Auriemma, UConn blast into record book
Huskies coach equals legendary Summitt's mark for most titles
NEW ORLEANS -- Connecticut and Geno Auriemma collected their eighth NCAA Championship trophy on Tuesday night after dominating Louisville, 93-60.
With the victory, Connecticut (35-4) maintained its flawless record in national championship games, while Auriemma tied former Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt for most titles.
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The historical significance was not lost on Auriemma.
"The fact I tied Pat Summitt's record - that puts you in a category with the greatest women's basketball coach who ever lived," Auriemma said.
Summitt, who retired after last season, is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball -- men's or women's and won her eighth title in 2008.
"The only person I would compare myself to is Pat Summitt … and to be there in that spot with her means a lot to me," Auriemma said.
In 28 seasons as UConn's head coach, Auriemma has posted a 91-17 record in NCAA Tournament play, and been in serious contention to win national titles every year since winning his first one in 1995.
"I'm really, really proud of that," Auriemma said. "Because I know how hard it was to do it. And with each year that goes by and teams get knocked out and teams that everybody thinks are national championship teams or programs that should be in the Final Four and are not, with each year that that happens, I feel even better about what we've done. Because I know more than anybody else, and so does my staff, just how incredibly difficult it is to do what we've done."
Auriemma holds the record for most consecutive Women's Final Four appearances with six and has the best NCAA winning percentage of any coach in history (.842).
But even Auriemma never dreamt his program could win eight championships.
"When we started and got to our first Final Four - here in New Orleans - we almost acted like we didn't belong," Auriemma said. "The other three teams were Stanford, Virginia and Tennessee. When we didn't win, we thought, 'what if we never go back? What if we're one and done?' There are other teams that have made it to the Final Four and never been back.
"Then, when we won our first national championship in 1995, I thought lots of people have won one. What if we don't ever win again? I'm always looking into the future and thinking, 'is this it? Are we going to be one of those programs? To back now and see how far we've come in the last 18 years, never in our wildest dreams did we think it was possible."
This season, with three losses to Notre Dame and another to Baylor, the Huskies were having a "sub-par" season for the program. After UConn lost against the Irish in the Big East Championship Game, he sat with the team in the locker room and told them he was going to show them how to win a national championship. And, he did.
"Sure enough, we're sitting right here," senior guard Kelly Faris said. "There are times I don't know how he does what he does but he's pretty darn good at his good and figures out a way to get it done. I'm happy to have him on my side."
Incredibly, the Huskies are 8-0 in NCAA title games -- a feat no other program had accomplished.
"Eight for eight?" Auriemma said. "Man, oh, man … I've been in the Final Four a couple times when we've lost where mentally we weren't right. But we've never been in a championship game where mentally we weren't right. All eight times that we've won a national championship, I felt like my team was mentally ready to win a championship. And I think that's something that I'm really proud of; that we don't show up in championship games not ready to play mentally or physically."
• The 33-point margin of victory was the largest in a championship game, obliterating the previous mark of 23 points by Tennessee’s 1987 championship squad against Louisiana Tech (67-44.)
• UConn’s win against Louisville marks just the second time that a team has defeated two teams from its conference in the Final Four to claim the national title (Maryland, 2006.)
• Breanna Stewart became just the fourth freshman and first since 1987 to be named Most Outstanding Player of the Women’s Final Four. The other three were Cheryl Miller (USC, 1983); Clarissa Davis (Texas, 1986); and Tonya Edwards (Tennessee, 1987). Stewart becomes the first freshman since Maryland’s Kristi Toliver in 2006, to be made to the Women’s Final Four all-tournament team.