Geno Auriemma shows support for Quinnipiac at his Sweet Sixteen practice

By: Sierra Goodwill

Geno Auriemma, the winningest coach in NCAA women’s basketball, entered his press conference in Bridgeport, CT on Friday in different attire than usual.

As he sat down in front of the microphone, he unzipped his UConn warm-up to reveal a Quinnipiac Bobcats t-shirt underneath.

Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri has been overwhelmed with the amount of support she has received from Auriemma and his team during their historic NCAA Tournament run.

“He reached out as soon as we won (last weekend) and was so complimentary of what we were able to accomplish,” Fabbri said.

“The fact that he is wearing our shirt in support of our team in this tournament, we’re just so thankful and very grateful for his support and UConn women’s basketball’s support of Quinnipiac women’s basketball and the two teams in Connecticut representing women’s basketball in the Sweet Sixteen.”

Auriemma also spoke about the Bobcats, confirming that a team with momentum can be very dangerous this time of the year.

“I wouldn’t want to be in their bracket,” the University of Connecticut women’s basketball head coach and 11-time national champion said.

That’s high praise from a coach whose team currently holds a 109-game winning streak. Not to mention, has won the last four National Championships.

But believe it or not, Auriemma once coached an underdog team too. He said this year’s Quinnipiac team reminds him a lot of that team in 1991. That year, before the field expanded to 64 teams, the Huskies were a No. 3 seed. UConn defeated Toledo, North Carolina St. and Clemson, before falling to Virginia in the Final Four.

“I watched them play the other day, there was about eight minutes left in the game and I remember saying ‘I think they’re going to win,’” Auriemma said. “I couldn’t believe it and everyone in the place was going nuts. I thought ‘Oh my god this is like 1991 replaying itself.’”

It just so happens that Auriemma and Fabbri have a bit of history. In fact, Fabbri might not even be where she is today if it wasn’t for him.

“Geno has been such a mentor for me going way back,” Fabbri said. “He helped me in this process, getting a job at Quinnipiac 22 years ago. But he’s really just a gold standard, a great guy.”

The two even know each other well enough that Auriemma wasn’t afraid to crack some jokes about the energy and emotion that Fabbri shows on the sideline.

“Trish, that potty mouth coach of theirs, if I ever said some of the stuff she said I would get crucified, and I told her that too. A catholic school girl like her, she should be ashamed of herself,” he said, laughing.

The camaraderie between the two Connecticut programs is especially appreciated by the players.

Quinnipiac women’s basketball guard and fifth-year senior Adily Martucci, who grew up in Connecticut watching the Huskies, was very appreciative of the support from Auriemma.

“It’s awesome. Just the support we’ve had in general, and then especially from him and his team. Just being Connecticut teams in general, the support is amazing,” she said.

“He’s a great coach, and the spotlight is always on him; a lot of people saw (that picture). And it’s just amazing, the support. We really appreciate it.”

UConn often faces top mid-major programs in their non-conference schedule such as Green Bay, Dayton and Chattanooga. While the only chance these teams have of meeting this season is in the National Championship game, it will be interesting to see if they schedule each other in the coming years.

The No. 1 Huskies are set to face the No. 4 UCLA Bruins in the Sweet Sixteen at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in the Bridgeport region. The No. 12 Bobcats face No. 1 South Carolina at 4:06 p.m. ET on Saturday in the Stockton region. Both games will be televised on ESPN.

RELATED: UConn is not the only women’s program inspired by Quinnipiac’s run

 

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