They were the bitterest of rivals when their programs clashed atop the women’s college basketball world.
But Geno Auriemma had nothing but kind words for Pat Summitt on Tuesday when he passed the late Tennessee coach on the all-time women’s college basketball wins list.
Auriemma’s Connecticut Huskies trounced Butler, 103-35 on Tuesday, the 1,099th win of Auriemma’s career. The tally moves him one win past Summitt on the all-time wins list into second place, trailing only Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, who just passed Summitt on the list in December.
‘I wish she was still coaching’
“I wish she was still with us,” Auriemma told reporters after Tuesday’s win. “I wish she was still coaching. I wish I had to work a lot harder to catch her.”
Auriemma’s Huskies and Summitt’s Lady Vols are the two preeminent programs in the history of women’s college basketball. Summitt built Tennessee into a powerhouse that won eight NCAA championships from 1987 to 2008. It was eclipsed only by Auriemma’s Huskies, who have claimed 11 NCAA titles since 1995 and remain in the top tier of women’s programs, having made every Final Four since 2008.
The programs frequently clashed with the iconic coaches on the sidelines including four times in the national title game before Summitt shut down the often contentious series in 2007. Summitt retired in 2012 at 59 years old as Alzheimer’s set in. She died four years later.
The Huskies travel to No. 25 Tennessee on Thursday for the second meeting between the teams since the series was renewed last season.
Auriemma now chases VanDerveer, whose Cardinal have reeled off six wins since her record-setting victory in December for a tally of 1,105. Neither Auriemma, 66, or VanDerveer, 67, are showing signs of slowing down, with both helming top-5 programs this season.
Only time will tell who finishes on top of the all-time wins list.
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