Daughter has given UConn women's basketball assistant coach Ralph new perspective

Published on Tuesday, 1 January 2019 21:14
Written by CARL ADAMEC

JOURNAL INQUIRER

STORRS - Shea Ralph came out of the UConn women’s basketball team’s locker room at St. Louis’ Chaifetz Arena on Dec. 4 for the second half with her game face on.

But before heading to the Huskies’ bench, she made a quick turn to where her daughter, Maysen Beatrice Garrick, was sitting. Ralph lifted her six-month-old into the air with a smile that lit up the building.

“Shea’s such a good mom,” UConn senior All-American Katie Lou Samuelson said. “It’s funny. Shea is always so intense and then you see her with the baby and it’s different when she shows her softer side.”

Maysen checked into the world’s lineup on June 26, weighing seven pounds and six ounces and at 20 inches long. She’s the first child for Ralph and husband Tom Garrick.

At age 40, her life has changed forever.

“Basketball has always been such a big part of my life and it still is,” Ralph said. “But Maysen’s given me a new perspective. I wake up every day knowing that I have so much more responsibility and that there’s someone who really depends on me.

“It’s so amazing, I can’t even begin to describe it. You would never think someone so little can change others so much. I just shake my head over and over and over. She doesn’t know how much of a difference she’s made in our lives. We could not be happier. She’s happy and healthy and always so, so hungry. She’s a blessing and brought us a happiness that I have never felt before.”

Ralph is the first assistant to give birth while a member of coach Geno Auriemma’s staff. Of course, Auriemma successfully recruited Ralph - a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina - to play here a decade after he was hired in 1985.

The oldest of Auriemma’s three children, Jenna, was born when he was an assistant to Debbie Ryan at Virginia. Jenna is the mother of his three grandchildren.

The Hall of Fame coach gets it.

“There’s a new priority in Shea’s life that puts her in a different frame of mind,” he said. “One thing about Shea is that she’s all-in on everything. She was adamant that having a family was not going to change her as a basketball coach. But what it does is that it changes you as a person when you have that responsibility.”

A UConn practice at the on-campus Werth Champions Center is as demanding as ever. The 11 national championship banners and the names of All-Americans, national Player of the Year winners, and Olympic gold medalists that are on the walls are reminders of what came before them.

But after the final shots have been made and the players have given all they have to give, they find the extra energy when Maysen makes her appearance with her mother.

“When Shea brings the baby to practice, though she is not on the court, everyone is aware that she’s there and everybody makes a point to have some contact with her,” Auriemma said. “It’s been really refreshing for everyone. Sometimes we make basketball like it’s this life-or-death situation. This has been, ‘Practice is over, the game is over, let’s go play with the baby.’ ”

Ralph’s name is on the wall at Werth and in the Huskies of Honor at Gampel Pavilion. In 2000, she was a consensus first-team All-American and the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player when the Huskies routed Tennessee in Philadelphia for the program’s second national championship.

Though knee injuries cost her a chance at a professional career, she brought the same qualities that made her successful as a player to coaching. She was an assistant to Agnus Berenato at Pittsburgh when the Panthers earned their first NCAA Tournament berth (2007) and first Sweet 16 bid (2008). Since Ralph returned to UConn in July 2008 to replace Tonya Cardoza on Auriemma’s staff, the Huskies have added six national championships and 10 straight Final Four trips to their resume.

Basketball runs deep for Maysen’s father as well. Tom Garrick was a star at the University of Rhode Island and played four years in the NBA and another six years overseas. He went into coaching after retiring and is now in his first season as the head coach of the UMass-Lowell women.

“Before Maysen was born people were like, ‘Is she going to be a point guard?’ ” Ralph said with a laugh.

Of course, Maysen’s maternal grandmother, Marsha, was an All-American at North Carolina in the 1970s.

So, hoops have to be in her future, right?

“I want her to do the things that make her happy, whatever they are,” Ralph said. “We have to wait to see what they are. If one of them is basketball, that will be great. We’re going to be there and support whatever she wants to do.

“Would I like to coach her? I don’t know. I think there are good things that can come out from having a parent coach their child. I would love trying to teach her. But I would also want her to learn from others besides her father and I. We’ll want her to understand that we’ll be there to help but we have to be able to separate that we’re also her parents.”

Ralph said it’s been fun watching Maysen grow and seeing her personality develop. She certainly seems to enjoy the attention she gets after practice.

Another change for Ralph came the day before Maysen was born, June 25, when she and Garrick - the couple has been together for about a decade - got married.

“We wanted to be a family when she was born,” Ralph said.

And while she’ll have her family at home, her UConn family will support her every step of the way.

Once a Husky, always a Husky.

“The staff has been amazing and I appreciate everything that they do,” Ralph said. “And they did so much for me when I was away during the summer. CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) took a lot off of my plate, Coach Auriemma, too. They’ve all been so great, the coaches and players, and so welcoming to having Maysen around. It means so much to me.”

To the top-ranked Huskies (11-0), who start a two-game road trip to Texas with Thursday’s showdown at No. 7 Baylor, Maysen, too, is family.

“She is so precious,” UConn point guard Crystal Dangerfield said. “If Shea needs a babysitter, I’ll be ready.”



Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Tuesday, 1 January 2019 21:14. Updated: Tuesday, 1 January 2019 21:16.