The telephone rings. Geno Auriemma’s identify pops up on the caller ID. It’s October, and the UConn head coach is surprisingly upbeat and fairly chatty given the business-first demeanor he usually exudes on the court docket, and most positively to the media throughout press conferences. He’s a legend, the Leonardo da Vinci answerable for igniting a renaissance in Storrs—and, actually, all of girls’s hoops—by creating the method for probably the most profitable program of all time in NCAA girls’s basketball. Nobody has extra championships or Remaining 4 appearances than the Huskies. Nobody.
How’d he do it? Right here, Auriemma displays on his profession, his legacy, and if he thinks anybody else will ever be capable of do it like he has…
SLAM: Coach, it’s an honor. How are you?
GENO AURIEMMA: Issues have been going fairly properly. We simply began official practices, so we haven’t been going for very lengthy. These have gone fairly properly. We’ll see what occurs within the subsequent week or so, however to date, so good.
SLAM: How do you strategy the beginning of each season?
GA: Annually brings its share of similarities. There are specific issues that you simply need to do, [but] there’s additionally the unknown. What sort of group are we going to have? What do now we have to do totally different[ly] to accommodate this specific group? So it’s related in some methods, it’s totally different relying on the personnel that you’ve. However at all times the joy is there, the challenges are there each summer season, they’re simply totally different. It’s refreshing to get again on the court docket as a result of that’s what we love to do. We’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I feel now we have a fairly good routine that we observe and we go from there.
SLAM: How does 12 months 38 really feel?
GA: It’s 38, 39, I don’t even know what number of it’s. It’s acquired the texture of different seasons that you simply’re excited and anxious about. You’re curious to learn the way it suits collectively. You get somebody like Paige Bueckers again, there’s an actual pleasure within the constructing. There’s an actual pleasure on our group. Aaliyah Edwards performed a number of basketball final 12 months and a number of minutes, Nika Mühl, the 2 of them. Aubrey [Griffin] performed a ton of minutes. They picked up worthwhile expertise. For me personally, there’s a number of pleasure of eager to see what this group may very well be. I really feel prefer it’s my job to ensure they get all of the assets and steering that they want from me and my workers to make it work for them.
SLAM: Let’s transition into the early days. Do you keep in mind the place you had been while you heard the information that you simply acquired the job?
GA: No, I used to be right here. I acquired an opportunity to satisfy with everyone I wanted to satisfy with. I believed it went rather well. Then the subsequent day, our Athletic Director on the time, John Toner, who was additionally the President of the NCAA that helped implement Title IX took me apart. We acquired in his automotive and drove all the way down to a Dunkin Donuts. We walked in and sat in these swirling stools that that they had on the counter again in these days once they had counters at Dunkin Donuts. We had espresso and he seemed me within the eye and he requested me if I wished to be the coach of the College of Connecticut. He advised me that I had to do that the fitting method and all the pieces needed to be achieved the fitting method. He put his hand down and shook my hand and that was it. I used to be the coach on the College of Connecticut similar to that. I acquired again to campus and we went into the workplace and he handed me a one-page piece of paper. It stated I used to be going to be the coach on the College of Connecticut for 5 years and I used to be going to receives a commission this and needed to signal right here. I signed it, and that was it. There was no agent concerned. There was no negotiating a wage. It was only a handshake. Right here’s your contract, $29,000. Take it or go away it.
SLAM: Through the ups and downs of the early years, what saved you going?
GA: What occurs in these conditions is, who you will have in your group, in your program, in your workers or no matter, that’s the sources of your motivation. These three years that it was a battle, we saved our fingers crossed and simply saved working. Though it was troublesome, and there have been doubts, we by no means expressed these doubts to anyone—these had been inside. On the skin, everyone thought all the pieces was nice and we’re pushing and we’re dedicated and we’re going to be nice. The fact was, this was actually, actually troublesome, and we knew it was going to be troublesome, however we didn’t understand it was going to be this tough. And like I stated, it wasn’t till 1988, and 1989 once we gained the common season and event, that there was some validation. Once we did win, it was now, How far can this group go? It turned out we had been capable of get to the Remaining 4. Then we had been capable of get Rebecca Lobo to come back to UConn. We had a terrific group of individuals along with her and proper behind her that made it [feel like], Yeah, I actually don’t need to be anyplace else. I need to be proper right here with this group of individuals.
SLAM: You’re recognized for cultivating future WNBA stars. Do you see who your gamers can turn into earlier than it even occurs?
GA: Once we see a participant in highschool, now we have an impression and we are saying, Hey, I see similarities between this child and so and so. They get to campus, and as you begin teaching them, you begin to really feel this like, Sure, this child’s actually acquired one thing, or, Man I actually missed on this one. Or, you didn’t count on a lot, and also you go, Wow, this child is method higher than I believed. You coach all of them from the start like they don’t know something, and that’s the way in which we’ve at all times achieved it. Whether or not we get a child who didn’t make first-team All-State, or we get a child who was Participant of the 12 months out of highschool, we coach them the identical. We begin in the beginning and we attempt to make them higher gamers. We’re not going to go in there and assume that as a result of they’re this gifted or as a result of they had been all this, that they’re able to go. No, we deal with them like they don’t know something. Over a time period, we preserve hammering away at that stuff, they develop into fairly good basketball gamers. After which yeah, it will get outlined by that—that is the Rebecca Lobo period, ’95’s Nationwide Championship. Our first All-American was Kerry Bascom, and that period [we] went from ending final within the Large East earlier than we acquired right here to going to the Remaining 4. Then on Rebecca’s group, we had Jennifer Rizzotti, Nationwide Participant of the 12 months. We had Kara Wolters, Nationwide Participant of the 12 months. We had Nykesha Gross sales, who ended up being a two-time All American right here and a WNBA famous person. The Diana Taurasi period had 4 Olympians and a number of All-Individuals and Nationwide Gamers of the 12 months. The Maya Moore period with Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery and simply superb All-Individuals and nice gamers. The Stewie [Breanna Stewart], Stefanie [Dolson], [Morgan] Tuck and Moriah Jefferson [era].
