Caitlin Clark unfairly ‘targeted’ in WNBA: Geno Auriemma

With Caitlin Clark and the physical play she has faced at the forefront of the WNBA conversation this season, one of women’s college basketball’s iconic coaches is speaking out — and he doesn’t particularly like what he’s seen.

On Tuesday, before the UConn Coaches Road Show, Auriemma, who just inked a five-year extension, said that while physical play against a rookie is to be expected, what Clark has faced has taken it a step too far.

Clark, last Saturday, was shoulder-checked by the Sky’s Chennedy Carter, who was later flagged with a flagrant 1 foul for the incident, which she refused to talk about in the immediate aftermath.

Chennedy Carter is seen checking Caitlin Clark to the ground.

The play has been widely discussed inside and outside the sports world, with the conversation dominating ESPN’s “First Take” and also being widespread enough to see an Indiana congressman chime in.

Auriemma said he believes Clark, who appeared to have been jawing with Carter throughout the Fever win, has been “targeted” in the early stages of her WNBA career.

“Every rookie has to go through the growing pains of being a professional basketball player,” the coach told reporters, according to CT Insider. “And the more attention you get, and today’s world attention is No. 1 and attention brings money. So is she facing the rookie challenge, the rookie hardships that are inherent with being a rookie? Yes. She’s also being targeted.”

Carter later addressed the hard foul and said she didn’t have any regrets of the physical nature of her game against Clark.

Caitlin Clark (left) is fouled by Rae Burrell in the second half of the Fever’s 88-82 loss to the Sparks on May 28. AP

“I’m a competitor, and I’m going to compete no matter who you are, and no matter who’s in front of me. So that’s just what it was,” Carter told reporters Monday. “Heat of the moment play. We’re getting at it. We’re getting back and forth. It’s basketball. It’s all hoops. After we finish the game, it’s all love.

“I don’t have any regrets with anything. I’m going to compete and play 100 percent hard, no matter who it is — like I said — or who we’re playing. No, I don’t have any regrets.”

Caitlin Clark talks with Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma
before the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Auriemma, who could have had Clark as a player in the college ranks, continued to defend her and what he believes is unfair treatment toward her on the court.

He went on to discuss how both Larry Bird and Michael Jordan elevated the NBA during the 1980s, and how he felt they didn’t get the same “targeted” treatment as Clark is now in the WNBA.

“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.”

Auriemma is far from the first person to invoke the Bird-Jordan comparison with Clark and Sky rookie Angel Reese, with Rachel Nichols, during a Wednesday appearance on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” saying that the rivalry already brewing in the WNBA is good for the sport.

The Fever next play on Friday against the Mystics, as they look to rebound from a disappointing loss against the Liberty that saw Clark score a career-low three points.

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