UConn's Geno Auriemma unleashes on heralded WNBA rookie class, says Caitlin Clark is being 'targeted'


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Longtime UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma typically has no problem sharing whatever is on his mind. 

The eleven-time national championship winner shared his thoughts on Caitlin Clark on multiple occasions. But this week, he offered his latest thoughts on how Clark is adjusting to the WNBA, suggesting she was being negatively impacted by a “delusional fanbase.”

“The delusional fanbase that follows her disrespected the WNBA players by saying she’s going to go in that league and tear it apart,” Auriemma said during a recent appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show.”

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UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma addresses the media during a press conference at the conclusion of the game between the UConn Huskies and the Vermont Catamounts in the First Round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Championship Seattle Regional 3 on March 18, 2023, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“There were actually odds, like she’s third or fourth in betting odds on being MVP of the WNBA. These people are so disrespectful and so unknowledgeable and so stupid that it gives women’s basketball a bad name. The kid was set up for failure right from the beginning.”

He also addressed the idea that opposing teams have “targeted” the former Iowa Hawkeyes star during her first handful of games in the pros.

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“There’s a huge target on this kid’s back,” Auriemma said before adding that he believed that Clark is singled out by “society, targeted by her looks, targeted by her reputation, targeted by the disrespect that they’ve shown to the WNBA.” 

geno clark

Caitlin Clark talks with Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma before the 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Mandatory Credit: (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

He doubled down on his stance on Tuesday in Connecticut at the UConn Coaches Road Show. “Is she facing the rookie challenge, the rookie hardships that are inherent with being a rookie? Yes,” Auriemma said. “She’s also being targeted.”

Auriemma did praise Clark for how she is navigating the challenges she faced in the early portion of her pro basketball career.

“I think she’s handling it great. I think she talks a lot of s–t, and she gets a lot of s–t back,” Auriemma said. “So she deserves everything she gets, because she gives it as good as she gets.”

While Auriemma does not believe Clark is “built for the physicality” of the WNBA, he noted that she will eventually get acclimated and can always rely on her top-notch skillset.

“She’s just not built for the physicality of this league, and she’s not quick enough to get away from the physicality. So, there’s a lot of learning curve like Diana [Taurasi] said. When she gets it, she has elite skills that are going to really help her. But she needs to be on a better team, and she needs to be more experienced, and that will come.”

WNBA

The WNBA logo on a basketball during warmups between the Seattle Storm and the Connecticut Sun at Climate Pledge Arena on June 20, 2023, in Seattle, Washington.  (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Auriemma, who recorded his milestone 1,200th career win earlier this year, also threw some cold water on the hype and expectations surrounding the 2024 WNBA rookie class. He even suggested that this year’s group of rookies is inferior to other recent classes.

“I thought Cameron Brink said something really smart,” Auriemma said. “She said now they’re expecting this rookie class to be perfect. This rookie class isn’t even one of the best rookie classes in the last 10 years. But they’ve been put out to be that, because of the way social media is today. So, what kind of impact is this rookie class having in the WNBA?”

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Although Auriemma now famously did not recruit Clark when she was in high school, the legendary coach spoke highly of the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer across men’s and women’s basketball ahead of UConn’s Final Four matchup in April.

Clark is averaging 15.6 points and 6.4 assists over the first 11 games of her WNBA career.

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