Mulkey: Geno, McGraw would be pals if not rivals

TAMPA, Fla. -- UConn-Notre Dame has become one of the best rivalries in women's basketball, but it's also known for its prickly moments between Huskies coach Geno Auriemma and Irish coach Muffet McGraw. Both coaches have said in the past that they aren't particularly close -- and don't need to be.

While the tension between Auriemma and McGraw has been well-documented for years, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey suggested the two would be old pals if they weren't coaching against each other.

"We would all be best friends if we weren't coaching. Hell, some of us may be married to each other if we weren't coaching," Mulkey said Thursday at Final Four news conferences for each team. "[As a coach] you have the same interests. ...

"Usually Type A personality coaches butt heads from what we do for a living. It's the nature of successful coaches, not just in women's basketball."

The top-seeded Lady Bears face Oregon, which will play in its first Final Four, on Friday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App) before UConn and Notre Dame meet for the eighth time in the Women's Final Four and 50th time overall in the nightcap at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. UConn has the series lead, 37-12, but Notre Dame has a 4-3 edge at the Final Four.

Mulkey's comments were later recounted to McGraw, who broke into a smile and replied, "Well, that's a question I wasn't expecting today."

But it is a topic that has been broached before. Prior to UConn and Notre Dame meeting in the 2014 national semifinals, McGraw said her relationship with Auriemma deteriorated after Notre Dame moved to the ACC and UConn to the American Athletic Conference and that the coaches were past the point of civility.

"When we were in the same conference, there was a modicum of it. But I think after beating them and still not feeling any respect for that, we definitely lost something," McGraw said at the time.

Even then, Auriemma pointed to the competitiveness of their relationship.

"We're supposed to play each other, try to beat each other's brains in, try to win a national championship and compete like hell, Muffet and Geno," Auriemma said in April 2014. "And then we're supposed to get together afterward and go have a bottle of wine? That s--- is just not going to happen."

On Thursday, however, McGraw acknowledged that their common ground could have brought she and Auriemma together. They both coached under Jim Foster at St. Joseph's, with Auriemma serving on his staff in 1978-79 and McGraw 1980-82.

"I think being from Philly, Geno and I have a lot in common, especially with Jim Foster as a very good friend to both of us," McGraw said. "I could see us being friends. But I could not see us being married.

"So the answer is no if he's proposing."

Auriemma -- whose Huskies were the last team to field questions Thursday -- seemed put off by that line of questioning, noting that Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski don't get similar inquiries.

"I think the issue around women's basketball to me that I find a little bit disconcerting is the attention is always taken away from the game and the players, and it's turned onto the personalities of the involved coaches," Auriemma said. "God forbid, one coach is a man, the other coach is a woman, there always has to be some kind of friction, tension, all that other stuff."

But Auriemma also expressed full agreement with his Notre Dame rival.

"I wouldn't marry me either," he said.