Sunday, December 01, 2013

The day after: Warde Manuel reacts to second straight UConn win

UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel was in attendance at the UConn women's basketball team's 70-49 win over Ohio State on the final day of the Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Challenge at the MassMutual Center. After the press conference ended, I spoke to Manuel for a few minutes.

The interview started with the "no questions on the football search" which was hardly surprising (not that he was going to tell me the details on who is emerging as the top names on the short list of candidates). But figured I would share what he had to say about the Huskies' victory over Rutgers.

"It was awesome to see," Manuel said. "The team played very well, I am very proud of the effort of T.J. (Weist), the coaches and the team. It was our most complete game of the year in my opinion and it just showed the effort that this team has displayed through a lot of adversities that came down to losses on the board. They kept fighting and that made me proud about their character and what they display for themselves, their team and all their coaches."

Obviously in a perfect world the wins the last two weeks would have been part of a successful season and not just a welcome reversal of fortune after an 0-9 start.

"Coaches always say that any win is a hard-fought win and in almost every sport you hear coaches saying that," Manuel said. "It is not until you get into the grind of a season where you haven't won that you realize how special they can be. I am just happy with this team that they have kept with their effort, they have kept fighting so they can have success on the field because I believe that they believe from the very beginning of the season that this could have been a special season. It turned out disappointing to them and to us. I think they had some goals that were attainable and success didn't come on the field. Part of it, I said to the team, that you are learning a life lesson and that is that you can't ever give up, you have to keep fighting and keep finding a way and they have.

"At the end of the last two games in the locker room it was special for them and for all of us because they realize that they have the potential to have success and they realize how much success means to them."

With the season coming to an end on Saturday when the Huskies host Memphis, obviously UConn has a chance to get moving on the hiring of a coach so they can attempt to salvage this year's recruiting class.

"The sooner the better but there is no timeline," Manuel said. "I want to find the best coach for UConn and for our football team moving forward. I am very proud of what T.J. has done but we want to do a national search and we will see where it goes."

Although I don't expect that Manuel will make Weist the head coach, I did ask him how much Weist has helped his cause with these two victories.

"I loved T.J. from the time I put him in and it hasn't changed from the day I appointed him as interim (coach)," Manuel said. "He is a great person, a great coach and he has done a hell of a job leading the team and we will see where it goes from here."

Manuel is loving life these days. Both the men's and women's basketball teams are undefeated and nationally ranked, the field hockey team won the national title, the men's soccer team is playing No. 1 UCLA in the third round of the NCAA tournament and the football team has a chance to end the season on a three-game winning streak.

"It is great, this is a great time. This run that we have been on in these last two or three weeks, starting with what men's and women's basketball has done to start the season, field hockey national championship, the men's (soccer team) is playing tonight, it has been a special time for athletics and we are going to continue to strive for success."


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