Tranghese: A 'misunderstanding'

Updated: March 12, 2005, 4:04 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Big East commisioner Mike Tranghese said he found no impropriety on the part of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma in a verbal altercation earlier this week with a Rutgers player.

The Big East looked into allegations by Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer that Auriemma made inappropriate comments to Scarlet Knights player Cappie Pondexter during the conference title game.

The Rutgers guard confronted Auriemma after UConn's 67-51 win Tuesday night. Neither commented on what was said during the confrontation.

Tranghese asked the athletic directors at both schools to talk to their players and coaches and report back to him, and Tranghese made a statement Thursday exonerating Auriemma.

"I have determined that University of Connecticut head women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma did not act inappropriately at any time during and after the UConn versus Rutgers Big East Conference women's basketball championship game earlier this week," Tranghese said in the statement.

It is is still unknown what was said between Auriemma and Pondexter, or even what Pondexter took umbrage to. Tranghese's statement did nothing to clear that up, either.

"In the heat of competition -- particularly during the postseason when so much is at stake -- there are inevitably going to be situations in which misunderstandings occur," Tranghese said in his statement. "It is truly unfortunate that these situations sometime detract and overshadow the game itself."

Watch highlights of the UConn-Rutgers Women's Big East Championship game and see the coaches' postgame comments.
• UConn-Rutgers highlight and postgame interviews ESPN Motion

Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy said he and UConn AD Jeff Hathaway met with Tranghese on Wednesday in New York.

"The commissioner asked each of us to provide any information we have concerning the matter last night," Mulcahy said in a prepared statement.

Both sides agreed the disagreement stemmed over something Auriemma said on the bench in the second half.

In her postgame news conference, Stringer accused Auriemma of saying something inappropriate to her player.

"We're addressing it with our AD and the UConn people," Stringer was quoted as saying in a Hartford Courant story. "It seems that the UConn coach made a comment that is unbecoming for a coach to make to a player at that time. I won't elaborate."

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Rutgers athletic director Bob Mulcahy said Auriemma used a profanity.

"I don't want to get Cappie involved, but it caused a reaction from her," Stringer said in the Courant story. "Any human being would not tolerate comments like that made to anybody. Comments like that should not be loose for just anyone to hear. He was looking at her when he said it, so the assumption was it was directed to her."

Auriemma called the situation a "misunderstanding," and said his comments were not directed to Pondexter or any specific player. After the game, neither Auriemma nor Pondexter would comment on what was said.

"I don't feel I need to defend myself. [Stringer] has no idea what I said," Auriemma, quoted by the Courant, said. "Zero idea what I said. What did I say? None of your business."

According to the Star-Ledger's report, Auriemma, after emerging from UConn's locker room, demanded to see Stringer and the two met for about 10 minutes behind the dais where the postgame news conferences were held.

Their discussion was loud enough to be heard by the waiting media, prompting a Hartford Civic Center official to turn up the music in the room.

Pondexter played for Auriemma for two summers on the U.S. women's Junior National team, and both say they have a good relationship.

"Nobody has more respect for her than I do. It was never about Cappie," Auriemma said. "Sometimes players and coaches don't necessarily have control of their emotions at this time of the year."

Pondexter, quoted in the Star-Ledger, said, "It was definitely surprising. It's two [people] with competitive natures going head to head. But like Coach Stringer said, a coach should never address [an opposing] player and a player should never address a coach."

The 50-year-old Auriemma is in his 20th year at UConn and has built the Huskies into a national power with five NCAA titles, including the last three. He also has coached two undefeated teams of 1995 (35-0) and 2002 (39-0), producing a parade of All-Americans such as Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi.

But his tenure has not been without controversy. In a 1998 game against Villanova, coached by his friend Harry Perretta, he arranged for All-American Nykesha Sales to score an uncontested layup while on crutches due to an Achilles' tendon injury, in order to break the school scoring record. That bucket set off a firestorm of criticism, sparking national debate on the integrity of women's basketball. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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