

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