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UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma was questioned following practice Monday about his friendship with Syracuse men’s coach Jim Boeheim. Auriemma was asked if the two were really good friends and if they genuinely liked each other.
Auriemma laughed, saying those were two different questions.
“Are we really good friends? Yes,” Geno deadpanned. “Do we like each other a lot? No.”
Fourth-ranked Syracuse and No. 2 UConn will take part in a doubleheader Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, with Boeheim’s team meeting St. John’s at 7 and Auriemma’s following against the Red Storm’s women’s team at 9:30.
Auriemma and Boeheim are clearly friends. They play golf together every year at the Big East Conference meetings in Ponte Vedra, Fla., and Boeheim is someone he can always rely on to be straight with him, Auriemma said.
Earlier this season, when Auriemma’s team was approaching the NCAA Division I record for consecutive basketball victories, I called Boeheim’s office seeking a comment from him for a story I was writing. Boeheim called me back within 20 minutes, speaking with admiration of what UConn has accomplished.
Auriemma said his most recent conversation with Boeheim revolved around Boeheim’s mock horror that UConn has had two close games this year, as opposed to the Huskies rolling to back-to-back unbeaten seasons the last two years.
“He’s shocked I’m able to function,” Geno said with a laugh. “… I remind him all the time he’s stealing money for playing the teams he plays. … It’s in his contract the first 18 games (of the season) have to be at home — against teams from New York.”
All joking aside, however, Auriemma is pleased to be playing the doubleheader, although surprised by the 9:30 starting time. He said he’s “anxious” to get to the Garden by at least halftime of the men’s game.
“I enjoy talking to him,” Geno said of Boeheim. “I think he’s got a different perspective on the coaching profession. He’s somebody when I have a question, when I felt like I needed to run something by someone, I would feel comfortable getting an honest opinion from him. He’s very honest, very realistic. He gives you an honest assessment of his team, your team.
“… It’s not life and death. That’s what I learned from him.”