NOTRE DAME coach Muffet McGraw compared the experience to a game against the Miami Heat. "I thought they were just missing LeBron," she said after UConn defeated the Irish 79--58 in the NCAA basketball championship. It was the ninth national title for UConn and coach Geno Auriemma, one more than former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and the most in Division I women's basketball history. SI caught up with the 60-year-old Auriemma three days after he won title number nine.
RDYou were particularly emotional after this year's championship. Why?
GA I can't put my finger on it. The buildup all season long was how we were destined to get there, but we had dealt with that before. Then there was the notion that we would play Notre Dame because of how well they had played all year. When it finally did come, I guess I just understood how hard it is for this to actually take place, for the outcome that you want, given how many things can go wrong. Maybe it was the two seniors [Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley] and how special they are. Or maybe I'm just getting old. I have no idea.
RDWhat mementos do you keep from the nine titles?
GA They always give you a ring, but I've never worn one. They also give you watches, and I don't know where they are. I don't have any basketball stuff at the house, but at my office I have pictures of every national championship team. That's what we bring back.
RDWhat goals are left for you professionally?
GA I don't know, I really don't. I have never been a goal-setter. Maybe that's why I didn't get a lot of A's in school. I just take a look at what is in front of me, and I try to do that.
RDHow often do you and UConn men's coach Kevin Ollie talk?
GA We play golf, talk a lot and spend time together. Obviously I am much older than he is, and I've been coaching a long time and he is much newer at it. So there is a lot that we get from each other. I like to ask about how things are done in the NBA, and he likes to ask about how you handle being in the NCAA tournament. To me, it's a normal relationship at a great school that is trying to win a national championship. I love the guy. He is genuine; he's honest, hardworking, enthusiastic, passionate. I enjoy his company.
RD Who is the one men's player you wish you could have coached and why?
GA The player I wish I could coach and who I wanted to be like growing up was Walt Frazier with the Knicks. He embodied everything as a kid I wanted to be. He was one of the best offensive players in the NBA. He was one of the best defensive players in the NBA. He was a winner. He had a life off the floor that was the kind of life that makes you go, 'Damn, I wish I could be Clyde.'
RD Your program is on the line. Which UConn player takes the three-pointer to win?
GA Probably the one that made the most in her career when she was here—Diana Taurasi.
RD Same question, but it's now a 15-footer to win?
GA Sue bird.
RD Same question, but you need a free throw?
GA I'd probably go Maya Moore.
RDYou know you will be No. 1 going into next season, right?
GA We're losing two All-Americans, man.
RDTrue, but you will be No. 1.
GA Can't we be the underdog once in a while?
RDWhat do you tell your players when they start seeing the hype again?
GA We, as coaches, always talk out of both sides of our mouth. So to you and any other media that asks, I am going to say, 'You have to be kidding me? We just lost two All-Americans, two of the best players ever to play at Connecticut and you are telling me we are not going to miss a beat? You guys are out of your minds.' Then I walk into our locker room and say, 'Yo, guys, we are going to be preseason No. 1 and anyone who does not vote us preseason No. 1, we are going to kick their asses because this is Connecticut and we better be preseason No. 1." You play both angles depending on your audience. But I think if you come to Connecticut, that is always the expectation.
"I've never been a goal-setter," says Auriemma. "I just look at what's in front of me, and I try to do that."
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