UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and Louisville head coach Jeff Walz have made it known that they have a good relationship. Whether that consists of them helping each other out or taking subtle jabs at one another.
With Walzs’ name coming up in the Tennessee head coaching job search, he jokingly suggested that Auriemma would be the best option for the job on Thursday. But on Sunday afternoon, it will be all business.
“We know you’ve got to show up and play, and tomorrow at noon, I expect a great, great basketball game,” Walz said.
Walz said that his team, a No. 1 seed, is playing with the underdog mentality against UConn, a No. 2 seed.
“We’re going to be the underdog, and that’s fine,” Walz said. “I know we’re the 1 seed, but everybody has got — we’re going to be the first 1 seed to lose. The big talk about why in the world was Louisville a 1 seed and UConn not. So we’re okay with that.”
Auriemma said, tongue in cheek, that Walz should be confident since they beat UConn in their last meeting on Jan. 31.
“You know, I think that’s — I think Jeff is a little too old to be crying that they’re the underdog, you know,” Auriemma said. “We’re on a losing streak with them. I mean, if that’s what they need or if that’s what he needs to get his team to that point, then I’m okay with that. I think it’s pretty funny. But I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get your team ready to go.”
UConn point guard Crystal Dangerfield played under Walz for USA Basketball, but her only focus will be on the game itself.
“(Walz) is an interesting guy,” Dangerfield said. “I respect him as a coach. But hopefully we can end up on the better side tomorrow.”
The coaches exchanged kind remarks regarding the success that each one of them have been able to accomplish in their careers.
“They’ve pretty much reached the place where most people hope to go,” Auriemma said of the Louisville women’s basketball program. “They have a great program. They have great crowd support. They have great support from the University. They win. They go to the Final Four. You know, they win championships in their league.”
Walz said that playing against his buddy and UConn is a fun challenge that he always looks forward to.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Geno, his program, the way he does things,” Walz said. “If you can’t have — just appreciation for what he’s been able to do year in and year out, it’s pretty remarkable. You know, he gets everybody’s best shot every night, and it’s not very often that they’re not giving their best shot to everybody. And it doesn’t matter who they play. That’s the one thing I talk to our players about.”
Michael Logan is the Sports Editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.