Published April 06, 2013
NEW ORLEANS – For Louisville's Schimmel sisters, success on the basketball court during the NCAA tournament has brought their family closer together in ways they never anticipated.
It inspired their parents to finally get married, for one.
As Shoni Schimmel and younger sister Jude recounted Saturday, the eve of Louisville's national semifinal matchup with Cal, the events leading to their father parents' long-overdue marriage began when Rick was talking about why Easter Sunday was an appropriate time to believe in miracles.
That, of course, was the same day the fifth-seeded Cardinals were to meet top seed and defending national champion Baylor in the Oklahoma City Regional semifinal — a game the Lady Bears were expected to win by most, including the Schimmel sisters' own mother, Ceci Moses.
"Sadly, I have to put my mom in the category with everyone else," Jude Schimmel said. "So she told my dad, 'If these guys beat Baylor, then I'll marry you.'"
That night, the sisters combined to go 7 of 10 from 3-point range to help Louisville pull off an 82-81 victory that will be remembered as one of the biggest upsets of the 2013 tournament.
The next day, Rick and Cici were married in Oklahoma City. The day after that, Louisville pulled off another upset against Tennessee last Tuesday to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans.
"My parents have been together for 28 years but they've never had the time to actually tie the knot," Shoni Schimmel explained. "they had a ton of kids, eight kids, and they just never really had the time to go out and do it because they're out coaching us or teaching us how to play basketball and stuff. They never had the time."
It somehow seemed fitting that the marriage would be triggered by a basketball victory, given how the parents took so much time to raise their children playing the game.
The Schimmels are native Americans, and the family lives on a reservation in Oregon where, Jude said, life is not always easy.
"There are so many negative things that are on the reservation," Jude Schimmel said, mentioning teenage pregnancy, drug addiction and alcoholism as examples. "Basketball is one of the things that are really positive. ... The fact we had so much support from our family helped us focus on basketball and not the negative things. Basketball's got us this far."
Shoni Schimmel is Louisville's leading scorer, averaging a team-high 14.4 points. The 5-foot-10 junior guard has been known to hit shots from well beyond the 3-point line. The 5-5 Jude Schimmel is a sophomore, averaging 5.6 points in a reserve role.
This past week, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma called the Schimmel sisters two of the most exciting players in the country, and Jude Schimmel was gratified to hear such a high-profile figure in the game say that for several reasons.
"It's cool knowing people like that are recognizing us," Jude Schimmel said. "That's kind of our goal, kind of make a name for not only us but other native Americans who want to do this."
DREAM COME TRUE: Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb owes a lot of her success to friend Hillary Hike.
When the two were kids they used to hold fake press conferences imaging what it would be like to be at a Final Four.
Hike as a player and Gottlieb as a coach.
"I would take like a fake tape recorder and we would do imaginary press conferences," she said. "And she would dream about playing in the Final Four, which she got to do, and I would dream at some point about coaching here."
Hike's a big reason for Gottlieb's success. She starred at Duke, helping the Blue Devils upset Tennessee in 1999 to reach the Final Four.
Former Cal coach Joanne Boyle was an assistant on that team and hired Gottlieb as an assistant for the Golden Bears a few years ago. Gottlieb left to coach UC Santa Barbara before returning to the Bay Area when Boyle took the Virginia job.
"I joke that I have a job because you went to Duke," Gottlieb said. "She and her whole family are here. It's kind of fun. 'We joke: 'Wow, we both ultimately made a Final Four.'"
GETTING OLD: UConn coach Geno Auriemma says he is enjoying his 14th Final Four as much has his first back in 1991, which was also in New Orleans.
He cannot say as much for the grind of pressure-packed games one must win just to get back to women's college basketball's marquee event again and again. The Huskies have been to a record six straight Final Fours.
"Being at the Final Four is still fun. It's still great. It's easy. When you're here, you know your team deserves to be here. You know you're going to play well. You know you're playing a great team," the 59-year-old Auriemma said. "For me, it's gotten harder and harder to enjoy the process leading up to this."
The subject came up during a discussion of how much different this Final Four must be for Auriemma or Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw than it is for 35-year-old California coach Lindsey Gottlieb, who has led Cal to its first Final Four — and her first as a coach — in her second season with the Golden Bears.
"Lindsay doesn't know it yet," Auriemma began with a grin, "but 10 years from now, she's going to look back on this year and go, 'Man, that's when it all turned for me. I used to love this game."
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.