1. What made you decide to become a journalist? More specifically, a sports journalist?
When I was 20 years old, a college junior, I weighed about 250 pounds and worked at Stop and Shop in Stratford. I had been working there since my 16th birthday because all Italian teenagers, especially the chubby ones, at one point in their lives, work in a grocery store.
One day, a jar of pickles – I believe they were dill pickles – broke in the aisle and my boss asked me to clean it up. I didn’t want to. I don’t like pickles much.
It was precisely at that point that I decided I wanted to be a sportswriter. So I turned in my orange smock and became an intern at the New Haven Register. So everytime you eat a pickle, think of me.
2. Did you have any journalists that you looked up to in the past, or currently?Brian Williams, Larry King, one of those icons of our pop culture?
There was a sports columnist at the Boston Globe named Leigh Montville, who, ironically, went to high school at Notre Dame of West Haven and college at UConn. This man spun miracles with words, blending humor with information.
I thought to myself, ‘I would like to be just like him someday.’ Leigh Montville went on to work for Sports Illustrated and write great books. I didn’t – at least not yet. But I have been to Boston.
3. What are some of your favorite moments while covering sports? Doesn’t have to be from Dad’s team (although you’d earn brownie points).
I could tell a joke here and say one of my favorite moments in sports came this year when Big Bubba’s at Mohegan Sun began catering the pregame meals at Connecticut Sun games.
But there have been others:
Covering David Cone’s perfect game at Yankee Stadium; traveling with the Hartford Whalers for four years; covering nine Super Bowls; the 1986 National League Championship series between the Mets and the Astros; seeing the United States on the corporate dime; being able to stay connected with sports and meet the all-time greats in the four major sports and college.
Having the opportunity to cover women’s basketball for a newspaper and in a state that respects it has been greatly satisfying. Seeing a team go 39-0 was very, very cool. Thanks to your Dad, I saw Las Vegas, St. Thomas and Cancun for the first time. I met my first president and strolled the Rose Garden. Of course, I also been to Ruston, La., Morgantown, W.Va., and Seton Hall.
You can’t always get what you want. . .
4. What do you REALLY think of my dad when he starts mouthing off in the press room? Is it “Oh God, here he goes” or “YES, a great quote”?
Coach Auriemma – your dad – is a sportswriter’s dream. When he’s in a good mood, and he usually is, he has an uncanny way of understanding what it is we need and how to send it – special delivery. He is funny, smart and insightful and we appreciate that he’s also a wiseass because why should sportswriters get all the credit for being sarcastic and insulting?
Personally, I can not wait for him to begin entertaining the international press corps in London in 2012. I can just see the Italian journalists, cigarettes dangling from their lips, looking at him and thinking, ‘Madonna, Geno? Bello!”
Oh, we’ve had our problems over the years. I usually know when he’s mad at me about something because, uh, he’ll tell me. And we’ll go at each other for a few days because I know I’m right and he’s not. And then we make up.
It’s hard not to like him – even if he doesn’t always return phone calls.
5. Do you have a favorite player from the team, past or present? It can be based on anything-personality on/off the court, skill level, dedication to the sport, whether or not they smiled at you once, anything!
I love Maya Moore for many reasons. too numerous to mention here, but I will try: Smart, respectful, patient, mature, talented and funny. Plus, when she sees me, she calls me ‘John’, which not many players do. Why is that, Ally? We basically live with these kids for four years. Do they not know our names? This summer, I saw an unnamed ex-Husky at a WNBA game who I’d written a million stories about and she said, ‘Hi, Joe.’ Grrrrumph.
Other favs (from team’s I’ve actually covered): Sue Bird, Sveta, Asjha, Tamika Williams, Shea Ralph, Heather Buck, Kalana and Stacy Hansmeyer.
6. What’s with the love of musicals? Did you have a secret desire to play Albin in La Cage aux Folles and it backfired?
Albin? What if I did, Ally? Not that there’s anything wrong with it? No, not at all.
The reason I love musicals is the same reason I love high-level sports; I love to be in presence of people who do things better than anyone else in the world.
I have a daughter, much like you in every imaginable way, who also wants to sing on stage and that is what first attracted me to Broadway. LeBron James has nothing on Brian Stokes-Mitchell. Sutton Foster is Diana Taurasi. Now, I am hooked.
Look, I’m just a little off center in many ways. I wear ties and jackets and pocket silks to games. Sometimes I my shirts and ties are purple, orange, pink even.
Another opening, another show? I’m there, Lilli Vanessi!
7. What’s your favorite musical of all time?
What a tough question! That’s like asking me what my favorite kind of macaroni is; penne, rotelle, spaghetti, shells, rigatoni, fettucine?
There are many: Ragtime, Beauty and the Beast, Les Miz, The Lion King, Aida, The Drowsy Chaperone, Wicked, Guys and Dolls, Spring Awakening…..
I will never, ever again sit through Miss Saigon, however.
8. How did you get your blog? Was it your idea or the Courant’s?
Frankly, I still don’t know what a blog is. Does anyone really know? Who has all this time? I know it wasn’t my idea, so it must have been the Courant’s. I like to think that they gave me a blog because of my enormous talent, great humor, sense of style. But I think it’s only because I cover women’s basketball.
9. What are the chances we’ll be seeing a “Real Life in the Press Room” novella from you any time soon?
If you write it, we’ll do it. I have a short attention span.
Believe me, our lives are not that interesting, unless you think eating cold pizza at midnight in February at Gampel Pavilion is a slice of life!
I would like to write a book about UConn women’s basketball. If you know anyone who can make it happen, let me know.
10. If you could ask my dad any question under the sun, what would it be? And be warned: It can be a question that you know he won’t answer, but you ask it anyway because you feel lucky that day.
First of all, thank you for clearing this with your dad.
I’d like to know how he finds the time to satisfy every demand made of him. I’d like to know what he sees that other coaches don’t. I’d like to know where he gets his clothes and what his favorite wine is.
And, because I am human, I’d like to know what he thinks of me, personally and professionally, whether he respects my work, trusts my judgment. I know that’s not important to many of my peers, but it is to me.
There are times – and we’ve talked about this before – when I need to write things he does not care for or agree with. I might be wrong, come to false conclusions, follow shady paths.
It’s never personal.