UConn's Breanna Stewart, Geno Auriemma win top AP awards

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- Breanna Stewart is in a class by herself. Even her decorated coach, Geno Auriemma, found himself in a place he couldn't imagine.

The 31-year coach who has won 10 national championships fought back tears after receiving The Associated Press Coach of the Year award on Saturday, one day before his Huskies open the Final Four in their bid for an unprecedented fourth consecutive NCAA title.

"I can't describe it. I don't know why it happened," Auriemma said. "It's been really different from the time the NCAA Tournament started. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Auriemma's Huskies are two victories from another championship, and Stewart is a big reason for that.

UConn's star senior won the AP Player of the Year award for a record third time. She was the unanimous choice, which marked the first time that has happened since the award was first given in 1995.

"When it was announced, I didn't know that was the case," Stewart said. "I never knew there wasn't a three-time award winner for basketball. It definitely resonates a little bit. I'm sure it will sink in more tonight. It's an unbelievable honor to do something in a sport that's never been done before."

Stewart was surprised to see her coach so emotional.

"I've never seen him like that, but I think it showed he's human and cares so much about this team and this group," she said.

Auriemma has never been one to shy away from questions or controversy with his answers. Yet on Saturday, he was emotional in a different way. He was talking about making it to the Final Four and his group of seniors when he started to choke up as his team watched from a few feet away. He also choked up while mentioning longtime assistant coach Chris Dailey before telling Stewart, sitting next to him, to start talking.

Later in the news conference, Auriemma said, "I usually don't get like this. I don't know what the hell's going on ... I don't, I don't, I don't get like this -- not for stuff that concerns me personally. I don't know why, but for some reason, this week has been really different for me. I don't know why. It just has been really different."

Stewart won as a sophomore and junior and joins Ralph Sampson of Virginia as the only college basketball players to be honored by the AP three times. She has helped UConn to 73 consecutive wins and is the only player in the history of the sport with 400 assists and 400 blocks in her career. She has led the Huskies to 149 wins over four seasons and with two more victories will win a fourth championship and have the most victories by a player in NCAA history.

"It's funny, I was at Virginia when Ralph was the national player of the year," said Auriemma, who won the AP award for an eighth time. "The impact he had on that school and that basketball program. Thirty-five years later, to have it happen with Stewie. It almost doesn't make sense that could happen. I witnessed it. Experienced it with Stewie."

If UConn wins its next two games, Auriemma will have an 11th national championship, and that would move him past UCLA coach John Wooden for the most in college basketball history. Auriemma received 16 votes. Scott Rueck of Oregon State, UConn's opponent in Sunday's semifinal, and Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame were second with three votes each.

Auriemma also won the AP Coach of the Year Award in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Both awards were chosen by the 32-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25 poll. Voting was completed before the NCAA Tournament.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.