When the stunning news came down down that Geno Auriemma tested positive for COVID-19, the head coach himself was as surprised as anyone.
“I feel great. I mean, I don’t have any symptoms. So it came as a complete shock to me, obviously, and to our medical staff,” he said. “We’ve been testing every single day including when we were obviously at Mohegan. So who’s to say? I don’t know. But I feel good.”
Even though UConn had a break from games after winning the Big East Tournament last Monday, Auriemma didn’t change his routine or do anything out of the ordinary. He couldn’t even guess as to where he contracted the virus.
“I have no idea. Zero,” he said.
“You have no idea with this thing. You have no idea where, when, how,” he added later. “I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary that I’ve done at any other time this year. I didn’t all of a sudden go on spring break. I didn’t go to Florida. I didn’t all of a sudden go on a motorcycle retreat to Montana or something. I didn’t do anything. I’ve just kind of done what I do.”
Auriemma had gotten the second dose of his COVID-19 vaccine recently and even though not enough time had passed for it to be fully effective, it has prevented the onset of any symptoms — at least so far.
“I think if I hadn’t gotten the vaccine, if I hadn’t done that and then I tested positive, I might be really, really, really sick right now and I feel really good,” he said. “So I’m glad I got the vaccine. I’m glad I got the first one I’m glad I got the second one and if there was a third one I will get the third one.”
Above all else, Auriemma is relieved that his positive test won’t preclude the rest of the team from traveling down to San Antonio to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Some of that is due to the team’s strict enforcement of social distancing and mask policies, Auriemma’s test also indicated his viral load is so low that it’d be difficult to transmit it to anyone else. Even Kathy Auriemma, Geno’s wife, hasn’t tested positive.
“I’m extremely fortunate that I’m the only one affected by this,” he said. “My wife Kathy has been testing every day because she was in the bubble with us at Mohegan and she tested again today so if anybody was going to have it, it was gonna be her. Although, there’s probably more times when she doesn’t want to be within six feet of me than my players, so she’ll be safe the rest of her life.”
Auriemma breaks down UConn’s region
In addition to discussing his positive test, Auriemma also took the time to break down both UConn’s region in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies will open with 16-seed High Point, a program they aren’t familiar with.
“You look at every bracket and it’s hard,” Auriemma said. “I mean, we play High Point — Okay, that’s the first time we’ve ever played them. Usually, it’s somebody from up here, somebody that you say ‘Well in 30-some years we played them twice or three times.’ I don’t think we’ve ever played them.”
If they win, they’ll go on to face the winner of No. 8 Syracuse and No. 9 South Dakota. Even though neither should pose much of a problem for UConn, Auriemma isn’t thrilled about the prospect of facing either team.
“I wouldn’t want to play Syracuse or South Dakota State if we were undefeated, number one in the country, and we were playing at our place in front of 20,000 people and they only got to bring in five players. Those teams are hard to play against,” he said. “The only thing that makes me happy is that if we win the first game, we don’t have to play both of them.”
If the seeds hold, UConn will face No. 2 seed Baylor in the Elite Eight.
“Having Baylor in there, I’m not I’m not surprised at all,” he said. “You can say, ‘Wow, they’re a really great number two. Well so is Maryland, so is Texas A&M. There’s a lot of really really good teams in the tournament this year and all the brackets are hard. And they’re supposed to be hard.”
Makurat on her “tough year”
To this point, Anna Makurat’s sophomore year hasn’t been particularly memorable. She opened the year as a starter but struggled to find her shot and eventually ended up on the bench. Soon after, the team shut Makurat down due to a stress fracture in her low right leg, which kept her out 12 games.
Makurat finally returned during the Big East Tournament and while her minutes were restricted, it didn’t matter — Makurat couldn’t be happier to be back.
“It’s so exciting,” she said. “It was a really tough year for me physically, emotionally, mentally, and I’m super excited to finally get back on the court.”
There did prove to be a silver lining to the time off, though. The injury forced Makurat to take a step back and watch the team from a different perspective during both practices and games.
“I probably understand more of what the coaches are talking about while we are on the court. I could see from the side,” she said. “So I could see the mistakes we make. It’s easier to notice them from the side.”