BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Geno Auriemma thinks Rick Pitino should get another chance to coach and that he’s already suffered enough by losing his job at Louisville.
“There are people running for office and winning that have been accused of a lot worse who are given another chance,” Auriemma said on Thursday at ESPN during women’s basketball national media day. “As far as I’m concerned he’s already served his punishment. He lost one of the best jobs in the history of college basketball.”
Auriemma originally said on Barstool Sports podcast “Pardon My Take” Wednesday that he’d hire Pitino if he had a job opening. UConn’s Hall of Fame coach clarified that remark Thursday saying he would hire him for a pro job.
“If I took a pro job, I can’t think of anyone better,” Auriemma said. “And no one would care at that level.”
Pitino was fired from Louisville, a job he’s held since 2001, after the University of Louisville Athletic Association voted unanimously to fire him last month, despite arguments from lawyers that Pitino had no knowledge of activities alleged in an FBI investigation regarding fraud and corruption in recruiting.
The 65-year-old Pitino also coached Kentucky, Providence and Boston University in college and the Celtics and Knicks in the NBA.
When asked if he’d hire Pitino to work for him at Connecticut, Auriemma laughed.
“There’s no room. Only one Italian,” he said. “I still go by the Constitution. One man, one vote. I’m the man and I get the vote. End of story.”
A few other tidbits from national women’s basketball media day:
WHITE HOUSE INVITE: South Carolina star A’ja Wilson isn’t worried about whether South Carolina finally gets an invite to the White House or not, echoing the sentiments of her coach Dawn Staley.
“I’m not bugging about it. You can’t take my ring away or my banner away,” Wilson said. “I got what I’ve got. That’s what I came here for.”
Wilson said the team doesn’t even talk about the lack of a White House invite unless reporters bring it up.
“It’s just the way the team is,” Wilson said. “We’d be more upset if we did go and coach didn’t give us enough time to pack and find dresses to wear.”
Staley told The Associated Press last month that the team hadn’t been invited yet and wasn’t sure they’d go if invited after saying in April after they won the title they’d head to Washington if invited. She echoed that sentiment on Thursday and said she is focused on the upcoming season.
“I don’t lose sleep at night,” she said. “We started our season and I’m going to really concentrate on that.’
ON THE MAP: Oregon’s run to the Elite Eight last season helped put a bigger target on the Ducks this season. Coach Kelly Graves was quick to remind his team that they were under .500 in the conference last year before their NCAA Tournament run that ended with a loss to UConn in the regional finals.
“We definitely had a great run last season, but we are still a young team and have a lot left to prove,” Graves said. “We have a great group back and a talented new group that came in.”
RUNNER-UP: Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer was quick to point out his team last year didn’t win anything. Sure they beat UConn in the national semifinals, but lost the title game to South Carolina. The Gamecocks also beat them for the SEC regular season and conference tournament crowns.
“We finished second a lot, all to South Carolina,” he said. “We need to find a way to beat them if we want to win.”
Schaefer knows that people may not remember that his team lost to South Carolina in the NCAA title game, but they will remember that the Bulldogs were the ones to end the Huskies’ 111-game winning streak.
“It is special. There’s no way around it,” Schaefer said. “Special to know you were part of stopping the all-time longest winning streak in the sport. It’s a very special thing. Highlight of my career. Highlight of these kids careers.”
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