Jen Rizzotti had just finished talking to reporters about Hartford's extraordinary pregame ceremony, about the Newtown massacre and was still dabbing tears from her eyes when she sat down at Chase Family Arena.
Any question was going to be easier than the ones she had just answered.
"They did not interview me or offer me the job," Rizzotti said Saturday after the Hawks' 102-45 loss to No. 2 UConn. "I have been friends with [general manager] Chris Sienko a long time. I had the conversation with Chris, not after they fired Mike, not before they did, just in general. I had the conversation before it ever happened, so it wouldn't come to that.
"I did the games for them this summer [on CPTV]. I've gotten to at least one of their games every year. So the question comes up periodically. Would you coach in the WNBA? I've had the conversation with Chris about coaching in the WNBA, not specific to the Sun. But, obviously, I'm sure he's asking for that reason."
Sienko was the general manager of the New England Blizzard in the ABL back in the 1990s. Rizzotti played guard for the Blizzard. Their friendship dates back a decade and a half.
So what did you tell your friend?
"I told him I'm not ruling it out [forever], but right now I don't want to coach in professional basketball," Rizzotti said. "I'm really happy here at Hartford. There's not a lot I'd give it up for. I love what I do. I love where I work. I love the kids."
After talking about the Newtown youngsters who stood with the UConn-UHart players for a minute of silence while chimes sounded 26 times, Rizzotti's tears had dried. She was ready to laugh.
"Look, I'm not ready to be in a professional atmosphere with adult women," Rizzotti said. "Believe me, there really is a big difference from kids that you recruit and have a relationship with."
Reached by phone, Sienko said from the long list of applicants the team met with eight candidates and is in the process of narrowing the number. He would like to have a decision by early January. Sienko would not name the eight. He did say they all have been involved in women's basketball. There will be no men's game wild card like Thibault was in 2003. No Phil Jackson. No Jim Calhoun. No Charles Barkley.
"Jen is not among those eight," Sienko said. "She is not one we spoke with."
The core Sun players are said to be less than thrilled with Thibault's firing, yet those same players also have to face the fact that they are in position to win a championship the franchise never won during Thibault's decadelong reign. The situation reminds me a little of when the Yankees turned from Buck Showalter. He's a brilliant baseball mind. The Yankees thought they could win it all. They turned to Joe Torre. He was mocked in some places, called "Clueless Joe." Four World Series championships later, he was St. Joe.
There might be a veteran women's coach, who may not be better than Thibault, but may find those championship keys with a different voice. Dan Hughes? Brian Agler? John Whisenant? Even Van Chancellor? Sienko refused comment when asked if, with the permission of teams, he had met with anybody under contract.
"I'm not privy to any conversations," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't know if the Mohegan people asked Jen or not, but I'm sure they've thought about it. It's just natural. Jen's turned down a lot of great opportunities [including Boston College] to stay at UHart. I don't know what her timetable is, but I'll tell you one thing. She's pretty bright."
It seems like only yesterday Rizzotti pulled off that magical crossover dribble against Tennessee for Auriemma's first national championship. It's incredible to look down and see Rizzotti is in her 14th season at UHart. She has led the Hawks to six trips to the NCAA Tournament. She has coached national elite age-group teams. Those familiar hugs with a number of the UConn players in the postgame handshake line give testament to that.
It's hard to envision UConn not giving Rizzotti the job to replace Auriemma. She has the right stuff on so many levels. Yet it's also hard to say how long Auriemma, 58, will coach. Geno's getting a new five-year deal. He's not going anywhere other than the Final Four any time soon. So one question that can be ask is this: If UConn is a decade down the line, is Hartford a big enough stage for Rizzotti to automatically land a premier job at, say, Stanford, Tennessee, Duke, etc., in the foreseeable future?
"I hope so," Rizzotti said. "That's a risk I take.
"As far as the WNBA, I have two little kids [she and husband Bill Sullivan have two boys, 7 and 4]. I'm not giving up my summers to coach basketball when I love what I do here. I work for a great boss. I make a great salary. I get to be busy when my kids are in school and have my down time when they are not. Lifestyle-wise, this is what I want right now. I don't want to be flying all around the country, watching college games, my entire summer taken up in the gym.
"I don't know what the long-term security of the league is. It's just not a risk I'd be willing to take for something I not really passionate about. I have told Chris and other people who have asked I'd never rule it out. I am somebody who wants a challenge. If it ever came to needing to something different, that would be a way to get it. But at this point in my career and my personal life, it's not something I'm interested in at all."
It was fascinating to hear Rizzotti talk about UConn in the postgame news conference. She's blunter, more specific than other coaches who face the Huskies. She's less with the platitudes and more with the attitude.
On if this is the most dynamic UConn offense she has seen: "I think they will be close. The Tina-Maya-Renee team and Sue Bird and those guys team, they were able to do this to everybody. When I watched UConn on film against big, physical teams, they can't do what they did to us today. You can also see what Geno is trying to get to, the sets they're in, the flow he's trying to create. I can see it coming. I think they have some work to do."
On Breanna Stewart, Rizzotti said, "She's a dynamic offensive player. We don't have the athlete to make her miserable. We saw the physical games against Penn State and Maryland how she struggled when teams really, really bogged her up."
On Kelly Faris: "She is one of the most special players that has come through the program. She literally [does everything] until her team gets up 30, then she passes up every open shot. She gets it. She's so competitive. She's dying to play Alyssa Thomas and Maggie Lucas. She's also a great kid. She'll still play hard on defense, but she doesn't want to rub it in. She wants to play basketball the way it's supposed to be played."
Auriemma coached the Olympics. He won the gold medal. He knows the difference between coaching a college freshman and a 10-year pro.
"It's all about impact," Auriemma said. "In college, you have 18-year-olds, they're really impressionable. At the end of the day you feel like you've impacted their lives. When you go to coach pros you're managing people. Here you're trying to help people grow. In the pros, they're not interested in you growing them. They're interested in you helping them win games and make money."