UConn’s Paige Bueckers and Donovan Clingan.

Nobody knows University of Connecticut basketball quite like Dom Amore. The longtime sports columnist and reporter has worked for the Hartford Courant for 36 years and has covered the Huskies since 2011. The UConn men could become the first team to repeat as national champions since Florida (2006, 07). The UConn women have reached the Final Four in 15 out of the past 16 seasons.

We caught up with Amore to discuss the men’s and women’s programs. Remarkably, it’s the fifth time in school history that both are playing in the Final Four.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: Could this be the best UConn men’s team ever?

Dom Amore: “Potentially, yes. The 1999 and 2004 teams, particularly the ’04 team probably would have something to say about that. They were great teams, and maybe the competition that they had to overcome in those years may have been better than what this UConn team has overcome. But you can only judge teams from different eras by how well they dominated the competition that they faced. And in terms of dominating what’s in front of them, this team, the numbers speak for themselves.”

How many NBA players are on this roster?

“I would say two bonafide NBA prospects for sure are Donovan Clingan and Stephon Castle. Then I think the other three in the lineup, Alex Karaban, Tristen Newton, and Cam Spencer are borderline guys who will certainly get a look. I feel like the five starters will all play in the NBA, at least to some degree. Two, I think, will have long and productive careers.”

Do the Huskies have a weakness?

“I’ve been trying for the last couple of days to try to figure out what that weakness would be. The only way they could lose is if they have a terrible shooting night. Or if a team has an incredibly hot-shooting night against them. That’s how upsets happen. But as far as any one thing, I don’t know. I don’t think there is one unless you get both their big men in foul trouble. They don’t have an apparent weakness.”

How does UConn match up against Alabama and potentially versus Purdue in the title game?

“Seems like Alabama would be a good matchup for UConn in that they might try to run with UConn and play into their hands. Like most teams, they’d need an unconscious shooting game to hang with UConn. Stranger things have happened, but that would be a surprise to me. Purdue has the big man (in Zach Edey) who can stop Donovan Clingan and force UConn to beat them other ways. Creighton forced UConn to rely on its midrange game, but that hasn’t worked since. Maybe Purdue can do both, neutralize Clingan, and run shooters off the 3-point line if they’re quick enough to do all that. Bottom line: A lot has to go right for any team to beat UConn the way they’re playing.”

What was the original reaction when Dan Hurley was hired in 2018?

“That he was the perfect guy at the perfect time. I think the feeling was that they were getting a young Jim Calhoun, somebody who would bring the intensity and the fire back to the program. Maybe he’s more accurately described as a modern Jim Calhoun. A guy with a lot of Jim Calhoun’s traits, but that translated to the modern era in terms of producing content for social media and things of that nature. It’s amazing. Things have pretty much unfolded exactly the way he promised.”

What kind of person is Hurley? He seems to have a lot of swagger.

“He’s definitely sure of himself. He’s definitely volatile. He’s somewhat combustible. But I think he’s sincere. I don’t think there’s anything about him that’s an act. I think he wears his emotions on his sleeve. If you could change anything about him for his own good, you’d probably like to give him a little bit more of a filter. Sometimes he gets in these confrontations with fans on his way out of the arena when it would be a lot smarter to just keep walking. But he likes to use slights as motivation, both for himself and for his team. And as a result, he has what old-time baseball people used to call rabbit ears. He hears everything and reacts to it.”

What can you tell us about UConn assistant Luke Murray, who is also Bill Murray’s son?

“He aspires to be a head coach and every indication is that he’s going to get that opportunity sooner than later. He’s very reticent to take credit for anything. But the other coaches have talked to me quite a bit about how much he’s done for the offense, how much he’s done with regard to the use of analytics for the program. He’s been a very good recruiter. So he gets a lot of credit for being a game changer, but he completely deflects it. As far as his father goes, he obviously has a great relationship with his dad. His dad comes and supports him but he doesn’t want to talk a whole lot about his father.”

Speaking of celebrities, what was it like having Larry David at the Elite Eight game?

“One of the other reporters from Connecticut went up to him and asked what brought him to the game. And he said he was in town and a friend of his got him tickets. And that was that. Then with about seven minutes to go, UConn’s had this 30-0 run and all of a sudden I hear from behind me: ‘You can stop coaching. The game’s over. Stop coaching.’ I turn around and sure enough, Larry David is standing up yelling.

“Donovan Clingan was out. He came in. (David yells) ‘Don’t put him back in. The game’s over.’ He somehow took offense to this. There were seven or eight minutes to go. It wasn’t the time to put in the walk-ons, but he started screaming at Hurley for this. And then a few minutes later, he screamed, ‘Shame on you, Hurley. The game’s over. Take your starters out.’ I don’t know why this set him off. Maybe he felt like he had to rain on the parade like his character often does.”

With the UConn women, how has this Final Four run been different from the others?

“When UConn made 14 Final Fours in a row, people in Connecticut and even around the program came to consider it a baseline achievement, preposterous as that sounds. With the streak ending last season, it wasn’t taken for granted to the same degree. And they got hit with all those injuries. I think people were more apt to root for the team to get there and appreciate it more now. And I think the players and coaches are more proud of it.”

What do you think of the Paige Bueckers vs. Caitlin Clark matchup?

“Bueckers and Clark met three years ago. Bueckers was playing with an ankle injury, but she prevailed, probably with a deeper supporting cast. UConn, without Paige, beat Clark and Iowa early last season. So UConn is 2-0. I don’t think Iowa will be able to shut Bueckers down. She’ll get her stats and impact the game in various ways. To keep Clark from having a bigger, monster night, UConn will need Nika Mühl and/or KK Arnold to stay on her without fouling. If either gets two quick fouls or three in the first half, Clark could go wild. Generally, Geno Auriemma and company come up with game plans that limit star players, but they need to avoid fouls against Clark. That will be very hard. If it becomes a pure back-and-forth duel between those two, I think Clark would score more points.”

How long will Auriemma, 70, continue to coach?

“His contract runs out next year. There’s an option year on it. He’s in discussions about having an extension. All indications are that he’s going to coach well into the future, maybe another five years. The athletic director would like to have him signed for five years. So, I would anticipate him coaching, as long as his health holds up, for several more years.”

What’s your secret to surviving over three decades in the newspaper business?

“I covered the New York Giants and the Yankees for a lot of years, but I never moved away from Connecticut. So I’m still steeped in Connecticut knowledge. It was easy for me to transition to UConn when that became the thing. So, it’s being adaptable, being willing to reinvent yourself, and not being so entrenched in one sport or one team or one thing that you can’t move when the job takes you in a different direction.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.