Friday, September 28, 2007

Summitt says Auriemma knew reasons

UConn coach was told in May why UT canceled series

The Tennessee-Connecticut women's basketball series might be over, but the rivalry between UConn coach Geno Auriemma and UT's Pat Summitt isn't.

Auriemma offered his first published comments about Tennessee's decision to end the regular-season series between the two schools Monday in a copyrighted story in the Hartford Courant. He indicated there were a lot of unanswered questions surrounding Summitt's reasons for the decision.

Summitt fired back later Monday, offering her most telling comments since it became known in June that the series was ending after a 13-season run. Summitt said that she and Auriemma had a telephone conversation in May and that she made her reasons for cancelling the series clear to him.

"Clearly Geno knows why I canceled the series,'' said Summitt, who said that she spoke with Auriemma in late May, shortly before attending the SEC spring meetings in Sandestin, Fla. "I made it very clear to him in a phone conversation. I wanted to make sure I had a conversation with Geno and explained very specifically why I canceled the series.

"I chose to tell Geno because I felt it was something I needed to tell him, not to share it with the rest of the world."

Summitt did not offer any further specifics regarding her reasons. The decision is believed to revolve around the recruitment of highly regarded prospect Maya Moore, who signed with the Huskies and is beginning her freshman year at the school. The frosty relationship between the two coaches also was thought to be a factor.

Summitt said that the Lady Vols made no allegations surrounding former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird offering Moore, then a high school junior in suburban Atlanta, a ride to the 2006 Naismith Award presentation in Atlanta. This originally was reported in the Courant. A source told the newspaper that Connecticut had to produce documents proving Taurasi's and Bird's whereabouts in April, 2006. Both players were overseas, playing for a Russian team in the European championships.

Summitt said her first knowledge of the allegation was when the Courant story was reprinted in the July 7 edition of the News Sentinel.

"I didn't know what they were talking about,'' Summitt said. "I knew nothing about that until I read it in the Sentinel. That had nothing to do with my decision."

Tennessee versus Connecticut began as a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup on July 16, 1995. The teams' last meeting was Tennessee's 70-64 victory in Hartford on Jan. 6.

Last spring, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association voted the game the greatest women's basketball rivalry.

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