Geno, McGraw Still Aren’t BFFs

Auriemma on McGraw: 'People make a big deal (out of our relationship).'


Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw probably don't exchange holiday cards. The UConn-Notre Dame rivalry is real, and much of that is a result of the Fighting Irish all but owning the Huskies in recent seasons, up till the last two Final Fours, when UConn bounced them from the tournament.

But with Notre Dame now in the ACC, the rivalry has waned, though it might be hard to tell when these two teams meet Saturday in South Bend. So it's not altogether surprising that both coaches downplayed any perceived animosity between them.

"We saw each other over the summer and we have no issues, no problems," McGraw told reporters, via the Hartford Courant. "It's business as usual for both of us."

And Auriemma, after hearing that some of his players aren't particularly fond of the Fighting Irish, added this: "I think hate is a strong word. I don't advocate it. I think that is a sign of respect for Notre Dame. Why would you hate someone who wasn't any good that you can easily beat by 100 points? The fact some of (players) said that tells me they have a lot of respect for Notre Dame and they understand that if they are not careful, we may go up there and get our butts beat. I like that way of thinking."

The last time these two teams met was in the NCAA championship game last April. The Huskies cruised to a 77-58 win.

"I don't think I need to say anything or do anything to motivate my players. You don't want to harp on what's happened in the past [in the rivalry]," Auriemma said. "Players aren't stupid; they know what has happened. And teams change.

"I also don't believe the Notre Dame kids need any special motivation. We wouldn't need it if they were playing in Connecticut. I don't think I need to work very hard to get my players fired up and I don't think Muffet needs to say much, either."

Auriemma also pointed out that his relationship with McGraw has no bearing on how either team plays.

"People want to make a big deal out of (our relationship), at least it was at the Final Four last year," he said. "I don't get caught up in that stuff too much. It's not like way before the Final Four that Muffet and I were good friends that went to dinner and shared things together.

"I saw her this summer and talked about some things. I don't think it's any different than it was before. I believe there's a misconception in sports that you are supposed to have an intense rivalry that is good for the game and yet remain (friends) off the court. I don't know that to be the case in any sport. I really don't.

"I would say that in the last five years, all the people that were my close friends are still my close friends. All the ones that weren't, still aren't. And I don't think I've made any new friends and I've probably lost some along the way."

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