Auriemma fires back at McGraw

Published on Tuesday, 4 January 2022 21:17
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

In a war of words between Hall of Fame women’s basketball coaches, ex-Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw uses a water pistol while UConn’s Geno Auriemma uses a rifle.

Auriemma took time out on his ESPN97.9 Coaches Show with Bob Joyce Monday to verbally shoot down McGraw after her criticism on a podcast last month that there’s a UConn bias at ESPN and in the women’s basketball media.

“I just think it’s interesting when people say there’s a bias between us and ESPN,” Auriemma said. “I’m just glad we don’t go 30 years between winning championships so maybe NBC ought to help them a little more.

“I guess Muffet’s bored. I guess she doesn’t have a whole lot to talk about. And usually when she was coaching, when she did talk, nobody listened anyway. So I guess she figures she’s got her platform now.”

McGraw, who retired following the Irish’s 13-18 season in 2020, spoke to Kate Fagan and Jessica Smetana on the “Off the Looking Glass” podcast and said ESPN is biased towards UConn.

The 2017 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee works as an analyst for the ESPN-run ACC Network.

“UConn has done great things and they’ve won way more than anybody else, except Tennessee,“ McGraw said. “I think people measure their team by them. When we joined the Big East, we were like, ‘We want to get to where they are. That’s what we want to be. We’re trying to emulate them.’ But I think it goes over the top with ESPN. That is Connecticut’s network. Notre Dame has NBC, Connecticut has ESPN. That is absolutely complete bias there.”

UConn has won a record 11 national championships and made 21 NCAA Final Four appearances compared to Tennessee’s eight titles and 18 national semifinal berths.

Notre Dame won the 2001 and 2018 national championships under McGraw, beating the Huskies in the semifinals both years. The Irish lost the 2014 and 2015 finals to UConn. McGraw’s record against the Huskies was 13-38 including 6-13 in NCAA and Big East postseason play.

“We’ve been on ESPN a lot,” said Auriemma, a first-ballot Naismith Hall of Fame selection in 2006. “There are a lot of other schools within proximity to ESPN. I don’t think the bias has anything to do with where ESPN is located or where UConn’s located. I think the bias has something to do, if there is any, with the 11 national championships, which is a lot more than two the last I checked. At least, I remembered that on Sesame Street.

“If people didn’t want to watch us on television, I’m sure they wouldn’t put us on. If we didn’t generate the ratings, I’m sure people wouldn’t have us on.”

UConn’s first appearance on ESPN was its 1991 NCAA East Regional final game against Clemson. The Huskies’ first regular-season game on its family of networks was their Dec. 11, 1993 game against Virginia that was shown on a tape-delayed basis. The first regular-season game live on ESPN was the 1-2 with UConn and Tennessee on Jan. 16, 1995.

The Huskies’ local rights have been held by CPTV and, since 2012, SNY. Fox Sports holds the Big East rights. UConn returned to the Big East in 2020 after seven years in the American Athleric Conference.

“I do want to thank the people at ESPN for helping us win those 111 in a row,” Auriemma said sarcastically.

“Who knows why Muffet wants to talk about this stuff?” he added. “I don’t know. I really don’t. She did make a good point. We have done some great things here. We won a lot. And she did say we won more than anybody except Tennessee. Again, I think she missed Sesame Street growing up because 11 is more than eight.”

Pause to continue?

UConn (6-3) has had three consecutive Big East games canceled due to COVID, with the last two being issues in the Huskies’ program. Wednesday’s game at Georgetown was called off Friday.

Auriemma said Monday he is not too optimistic that this Friday’s scheduled game at Villanova will be played.

“We have to see if between now and Friday if someone can be ready to go,” Auriemma said. “But the problem you run into is if someone comes off the protocols they need five days to practice before they’re going to be able to play. So it doesn’t give you much time between today and Friday.”

The Huskies would need seven players to be available for the game to go forward. Four players on their 12-player roster are injured and are unavailable.

“Throw in a couple COVID cases and, before you know it, you’re looking at five, six players,” Auriemma said.

The Huskies had hoped that sophomore Nika Muhl (foot) and freshman Azzi Fudd (foot) would be available when they returned from Christmas break. But the two guards, as well as junior forward Aubrey Griffin (back), would not have been available for any of the canceled games.

Of course, reigning national Player of the Year Paige Bueckers is out until at least February following surgery three weeks ago to repair a tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear in her left knee.

The Big East will try to reschedule the canceled games. But with three non-league games - at Oregon Jan. 17, at South Carolina Jan. 27, and home with Tennessee on Feb. 6 - it may be tough to fit in the called off games. UConn has played only one of its scheduled 20 Big East games.

Poll position

UConn remained No. 11 in the Associated Press poll for the third consecutive week.

South Carolina kept the top spot despite Thursday’s loss to unranked Missouri. The Gamecocks (13-1) received 22-of-30 first-place votes to outdistance No. 2 Stanford (9-3). No, 3 Louisville (12-1) received five first-place votes with the other three going to No. 4 Arizona (10-0). North Carolina State was fifth (12-2).

Baylor (10-3) saw its run of 137 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 end as it dropped to No. 14 following its loss to unranked Kansas State on Sunday.

Missouri (12-2) did not get into the Top 25, sharing the top spot in also receiving votes with Colorado. They were five points behind No. 25 Texas A

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Tuesday, 4 January 2022 21:17. Updated: Tuesday, 4 January 2022 21:19.