When you’ve been a head coach for 29 years, like Geno Auriemma has, you shake hands with a lot of coaches. Some are perfunctory gestures, motivated by sportsmanship and decorum. Others are heartfelt, gestures of friendship and camaraderie.
Auriemma genuinely likes and respects South Florida’s veteran coach, Jose Fernandez. Besides basketball, they have many things in common that bond them; a gregarious personality, a love for the game, a taste for wine and fine cigars.
Long-time rivals in the Big East, the two are paired again in the American Athletic Assciation. The teams played on Jan. 26 in Hartford and will play again Sunday.
But its uncertain whether Fernandez will be at the game. He has been hospitalized because of a delayed allergic reaction to prescribed medication taken to battle diverticulitis, a intestinal tract disorder that can cause severe abdominal pain.
Nearly two weeks ago, Fernandez, 42, had a recurrence and spent three days in Florida Hospital. This same ailment caused him to miss the opening game of the 2009-10 season. He did not travel to South Florida’s game at Louisville on Feb. 2, but was back on the sideline for victories at Memphis on Wednesday and against UCF on Saturday.
But Fernandez again fell ill and was back in the hospital Sunday and has been resting in the Progressive Care Unit.
“I am beginning to feel much better,” he said Tuesday.
If Fernandez is unable to coach Sunday when the Bulls (13-10, 8-4 American Athletic Conference) host No. 1 UConn (25-0, 12-0), the Bulls will be led by associate head coach Jeff Osterman, who filled the same role at Louisville.