John Adams: Knoxville a big part of Geno Auriemma legacy

John Adams
SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee women’s basketball coach Holly Warlick, right,  greets Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma at the East Tennessee Historical Center on Saturday during a fundraiser for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Photo by Saul Young, 2013 Knoxville News Sentinel

SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee women’s basketball coach Holly Warlick, right, greets Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma at the East Tennessee Historical Center on Saturday during a fundraiser for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Tennessee and Connecticut coaches smiled, hugged and agreed to play again next year in Tennessee.

But don’t get the wrong idea. The most famous series in women’s basketball isn’t scheduled for a renewal.

UT coach Holly Warlick and UConn coach Geno Auriemma were just responding to a question about how much they would like to meet again next April in Nashville, site of the Final Four.

Naturally, the collective response was something like: “That would be great.”

The programs haven’t played since 2007 when former UT coach Pat Summitt, miffed over UConn’s recruiting tactics, canceled the series. However, Warlick and Auriemma seemed genuinely happy to see each other here Saturday as they co-hosted a reception to raise funds for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Auriemma also was here on behalf of former UConn point guard Jennifer Rizzotti, one of the six new hall of fame inductees. It was the first time they had been together in Knoxville in 17 years.

There was enough time in between for a dynasty.

Their first visit was significant, too. UConn handed Tennessee its first home-court loss in five years.

But neither that victory nor the Huskies’ win over UT a year earlier in the national championship game

prepared you for what was coming.

Auriemma has since won seven more national titles to tie Summitt’s record eight.

“To win the national championship, then to come down here after Rebecca (Lobo) had graduated — for us to win that game down here after they had won like 69 in a row (on their home floor) — the initial reaction was ‘if you can do that, you can do a lot of things.’

“We knew we were good and we knew we were gonna be good, but we never envisioned it would get to this point.”

It has come to this: seven national championships in 14 years and a 282-22 record for the past eight seasons. Along the way, Connecticut has surpassed Tennessee as the sport’s marquee program, and Auriemma has achieved almost Summitt-like status.

In the midst of their heated rivalry, much was made of the differences between the two. Similarities also are apparent, though.

Chattanooga coach Jim Foster, another hall of fame inductee, coached against Summitt at Vanderbilt and gave Auriemma his first college coaching job, as a Saint Joseph’s assistant.

“Both have an attention to detail,” Foster said. “Both are thoroughly confident in their way of play.

“They’re very similar in that they’re comfortable in the big moments. A lot of coaches aren’t as comfortable in that environment.”

Rizzotti, who now coaches Hartford, sees another similarity.

“What struck me about them is the standard they held their players to as people and competitors,” she said. “Different players go to UConn than Tennessee. But as far as the discipline they’re learning and the life skills they’re learning, there are a lot of the same qualities being taught.”

They’re also taught something about winning. Summitt won 1,098 games in 38 seasons; Auriemma, 839 in 28 seasons.

UConn will be favored to win back-to-back national titles next season. UT should be a consensus top-four pick.

Both programs going for a ninth national championship in Nashville would make for a great reunion.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 26

BigVolinCarolina writes:

“What struck me about them is the standard they held their players to as people and competitors,” she said. “Different players go to UConn than Tennessee."

In the past, I have heard statements similar to this. But, what is someone really saying when they say "different players go to UConn than Tennessee"? Both are successful women's programs, so what is being indirectly said here?

orangecountyvols writes:

Whatever happens with regard to the success of both U Conn and Tennessee goring forward will be interesting.

Auriemma may well want to count his blessings and be grateful for good health......and not subjected to a condition similar to that which has befallen the icon to whom he is chasing, and is no longer on the bench.

Many of the players for the 2 schools tend to take on the personalities of the coaches ( past and present ) of these institutions.

fratricide08 writes:

Bittersweet, simply because it's a reminder of what we've lost -- not just a coach but an icon and yes, a role model, for women and men in all fields.

I'm no Geno fan but Summitt and Auriemma were Bear Bryant and Gen. Neyland or perhaps the Neyland and Knute Rockne of women's basketball despite Geno being more of an upstart and Summitt serving another role as the builder of women's basketball for every program -- she put it on the map and then some.

Summitt arguably ranks in the top 5 of any all-sport coaching list and would be at the top of mine because she did so much more than just win games. It's heartbreaking things ended for Summitt too soon and that fact really did seem to hit Geno hard and definitely changed him as well as things between them. His sincerity when that happened wasn't something I expected.

As a Vol fan, I hope it's our own Coach Warlick who carries the banner forward but Coach Auriemma has a permanent place in history as well.

