Huskies take victory lap past 25,000 through Hartford
3d perfect season in last 14 years
HARTFORD - University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma told the fans who turned out at yesterday's parade for his national champion Huskies not to expect another 39-0 season next year.
"The only reason I say that is because if we play every game and win 'em, I think we can go 40-0," he said to thunderous applause.
A crowd estimated by police at 25,000 lined downtown streets on a sunny afternoon to celebrate the program's sixth national championship and third perfect season in 14 years. The Huskies dominated women's basketball this season, going 39-0 and beating opponents by an average of better than 30 points. They capped the season on April 7 in St. Louis with a 76-54 victory over Big East rival Louisville, moving them closer to archrival Tennessee's eight championships.
The players climbed onto the top of a double-decker bus and followed bands, politicians, and even the state's Siberian husky club for the 50-minute parade, which ended with a rally at the State House.
"Seeing all those faces, it was amazing," senior guard Renee Montgomery said. "It was an unbelievable feeling. I couldn't believe that all those people came out just to see us."
But the crowd was well short of the 300,000 people who in 2004 celebrated the dual championships won by the UConn men and women.
"Maybe we've just gotten used to it. People are a little spoiled maybe," said Joy Mouland, of Rocky Hill, who took her 16- and 10-year-old daughters to see the Huskies. "I think (this team) really portrays young women in a positive light. They are good students. They are good athletes. They are very positive role models today."
Governor M. Jodi Rell said the women gave the state a happy diversion from all the bad economic news of the winter. There was almost no grumbling over the price tag for the event, estimated at about $50,000. Michael Zaleski, the Hartford Business Improvement District's executive director, said organizers raised about $40,000 from private donors and received in-kind donations, including use of the bus.
Auriemma told the crowd that as good as the celebration made the state feel, he also enjoyed it for another reason.
"The one thing that we get a kick out of, all of us, is that whenever we have these parades," he said, "the doctors' offices in Tennessee are filled with people who get sick."