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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Auriemma, Westhead go way back

On the eve of their on-court matchup, a pair of coaching giants who each honed their craft in basketball-crazy Philadelphia did what they do almost as well as they coach - they talked and talked and talked.

NIKE set up an event in honor of the Matt Knight Classic on the campus of the University of Oregon. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma and Oregon's Paul Westhead were accompanied by their teams and they entertained questions from others in the audience.

It is far from the only time the two have been together at a basketball function.

“I have no idea what to expect when we get up there,” Auriemma said. “Coach Westhead has a history of doing things a little bit differently than anybody else. I remember when I was growing up in Philly and he was coaching at LaSalle, he was a little bit unique even back then so this isn't something that happened since he moved out to California, He was always a little bit different in his approach to the game and I don't think that is going to change.”

Westhead was the head men’s basketball coach at LaSalle from 1970-79 where he won 142 games and led the Explorers to two NCAA tournament appearances and a trip to the NIT before he headed out to California to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Westhead was fired early in his third season and also had NBA head coaching stints with the Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets.

Westhead transitioned into the world of women’s basketball when he was hired to coach the Phoenix Mercury. As he did with the Lakers, he wasted little time in leading his team to the Promised Land and he is still the only coach to win both NBA and WNBA titles.

Even before Westhead coached former UConn great Diana Taurasi with the Mercury, he and Auriemma crossed paths more than a few times.

“When you grow up where I grew up you feel fortunate to have some of the best coaches in America coaching in your city,” Auriemma said. “As I got older and had a chance to interact with him a little bit more. I've had a chance to spend a lot of time with him.”



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