women’s notebook Several UConn stars sitting out WNBA season

May 23, 2019

BRANFORD — The WNBA season will tip off Friday, albeit without some of its most recognizable stars out of UConn.

Breanna Stewart tore her Achilles’ tendon, Diana Taurasi had back surgery, and Maya Moore stepped away to spend more time with her family and focus on her faith.

And then came news Tuesday that Sue Bird, Stewart’s teammate on the defending champion Seattle Storm, needs arthroscopic surgery on her knee and will be out indefinitely.

“It’s not a great summer, huh, for the UConn icons,” Geno Auriemma remarked, as the UConn Coaches Roadshow stopped at Stony Creek Brewery on Wednesday.

Bird, Moore, Stewart and Taurasi are all program icons. And the reality is, they’re all expected to miss most — and in some cases, all — of the upcoming season.

“It’s a really weird coincidence that it all kind of converged at the same time,” Auriemma said.

Seattle didn’t specify a timetable for Bird’s return, but Auriemma is obviously hoping her absence is short-term. Bird, an 11-time All-Star, was one of 17 former Huskies in the WNBA at the start of last season.

“Sue’s going to do what she’s always done her entire career,” Auriemma said. “She’s going to make sure she’s 100 percent ready to go when she is ready to go. She’s not one of these people that does things half way.”

Rivalry continues

If Auriemma had it his way — and his way only — he’d schedule more games against marquee opponents after the New Year.

UConn had three such contests last year, losing to eventual national champion Baylor and Louisville on the road in January, and beating South Carolina in Hartford in February.

The school recently renewed their series with the Gamecocks through 2021-22. The two teams will play this season in Columbia, completing a four-year agreement.

“South Carolina’s one of the schools that isn’t worried about playing in January and February,” Auriemma said. “There’s a lot of schools, they all want to play in November and December. Well, you can only play so many games in November and December. … Our kids look forward to those January and February Monday night big games on national TV. They’re really cool. The more we can do of those, the better.”

Looking ahead

During a question-and-answer session with fans, Auriemma was asked whether he’s given thought to how much longer he’d like to continue coaching.

His response?

“I don’t think there’s anybody in life that after you’ve done something, in my case, 44 years I’ve been coaching … that doesn’t wake up some mornings and say, ‘Do I really want to keep doing this?’ I think that’s just human nature,” Auriemma, 65, said. “If you say, ‘No, every day’s a new day for me,’ you’re not being honest I bet. We all go through that.

“The difference is, you ask yourself, ‘Why would I feel like that?’ he continued. “Is it because it’s gotten really hard or it’s gotten too easy? Is it because I don’t want to deal with the bureaucratic part of it or I’m tired of the travel? If it’s, ‘I don’t like my job because I don’t like my practice, I don’t like being around the players, I don’t like trying to put my team together, I don’t enjoy that anymore,’ that’s not happened.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour