Auriemma Isn’t for Everybody

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After UConn's regular-season loss to Notre Dame, we mentioned some incendiary comments allegedly made by former Fighting Irish player Becca Bruszewski going back to the Huskies' Final Four loss last April. The Hartford Courant's Jeff Jacobs wrote that, "according to the source, Bruszewski opened the door to the UConn locker room in Indianapolis and yelled six departing words: 'It must suck to be you.'"

Since Gino Auriemma is all about motivating his team, we figured the comments would pop up this week as the Huskies played in the Big East Tournament. We'll never know if they did -- Auriemma preferred to talk about how this group has matured in the last few months. But in the spirit of completeness, we thought we'd bring you this story from last week's South Bend Tribune where Bruszewski, who now plays professionally in Finland, denied the remarks attributed to her.

“I’m getting called out for this. The fact that hurts the most, they’re saying that I barged into another team’s locker room," she said. "The fact that when I ran by, nobody but the UConn coaching staff was outside the door, with a security officer. I don’t know how they fabricated this. I don’t know where it came from. I’m going to deny it until it’s over with, because it’s not true.”

According to Bruszewski, she made comments to a teammate about the pain of losing with the Connecticut coaching staff within earshot, but that it was not intended as a slight to the Huskies.

“We celebrated with our team on the court and hugged a lot of people,” Bruszewski said of the aftermath of Notre Dame’s stunning victory over the favored Huskies in the Final Four in Indianapolis. “As we ran back through the tunnel, I was not by myself. I was with my team. I never stopped, I never talked to anyone from Connecticut, I never touched any doors. I never slowed down and walked. I never saw any UConn players, because they were all in their locker room.

“But outside the door was the entire coaching staff and their security, because at the Final Four, and even home games, everyone has security at their locker rooms. I did not make eye contact with them, I did not say anything to them. As I walked by, my words were, ‘Oh, man, that sucks. It could have been us.’ It was a realization that this great team, their season was over. Two days later, I realized that same sort of defeat.”

Hartford Courant beat reporter John Altavilla writes that "Bruszewski strongly denies saying anything inflammatory (but) it should be noted a UConn (source) claims she did … (so) judge for yourself."

The remarks, imagined or otherwise, it probably didn't help Notre Dame's chances at winning their first Big East championship. But some Notre Dame fans are still seething at the report. Not only because Bruszewski denied it but because Auriemma is suffering from a rampant case of sour grapes.

"My personal favorite (example) came toward the end of the Feb. 27 matchup, with 3:16 left on the clock, Diana Rakoczy wrote on March 7 in a letter to the editor of the South Bend Tribune. "The great motivator called a time-out in order to pull all his starters. What better game plan than to humiliate these young and talented athletes on a national stage. That goes beyond sour grapes. That's just plain pathetic."

Juxtapose that with Tiffany Hayes' remarks after Tuesday's win.

"I think he's one of the best coaches, and he definitely deserved (winning No. 800)," she said. "I think we owe him that much. We've been through a lot this year as a team, and it was just nice to get the win at home in front of a big crowd. Yeah, we got the championship.”

Auriemma isn't for everybody but he knows how to get the most out of his players. And they seem to appreciate him for it.

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