No one enjoys teaching basketball more than Geno Auriemma. The UConn womenâ€™s Hall of Fame coach also loves learning about the game.
That drive took Auriemma to Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, late last month for opening day of the Boston Celticsâ€™ training camp.
â€śI try to do this at least once a year, sometimes in the spring or sometimes in the fall,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śIâ€™m always trying to find somebody thatâ€™s doing something interesting. Whether itâ€™s the same thing that weâ€™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 itâ€™s something I can take back and help us and sometimes itâ€™s not. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever gone somewhere and come back with nothing.â€ť
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 lost in the conference finals to 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 Dukeâ€™s Jayson Tatum with the third pick. But Hayward suffered an ankle dislocation and fractured tibia in his left leg in Tuesdayâ€™s season-opening loss in Cleveland and had surgery Wednesday.
Prior to joining the Celtics, Stevens coached Butler University to a pair of NCAA Final Four appearances. The Bulldogs fell to Duke in the 2010 national championship game. They returned to the final a year later but lost to UConn and Kemba Walker.
â€śBradâ€™s way of communicating with his players is phenomenal,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śHe coaches NBA players in a way that if youâ€™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 a different level but thereâ€™s a similar look. The movement, the way he uses people, is fabulous. Thatâ€™s what I think we do well.â€ť
Auriemma also had the opportunity to watch an exhibition game between the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
â€śThereâ€™s a reason they gave up a lot to get him and are paying Kyrie a lot of money,â€ť Auriemma said with a smile.
Auriemma will enter his 33rd season in Storrs with a 991-135 record. He has led the Huskies to 11 national championships and 18 NCAA Final Four berths. UConn has also 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.
â€śIâ€™ve gotten to know him pretty well and I really appreciate his insights and his thoughts and itâ€™s fun to have him around,â€ť Stevens said. â€śI said we lost 29 games last year. He hasnâ€™t lost 29 games in 20 years.â€ť