Geno Auriemma, whose Connecticut team (32-0) is the only unbeaten team among Division I men or women, was named Coach of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
In Auriemma's 12 years at UConn, his teams have compiled a record of 293-85. Over the past four seasons, his record is 131-7. This season's team, ranked first in the nation for the past three months, played Illinois on Saturday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Basketball aside, this has been a difficult season for Auriemma. His father, Donato, died of cancer three weeks ago, and he missed the Big East tournament.
"I'm honored to receive this award," Auriemma said. "It's surprising this year because I'm not sure I was able to devote all of my energies to this team."
+ Illinois' game against Connecticut was another step in a process that began last March after a loss to Iowa in its final game of the season.
Coach Theresa Grentz, who finished her first year at Champaign with a 13-15 record, sat the players down and told them what it would take to improve.
"She told us this was how it was going to be and if we wanted to accept her challenge, we could go with her, and if not, we could go do our own thing," said Ashley Berggren, this season's Big Ten Player of the Year. "Right then I realized what I wanted to do and what I had to achieve."
She also realized what she'd have to give up. Berggren had tickets for the Final Four in Charlotte, N.C., but Grentz scheduled weightlifting sessions for that time.
Berggren dumped her tickets and lifted weights.
"I realized I was going to be a leader on this team and I had to set an example, and it began that day," she said.
Stanford, which played Virginia in the semifinals Saturday night, practiced last week with All-American Kate Starbird watching from the sideline because of a sprained ankle. But she would play against the Cavaliers, coach Tara VanDerveer said.
"Kate's tough," VanDerveer said. "She's not going to miss this for anything. She'll come out and battle, we can depend on that."
Stanford has had four players miss a combined 23 games because of injuries.
+ In the other semi, Vanderbilt looked to avenge a 71-45 loss to Georgia in the regular season.
"My team was embarrassed on that evening," Vandy coach Jim Foster said. "If they weren't, they were after viewing the film."
_ TIMES WIRES