A UConn women's basketball program with high aspirations prepared for the grind of a long season with a leisurely week here at the Paradise Jam.
Along with their three games and practices, the Huskies enjoyed nearly a week of relaxation in and around the grounds of Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Resort.
"I've enjoyed myself immensely," freshman Breanna Stewart said. "The resort is beautiful. Laying by the pool has been wonderful. Probably the most interesting thing we've done, however, was snorkeling [on Tuesday]. I've never done that before and thought it was very neat."
"I must admit, I was a little freaked out at first. I couldn't get my breathing [pattern] right and kept sucking in the water, which is not a good thing. I thought I was going to need to wear a life jacket."
The coaching staff gave the players full access to the pools and beach, although the time was cut back when games began on Thursday. And most of the players took advantage of it.
"It's been great to just chill with the team," junior Stefanie Dolson said. "And I am a big picture person. It's just been a lot of fun just to relax. It's also been great to go to an island like this with my mother. She's had the chance to do it with my other two sisters, but this is the first time with just me."
One of the curiosities of the resort is the abundance of iguana that live there. Although inherently docile, they have been known to aggressively approach humans.
"The iguana led to a lot of issues," Kelly Faris said. "One of them almost got Stefanie Dolson. It climbed up on her chair. I wouldn't have liked that, either."
More than anything, the time together, which actually began last weekend in College Station, Texas, has given the players a chance to bond on and off the floor.
"We love being around each other," Bria Hartley said. "But I think Stewie [Stewart] might be the funniest one of all. It's just some of the things she says. It's hilarious. And it's kind of random. Sometimes she'll just say things that have nothing to do with what's going on. But they are very funny."
Geno Still Not Sure About 2016
UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said from the Paradise Jam Saturday that Geno Auriemma's new contract extension is "almost done" and will be for five additional years, through the 2017-18 season.
"I wasn't even sure it would be for this many years," Auriemma said. I didn't think I'd go this far to this age [64 at the end] right now. If I feel the way I do now, five years sounds like really good. At some point, I might say that's it, I'm done. Or I might feel well enough to go another five years."
Auriemma is in the final year of a contract he signed in 2008. That was a five-year, $8 million contract.
While Auriemma waits for that extension, he continues to say he's less certain that he'll consider another term as national team coach.
DePaul coach Doug Bruno, one of Auriemma's assistants, says he'd be flattered to be considered as the next Olympic coach, but didn't want his name tossed around because he still considers Auriemma the national team coach.
"It's still his job, far as I'm concerned," Bruno said. "He deserves it if he wants it. And until he actually says he doesn't want it, that's how I am going to think."
Auriemma said shortly after winning the gold medal in London that he was done. And he said this week that his instinct is still the same.
"No, I haven't given it any more thought, and I haven't had any conversation with anyone from USA Basketball about it," Auriemma said. "In my mind, my job [with the national team] ended in London. I have no idea about the direction USA Basketball intends to go and neither does Doug or anyone else."
"Maybe Carol Callan [manager of USA Basketball's women program] or Jerry Colangelo [knows], but no one has shared any information with me, Doug or Marynell [Meadors] or Jen [Gillom]. And maybe that's because they aren't in a hurry to do any of that. It's not important right now since it's [the 2016 Olympics] still so far away."