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Kellie Harper Responds to Geno Auriemma’s Comments

Photo by Kenny Richmond/RTI

Just before the college basketball season started, Connecticut found out that former Lady Vol Evina Westbrook would not be eligible to play for the Huskies after the point guard transferred from UT following the conclusion of last season.

After that initial decision by the NCAA, UConn decided to appeal the denial. But that, too, was denied.

Before the Huskies’ game with Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday, the program found out that Westbrook’s appeal of the original decision had also been denied. After UConn’s 64-51 win over the Commodores, head coach Geno Auriemma put the Lady Vols program on blast following the decision.

“The thing I keep coming back to, if you read (the NCAA’s) release, the original one, we think it’s kind of a normal situation,” Auriemma said after the game. “That’s what the (NCAA) said. ‘We kind of think it’s a normal situation, that it happens at a lot of campuses.’

“You know what? A lot of campuses should shut down programs if that’s normal. That’s basically what this is. Say something else. Say anything. Don’t say that’s normal. That’s the word they used. That’s normal.”

Auriemma event went on to call out Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, saying that even the former National Championship winning head coach knows just how bad the environment was under former Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick.

“A kid is in an environment that’s not necessarily healthy. An environment that, if you knew what the environment was — which I can’t say — you would not want your kid in that environment,” Aureimma stated. “And the athletic director there (Fulmer) knows it, but he’s not going to support her leaving, which would’ve helped us a little bit.”

While Auriemma was going on a tirade in Nashville, new Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper was back in Knoxville following Tennessee’s dominant win over No. 15 Notre Dame in South Bend on Monday, preparing her first-year squad for Thursday night’s game with Tennessee State.

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Led by a game-high 14 points from sophomore guard Rae Burrell, the Lady Vols defeated the Tigers 73-43 to improve to 4-0 on the young season. Tennessee held Tennessee State to 21 percent shooting from the field.

Following the game, Harper was asked about Auriemma calling out the culture of the program.

“From my view point, and obviously I’m only here now, but the 12 players I’m working with, they are bought in, they play hard, they practice hard, and they have good team chemistry.” Harper said. “So, from my viewpoint, Tennessee is a great place to be a student-athlete.”

Westbrook put her name in the NCAA transfer portal after the firing of Holly Warlick as head coach. Once Harper was hired, Westbrook met with the new Lady Vols’ coach, but she decided to keep her name in the portal.

Shortly after that, Westbrook announced she would be transferring to UConn.

Senior Lou Brown is in her second season on Rocky Top. She made her way to Knoxville as a graduate transfer from Washington State last season but had to sit out during Warlick’s final year as head coach after tearing her ACL just before the season started. After being granted a medical redshirt, Brown’s playing her sixth-year of eligibility with Harper at the helm.

Brown was on the roster for the final year of Holly Warlick’s tenure, so she knows what the culture was like then. But when she was asked to comment, she focused on the here and now instead.

“Right now, all I can say is we have a great team, we love our coaches, it’s a good environment for us now,” Brown stated. “That’s where our focus is. We’re worried about now, what’s going on this year.

“We’re all happy to be here. We all love being a part of this program, and I think that’s going to show in the way we play, our chemistry as a team, and the relationship we have with our coaches.”

After picking up wins over Notre Dame and Tennessee State this week, the Lady Vols will be off this weekend before turning their attention to Stetson on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

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4 Responses

  1. There is no question that the environment surrounding the coaching staff, the team and specifically Westbrook following her comments toward the coaching staff was toxic. A large segment of the fan base turned on Westbrook in in an almost vicious way for saying what many who follow the program were thinking. Should have she gone public which her feelings? Probably not. I certainly wasn’t in her best interest to do so, as it seldom is. But she did, probably because she had already decided to transfer. Should we as fans, knowing as little as we know about internal situations within the program or the individual players as people have strong feelings or opinions toward those situations or players? Not in my opinion, but we to often do. So I think that we as fans have to own that we did contribute to a “bad environment” as described by Auriema. All that being said, I don’t give a rats ass what Geno thinks or says! Go Lady Vols, Go Coach Harper!

  2. Uconn needs to mind there own business and stay out of ours. I remember Pat Summitt was not a fan of that coach during her tenure at Tennessee and expressed her view of him also to the point we stopped playing them during the basketball season. Why now are we playing them again?

  3. Geno need to just shut up and deal with it. Coach Summitt stoped playing them because he was cheating in recruiting, so now he thinks the Lady Vols are going to do him a favor?

  4. Geno is a total piece of crap he needs to mind his own business. He better be prepared for us tenn because we are coming soon to whip his butt. Go lady vols

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