Whether Geno Auriemma has done the best job of his coaching career with the UConn womenâ€™s basketball team this season makes for some interesting conversation.
Certainly, no one has been better this year. On Thursday the Womenâ€™s Basketball Coaches Association paid tribute as it named Auriemma its 2017 Coach of the Year. He will be presented with the Pat Summitt Trophy, named for the late legendary University of Tennessee coach, during the 2017 WBCA Convention to be held in Dallas during the NCAA Final Four.
â€śGeno continues to raise the standard of excellence in the coaching profession,â€ť WBCA executive director Danielle Donehew said in a statement. â€śHe is a teacher of the game, and the development of his student-athletes both on and off the court this season has been remarkable, a masterpiece. Geno is very deserving of the WBCAâ€™s highest praise for the coaching profession, as confirmed by the vote from his respective peers.â€ť
The top-seeded Huskies (34-0 and winners of 109 straight games) will continue their bid for a fifth consecutive national championship Saturday when they take on No. 4 UCLA in a NCAA Bridgeport Regional semifinal game at Webster Bank Arena.
Auriemma, who turned 63 years old on Thursday, owns a career record of 989-134 (.881). A win on Saturday would tie him with Summitt for the most wins in NCAA Tournament history at 112. He would also tie North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell for third in coaching wins all time. Hatchell owns a 990-374 record.
UConn enjoyed its ninth unbeaten regular season and qualified for the NCAA Sweet 16 for the 24th straight year Monday with its win over Syracuse at Gampel Pavilion. On Jan. 14, the Huskies defeated SMU 88-48 at Moody Coliseum for their 91st consecutive win, breaking their own NCAA record set seven years earlier. UConn owns four of the top five winning streaks in NCAA history.
The WBCA honor for Auriemma is his second straight and seventh overall (1997, 2000, 2002, 2008-09, 2016-17).
Collier in Wade final four
UConn sophomore forward Napheesa Collier is one of four finalists for the 2017 Wade Trophy as the WBCA Player of the Year, the organization announced Thursday.
Collier is joined in the final four by Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell, Washington senior guard Kelsey Plum of Washington, and South Carolina junior forward Aâ€™ja Wilson. The Winner will be announced April 1 in Dallas.
The St. Peters, Missouri, native was named the American Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year alongside teammate and classmate Katie Lou Samuelson earlier this month. Collier ranks in the leagueâ€™s top 10 in scoring (second at 20.2), rebounding (fourth at 8.9), blocked shots (first at 2.0), steals (10th at 1.8), field-goal percentage (first at 69.3), and free-throw percentage (sixth at 83.6).
She had her career high of 39 points in a win over South Florida at the Sun Dome in Tampa on Feb. 27. She has reached 20 points in 18 games and has recorded 14 double-doubles.
Breanna Stewart won the Wade Trophy the last two years. Other Wade Trophy winners from UConn are Rebecca Lobo (1995), Jennifer Rizzotti (1996), Sue Bird (2002), Diana Taurasi (2003), and Maya Moore (2009-11).
UConnâ€™s Collier, Samuelson, and junior forward Gabby Williams were selected to the All-Region 3 team on Thursday. The 52 all-region picks from around the country are now eligible for selection to the 10-player WBCA All-America team.
A maximum of three players from a team can be chosen to an all-region squad.
Samuelson leads the Huskies and the AAC in scoring at 20.9 points per game. She also ranks in the top 10 in the league in assists (10th at 3.3), assist-to-turnover ratio (seventh at 1.9), field-goal percentage (eighth at 49.2), free-throw percentage (fifth at 84.0), and 3-point percentage (second at 43.0). The Huntington Beach, California, native became the sixth UConn sophomore to reach the 1,000-point plateau on Feb. 27 at USF.
Williams, the AACâ€™s Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging a career best 13.7 points and ranks in the leagueâ€™s top six in field-goal percentage (third at 57.7), rebounding (sixth at 8.4), assists (fourth at 5.3), assist-to-turnover ratio (fifth at 2.4), steals (third at 2.7), and blocked shots (fourth at 1.4). The Sparks, Nevada, native posted the fifth triple-double in UConn history at East Carolina on Jan. 24 and reached 1,000 points for her career on Feb. 22.
Other Region 3 selections were Texasâ€™ Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty, Baylorâ€™s Kalani Brown and Nina Davis, Templeâ€™s Feyon.