All these eras contain so many good gamers. Every a type of gamers was handled the very same method. They had been all coached the very same method, and possibly that’s why we had related successes with each considered one of them, as a result of we not often modified the method. I don’t care when you got here in with the power of Maya or Stewie, otherwise you got here in with restricted capability like a few of our different gamers, it didn’t matter. We had been going to educate you the very same method and we had been going to get the identical outcomes. Trying again, that consistency of how we’ve achieved it’s one thing we’re happy with.
SLAM: Do you assume the method and consistency are what’s contributed to this system’s success?
GA: For positive. The response that we get a number of instances is, You’ve got the very best gamers. And I might assume, properly, now we have among the greatest gamers, however we don’t have all the very best gamers. If we’re capable of get two of the very best gamers within the nation yearly, that’s solely two out of, say, 24 within the All-American Sport. So, the opposite 22 went someplace [else]. So you’ll be able to’t simply say we gained as a result of we get the very best gamers. However I feel the consistency and the sort of gamers that we get, that to me is the differentiator between us and different packages. It doesn’t imply that what we do is healthier than anyone else. It’s just a bit totally different. Once more, we don’t win yearly. That is the half that’s humorous: We’ve gone to 22 Remaining Fours and people 22 Remaining Fours have all come since 1991. In order that’s in 33 years. That’s fairly superb. Twenty-two Remaining Fours in 33 years. That’s fantasy land, OK? In 22 Remaining Fours, we gained 11 nationwide championships and we’ve misplaced 11 instances within the Remaining 4. We don’t win on a regular basis. I feel our objective is to only put ourselves in place to win on a regular basis; it doesn’t imply we’re going to. And that’s not the simplest factor on the earth to do. In immediately’s web world, you’re both the very best within the nation otherwise you’re the worst within the nation. No person ever says, Yeah, they’re fairly good! Which is gloomy as a result of there are a number of fairly good groups. However now you’re both prime otherwise you’re the worst. There’s no in-between. That’s not the true world. For those who’re a group or a coach or a participant, you begin to really feel the strain of these expectations. For those who’re not cautious and also you get caught up in that, it doesn’t matter what number of good gamers you will have, you’re going to have a tough time profitable.
SLAM: What has been the most important issue that’s made this system click on?
GA: We’ve heard on a regular basis that the UConn period or the dynasty is in demise, you already know, that it’s—it goes again to what I stated: there’s this notion that when you’re not profitable nationwide championships, you’re not excellent. I simply assume that, what makes it click on, particularly in immediately’s world, is that you simply don’t enable your self to be caught up in all that stuff as a participant. You don’t turn into [caught up in the] web and what persons are saying about you. You retain recruiting gamers which can be extra selfless than they’re egocentric.
[Players] which can be keen to surrender a bit of little bit of themselves with a view to win a championship and to play with different terrific gamers. There’s a number of gamers that need to go to a faculty the place they’re going to be the focal point and it’s going to be all about them. What makes it click on for us, and why individuals would discuss us the way in which they do is as a result of we do discover gamers that need to sacrifice a few of their very own objectives for the large objective, the group objective. That’s a bit of bit rarer immediately than it was once I began.
SLAM: Have you ever considered your legacy?
GA: I’ve considered it throughout these instances, when, possibly on the finish of the season, you simply completed a really troublesome season. Perhaps you’re celebrating a championship otherwise you’re upset in how the season ended, and also you surprise, Do I’ve it in me to maintain doing this? How a lot is taken out of you to perform all this stuff. And also you look again and also you see the issues which have occurred right here—I don’t know that I consider it when it comes to who’s coming after me or what am I forsaking, however I feel among the issues that we’re going to depart behind are most likely undoable sooner or later. I don’t assume anyone can sit right here and say, OK, pick a coach that you simply assume goes to win 11 nationwide championships that’s teaching immediately. You’d be hard-pressed. Choose a group that gained 111 in a row. Choose one which gained 90 in a row, 3 times…Identify a program that’s going to go to 14 straight Remaining Fours. Issues that we’ve achieved legacy-wise are going to be undoable now. That’s most likely not a foul factor as a result of that signifies that the sport has grown a lot that it’s going to be tougher to perform any of these issues. Gamers are going to extra faculties than ever earlier than, totally different faculties. Coaches are doing an exceptional job of not simply recruiting, however of teaching. The legacy that’s going to be left right here by these those that have labored right here and performed right here, some issues—we’re going to be within the file books for eternity. That’s one thing to be happy with, from myself to be happy with, which I’m, all of the coaches which have ever coached with me and each single participant that placed on a uniform right here at UConn over these 39 years. It’s their legacy, too.
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