The oversimplified notion of “just get better”

Breanna Stewart puts up a shot. Photo by Steven Slade.
Breanna Stewart puts up a shot. Photo by Steven Slade.

It seems like every year at this time, the discussion of UConn’s dominance ensues. This past week the conversation began with comparisons between the current team and Husky teams past. It took another turn yesterday when a Boston Globe columnist asserted that UConn’s greatness is ruining the women’s game.

The standard refrain from fans, coaches and others to anyone who even dares not to want to watch a Husky game is that there should be no complaints; other teams should “just get better.” This resembles so many other half-thought out comments that are easy to embrace as truth.

Sure, it would really elevate the college women’s game if every squad was “a WNBA team,” as Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer called UConn Saturday after they beat his Bulldogs by 60 points. But how did the Huskies get to that level?

First, coach Geno Auriemma has been there for 30 years. The only other major BCS coach who has those kind of years is Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. Decades of continuity breeds success because a good coach cements her or his systems in place. It is no wonder Auriemma has been so successful, because he’s a good coach and he is established.

Because UConn has such solid status, they don’t have to try to recruit All-Americans; they have kids (think Mo’Ne Davis) declaring in middle school that they will be a Husky. There are always great players up the pipeline. Heck, probably in infancy right now.

Maybe it’s because I work at an inner city school, but “just get better” in this instance, to me, sounds like telling kids from Watts to go be like Beverly Hills kids.

Then there is the club ball issue. In the ever-growing competition for a limited number of scholarships, the club ball scene has turned into a scramble for how many games kids can play in April and July to grab the attention of coaches and get scholarships. Teaching skills has gone by the wayside in favor of volume of games played. College coaches notice the difference, as recruits coming in lack many of the basic fundamental skills to the game.

In order for teams to “just get better,” high school and club ball coaches have got to go back to the basics and start teaching left-handed layups, box outs, screen-setting, mid-range jumpers, and many other skills. (Auriemma never sees that because he only gets All-Americans or high achievers).

“Just get better”? Teams are. Just look around. We have two brand new squads in the Final Four so far this season, and could have another tonight. There is more parity in the game than ever in the history of women’s college hoops. But UConn is way ahead, and comparisons between them and other teams who have newer coaches, less-established systems and much less recruiting power are inappropriate.

Let’s appreciate UConn for who and what they are without throwing other college programs under the bus.