April 1, 2024 

Lindsay Gottlieb and Geno Auriemma step into the way-back machine

Gottlieb faces off against Auriemma more than two decades after she attended his camp as a high school player

Lindsay Gottlieb wasn’t getting recruited by Geno Auriemma when she accompanied her best friend Hilary Howard (now Hilary Heick) to UConn camp as high school basketball players.

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But Heick was.

“I was her nerdy best friend who loved basketball,” Gottlieb said.

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In Auriemma’s 2006 book, Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection, he referred to Heick as one of the first big recruits he wasn’t able to land once the Huskies became a national power. She ended up at Duke. Gottlieb joked that it was the only fight she had with Heick. Gottlieb was pulling for the Huskies. There were times that Auriemma called Gottlieb to see what it would take to get Heick to Storrs.

“I tried to charm up Lindsay to try to get us Hilary,” Auriemma said. “I hope she doesn’t hold it against me that I didn’t think she was good enough to play for us. She did all right … and here she is now with one of the best teams in the country.”

No hard feelings from Gottlieb.

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“So I wasn’t recruited by UConn, but I felt like I had a front-row seat to that explosion of women’s college basketball,” Gottlieb said. “When I got into coaching, Geno always asked, ‘How can I help? What do you need?’”

Gottlieb’s front-row seat will be much different Monday evening, when she brings her top-seeded USC Trojans to the now-symmetrical floor at the Moda Center to take on Auriemma’s Huskies with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Heick will be in the stands to cheer on her friend.

Gottlieb has been here before. She brought Cal to the Final Four in 2013 in New Orleans. And again, she found herself in Auriemma’s orbit.

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“They were doing a salute dinner, and you get sized for rings,” Gottlieb said. “I was right next to him, and he made some comment along the lines of ‘Lindsay can really enjoy this. When she’s at her 10th [Final Four], it will feel like a relief, like it feels for me’ … Shows how hard it is to get back.”

Auriemma thinks there might be a few more of these opportunities in Gottlieb’s future.

“It’s an exciting time to be here, and I’m happy for her,” Auriemma said. “I’m proud of her. Hopefully, it’s something she learned at our camp that helped her along the way.”

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Davis faces hometown team

USC forward Kaitlyn Davis grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut. She is one of the “Ivies” who came to Gottlieb’s program as a graduate transfer from Columbia, where she recorded the first triple-double in program history in 2023.

“I think it’s weird playing in this game, but also a dream come true,” Davis said. “Growing up in Connecticut, you dream of being on the same court as them and Geno, so I think it’s a great opportunity.”
But she’s even pulled her family — who are “huge Huskies fans” — over to her side for tonight’s game.

“They are like, ‘You’ve got to get them tomorrow,’” Davis said.

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Dressed to impress

The Connecticut coaching staff walked out on the floor Saturday to face Duke, and all but one of them were there in warm-ups. Not associate head coach Chris Dailey. Leather jacket, wide leg trousers, jewelry.

“I just can’t. … I tried. During the pandemic I wore pants and didn’t dress up,” Daily said. “But I just can’t do it.”

Written by Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.

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