UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who coached New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in AAU basketball, said he has not been in contact with Hernandez for a couple of years.
Massachusetts police continue to investigate what role, if any, Hernandez had in the death of a Boston man. The shooting death of 27-year-old semipro football player, Odin Lloyd, whose body was found a week ago about a quarter mile from Hernandez's home, has led to constant scrutiny of Hernandez, a former Bristol Central football player. His home has been searched and Monday police were scouring a pond and stream near the home looking for evidence.
"Aaron was easy to coach," Auriemma said Monday from his "Fore the Kids" charity golf tournament benefiting the Connecticut Children's Medical Center at Hartford Golf Club. "But then again, he was only 15, 16. He was easy to coach. His dad was around all the time. His mom was around all the time. His friends were the guys on the team. For me, he was easy, but then again, I didn't go home with him. I just saw him a couple hours when we practiced and I saw him on weekends when we had trips to go play, so it's not like I knew him like I knew my son or anything like that."
Auriemma's son Michael played on the team and was friendly with Hernandez.
"Any time you see anyone that you know — or have had any kind of relationship — go through a situation like he's in right now, you can't help but be shocked about it," Auriemma said. "Then again, Aaron, who was 16, 17, and Aaron who's [23 now] are two completely different people as anyone else would be. It's sad. No matter how it comes out, it's sad."
Auriemma noted the difference between coaching a college player and a pro player.
"I guess that's the difference between pros and college," Auriemma said. "If you're coaching in college and one of your players is involved in a situation like that, you as a college coach would be immediately held responsible. You and your program would be almost as responsible as the individual who's involved in the situation. But in the pros, it's all on [the player]. That's why it's so hard, when you're coaching, and you've got 18-, 19-year-olds coming up to campus, and you've got them for the next four years. You think you know them, but you don't really know them."
Hernandez, whose father died in 2006, played college football at the University of Florida before being drafted by the Patriots. Auriemma was asked if he is a Patriotsfan.
"Yeah, I mean, I think living up here, you certainly follow them and you certainly root for them, but having him play the way he's played and have the success he's had, you can't help but feel good about it, feel good for him and be happy for him," Auriemma said. "You talk about a kid who was 16 years old and playing in these AAU tournaments and you're getting in a van and you're driving and doing dumb stuff as 15- and 16-year-old kids do, and then you turn on the TV one day and he's head-butting Tom Brady because he just caught a touchdown pass. That's not real life. How many times do you get to sit there and watch an NFL game and say, 'I know that kid. I hung out with him.'? So for all his friends and family and high school coaches, everybody, yeah, I think everybody was like, 'Wow. I'm really proud of him.'
'"I was talking to one of my friends about it, who knows him just like I know him, and said I think he was the youngest player ever in the NFL. He played in the NFL before his 21st birthday, that doesn't happen. This will be his fourth year in the league and he's not 24 yet. He's a young guy. It's a lot sometimes. I don't know anything about it, what happened. I don't know anything about the situation."
Auriemma said he has lost touch over the years.
"When he was in Florida, [we spoke] once or twice, then when he signed with the Patriots, a couple times," Auriemma said. "But I think when he signed that big contract he changed his cell phone ... which was really smart of him to do that. It's a shame. I wish his dad was around to help him out a little bit."