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The UConn Fastbreak - 1/21/2022
Are you ready to make peace with Bob Diaco's legacy?
Welcome to this week’s Fast Break, and thank you for being a subscriber. [Spoiler Alert] Kevin Ollie is about to get paid.
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Adama Sanogo drawing allll the comparisons
In case you haven’t been watching, Adama Sanogo has been really, really good.
In his last four games, the sophomore is averaging 18 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 4 blocks per contest. He’s an absolute force defensively but what makes him extra special is the magic he brings on the other side of the floor. Sanogo has a touch and low-post scoring ability that UConn has been severely lacking for some time.
Many of UConn’s previous bigs were talented but unpolished and struggled to get sharper offensively. Sanogo arrived with a solid skillset that he’s been able to build on, starting with good back-to-the-basket moves and passing in the post, he’s now expanding his shooting range and playing smarter defensively. He’s also averaging 5.25 offensive rebounds over the last four games.
The names of UConn greats like Jeff Adrien, Alex Oriakhi, and even Emeka Okafor have come up from fans and analysts making comparisons to Sanogo, and they’re all warranted! He absolutely has the potential to end his career as one of this program’s greats.
My favorite comp so far has been this one, which I’ll admit is a stretch, but it shows that the sky is the limit for the Mali native who arrived in Storrs via The Patrick High School in New Jersey.
Tim Duncan! I hadn’t thought of that but it fits. He’s rock-solid at all aspects of being a 4 and has star potential because of his offensive ability. If Sanogo can get that 12-footer going in more consistently, and maybe stay at UConn for another season and go real deep in March (we’re getting selfish here, I know), he really could be a Duncan-esque prospect come NBA Draft season.
Football adds a three-star QB - A big recruit for Jim Mora and staff. Zion Turner is a dual-threat passer and a multiple-time state championship from Florida’s powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
UConn to pay Kevin Ollie $11.2 million - Welp, that’s the end of this ugly saga. KO wins and UConn is paying what they would have anyway had they just fired him the way they should have, without also trying to disgrace him on the way out.
Adama Sanogo named Big East player of the week - Despite playing just one game, the big man made an impression, with 26 points, 18 rebounds, and six blocks in an overtime win over St. John’s.
Jachym Kondelik closing in on program records - One of the most consistent players in program history, the tall forward was also named a Hobey Baker Award finalist as the top NCAA player.
Men’s hockey falls in overtime to Boston University - Darion Hanson kept it close with 26 saves and Chase Badley tied the game late in the third, but the Huskies couldn’t come up with the win.
Women’s basketball dominated by Oregon - Christyn Williams was ruled out due to COVID-19 protocols just an hour before tip-off and the Huskies were unable to contend with being so shorthanded.
Women’s basketball takes down Xavier - Olivia Nelson-Ododa had a career game defensively, with eight blocks and five steals, while Caroline Ducharme added four thefts as well.
Women’s basketball finding its identity without Bueckers - The Huskies struggled initially without their star player, but have recently found footing with a pair of dominating wins.
Interim president Dr. Andrew Agwunobi to depart UConn - In non-athletic news, interim university president Dr. Agwunobi will be returning to the private sector. Radenka Maric, the Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is expected to replace him.
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Men’s hockey goaltender Darion Hanson made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays on Saturday morning, grabbing the No. 5 spot with this incredible paddle stop on Max Kaufman of Boston University.
Hanson kept the game 1-0 and had a great evening with several timely saves, but the Huskies fell 2-1 in overtime to the Terriers.
Five years ago this week, UConn women’s basketball broke its own record. After dominating a ranked USF team to tie the 2008-2010 Huskies teams with 90 victories, the 2016-’17 squad took it one step further with an 88-48 victory on the road against SMU on Jan. 14, 2017.
