LINCOLN, Neb. – BYU coach Jeff Judkins was drafted by the Celtics in the second round of the 1978 NBA draft. You might remember their first-round pick that season: Larry Bird.
And after his NBA playing career ended, he served the Utah men (and Rick Majerus) as an assistant from 1988-99before becoming a women's assistant coach at BYU in 2000.
Judkins took over the Cougars in 2001 and has won 282 games since.
His experience at every important level of the game has convinced him that Geno Auriemma would be accepted by men as a head coach, should the situation ever arise.
"There is no question [men's players] would accept him," Judkins said.
"When you dominate a sport like he has, in my book, Geno is one of the best coaches ever. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, although I don't actually look up to him because I am taller than he is. He's a great coach, a great coach. I've learned a lot from him.
"The bigger question is why he hasn't left [women's basketball]. I think I know why. They ask me the same thing. To tell you the truth, I just don't know what it is about coaching women. It's just different. They work their tails off all the time, they execute; the game means a lot to them.
"In fact, the women's game now reminds me of what the men's game was in the 1970s. The players stay four years. Breanna Stewart is not leaving for the WNBA next year. She will mature and it makes it tough to coach against her.
Judkins also said the best coaches in women's basketball know their stuff as well as the men do.
"I hear it all the time from people: 'You are coaching against so-and-so, whatever.' I tell them they should come and coach against some of these people and see how much fun it is," Judkins said.
"The coaches we have in the women's game are good and I have coached against Rick Pitino, Bob Knight and John Calipari. The coaches in the women's game are good coaches. They understand what they need to do. I would put them up against anyone."
Judkins agreed to play UConn in a season series from 2007-08. The Cougars lost both games by a combined 95 points. But he said he would do it again.
"I think Geno was the one who was really willing to sacrifice by playing us," Judkins said. "Usually you go play [UConn in Connecticut], get drilled by 30 and get a paycheck. He did not want to do that. Maybe it was because he just wanted to take his team on a trip.
"But I also think it's because he was a Boston Celtics fan. That helped open the door. But we are very similar in the way we coach. We are tough and the first ones to give them a hug."
Friends For Life
UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and BYU junior Xojian Harry have been close friends their entire lives. In fact, the relationship between their families is so tight they seem like sisters, even though Mosqueda-Lewis is from Anaheim, Calif., and Harry from Bountiful, Utah.
"Kaleena's mother is actually my aunt's best friend," said Harry of Michelle Ahmad, who lives in California. "Her dad and little brother came to Los Angeles to watch us play Nebraska [in the second round].
"This [coincidence of playing UConn] is very exciting, very cool. I would talk about how cool it would be to play UConn sometime in my career. I knew it wasn't going to happen in the regular season. I am glad it happened this way."
Mosqueda-Lewis added that her father and Harry's uncle were firefighters together in Anaheim and that Xojian Harry would often travel to her home to hang out.
Harry averages 13.4 minutes and 3.0 points in a bench role. She scored 11 points with three three-pointers in the Nebraska win.
The second regional semifinal Saturday will be between No. 3 Texas A&M (28-8) and No. 7 DePaul (29-6), coached by two of the sport's most respected men, the Aggies' Gary Blair and the Blue Demons' Doug Bruno
Texas A&M won the national championship in 2011 when it had Danielle Adams, who now plays for San Antonio. DePaul has been to just two Sweet 16 games; 2006 and 2011 and has lost both.
Of course, the Blue Demons were one of the programs that remained part of the Big East after UConn and Notre Dame left. They won the regular season and tournament titles and Bruno, Auriemma's assistant on the 2012 Olympic team, was Big East coach of the year.
The Blue Demons and Huskies will begin a two-year series next season on Dec. 21 in Connecticut. UConn will go to Chicago in 2015-16.
"We are excited about playing UConn again," Bruno said. "We played Notre Dame this season [a 92-76 loss in South Bend] and will play them and Texas A&M next season. You are testing yourself against the best. It makes sense. I like the competition." ... Rutgers and UConn have agreed to resume their season series in a nonconference format beginning next season in Connecticut.