Legendary Coach Slams WNBA, Says Caitlin Clark was 'Set Up' - 'Huge Target on This Kid's Back'


Caitlin Clark’s rookie season has been a boon for the WNBA and women’s basketball as a whole — but it hasn’t been without controversy and some disappointment. And, according to a college coaching legend, the league is responsible for setting her up to be a “huge target.”

According to USA Today, University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma said during a radio appearance Wednesday that the league and its partners played to “the delusional fanbase” who thought she would dominate the league.

While the No. 1 draft pick has played well for a player who just came out of college — she was only the second WNBA player to amass 100 points, 50 rebounds and 50 assists in her first 10 games — her Indiana Fever are the second-worst team in the 12-team league with a 3-9 record.

Only the 0-11 Washington Mystics are worse.

Auriemma, an 11-time national champion and one of the most decorated coaches in all of sports, said that the No. 1 pick was “set up for failure” at the next level.

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“These people are so disrespectful and so unknowledgeable and so stupid, that it gives a women’s basketball a bad name,” Auriemma told host Dan Patrick.

“The kid was set up for failure right from the beginning.”

Indeed, while the Fever do have two straight No. 1 picks starring for the team — Clark and 2023 top pick Aliyah Boston — they have virtually no help from the rest of the lineup.

And, not only that, but Auriemma said that the hype had turned Clark into a “target” for other players.

Is Caitlin Clark being targeted?

“There’s a huge target on this kid’s back. I thought Cameron Brink said something really smart. She said now they’re expecting this rookie class to be perfect,” Auriemma said.

“This rookie class isn’t even one of the best rookie classes in the last 10 years,” Auriemma explained. “But they’ve been put out to be that because the way social media is today.”

He added that one of his former players at UConn, Diana Taurasi, said “reality is coming” for Clark and her fellow rookies.

“[Clark’s] just not built for the physicality of this league,” Auriemma said, although he added part of the problem is that she’s “on the wrong team.”

He continued, effectively remarking on Clark’s thinner frame contributing to some defensive issues: “She’s not quick enough to get away from the physicality. So there’s a lot of learning curve, like Diana said, and when she gets it, she has elite skills that are going to really help her.”

Caitlin Clark Puts WNBA Haters on Notice, Headlines Biggest Game in Over 2 Decades

Whether or not this is true — this WNBA draft class has played well, for the most part — there’s no question that Clark needs help and has become a target of overly physical play.

Case in point, for those of you who missed it:

That’s Chennedy Carter getting her 15 minutes of fame with a brutal, flagrant, off-ball foul on Clark earlier this month during a Fever-Chicago Sky game. That was bad enough, but Carter’s Sky teammate — and former college rival of Clark’s — Angel Reese openly celebrate the needless foul.

That said, Auriemma doesn’t believe Clark is on a one-way train to bustville. Far from it, actually.

“She needs to be on a better team and she needs to be more experienced, and that will come,” he said during the interview.

This is indeed true, although he’s not saying anything any sports fan didn’t know. Just in case you need an example, the Chicago Bulls didn’t post a winning record until Michael Jordan’s fourth season and didn’t win a championship until his seventh. You can see similar early growing pains in a number of other star athletes, including NFL legend Peyton Manning (who threw more interceptions than touchdowns as a rookie) and NHL legend Wayne Gretzky (whose Edmonton Oilers wouldn’t post a winning record until his third season).

Clark’s current stats as of Sunday — 16.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists — are good by WNBA standards, and she leads the team in points and assists. It’s not her, in other words, it’s everyone around her; there’s a reason the Fever are picking near the top of the draft most years.

However, in terms of the league putting a target on her, Auriemma is right on. Despite the fact that Clark has managed to bring a whole new audience to the game, along with other members of the 2024 draft class, the rest of the talent in the league seems to think that welcoming them by needless fouls and rough play is just de rigueur when it comes to rookie hazing.

Which, fine, if that’s how they want to roll, they ought to give Clark and the rest of the 2024 draft class residuals for whatever additional money they make thanks to the fact we’re now, shockingly, talking about the WNBA.

It seems only fair, no?

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture