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McGraw, Auriemma have crossed paths for years

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Muffet McGraw and Geno Auriemma have been crossing paths for a long, long time.

The stakes seem to keep rising, too.

Auriemma arrived at Saint Joseph's as an assistant coach to Jim Foster in 1978, two seasons after McGraw graduated from the school that bills itself as the “Cradle of Coaches.” A year after Auriemma left Saint Joseph's to coach at his alma mater, Bishop Kenrick High School, Foster hired McGraw as his assistant.

“They were both easy hires,” said Foster, the coach at Ohio State the past 11 seasons until he was fired last month.

McGraw and Auriemma will see each other again Sunday in the NCAA semifinals. McGraw is trying to lead Notre Dame (35-1) to its second national title, and Auriemma is trying to help the Huskies (33-4) win their eighth in a rematch of what has become the biggest rivalry in the game.

“I think it is the most heated rivalry in women's basketball, and it's a game that everybody enjoys watching and we enjoy playing,” McGraw said.

McGraw and Auriemma have coached in all 40 games the two schools have played. Auriemma, the coach at UConn since 1985, has a 29-11 advantage, including a 10-1 lead in the Big East tourney. But McGraw, the Irish coach since 1987, holds a 3-0 edge in NCAA Tournament games — all in the Final Four. The Irish also have beaten the Huskies four straight and in seven of the past eight games.

Foster is good friends with both McGraw and Auriemma. He met Auriemma playing intramural basketball outside Philadelphia in the 1970s. Foster was hired as the girls coach at Bishop McDevitt High School and in his second season hired Auriemma as his assistant. When he got the job at Saint Joe's two years later, he brought Auriemma with him.

He met McGraw after being hired as coach at Saint Joseph's.

A photo from the mid-1980s hung in Foster's office, showing him and some former assistants, including McGraw and Auriemma, at a beach. In the photo, Auriemma is wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt.

“He wasn't a Notre Dame fan; it was a chilly day and he had nothing else to wear,” Foster said.

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