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UConn’s Auriemma tests positive for COVID-19

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Connecticut vs Marquette

Mar 8, 2021; Uncasville, Connecticut, USA; UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma watches from the sideline as they take on the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first half at Mohegan Sun. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

STORRS, Conn. -- UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss at least the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

The Hall of Famer is isolating at home after receiving a positive result from a COVID-19 test taken on Sunday, but his team will play on without him, the school said.

He said he is not experiencing any symptoms and has no idea how he contracted the virus.

“I didn’t all the sudden go on spring break, I didn’t go to Florida,” he told reporters in a conference call on Monday. “I didn’t all of the sudden go on a motorcycle retreat to Montana or something. I didn’t do anything.”

The top-seeded Huskies are scheduled to leave for the tournament in San Antonio on Tuesday. According to federal and state health guidelines, Auriemma must remain in isolation for 10 days and may rejoin the team on March 24.

The team’s head physician said contact tracing protocols indicated Auriemma did not have close contact with any other team member since Friday. All other Tier 1 members of the team and staff tested negative for the virus on Sunday and Monday, the school said.

Auriemma said he and the other coaches keep a safe social distance from players, even at practice, and he was told his viral load was so low there is very little chance he passed the disease on to anyone else.

“Only household close contacts were identified,” Dr. Deena Casiero said. “Given the fact that we have been doing daily testing for the past seven days, we feel confident that we were able to catch this very early on in the disease process.”

The Huskies are scheduled to take on High Point next Sunday. If they advance, they would face the winner of the game between Syracuse and South Dakota State on March 23, the day before Auriemma’s isolation could end.

“I just need them to win two games so I can get down there and help out on any games after that,” he said.

Auriemma said he will be talking to his assistant coaches while they are in Texas, but won’t be trying to coach from Connecticut.

Associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been with Auriemma throughout his 36 seasons in Storrs, is 10-0 while filling in as coach, including leading the team to its first Big East Tournament title in 1989 while Auriemma was serving a suspension.

“I’m an innocent bystander right now,” Auriemma said. “I’m going to sit back and watch them do their thing.”

Center Olivia Nelson-Ododa said the team doesn’t expect that much will change.

“We don’t really rely on one person,” she said. “I think that’s what makes this program special is that even if coach is out or say if the roles were reversed and CD was out, we wouldn’t have to just rely on just one person to have our speeches or have different things to say and coach us.”

Other coaches reacted to the news with concern and took it as a cautionary tale of how contagious the virus is.

“It is a definite reminder to everyone,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “You know it’s just like, `Stay away.”’

Baylor’s Kim Mulkey, who recovered from a bout with the virus early in the season that forced a cancelation of their scheduled game with UConn, worried that others in the UConn program may now end up getting COVID-19.

“When I had it, we had a lot (of others) in quarantine,” she said. “And that was my third thought is like, I wonder if anybody else on the team, it’s going to be a trickle-down effect the next week to 10 days.”

Auriemma, who turns 67 on March 23, received a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. He said he was warned that the full effect of the vaccine does not occur until 14 days after the last inoculation.

He said he also feels that if he had not been vaccinated, he might be much sicker now.

The Huskies (24-1) were forced to postpone the start of their season until Dec. 12 because of another positive test within the program and like most teams had several games canceled or postponed because of coronavirus-related issues.