UConn’s Auriemma tests positive for COVID-19

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss at least the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

The Hall of Famer is isolating at home after receiving a positive result from a COVID-19 test taken on Sunday, but his team will play on without him, the school said.

He said he is not experiencing any symptoms and has no idea how he contracted the virus.

“I didn’t all the sudden go on spring break, I didn’t go to Florida,” he told reporters in a conference call on Monday. “I didn’t all of the sudden go on a motorcycle retreat to Montana or something. I didn’t do anything.”

The top-seeded Huskies are scheduled to leave for the tournament in San Antonio on Tuesday. According to federal and state health guidelines, Auriemma must remain in isolation for 10 days and may rejoin the team on March 24.

The team’s head physician said contact tracing protocols indicated Auriemma did not have close contact with any other team member since Friday. All other Tier 1 members of the team and staff tested negative for the virus on Sunday and Monday, the school said.

Auriemma said he and the other coaches keep a safe social distance from players, even at practice, and he was told his viral load was so low there is very little chance he passed the disease on to anyone else.

“Only household close contacts were identified,” Dr. Deena Casiero said. “Given the fact that we have been doing daily testing for the past seven days, we feel confident that we were able to catch this very early on in the disease process.”

The Huskies are scheduled to take on High Point next Sunday. If they advance, they would face the winner of the game between Syracuse and South Dakota State on March 23, the day before Auriemma’s isolation could end.

“I just need them to win two games so I can get down there and help out on any games after that,” he said.

Auriemma said he will be talking to his assistant coaches while they are in Texas, but won’t be trying to coach from Connecticut.

Associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been with Auriemma throughout his 36 seasons in Storrs, is 10-0 while filling in as coach, including leading the team to its first Big East Tournament title in 1989 while Auriemma was serving a suspension.

“I’m an innocent bystander right now,” Auriemma said. “I’m going to sit back and watch them do their thing.”

Center Olivia Nelson-Ododa said the team doesn’t expect that much will change.

“We don’t really rely on one person,” she said. “I think that’s what makes this program special is that even if coach is out or say if the roles were reversed and CD was out, we wouldn’t have to just rely on just one person to have our speeches or have different things to say and coach us.”

Other coaches reacted to the news with concern and took it as a cautionary tale of how contagious the virus is.

“It is a definite reminder to everyone,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “You know it’s just like, `Stay away.”‘

Baylor’s Kim Mulkey, who recovered from a bout with the virus early in the season that forced a cancelation of their scheduled game with UConn, worried that others in the UConn program may now end up getting COVID-19.

“When I had it, we had a lot (of others) in quarantine,” she said. “And that was my third thought is like, I wonder if anybody else on the team, it’s going to be a trickle-down effect the next week to 10 days.”

Auriemma, who turns 67 on March 23, received a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. He said he was warned that the full effect of the vaccine does not occur until 14 days after the last inoculation.

He said he also feels that if he had not been vaccinated, he might be much sicker now.

The Huskies (24-1) were forced to postpone the start of their season until Dec. 12 because of another positive test within the program and like most teams had several games canceled or postponed because of coronavirus-related issues.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.