Staged Shot Continues to Pick Up Controversy
Connecticut women’s basketball Coach Geno Auriemma simply wanted a happy ending. Now the story won’t go away.
Auriemma assailed the media Thursday for their criticism of the staged shot that allowed a hobbled Nykesha Sales to set a school career scoring record Tuesday night, prompting a debate about the integrity of women’s basketball.
“You guys just want a freaking story, and I gave you something to write about for two days,” Auriemma said during a conference call. “We’re feeding the fire. So let’s just get on with it.”
Sales was two points short of the record when she ruptured her right Achilles’ tendon in the second-to-last game of the season against Notre Dame last Saturday, seemingly ending her career.
However, in a prearranged deal between Auriemma and Villanova Coach Harry Perretta, Sales was allowed to take an uncontested layup after the opening tip for her 2,177th and 2,178th points, breaking the record set by Kerry Bascom from 1987-91. Villanova was also allowed an uncontested basket, and Connecticut went on to win in overtime.
Auriemma contends the staged shot by Sales was a gesture of affection for a deserving player. But even as friends and many colleagues rallied around Auriemma, others questioned if it was ethical.
Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, who approved the shot, conceded he would never have approved a similar ploy in men’s basketball. He said male and female athletes should not be treated the same.
“It’s a women’s sport; this was a female player,” Tranghese told the New York Daily News. “I am a man. I am not going to pretend to handle decisions on [men and women] exactly the same way.”
Barbara Kennelly, a Connecticut congresswoman running for governor, said Tranghese should retract his comments, noting women for “the last 25 years have competed at the highest levels of their sports and broken down stereotypes.”
“These efforts deserve our praise, not the thoughtless criticism offered by Mr. Tranghese,” she said.
The Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s largest newspaper, and several publications in the state, strongly criticized the shot. One syndicated radio host even called Auriemma a “pig.”
“I’m a pig? Because I did something nice for a kid,” Auriemma asked.
Auriemma joined in the name-calling during radio appearances Wednesday. He called an ESPN “SportsCenter” host “stupid” and an “idiot,” criticized a radio host for reducing his daughter to tears, and questioned the manhood of male callers to radio shows. He said many were unemployed and probably too afraid to call while their wives were home, if they had wives.
Some say that the uproar illustrates just how far the women’s game has come.
“I see the interest as a positive. Fifteen years ago I doubt the media would have cared,” said Ann Meyers, a pioneer in women’s basketball who is an analyst for WNBA games.
Deadline Set for Knight to Give Side in Conflict
Indiana Coach Bob Knight and university officials have until noon Monday to present their side of the events that led to three technical fouls and the coach’s ejection in the game against Illinois.
The Big Ten notified Indiana in a letter on Wednesday that Knight could be suspended, fined or both for the confrontation with referee Ted Valentine in the 82-72 loss Tuesday night, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Kevin Weiberg, associate commissioner of the Big Ten, told the newspaper that the league would not hesitate to suspend Knight for one or more postseason games if the investigation warrants it.
Once Indiana submits its response, the league has three days to make a ruling. That could coincide with Thursday’s opening round of the Big Ten tournament. If Knight is penalized, he would be allowed three additional days to appeal.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany also could accept Knight’s explanation and drop the case.