ALL_VOL75 writes:

Auriemma can win the next 20 NCAA Championships and he'll never get close to being the class of person Coach Summitt is. The hall of fame is in Knoxville for a reason...and Geno isn't it.

rbwtn writes:

If we don't play each other we can beat each other.

volfan2002 writes:

Coaching is about getting players and UConn has been able to get more talented players than Tennessee has over the last ten years. There has been some questionable recruiting tactics used to accomplish this so in that regard UConn and Auriemma have made winning their priority doing whatever needed to be done to accomplish that objective. I expect him to win several more titles no way you shouldn't when you get the number one player almost every year.

beartn#223846 writes:

<<What struck me about them is the standard they held their players to as people and competitors,” she said. “Different players go to UConn than Tennessee."

In the past, I have heard statements similar to this. But, what is someone really saying when they say "different players go to UConn than Tennessee"? Both are successful women's programs, so what is being indirectly said here?>>

I didn't read a backhanded compliment here. It could be a simple as they are literally different players, since they are different people. It could also mean that the two teams play different styles of basketball, so players go to the system that's the best fit for them. I think she was just trying to make the point that both coaches have high expectations of their players off the court as well as on the court.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to volfan2002:

Coaching is about getting players and UConn has been able to get more talented players than Tennessee has over the last ten years. There has been some questionable recruiting tactics used to accomplish this so in that regard UConn and Auriemma have made winning their priority doing whatever needed to be done to accomplish that objective. I expect him to win several more titles no way you shouldn't when you get the number one player almost every year.

No question Geno gets more of the best talent on the most regular basis than any other program these days. But it can't be said that he wastes it. His coaching prowess is beyond reasonable dispute. His teams play well and hard nearly every minute of every game. Most of his ex-players seem every bit as respectful and grateful toward him as Pat's do to her. I'll grant you that some aspects of his personality are a taste I have yet to acquire, but he is one of the best there ever was between the lines. So is Pat, and she was first.

cheetah-vol writes:

Not sure why KNS chose that picture of the two of them. I can't tell if Holly is asking Geno to calm down or to just STFU.

arkyvol writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

“What struck me about them is the standard they held their players to as people and competitors,” she said. “Different players go to UConn than Tennessee."

In the past, I have heard statements similar to this. But, what is someone really saying when they say "different players go to UConn than Tennessee"? Both are successful women's programs, so what is being indirectly said here?

another variation on the frayed big ten theme (the sec is a collection of third rate schools). foster is still ticked at the way pat consistently handed him his butt.

madrigal writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

“What struck me about them is the standard they held their players to as people and competitors,” she said. “Different players go to UConn than Tennessee."

In the past, I have heard statements similar to this. But, what is someone really saying when they say "different players go to UConn than Tennessee"? Both are successful women's programs, so what is being indirectly said here?

I think it has more to do with style of play than anything else. UConn has always depended on its very physical post game, while UT has been a speedier team even with big inside players. If a girl tends to play one way, she'll get more looks from UT, but if she plays a different style, she'll appeal more to Geno. I don't think there was anything sinister about the comment.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

No question Geno gets more of the best talent on the most regular basis than any other program these days. But it can't be said that he wastes it. His coaching prowess is beyond reasonable dispute. His teams play well and hard nearly every minute of every game. Most of his ex-players seem every bit as respectful and grateful toward him as Pat's do to her. I'll grant you that some aspects of his personality are a taste I have yet to acquire, but he is one of the best there ever was between the lines. So is Pat, and she was first.

He's got a nice head of hair.

SevenT writes:

in response to volfan2002:

Coaching is about getting players and UConn has been able to get more talented players than Tennessee has over the last ten years. There has been some questionable recruiting tactics used to accomplish this so in that regard UConn and Auriemma have made winning their priority doing whatever needed to be done to accomplish that objective. I expect him to win several more titles no way you shouldn't when you get the number one player almost every year.

Quit beating around the bush, everyone who follows sports knows Gino used anti-gay, pro family values recruiting against the Vols. That is why Summitt dropped the annual game against UConn.

mikeypanic writes:

geno owns pat but none of the dumb sheep around here will admit it

lstbodeanvol writes:

who cares about Dino Diarreaha oh yeah John Adams and mike in ucant

jjk writes:

I think whatever bad blood there was to discontinue the series needs to be cleaned up, and the teams should start playing again. I've heard that Pat discontinued the series because she was mad she didn't get Maya Moore and Geno did. She wanted to pair Moore and Candace Parker together in another torch passing after Parker graduated. Moore also apparently took an ESPN tour paid for by UConn, and the NCAA did nothing about it. Who knows if any of it is true, but the bottom line is they need to start playing again. Period.

volman2008 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

No question Geno gets more of the best talent on the most regular basis than any other program these days. But it can't be said that he wastes it. His coaching prowess is beyond reasonable dispute. His teams play well and hard nearly every minute of every game. Most of his ex-players seem every bit as respectful and grateful toward him as Pat's do to her. I'll grant you that some aspects of his personality are a taste I have yet to acquire, but he is one of the best there ever was between the lines. So is Pat, and she was first.

