Foster's Buckeyes challenge Auriemma's Huskies
Once again a former boss of Geno Auriemma, the successful Connecticut women's basketball coach who grew up in Norristown, will try to keep the Hall of Famer from another career achievement.
In 1995, Virginia almost upset the Huskies in an NCAA tournament regional final on UConn's campus. The Cavaliers were coached by Debbie Ryan, who had hired Auriemma as an assistant in 1981.
On Sunday, the role of the heavy in UConn's latest adventure will be played by Ohio State coach Jim Foster. His No. 11 Buckeyes (8-1) will oppose the top-ranked Huskies (9-0) at 2 p.m. in the second Maggie Dixon Classic game in New York's Madison Square Garden.
Rutgers (7-4) will meet No. 8 Texas A&M (8-1) in the opener at noon.
UConn needs one more victory to match the 88 consecutive wins achieved by the UCLA men's basketball team from 1971 to '74 under John Wooden.
Foster introduced Auriemma to the sport in the 1970s, hiring him as his assistant at Bishop McDevitt High. He then brought Auriemma to St. Joseph's as an assistant for the 1978-79 season, Foster's first with the Hawks.
UConn was on track in 2003 to challenge the UCLA streak before Villanova and Auriemma's good friend Harry Perretta ended the Huskies' previous Division I women's record at 70 consecutive wins in the Big East Conference tournament final.
"It's odd that it has worked out that on the verge of two of Geno's biggest moments, he's had to try and beat two of his best friends to achieve them," Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said last week. She was an aide to Auriemma for 14 seasons at UConn until she was hired as the Owls' coach in July 2008.
"I said to him the other day, 'Dude, you've won 87 straight games. Enjoy it. We've been at this for two-and-a-half years and we're just getting to 50.' Some coaches never get 87, 88, or 89 wins in their entire careers."
Auriemma also served as an assistant to St. Joseph's men's coach Phil Martelli when Martelli coached the former Bishop Kenrick High boys' team.
UConn has been ranked No. 1 for 121 of the last 214 weeks, going back to 1999-2000. That total includes 49 straight No. 1's through this week.