THERE WAS A TIME
There was a time.
There was a time when women’s basketball was an afterthought at the University of Connecticut, a time when Tennessee, Stanford, Old Dominion, Georgia and Louisiana Tech, coached by the legendary names of the game, were programs that played in another world, in a different universe. There was a time when blue chip recruits couldn’t point to Connecticut on a map, much less pick out Storrs if given a map of the Nutmeg State and a hint that it was somewhere in the northeast corner. Moriah Jefferson isn’t sure how to pronounce Kerry Bascom’s name, but she’s met her, and she’s well aware of her place in UCONN women’s basketball history.
There was a time, when Kerry Bascom made a bold, surprising choice and eventually led the Huskies to a final four, but it was a time when their place on the national stage was considered an abherration while Tennessee was busy piling up national championships. Six of them, while the rafters at Gampel Pavilion remained empty.
There was a time when UCONN went to the final four as the underdog, “The team that didn’t belong”, one coach proclaimed. Today’s UCONN players are better versed in the story of a victory dance performed by associate head coach Chris Dailey on a stool in the locker room.
There was a time when Pam Webber had been passed by by the level of talent recruited since her arrival at UCONN, but not so much that she couldn’t anchor the team for the most important six minutes of her career to give her Husky teammates, including just two high school All Americans, a chance to stare down Pat Summitt and her Tennessee eleven. There was a time when UCONN took Tennessee back to the championship game and proved the first time was no fluke, while Aijha Jones made one back door cut after another on a sultry night in Philly.
There was a time when UCONN had the best player, perhaps in women’s basketball history, the one the Huskies had and no one else did, and she may have been the catalyst of the greatest women’s college basketball starting five of all time, and they won three straight championships and suddenly the universe in which Tennessee, Stanford and Georgia played women’s basketball rotated around Storrs, Connecticut.
There was a time when suddenly the elite eight, the regional final, a standard of excellence for most programs, became just a stepping stone. If it didn’t lead to the final four it was a standard of failure. There was a time when national championships became the annual goal, final fours became a birthright.
There was a time when UCONN scaled the heights, to a lofty perch attained only once before. A time when the team that didn’t belong stood eye to eye with the best there ever was, Tennessee, and their coach stood shoulder to shoulder with the great Pat Summitt. A time when “Husky Nation” claimed enough history of greatness to carve the faces of Bascom, Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore onto it’s Mount Rushmore, a foundation of greatness that today knows no boundaries.
There was a time. And then there were nine. There was a time. And what a time it was. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.