Pat made Geno,he did not make Pat.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to volman2008:

Pat made Geno,he did not make Pat.

That's what I sorta said at the end. I was just countering what I consider to be an automatic, emotion-driven urge on the part of some to dis Geno's coaching prowess because they don't like what they think they know about him as a recruiter, coach, or human being. Right now, he is the standard for coaching excellence in women's college basketball based on consistently-excellent on-court performance by his teams. I am no friend of Geno. I feel some of the same distate many Vols fans feel for him on a more personal level. But it just can't be said, with any claim for telling the truth, that he can't coach.

orangecountyvols writes:

We don't doubt the fact that Auriemma does bring in the talent, and it is a certain style and type of player that works well for him.

Having said that, yes........he did claim the N C this year. Before that took place, there was another coach named Muffin who took him behind the woodshed..........3 as in THREE times.

Read Pat's book and decide for yourself what a
nice, 'classy' guy he is.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

We don't doubt the fact that Auriemma does bring in the talent, and it is a certain style and type of player that works well for him.

Having said that, yes........he did claim the N C this year. Before that took place, there was another coach named Muffin who took him behind the woodshed..........3 as in THREE times.

Read Pat's book and decide for yourself what a
nice, 'classy' guy he is.

If you were replying to me, I have read Pat's book. I don't think I ever used the word "classy" to describe him. Lots of people who are really good at one thing are despicable human beings. The fact that some may think Geno is such a one shouldn't detract from what he does that makes him famous enough that we even care what kind of person he is.

orangecountyvols writes:

John,

I wasn't replying to you. I did read the book, and by mentioning that Geno was a 'classy' guy, I meant anything but.

The language he uses with his players is perhaps why some of them come across as they do ( hence the lip reading of Taurasi as she came down court against Tennessee in one of our past games.)

Also, Rizzoti, being inducted into the hall of fame came across with a fairly tacky, indirect shot at Tennessee. Again, that's how she was taught.

cobragolfer writes:

Geno ... 10 fewer years coaching and still equals Pat's National Championships. In 10 more years, he'll have at least 3 more. As far as a UT-UCONN matchup next year, it won't be at the Final 4... the Lady Vols will never make it that far.

Damitman writes:

Geno, like some of his fans who can't seem to get enough of this sight, has no class. Pat is the standard barrer for all coaches and Geno will never be in the same class.His players reflect his attitude toward the game and anyone associated with it.

ModelMaker writes:

in response to johnlg00:

No question Geno gets more of the best talent on the most regular basis than any other program these days. But it can't be said that he wastes it. His coaching prowess is beyond reasonable dispute. His teams play well and hard nearly every minute of every game. Most of his ex-players seem every bit as respectful and grateful toward him as Pat's do to her. I'll grant you that some aspects of his personality are a taste I have yet to acquire, but he is one of the best there ever was between the lines. So is Pat, and she was first.

I agree with you. But ya know, that's the way I like it. If we play them and beat them it would be a tremendous accomplishment. You better bring your A game to do it and you better be right mentally. That's what Pat was good at, getting her team right mentally. Pat was a tough women that never backed down from anyone and she passed that on to her players. I am hoping Holly will be able to do that with her team but that remains to be seen.

coach777b writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

“What struck me about them is the standard they held their players to as people and competitors,” she said. “Different players go to UConn than Tennessee."

In the past, I have heard statements similar to this. But, what is someone really saying when they say "different players go to UConn than Tennessee"? Both are successful women's programs, so what is being indirectly said here?

"Different players go to UCONN than Tennessee."
As a basketball fan, especially in NC, you should be able to see the player profile for each team is totally different. Has there been any player at UCONN with the persona of Holdsclaw? Has there been any TENN player with the persona of Stephanie Dolson. Geno will not recruit players with visible tattoos. A coach's personal view and perogative.
The only two players who were interchangeable for both teams Candance Parker and Maya Moore. Both teams went after both players. TENN won one, UCONN won one. Thus the 'big breakup' and the end (temporary?), of one of basketball's premier rivalries. There is a difference but that's not a bad thing.

coach777b writes:

in response to volfan2002:

Coaching is about getting players and UConn has been able to get more talented players than Tennessee has over the last ten years. There has been some questionable recruiting tactics used to accomplish this so in that regard UConn and Auriemma have made winning their priority doing whatever needed to be done to accomplish that objective. I expect him to win several more titles no way you shouldn't when you get the number one player almost every year.

"There has been some questionable recruiting tactics used to accomplish this..."
I'm confused volfan2002. Could you name the "questionable" recruiting practices. Who were the specific players involved? What sanctions were imposed by the NCAA as a result? As for the number one player each year, going to UCONN, WHAT FORCED THEM TO MAKE THAT CHOICE? Who held a gun to their heads? Or their parents? As far as I know, these players go to UCONN because the admire the program, the coaches, the academics and the treatment they receive. So please elaborate on your charges.

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