The scene wasn’t spectacular – just another work meeting in the Christine Grant Ballroom at NCAA headquarters, where tables had been set in a familiar square shape with a microphone in front of each seat so everyone could be heard.
But while the environs were unremarkable, the impetus for this gathering was not. Thirty-five of the most influential minds in women’s basketball were seated at that table, reviewing the findings of the Women’s Basketball White Paper. Compiled by reputable basketball administrator Val Ackerman, the paper proposed both long- and short-term changes for the sport. These suggestions – some of them tweaks, some of them overhauls – have the potential to inject new energy into the game and, as Ackerman’s white paper emphasized, spark some much-needed growth and excitement.
The presence of many of the giants of the game added to the palpable buzz in the room. There was Jody Conradt, the former Texas coach with 900 career victories. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, with two NCAA championships on her resume. Vivian Stringer, the coach at Rutgers who entered the 2013-14 season with 901 career wins. And Donna Lopiano, the legendary women’s administrator who is former president of both the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the Women’s Sports Foundation.
And there was Geno Auriemma, whose UConn Huskies program sits at the top of the sport, winning titles at a Woodenesque pace. Auriemma is in his element guiding his teams to victories on the sidelines – and equally comfortable sharing his opinions.
The leaders came together in September to have a frank discussion about the future of the game they love. And no one, you might say, can be as frank as Auriemma.