Tennessee basketball legend Candace Parker has been at the center of the basketball world since leading her hometown Chicago Sky to the WNBA Championship earlier this fall.
Tuesday, Parker made headlines, opening up on her relationship with USA Basketball and its (and Connecticut’s) head coach Geno Auriemma.
“He doesn’t like me. I don’t like him. We don’t like each other,” Parker told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks.
While in Knoxville, Parker and the Lady Vols won two national championships and defeated Auriemma’s Huskies in all three meetings. While Pat Summit and Auriemma’s disdain for each other was public knowledge at the time there was nothing else in college that indicated a rocky relationship between Parker and the Huskies’ head coach.
That changed in 2016. Despite helping lead USA to Olympic gold metals in 2008 and 2012, Auriemma cut Parker from the 2016 USA Olympic Team.
The then Los Angeles Sparks star averaged 15.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in the 2016 season and was clearly one of the best players in the world.
“Just tell me, and then I won’t waste my time,” Parker said of the process. “I went to a camp, I got a triple double at the camp. I think I was first or second in scoring— it wasn’t on the court. If it’s me as an individual, me as a person, I’m spending time away from my daughter to come and do these camps that I’m not even being judged on how I am playing.”
Despite South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley taking over as USA Basketball’s head coach ahead of the 2020 Olympics, Parker didn’t try out for the team.
“I’m not doing this,” Parker said of playing on the 2020 team. “I can’t teach my daughter lessons and tell her about respect, treatment, communication and all that stuff and then go back to that. I’m done. I’m glad I got two gold medals. I appreciate the experience and I wish them well.”
Parker made sure to poke the bear in the interview, reminding people that she never lost to UConn while the winning two national championships.
“Listen, respect to Connecticut,” Parker said. “Connecticut continues to crank out player of the year after player of the year, right. At the same time though, when I was there in my four years at Tennessee they didn’t win any national championships. They never beat us. I don’t know, that might be a soft spot.”
Tennessee and Connecticut renewed the annual rivalry two seasons ago for the first time since Parker was in college. The Huskies won both games including a narrow 67-61 win at Thompson-Boling Arena last year.
The Lady Vols are looking for their first win over UConn since 2007 when they travel to Hartford on Feb. 6.