Be gay if you may, but keep it out of the game you play, and just win, babe, just win and be yourself
By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today
It is what it is, and all Geno Auriemma is concerned about is the upcoming season for his University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
He’s heard, he’s read all about who goes this way, who goes that way, who prefers who, and this and that in the world of women’s hoops. But he has no reaction to this, has not consented to give his opinion, just puts it aside and is just content to continue coaching and winning.
He’s on pace to become the winningest, most successful college basketball coach of all time, not only among the women, but in all of college ball that includes the men’s game. He has already won a record 11 NCAA Division I champions, he has reached 800 and 900 wins faster than anyone else, he’s closing in on 1,000 and avoids discussions that regard other matters.
And as the world changes and more things are revealed, he’s not taking notes on what his former players are up to. That includes recent gossip that has Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird as two elite players, two former All-Americas, and, by the way, are gay.
They are just two of the record 14 former UConn players in the Women’s National Basketball Association. They learn more about the game under Auriemma and his stellar staff, than bring their talents to the professional league. And 14 is quite a lot for one school to have in the best women’s pro league playing anywhere.
So Taurasi says she has a partner that she left behind after playing in Europe for one season, but that she’s now engaged socially with a woman in this country. Bird has come forward to speak about her relationship with Megan Rapinoe a big-name pro soccer star, and she prefers not harping on the subject, prefers that no one makes it anything more than a women-to-women relationship.
When Long and tall Brittany Griner first arrived at Baylor, she greeted head coach Kim Mulkey by asking if she knew about her personal life, the one where she informed her stunned parents at an early age that she was what she was.
But Mulkey made nothing of it, and did nothing pertaining to it, instead she told Griner that, yes she knew, and cared only about how good the 6-foot-8 youngster could play the game. It was the answer Griner had hoped for and the coach made her day than and now as she recently divorced her partner, another women’s basketball player, after one year of marriage.
Now Elena Delle Donne has reached stardom after she arrived at UConn following being named high school Player of the Year. She had made the Huskies her choice following her junior year. But after two days in Stoors, she hoped on the bus and went home to Delaware to be with her family. She didn’t even let Auriemma know.
And there were things about the 6-5 wonder woman who is playing hoops better than any other player on the globe that were kept quiet until she spoke up in late December. She made a newsworthy statement revealing that she has a lady partner, and hopes that no one comes forward and decides it’s not a popular situation.
Same with Taurosi, and Bird, and Griner, and a long list of others who took the same path. To them and anyone who respects personal matters, they play the sport they love, have fun, win some, lose some, and what happens off the court is no one’s business.
This is where Auriemma comes in. He has already reflected on his 32 years of coaching the Huskies to record heights, turning out great teams with great players, or to be more precise, those that fit into his system.
He shrugs all of this off, often telling of never having any of his players even discussing the subject, none ever asking the same question that Griner asked her coach, and none even speaking about anything else than learning how to be champions under Auriemma’s masterful tutoring.
Who knows what secrets got past him, what players chattered about in the locker room, and who was who socially? The only thing known is that UConn has made news only about its success on the court, about its honor students, about how everyone plays four years and graduates, and this doesn’t include some who transferred. If there’s other gossip to be told, it stays where it is.
Gays have come out of the closet in recent times, and this includes both genders. They came to the conclusion that they are who they are and don’t care who knows it. And no matter which sport they play in, they are there to play the game and hope everyone realizes it.
Those that have accepted this have spoken out with kindness, understanding and continuing to accept what is and just dealing with it. Those that have had difficult times with it and have not known how to bare it, face it, and play in the same lineup, have not been as generous.
But the bottom line is that it is what it is, which is why Auriemma can be successful and knowledgeable and keeping out of something that has nothing to do with putting the ball in the basket and depositing points in championship style.
Anything else is not his concern, not even in the off season. His job is to recruit basketball players and leave their personal lives to themselves. And doing this for so long is just another reason why he’s so respected, so free of controversies, and keeps his elite reputation firmly in place.
It is what it is and it’s best to leave it at that. By the way, Brianna Stewart, last year’s Player of the Year out of UConn, is now in the WNBA and has a boy friend who attends Northwestern.