Geno Auriemma is widely considered to be the best coach in women's college basketball today and, perhaps, in the game's history.
That doesn't mean the University of Connecticut's Hall of Famer isn't always trying to get better.
That quest took Auriemma to Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, late last month for opening day of the Boston Celtics' training camp.
"I try to do this at least once a year, sometimes in the spring or sometimes in the fall," Auriemma said. "I'm always trying to find somebody that's doing something interesting and whether it's the same thing that we're doing or something totally different I find it educational. I learn something all the time when I go to one of these practices or camps. Sometimes it's something I can take back and help us and sometimes it's not. I don't think I've ever gone somewhere and come back with nothing."
The Celtics, coached by Brad Stevens, won the Atlantic Division title and were the No. 1 seed in the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs a season ago. They eliminated the Chicago Bulls in six games and the Washington Wizards in seven games before falling in five games in the conference finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
They entered the 2017-18 campaign among the favorites to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title after trading for Kyrie Irving, signing free agent Gordon Hayward, and drafting Duke's Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick. But Hayward suffered an ankle dislocation and fractured tibia in his left leg in Tuesday's season-opening loss in Cleveland and had surgery Wednesday. Hayward's agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN that the forward -- who played for Stevens at Butler University -- is unlikely to return this season. Boston is 0-2 following losses to the Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Prior to joining the Celtics, Stevens coached Butler to a pair of NCAA Final Four appearances. The Bulldogs fell to Duke 61-59 in the 2010 national championship game. They returned to the final a year later but were beaten by UConn and Kemba Walker 53-41.
"Brad's way of communicating with his players is phenomenal," Auriemma said. "He coaches NBA players in a way that if you're college coach you can relate to. He coaches the game and you look at the way the Celtics play and Butler played -- the players are different level but there's a similar look. The movement, the way he uses people, is fabulous. That's what I think we do well."
Auriemma also had the opportunity to watch an exhibition game between the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
"There's a reason they gave up a lot to get him and are paying Kyrie a lot of money," Auriemma said with a smile.
Auriemma will enter his 33rd season in Storrs with a 991-135 record. He has led the Huskies to a record 11 national championships and his 18 NCAA Final Four berths -- including a current record run of 10 straight -- are tied for most with late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. UConn has also made 29 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and has won 23 league regular season and 22 league tournament titles in his tenure. His .880 winning percentage is No. 1 all time. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2006 in his first year of eligibility.
Stevens told reporters on that opening day of camp that he enjoyed having Auriemma in attendance. "I've gotten to know him pretty well and I really appreciate his insights and his thoughts and it's fun to have him around," Stevens said. "I said we lost 29 games last year. He hasn't lost 29 games in 20 years."
MAYA MOORE HONORED
Former UConn star Maya Moore, who helped the Minnesota Lynx capture the WNBA championship two weeks ago, was honored as the 2017 Team Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation at its 38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports on Wednesday.
The award is presented to athletes who have exhibited supreme athletic performance over the past year and distinguished themselves in their sport.
The 28-year-old Moore has won four WNBA titles (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017), two NCAA championships at UConn (2009-10), three Georgia state championships at Collins Hill High (2005-07), two Olympic gold medals (2012, 2016) and two FIBA world championship gold medals (2010, 2014) with the United States national team. She is one of 10 players to have won WNBA and NCAA titles as well as Olympic and FIBA world championship gold. The Huskies were 150-4 in her four years while Collins Hills' record in her career there was 125-3. Team USA has been perfect in her Olympic and world championships career.
The Lawrenceville, Georgia, native was a three-time Wade Trophy winner as WBCA Player of the Year with the Huskies and is the only player in UConn history that ranks in the school's top 10 in points (first with 3,036), rebounds (second with 1,276), assists (eighth with 544), steals (fourth with 310), and blocked shots (seventh with 204).
The 2017 Individual Sportswoman of the Year was swimmer Katie Ledecky. The Women's Sports Foundation also recognized Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer for her storied career and achievement of winning her 1,000th game last season when she guided the Cardinal to the Final Four.
Auriemma, who coached Team USA to two FIBA world championship and two Olympic gold medals in his eight years as senior national team coach, went out to California last month to watch junior All-Americans Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson take part in their first senior national team camp. "They were able to put themselves up against some young pros and find out, 'Yeah, I think I'm pretty good,' " Auriemma said. "They also said, 'Coach, I've got a lot of work to do.' It was a great opportunity for them. I talked to some of the coaches working on the court. There was no one there like Lou that can make shots like her at her size. With Pheesa, they got to see how versatile she is and how many things she can do. The more times they're in that situation, the better for them." ... Collier was all smiles talking about her younger brother, Kai, a redshirt freshman receiver at Division II Lindenwood University in Missouri. He caught his first career touchdown pass in a loss to Emporia State last Saturday. "He's going to send me a copy of the film," Collier said. "I'm so proud of him and I know my parents were super-excited." ... Former UConn guard Saniya Chong was named the Dallas Wings' Overseas Player of the Week for the week of October 10-16, after an outstanding debut with Elitzur Maclaren Holon in Israel. The Wings' third-round pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft had 39 points in 39 minutes, along with five assists and one blocked shot.