Women's College Basketball
Geno Auriemma says Caitlin Clark is being 'targeted' in WNBA
Women's College Basketball

Geno Auriemma says Caitlin Clark is being 'targeted' in WNBA

Updated Jun. 6, 2024 2:19 p.m. ET

Are Caitlin Clark's fellow WNBA players unfairly targeting the star rookie, or is the most-hyped young player in the league's history simply paying her dues?

One of the most respected voices in women's college basketball and the sport as a whole, longtime UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, is squarely in the former camp.

"Is she facing the rookie challenge, the rookie hardships that are inherent with being a rookie? Yes," Auriemma told reporters Tuesday, via ESPN. "She's also being targeted."

The debate over how Clark's opponents are treating her cranked up after Chicago Sky guard Chennedy Carter body-checked Clark to the ground late in the Indiana Fever's 71-70 win over the Sky on Saturday, as teammates — including Clark's former college rival Angel Reese — appeared to applaud from Chicago's bench.


Some, including FS1's Colin Cowherd and Chris Broussard and longtime NBA player Jamal Crawford, believe Clark is just going through the necessary adversity that someone heralded as a star often endures, such as NBA legends like Michael Jordan and LeBron James in the early portions of their careers.

Auriemma addressed that line of thinking, saying that while he understands the argument, he believes the treatment of Clark has crossed a line.

"I don't remember when Jordan came into the [NBA], guys looking to go out and beat him up," Auriemma said. "I don't remember when [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] came in the league and elevated the NBA, them getting targeted and getting beat up just because of who they were and the attention they were getting.

"Appreciate the fact that now's the time [for the WNBA]. I get it. It's long overdue. Why are you blaming that kid? It's not her fault, because you would trade places with her in a minute, but you are not there. You're not her. So, you're [complaining] that she's getting what she's getting."

In a Thursday appearance on the "Dan Patrick Show," the longtime UConn coach also opined that the intense preseason hype by Clark's fans slighted other WNBA players. Auriemma said that Clark was "set up for failure right from the beginning" because she's on a bad team and doesn't yet have the size, skill and experience to immediately dominate in the league.

"The delusional fan base that follows her disrespected the WNBA players by saying [that] she's going to go in that league and tear it apart," Auriemma said. "If you're a WNBA player — and believe me, I've coached the best — they were tremendously disrespected, and none of them are going to say it."

Next season, Auriemma's Huskies will be in the mix to win their 12th national title in his tenure as they have a loaded team led by returning star Paige Bueckers. Their season ended in the Final Four last year at the hands of Clark's Iowa Hawkeyes, who then lost to South Carolina in the national championship game.

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