On April 18, Hartford was no longer just the capital of Connecticut. For a few hours, the city became the women’s basketball capital of the world.
Shortly after noon on Sunday, the USA Basketball Women’s National Team played an intra-squad scrimmage at the XL Center, a game that merely served as the appetizer for the day’s main course – the parade and rally honoring the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s second straight national title and 78th victory without a loss.
“It’s so exciting to be here and get this close and personal and watch all these girls play basketball,” said Kathy Shea of Hebron, one of the thousands of fans on hand to watch the national team scrimmage under the guidance of Coach Geno Auriemma.
And like most of the fans at the XL Center, Kathy and her two children, Liam, 13, and Katie, 10, planned to go from the game to the State Capitol and take part in the rally honoring the Huskies.
“We’re going right to the Capitol so we can watch the parade start and finish,” she said.
While watching the UConn women board the double-decker sightseeing bus that would transport the team on the parade route, young Katie Shea enjoyed a meeting with Coach Auriemma she will long treasure, when he stopped to pose with her for a photo.
“I was really excited I had the opportunity to meet Geno. I admire the fact that he has stayed with UConn for 25 years and I hope he will be there when I go to UConn,” said Katie, who has been playing hoops since she was four. She said she hopes to one day play for Auriemma at UConn. “He is an awesome coach!” she said.
Awesome enough to be able to coach two teams in one day.
After finishing his task of overseeing the USA national team scrimmage, the Hall of Fame Coach then led his UConn team to the steps of the statehouse for a rally attended by thousands of Husky fans who came there to honor the 2010 NCAA Division I National Champions.
That was only a fraction of the estimated 20,000 people who lined the streets of Hartford for the parade, which included a fife and drum corps, the UConn pep band and cheerleaders and, of course, the mandatory fire truck.
This is the second year in a row that Hartford hosted this of parade, a fact Maya Moore alluded to during the rally when she joked that the team had enjoyed the 2009 festivities so much, they decided to make an encore this year.
And while fans were already thinking of next year and the possibility of a “three-peat,” Auriemma put it all in perspective. He told them, “enjoy this title right now and think about next year when we get back to school” in the fall.
Auriemma now has seven national championships to his credit. His next task is to win an international championship.
One step toward that goal took place Sunday with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team scrimmage, as they prepared for the world competition scheduled for Sept. 23 through October 3, 2010 in Czechoslovakia.
Yes, there was a basketball game at the XL Center Sunday with Geno Auriemma coaching players that included Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Kalana Greene and Renee Montgomery.
No, it wasn’t a reunion of the 2009 NCAA national championship team. It was the USA Women’s Basketball National Team which has a healthy dose of present and former UConn players on the roster, befitting the fact that Connecticut is one of the most successful college programs in the country.
“That’s why I am glad we chose to practice right here in Connecticut, because you are the greatest fans in the world,” Auriemma said.
Posted April 18, 2010[Gallery not found]
The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team was honored April 18, 2010 with a parade through downtown Hartford. The team has won 78 consecutive games and became the first women’s team to win back-to-back national championships without losing a single game. Video by Vito J. Leo.
UConn Pep Band – clip by Vito J. Leo
The UConn cheering section took part in the parade on April 18, 2010 in Hartford honoring the women’s basketball team for winning a second straight national championship. Video clip by Vito J. Leo.