Geno Auriemma’s team knew that history was on the line and was aware of the moment, going on a 26-2 run through the first quarter, including 21-0 to start the contest. The UConn defense forced 21 turnovers and Katie Lou Samuelson led the way with 28 points. Check out The UConn Blog’s game story from the historic victory, as well as ESPN’s Gamecast.
UConn, Great Pic
Our photographer Ian Bethune attended two hoops games and was on the scene for the hockey game as well. Here are some of the highlights:
Let’s Make Peace with Bob Diaco
Watching the NFL Playoffs this past weekend, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that football being televised on Nickelodeon is especially hilarious for UConn fans who remember a very specific moment in the football program’s history.
That moment is a Bob Diaco press conference in October of 2016 after the Huskies lost to UCF in a “rivalry game” that Bob had worked so very hard to create. After winning, UCF chose not to take the trophy home and effectively closed the book on the “Civil Conflict” saga.
Or so we thought.
In his weekly press conference the following Tuesday, Diaco went off when asked about the rivalry. He was mad. Big mad. He started off by saying “I’m trying to maintain my composure.”
He did not.
At some point during his lengthy ranting, Diaco mentioned that he’s got lots of ideas. If the league needs any, he’s got ‘em — including a suggestion that the AAC get on the horn with Viacom to put games on Nickelodeon.
People laughed then. People laughed at him as he got fired in disgrace after a horrible finish to that season. Some bitter UConn fans even laughed as he struggled in his future stops at Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana Tech, and Purdue, each of which lasted just one season.
But he at least gets to claim a victory when the NFL decided to do a telecast on Nickelodeon. You take that dub, Bob.
Now that his successor at UConn has also been fired, after doing worse than he did, it may also be time to look at Diaco’s tenure in Storrs with kinder eyes. He did, after all, engineer the high point for the program in its last decade when his second-year team won six games and earned a trip to the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Also, I have seen a lot of revisionist history out there from UConn fans when it comes to Diaco, as if he was always bad and the fanbase was not, for the most part, super excited about the future going into the 2016 season. After winning six games in 2015, and then returning most starters on both sides of the ball, the stage was set for a breakthrough for a program that desperately needed it.
That didn’t happen. Inexplicably, things got much, much worse, and as a result Diaco was fired. He was not a great in-game coach, his overall philosophy was a bit outdated, and he showed varying levels of interest in the public-facing aspects of the job.
But he did bring talented players into the program, including future NFL Draft picks Matt Peart and Tyler Davis in addition to guys like Luke Carrezola, Tyler Coyle, Jay Rose, Ian Swenson, Eddie Hahn, Tahj Herring, and Quayvon Skanes, who were big-time recruits for the Huskies to nab at the time, including some in-state guys.
Perhaps most importantly, he took accountability for his role in the failures of the program.
A lot of times when a coach fails it’s easy to blame the circumstances for holding them back. In a recent interview with ESPN, however, Diaco chose the honorable route:
Diaco said he felt he had enough administrative support, the facilities and the budget to get the job done.
"I just didn't win enough games in that last year, with the expectations where they were," Diaco said. "But it wasn't for a lack of support and resources. It was just my fault, honestly. It's a production business, and if it's not there, then you don't get to do it. I took complete accountability. I don't think they were resource-related or conference-related, or anybody else's fault."
Randy Edsall 2.0 was a boring epic failure. At least with Bob, we got some good laughs and a bowl appearance. Up until his 2016 team was 3-3, and even for a little bit after, we had some hope. Whereas most of the hope for the second Edsall era was gone by game one, as they struggled to beat Holy Cross in 2017’s season opener. It really never got better from there.
Unlike Edsall, who has enlisted some media help to push the idea that he didn’t get enough support to succeed, I respect that Diaco took accountability for his failure, and for publicly disputing the idea that UConn doesn’t support its football program properly. Also, for whatever it’s worth, Diaco donated a decent chunk of money to the school’s athletic facility upgrades, something he did not need to do.
So maybe Bob wasn’t terrible, is all I’m saying.
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