In a soon-to-be-released book about her career, legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt dishes the dirt about why her relationship with Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma soured.
Summitt and Auriemma are two of the best coaches ever in women’s college basketball. Both are members of the Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Famers and have won numerous regular season titles and conference tournament crowns.
Summitt said in her book "Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective," that recruiting battles caused the relationship with Auriemma to erode and ultimately end the best rivalry in women’s college basketball. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins co-authored the book with Summitt.
An excerpt from the book was published on SI.com.
"Over the course of about a year, I became increasingly upset with a couple of UConn's tactics in recruiting," Summitt wrote in the book.
She continued,"I didn't itemize my complaints publicly then, and I'm not going to now. I went through the appropriate channels and that's how it will stay. I made my concerns known to UConn through our athletic director, Joan Cronan, and the Southeastern Conference. UConn responded that they saw nothing wrong with what they were doing. I made my concerns known again. Same response.”
"I was finished. I didn't see any other choice. 'I'm not putting up with this anymore,' I told my staff. I met with Joan and our university president, Dr. John Petersen, and outlined my reasons for wanting to discontinue the series: The lack of response from UConn and the personal negativity convinced me it was no longer in our best interest. I thought we needed to send a message that we didn't want a game that wasn't played in the right spirit. The administration agreed, and we declined to renew the series."
Tennessee and Connecticut played every season between 1995-and-2007, including twice during the regular season from 2000-to-2002. The Huskies won 13-of-the-22 matchups though the Lady Vols won the last three meetings including the last game of the series 70-64 on Jan. 6, 2007, in Hartford, Conn.
While Summitt doesn’t specifically detail her issues with Auriemma’s recruiting practice, she did say that their relationship soured after 2000. Things got so bad that elbows were thrown by both sides during one of their meetings according to Summitt.
However, Summitt and Auriemma’s relationship has apparently improved in recent years. Summitt, who was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease in August 2011, retired after the 2012 season. Prior to retiring, she set up the Pat Summitt Foundation to fight Alzheimer’s and Auriemma was one of the first to act – writing a $10,000 check.
Auriemma has confirmed to the Hartford Courant that his relationship with Summitt has improved. "Once basketball is not involved, sure, I would agree with that," Auriemma said. "Sure. Absolutely."
Summitt is the all-time leader in women’s basketball with 1,098 career victories and eight national championships. She is also second all-time among NCAA Division I coaches in winning percentage .841 (1,098-208).
In 38 years, Summitt has led the Lady Vols to the NCAA Tournament. She won 16 SEC regular season tournaments and 16 SEC Tournament titles. Summitt has been named the national coach of the year seven times.
Summitt was also named the Naismith Coach of the 20th Century and received the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
With Connecticut’s victory over Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, Auriemma is now 830-131 in 28 years with the Huskies. He is number one all-time in women’s college basketball in winning percentage, sixth in wins and is only the second coach ever to record 400 victories against conference foes (Tara VanDerveer is the other).
Auriemma is second all-time with seven NCAA national championships though number eight could come soon (this year or next). He has led the Huskies to 13 Final Fours and to the NCAA Tournament the past 24 years. He has also won 19 Big East regular season titles and 18 conference tournament crowns.
Auriemma has been named the National Coach-of-the-Year seven times and has been named the BIG EAST Coach-of-the-Year 10 times.