This year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four features a matchup of not only two of the elite programs in the country, but a pair of Hall of Fame coaches. Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw have a combined 13 national championships and 29 Final Four appearances in their storied careers.
In addition to their success on the court as the No. 4 and No. 8 all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history respectively, Auriemma and McGraw share the fact that both got their start coaching in Philadelphia. Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, said the people he worked with in Philadelphia helped mold him into the coach he is today.
“I think we’re all products of where we grew up," said Auriemma. "You take on that personality and that kind of attitude. I imagine it’s still there. I think growing up where I grew up, no question has kind of made me in some ways the coach that I am today.”
For McGraw, after growing up in Pottsville and playing at St. Joesph’s from 1974-77, she joined the Hawks’ staff as an assistant in 1980 after three years coaching Archbishop Carroll. Auriemma started his career at St. Joesph’s as well in the 1978-79 season.
McGraw recalled the relationship the two coaches had from their time spent with former St. Joseph’s coach and No. 9 all-time winningest coach, Jim Foster.
“We’ve known each other for, gosh, I don’t want to say how many years,” said McGraw with a laugh. “It’s been a long time. [Foster] was good friends with [Auriemma] when I came on. We had some interactions at that point.”
When Auriemma and McGraw see each other now, there’s usually some hardware on the line and no love lost between the coaches. On Friday at 9 p.m. when Connecticut and Notre Dame meet, it will be the 50th matchup between the coaches.
Auriemma holds a 37-12 advantage in the contests and Connecticut won this year’s game, 89-71, on Dec. 2. McGraw said that although the game was four months ago, her team can take something away from the matchup.
“You can always look back and see some things that you did, see some things that they did,” said McGraw. “We don’t know them quite as well as we used to. It’s always good to have that foundation. We can take a lot from that game.”
After yearly battles when both teams were in the Big East Conference, Connecticut and Notre Dame have met in the nonconference season for the last five seasons and twice in the national championship, with each team winning once. Despite the decrease in games between the teams, Auriemma said playing Notre Dame is still on his mind ahead of the Final Four matchup.