HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Thousands of fans showed they aren’t tired of celebrating national titles with the UConn women’s team, gathering for an hour-long parade and rally in downtown Hartford on Sunday afternoon in mild spring weather.
The victory parade began at the state Capitol and ended in a rally and a shower of confetti at the XL Center, the downtown basketball arena where the team often plays.
With temperatures approaching 70 degrees, many people, including team members on their open top double-decker bus, wore short-sleeved shirts in the navy blue and white school colors.
“Who doesn’t love a winner, especially when it’s your hometown winner,” Vic Herson told the Hartford Courant as he waited along the parade route. He said he and his wife Gail rode their bikes nine miles from Bloomfield to see the parade.
“Last year we declared Connecticut the basketball capital of the world, and this year we are doing it again,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told the rally.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joked that he is going to ask President Barack Obama, a basketball player, to rename the White House court for women’s coach Geno Auriemma.
The UConn women won their third straight NCAA championship Tuesday night with a 63-53 win over Notre Dame. It’s their 10th title and their third in three years. The school’s men’s team has won four championships. The teams held joint parades in 2004 and last season, when an estimated 200,000 people showed up for the event.
It’s also the 30th year at UConn for Auriemma, who joked at the rally, “We try to do this as often as we can.”
Auriemma said that when he arrived, “I don’t know that the state of Connecticut expected to have two championship basketball teams. Thirty years ago no one thought it was possible. Nothing is impossible and we just proved it,” he said, thanking his staff, players, fans who braved a snowy winter to come to games and the school’s institutional supporters.
Seniors Kiah Stokes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who have won three championships, thanked the fans and joked that their younger teammates have a chance to win five.
The basketball celebrities and politicians were almost upstaged by Auriemma’s young grandson, who was allowed to lead the cheer “UConn!” ”Huskies!” and toss a little confetti as things wrapped up.