There’s been a lot of disenchantment this past week, as Connecticut marched toward their tenth national championship. Many basketball fans are sick of the Huskies, who also made it three in a row with tonight’s win.
UConn fans and former players are quick to say “don’t hate, emulate.” Ex-Husky and current ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo had such an outburst the other day:
“Grow up,” Lobo snapped, addressing an invisible audience of head coaches Saturday at Amalie Arena. “Watch what they do. Watch what those players do on and off the court.
“Make yourself better. Coaches, make yourself better so that you can compete with Connecticut. Don’t try to make Connecticut worse. They’re nothing but good for the women’s game.”
She’s right, of course. But let’s not fail to realize that coaches and teams are indeed getting there.
Maryland has been to three Final Fours and won one title in ten years. Baylor has claimed two in 11 years. South Carolina has risen, Arizona State has returned, and those are just a few among many other examples of up-and-comers.
This college hoops season was the most exciting ever, in my opinion, with a near-constant stream of upsets that continued into the Tournament, and mid-majors rising like never before. At the end, we saw some unlikely teams rise to the occasion and exceed expectations, like Dayton, while others fell. Great growth is taking place.
But it doesn’t happen overnight.
The women’s Tournament is 34 years old now, and like anything else that’s been around for a while, there is impatience for progress. Couple that with a nationwide short attention span and expectation of instant results in every area, and you have discontent.
The three collegiate coaches with the most titles are John Wooden, Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma. Wooden’s first season at UCLA was 1948-49; his first title was in 1964. Summitt was at the helm at Tennessee for 13 years before winning a championship. Auriemma was in his tenth season before he picked up his first trophy. The legends remind us that building greatness takes time.
In all the frenzied discussions right now on how to grow the game, we would all do well to remember that.