Advertisement
  1. Sports

Diana Taurasi wants to own a WNBA team

The playing legend talks with former UConn teammate Sue Bird about their past and what lies ahead.
Diana Taurasi looks back fondly at her days at UConn, when she played some intense pick-up games with Sue Bird. Taurasi was close to committing to UCLA, but picked the Huskies so she could “beat (everyone) with this Italian dude that I like.” That would be coach Geno Auriemma.
Diana Taurasi looks back fondly at her days at UConn, when she played some intense pick-up games with Sue Bird. Taurasi was close to committing to UCLA, but picked the Huskies so she could “beat (everyone) with this Italian dude that I like.” That would be coach Geno Auriemma.
Published Apr. 29, 2020

Diana Taurasi doesn’t quite know when she’ll call it quits on her playing career, but she does have an idea of what life after basketball may entail.

The UConn and WNBA legend is interested in owning a team, Taurasi said Saturday night on an Instagram Live show hosted by former UConn teammate Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe, Bird’s girlfriend and a fixture on the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

“It’s funny. Everyone’s like, ‘Do you want to be a coach? Do you want to be a GM?’ No, I want to own it,” said Taurasi, 37. “I want to own a team!”

Taurasi’s on-court legacy — three national championships at UConn, three WNBA titles, four Olympic gold medals, becoming the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer and so much more — has earned her recognition as one of the sport’s all-time greats. But her vision of owning a team, especially as one of so few women to do so, would ensure that she continues to make an impact on the game even once her playing days are behind her.

“There comes a point where you have to take initiative in the wealth and everything you’ve built, and it’s not to be a coach, it’s not to be under anyone, and I think that’s what we do as women: We always want to be under someone,” Taurasi said. “Even the NBA, which I love, the NBA to me is not the pinnacle of all, which even to all the coaches that we’ve praised and have done amazing things, we’re always a stepping stone. I don’t want to be a stepping stone.”

In owning a team, Taurasi also hopes to buck a trend of women with means not putting their money behind women’s sports, something she sees as particularly problematic considering people have historically under-invested in women’s sports. Rapinoe, who has been at the forefront of the USWNT’s lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay, added that women’s sports thrive when given such backing.

“Where are the rich women?” Taurasi said. “I’m so disappointed in the women that have a lot of money … where are the women with a lot of money who want to invest in women’s basketball? Sometimes you invest in things that don’t make money that you want to make better.”

Here are some of the other highlights of Taurasi’s Instagram Live appearance, which lasted four hours.

•••

Taurasi and Bird were expected to play in their fifth and final Olympics this summer in Tokyo before the coronavirus pandemic worsened and the Games were postponed a year.

The dynamic duo was on the same page regarding their participation in 2021: They’d love to play but want Team USA to put together the best group of players with a chance to win, even if that doesn’t include themselves.

“I’m realistic,” Taurasi said. “If I’m not good enough, I should not be on the team. You should put together the team that has the best chance to win. … If you don’t think I’m (part of) that, if you don’t think I can give you that, then I’m out. I’m cool.

“Not that I don’t care. I’ve played in four Olympics. I’m grateful for that. I don’t want to be greedy. But at the same time (I want to play).”

Taurasi and Bird, who will turn 40 in October, are coming off some recent injury issues, the former missing most of the 2019 WNBA season and some recent USA Basketball commitments due to back and hamstring ailments and the latter sitting out the 2019 season following a knee surgery.

“If I’m healthy, if I can play at an elite level, if they ask me (I’d play),” Bird added. “Those are three things that I don’t take for granted.”

•••

In discussing the recent WNBA draft class, Bird, Taurasi and Taurasi’s wife, Penny Taylor, a longtime player with the Mercury who now serves as an assistant coach, could all agree on one thing: College and professional basketball are massively different beasts, and that how someone plays in college isn’t necessarily indicative of how she’ll play in the WNBA.

Bird demonstrated this by asking Taurasi a simple question: Outside of the NCAA Tournament, how many games her senior year at UConn were WNBA caliber?

“None,” Taurasi said emphatically, “and that’s why I’m mad, I should’ve dropped 30 against Providence every time.”

The two briefly reflected back on their time at UConn, referring to some intense pick-up games they took part in and Taurasi bringing up a recent essay written by former UConn player Ben Gordon about his mental health struggles. Taurasi said she and Gordon used to shoot together all the time and were good friends while in Storrs.

“How sad was the Ben Gordon story? I felt so bad,” Taurasi said. “That wall he hit, we all hit. He’s not alone in that wall.”

“That’s why it’s so good he told it the way he did, because he was so honest,” Taylor added. “I thought it was amazing.”

Taurasi discussed how she almost committed to UCLA but instead ended up going to UConn to “beat (everyone) with this Italian dude that I like,” Geno Auriemma.

“I love Coach, man,” Taurasi said. “Coach is awesome.”

In typical Taurasi fashion, she followed up that statement with a friendly jab.

“Do you think Coach was happy the tournament didn’t happen?” Taurasi joked. “He was (probably) like, ‘we got Paige (Bueckers) (next year) … I’m good.’ ”

Bueckers is the No. 1 recruit of the 2020 class.