UConn's new mantra? "Shut the f–k up and win games."

Geno Auriemma wants less talking and more doing this season.

Photo: Ian Bethune

Geno Auriemma is sick of talking about the national championship.

With 11 banners to its name since 1995, UConn has set a high standard where anything short of No. 1 can feel like a disappointment. Even though the Huskies’ seven-year drought is the longest since they won their first, the coach has no hesitation about their ambitions.

“The goal is to win a national championship every year,” Auriemma said. “Everybody knows it. You don’t have to talk about it.”

Whereas legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson used to love coming up with a theme for every season — he famously called his last year with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls “The Last Dance” — Auriemma wants nothing of the sort.

“This isn't a 1970s rock band out for their 60th tour and they have to give every tour a name,” he said. “Everybody's got “Redeem Team” and everybody's got “Reload Team” and everybody's got “Unfinished Business Team” and everybody's got all this stuff going out there.”

After much consideration, he came up with something suitable for his tastes.

“How about we just shut the f—k up and win games?” he said. “How about we just do that? Maybe that’s what the tour should be: ‘Shut the f—k up and win games.’”

The team has quickly embraced the message. Auriemma said he’s already noticed a difference in the way the team is operating.

“If you just go by how committed they are right now and the intensity level and the energy level and just the vibe that's going through the building, it’s at a different level than it has been the last couple of years,” he explained.

The players are aware, too. While UConn has won 11 national titles as a program — most in Division I, men’s or women’s — nobody in the current group has reached the pinnacle. They’ve gotten to the Final Four once and made it to the national championship game in 2022, but the title drought persists.

“We're more trying to earn our respect on the court and we have to prove it,” Paige Bueckers said. “We haven't really proved anything yet since I've been here.”

Like most of the last seven years, UConn has every reason to be optimistic about its title chances. The Huskies have a strong roster built through high school recruiting (as opposed to the transfer portal) that should put them near or at the top of the nation.

“If we can stay healthy and avoid some of the pitfalls that we've had the last two years, the team that we have coming back, mixed in with the players that we've recruited that are coming in, I think we will have the best chance to win a national championship since 2016,” Auriemma said in April.

Still, all the talk about UConn’s 2023-24 campaigns comes with plenty of qualifiers. If the Huskies stay healthy. If Bueckers can re-gain her pre-injury form. If Ice Brady and Jana El Alfy are as good as advertised. If the freshmen can contribute.

With all that uncertainty, it’s no wonder Auriemma is sick of the talk. After the horrific injury luck UConn’s experienced through the last two years, nothing matters until the games are played.

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