women’s basketball Auriemma on reaching another Final Four: ‘We can’t take these moments for granted.’
Amid all the confetti and joyful bearhugs that followed another Elite Eight triumph for UConn — a grueling, high-tension 80-73 takedown of No. 1 seed Louisville — a ladder stood unoccupied below the basket nearest to the Huskies’ bench at the Times Union Center.
Geno Auriemma saw it and thought for a moment that his players might buck tradition and choose to cut down the nets.
“I said, ‘CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey), what are they going to do?’ She said they said no,” Auriemma later explained.
They instead opted for a more intimate celebration, dousing Auriemma with water as he entered the locker room.
“We had to earn all these games so far just to get in this position — just to celebrate,” guard Crystal Dangerfield said. “We can’t take these moments for granted.”
The Huskies (35-2) departed Tuesday afternoon for their 12th straight Final Four and 20th all-time — both national records. A rematch with rival Notre Dame awaits on Friday (9:30 p.m.) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.
“We’ve been in more Final Fours in a row than some conferences have been in, period,” Auriemma said. “It’s hard to wrap everything around in a nice little package and go, ‘Yeah, this is where this fits.’ It doesn’t; it doesn’t fit at all.”
It’s easy to lose sight of the process when winning becomes as routine as it has for UConn. Auriemma, who owns more titles (11) than any other college basketball coach, including the late John Wooden, believes his team’s fanbase has, in many ways, become numb to excellence.
“I do think our fan base has become spoiled,” Auriemma said Tuesday morning during a conference call with the national media. “I do think they’ve lost a sense of reality. Hopefully, this year they realize this is really hard.”
This past Saturday marked the 28th anniversary of Auriemma’s first trip to the Final Four, which the Hall of Famer admitted feels like a “lifetime ago.” The Huskies lost 61-55 to Virginia in New Orleans.
“Sometimes, I can’t believe it’s the same program,” he said. “I reminded my players in the locker room after the Louisville game, I said, I haven’t felt like this since the first Final Four in 1991. I think that was the last time I felt that feeling in the locker room.
“They looked at me: 1991? I don’t even know if their parents were born in 1991. So, yeah, things are completely different.”
Amidst another 35-win season — their 11th in 12 years — Auriemma doesn’t want anyone, including the fans, to lose perspective of the Huskies’ accomplishments.
“The fact that we’re going to 12 straight Final Fours, that shouldn’t mean that it’s easy or we should expect to be there every single year by birthright,” Auriemma said. “So, I’m glad people are reacting the way they’re reacting.”