Matchup of veteran coaches highlights UConn/A&M tilt
The game will also a pair of coaches with more than 1,400 Division I wins between them. Since Blair was already serving as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s when Auriemma accepted the job as a University of Virginia assistant back in 1981, Auriemma had some fun discussing Blair's coaching longevity when I asked him about Blair's place in women's basketball before Thursday's practice.
"I don't know when Gary Blair started coaching but I am sure he asked Dr. Naismith should be basket really be 10 feet," Auriemma said. "It seems like he has been coaching so long that he must have started when he was 12. When I was at Virginia in 1981, he had already been coaching a while so as far as I can remember coaching women's basketball Gary Blair was always a part of it and he was always on winning teams whether he was a head coach or assistant and he was always surrounded by other great people. I think it was fitting for him to win a national championship. Sometimes in this game you are rewarded for the time you put into it, you do it the right way, give a lot of yourself to the game and you get rewarded. It doesn't always happen but I am glad it happened in his case. He's been in a lot of different places and done a lot for a lot of players and has given a lot to this game."
After winning three Texas 4A state titles at South Oak Cliff High School, Blair made the jump to the college game in 1980 when he was named an assistant coach with the Lady Techsters. Ironically both Auriemma and Blair landed their first collegiate head-coaching job in 1985. While Auriemma took over at UConn, Blair coached Stephen F. Austin to six NCAA tournament berths in eight seasons. Blair headed to Arkansas in 1993. The highlight of his 10-year run was a trip to the Final Four in 1997. In 1998 Blair and Auriemma squared off at the Four in the Fall tournament in San Jose with UConn winning 100-64. Blair, who will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, is now in his 10th season at Texas A&M and in 2011 the Aggies won the program's first national title.
The Aggies are off to an 0-2 start with losses to Louisville and Penn State and will face their third straight top 10 team to open up the 2012-13 season. Texas A&M has seven freshmen including three who played more than 10 minutes in the loss to Penn State so the early portion of the schedule is definitely a baptism of fire.