Former Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt passed away on Tuesday after a five-year battle with dementia. There are a number of people in the sports world honoring the late coach, but there is probably none more emotional than UConn Huskies women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.
Auriemma arrived at UConn in 1985 and just a decade later, one of the greatest rivalries in women’s college basketball history began. The two coaches went head-to-head for over ten years and had a pretty bitter rivalry, which the UConn coach claimed was smoothed over in his autobiography.
Following the news of her passing, Geno Auriemma spoke to ESPN and shared some memories of Summitt. It is hard not to tear up while reading them.
“From a competitive standpoint, it was the one program, the one game that you… each year you kinda measured yourself and your team. ‘Hey, when we play that game, we’ll know if we’re good enough to win a national championship or not,” Auriemma said.
“From a personal standpoint I think you can see how difficult it was back then for a woman to try to do something that really no one had ever done before, and no one thought you could do it. Trying to juggle being a mom and being a coach and being a representative for the game. From all the different aspects of looking at what her career was, there were a lot of things that she was the first. There were other people that did it, but nobody did it better or did it longer.”
The Lady Vols and Huskies met four times in the National Championship Game while Auriemma and Summitt were at the helm of each team.