UConn's Geno Auriemma anticipating long wait until start of college hoops season

Auriemma believes 2020 CFB cancellation to be inevitable (1:45)

Geno Auriemma details the toughest challenges in trying to prepare for this year's basketball season, and he explains how it will be affected by what college football decides to do. (1:45)

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said Monday he's prepared for a long wait until the start of college hoops season, which he thinks will be delayed.

"Patience is everything right now," Auriemma said in a Zoom call with reporters. "You can't really have anything other than patience. I'm trying to be realistic, too. I told our staff this morning, 'Once the rest of the country cancels football, we'll know there's no fall sports at all.'

"So there won't be any [basketball] games in November. And then we can start thinking about January, maybe, or February. Who knows?"

UConn canceled its football season Aug. 5 because of concerns over COVID-19, and Auriemma said Monday that he thinks it is "just a matter of time" before college football as a whole will be postponed.

The UConn women's basketball players are on campus in Storrs, Connecticut, now working in small "pods" instead of the entire team being together. Auriemma said the Huskies are working on things they would normally have been doing earlier in the summer, but it's helpful especially with six freshmen on the team, led by No. 1-ranked recruit Paige Bueckers.

He said the Huskies haven't had a similar situation with so many new players since 1988, before the 11-time national champions had won their first title in 1995.

"We're just taking it one day at a time, and one drill at a time," Auriemma said. "I'm getting to know the freshmen really well. They're a good group; I really like them a lot. They're competitive as hell. This group is like a breath of fresh air."

He said his players have been very diligent about following coronavirus protocols on campus.

"They know what's at stake," he said. "If something happens to one of them, they're going to shut down the whole thing. They're really holding each other and themselves accountable."

Auriemma was asked his thoughts on college athletes being more vocal about various concerns, including COVID-19. In particular, football players have been letting their thoughts be known on social media and in direct communication with their schools and conferences.

"If I was a football player, I would do exactly what they're doing," Auriemma said. "I would be asking all the questions that they're asking: 'Am I going to be safe going to practice every day? Am I going to be safe traveling ... playing games?' What is more important than the players' safety and their health? I think they have every right to voice that concern. There's an awful lot expected of them.

"I think they get a bad rap, today's generation. As a coach, I'm always saying, 'Today's players -- ah, man, they're a pain in the ass to coach.' Well, I said the same thing 50 years ago. So I haven't changed. I think they're smart, they're socially conscious. The world that we live in right now is complicated."

As for what college basketball might look like if the standard season was altered in some way, Auriemma said he didn't think "bubble" environments were likely.

"Are you going to take the 11 Big East teams and put them in a bubble? Could you do that?" he said. "That's a lot of people in the bubble that you don't realize would have to be in there. Does that make sense: team doctors, trainers, managers ... people living in a hotel room for three months.

"Can it be done? Probably. But I don't see it happening. I've actually heard people talking about it, and you could do it financially. But I don't know that there's going to be this giant groundswell of, 'Hey, yeah, let's do that.' I don't see that."

Auriemma has been impressed, though, with the success thus far of the WNBA's bubble in Bradenton, Florida, where the league is playing a 22-game regular season and traditional playoffs. The WNBA started its season July 25. Since the initial quarantine period ended on July 10, the league has not had any players in the bubble test positive.

"They worked hard at getting in the right place, getting the bubble set up," said Auriemma, who has 16 former Huskies playing in the WNBA this season. "The players have been very disciplined and very willing to abide by all the protocols. I'm sure there's tremendous challenges that we never hear about in making all this happen.

"And there's a lot of games in a short period of time. It's got to be difficult on the athletes and their bodies. It's got to be difficult on the coaches. But they're all in it together. I think they've shown the world a lot. What can be done when everybody isn't worried about me, me, me."

As for his own health, Auriemma, who turned 66 in March, said he hasn't been worried about COVID-19 personally.

"I probably should be, but I'm not," he said. "I think I've been pretty careful, as much as you can be. You're never 100% sure."

He did say, however, his 89-year-old mother said she thought it was best that he not visit her.

"Even my mother doesn't trust me," Auriemma joked. "I go to practice, I do my thing. I do the best I can with what we have, and cross my fingers. So far, so good."