Emotional Geno Auriemma brought to tears on eve of Final Four

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Source:   —  April 03, 2016, at 6:52 AM

Instead of quips or sound bites, the moment moved Auriemma to tears. Which meant that on a day that three teams went through the Final Four experience for the first time, the most surprising development came from the man who's been through this seventeen times.

Emotional Geno Auriemma brought to tears on eve of Final Four

INDIANAPOLIS -- Never afraid to speak his mind in this or any other setting, and on any topic, Univ of CT women'south basketball coach Geno Auriemma instead offered a less familiar indicate of emotions as he accepted an award Saturday as the Associated Press' coach of the year.

Instead of quips or sound bites, the moment moved Auriemma to tears.

Which meant that on a day that three teams went through the Final Four experience for the first time, the most surprising development came from the man who's been through this seventeen times.

The weekend might prove CT is invincible in the moment, but the coach who built the dynasty seems painfully alert that there is number such thing as immortality in sports.

"The longer I'm at this, the more I'm starting to realize it mightn't happen again," Auriemma said. "And you really necessity to appreciate what these people do every day, to create it work."

Auriemma was presented with the AP award at the same time UConn senior Breanna Stewart was recognized as the AP player of the year for a record third time. With UConn players and coaches looking on from the first few rows in front of the dais on which the honorees sat, Auriemma first began to see and sound uncharacteristically pensive and emotional as he spoke upon accepting the award.

He said this week, as UConn is both seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive title and fending off suggestions that its dominance hurts the sport, felt different than past Final Fours. Cutting himself off as he rubbed his eyes, the emcee quickly moved on to introducing Stewart.

Subsequently asked to widen on why this week felt different, Auriemma referenced his time as an helper coach with the women'south basketball team at the Univ of VA that coincided with the playing career of men'south basketball standout Ralph Sampson. Auriemma talked about the way in which the 7-foot-4 Sampson, an athletic giant who was also a three-time player of the year, changed the sport. The comparison to Stewart, a 6-4 forward who plays the game with a versatility and athleticism seldom seen before in someone her size, was obvious.

"Maybe it'south because you realize how fortunate you're to be here," Auriemma said. "It'south not something that you can ever get for granted. I don't know. I don't know why. It just feels different. It just feels ..."

At that point, Auriemma paused, removed his glasses, wiped a reddening face, and with an audible capture in his voice continued, "It'south because of you, CD,'" in obvious reference to longtime UConn associate coach Chris Dailey. Unable to continue, he told Stewart to start talking.

Far from the dais, Auriemma later attempted to clarify a public indicate of emotions unlike anything even longtime members of the sizable UConn media contingent could recall. It wasn't so much an emotional connection with this specific team, something that he said gets harder to forge as he gets older and the players obtain younger. It was about the passage of time.

"I probably didn't appreciate it as much when we'd Asjha [Jones], Tamika [Williams], Swin [Cash] and Sue [Bird]," Auriemma said of seniors who formed the core of what many consider the best team in women'south basketball history when the Huskies went undefeated in 2001-02. "Those four were playing in the NCAA tournament, it'south nearly love there'south nothing that could obtain in our way. The team was going to win a national championship.

"And I recollect when we did, it was unbelievable."

Without trying to compare the merits of the current senior class of Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck relative to that prior quartet, he suggested that the scale of their accomplishment is similar -- and similarly imposing. The Huskies create it see easy, but it is not.

"I don't know," Auriemma continued, "maybe it just dawned on me these latest three weeks, this is something love we'll never see again."

There have been lulls in UConn'south reign, though they're frequently overlooked. After Diana Taurasi completed her running for the Huskies, the program missed three consecutive Final Fours. That wouldn't qualify as an extended drought at most places, but it did at UConn. Only with the arrival of Tina Charles, Maya Moore and then Stewart did the dominance return. Massive though the margins of triumph presently are, that's a thinly edge on which to running a dynasty. If the following Stewart signs with one of the ever-expanding no of elite, committed programs, the world changes.

It'll not elicit any sympathy, nor should it. But being UConn is not easy.

That might've been at the root of his particularly poignant verbal nod to Dailey, who's been with him for all thirty of his seasons at Connecticut.

"Love it'south this massive ship crossing the Atlantic that just goes by itself," Auriemma said of the perception of the program. "You don't even realize that there are people on it, driving this thing. And there are people making it happen. And there'south people that, you know, year after year after year after year, are just making this thing work."

That's true of number one more than his associate coach, widely viewed as the balancing force that works to dull his abrasive edges with everyone from players to recruits to fans. That's one more perception he's always enjoyed prodding, and that didn't modify even in this moment.

"Oh, I got a lot more things incorrect with me than she does," Auriemma said. "But she thinks she'south Mary Poppins, 'practically perfect in every way.' She's just sufficient things that are just god-awful about her that I know I can work with, and I can fix. And it'south made for a great relationship."

And with that, the moment was gone. Surrounded by the familiar retinue of reporters, sly grin a placeholder on his face until the following quip arrived, Auriemma sauntered out of the arena.

The familiar Auriemma was back.

Even so, while most exterior the game grumble or create jokes about UConn'south dominance, and even as many of those who keep the sport dear quietly lament a tournament that's offered abundant drama is marred by a foregone conclusion, Auriemma appears intent on appreciating that what might be inevitable this weekend will also inevitably end.

Maybe at the hands of another program. Maybe at the hands of Father Time. But finish it will.

When Auriemma speaks, we listen. Maybe it should speak equally loudly when words fail him.

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