Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Geno Auriemma Talks Legacy, Creating the Blueprint for UConn’s Dominance

This story is featured in SLAM Presents UConn. Store now.

The telephone rings. Geno Auriemma’s title 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 undoubtedly to the media throughout press conferences. He’s a legend, the Leonardo da Vinci chargeable for igniting a renaissance in Storrs—and, actually, all of girls’s hoops—by creating the system for essentially the most profitable program of all time in NCAA girls’s basketball. Nobody has extra championships or Ultimate 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 have the ability to do it like he has…

SLAM: Coach, it’s an honor. How are you?
GENO AURIEMMA: Issues have been going fairly effectively. We simply began official practices, so we haven’t been going for very lengthy. These have gone fairly effectively. 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: Every year brings its share of similarities. There are particular issues that you just need to do, [but] there’s additionally the unknown. What sort of crew are we going to have? What do we have now to do totally different[ly] to accommodate this specific crew? So it’s related in some methods, it’s totally different relying on the personnel that you’ve got. However at all times the joy is there, the challenges are there each summer time, 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 believe we have now a fairly good routine that we observe and we go from there.

SLAM: How does 12 months 38 really feel?
It’s 38, 39, I don’t even know what number of it’s. It’s obtained the texture of different seasons that you just’re excited and anxious about. You’re curious to learn the way it matches collectively. You get somebody like Paige Bueckers again, there’s an actual pleasure within the constructing. There’s an actual pleasure on our crew. Aaliyah Edwards performed loads of basketball final 12 months and loads of minutes, Nika Mühl, the 2 of them. Aubrey [Griffin] performed a ton of minutes. They picked up invaluable expertise. For me personally, there’s loads of pleasure of desirous to see what this crew may very well be. I really feel prefer it’s my job to verify they get all of the assets and steerage that they want from me and my workers to make it work for them.

SLAM: Let’s transition into the early days. Do you bear in mind the place you had been while you heard the information that you just obtained the job?

GA: No, I used to be right here. I obtained an opportunity to fulfill with everyone I wanted to fulfill with. I believed it went rather well. Then the following 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 obtained in his automobile and drove all the way down to a Dunkin Donuts. We walked in and sat in these swirling stools that they’d 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 instructed me that I had to do that the appropriate approach and all the things needed to be finished the appropriate approach. He put his hand down and shook my hand and that was it. I used to be the coach on the College of Connecticut identical to that. I obtained again to campus and we went into the workplace and he handed me a one-page piece of paper. It mentioned 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?
What occurs in these conditions is, who you have got in your crew, 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. Despite the fact that it was troublesome, and there have been doubts, we by no means expressed these doubts to anyone—these had been inner. On the skin, everyone thought all the things 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 realize it was going to be this difficult. And like I mentioned, it wasn’t till 1988, and 1989 once we received the common season and match, 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 Ultimate 4. Then we had been capable of get Rebecca Lobo to come back to UConn. We had a terrific group of individuals together 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 identified for cultivating future WNBA stars. Do you see who your gamers can turn out to be earlier than it even occurs?
GA: Once we see a participant in highschool, we have now 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 obtained one thing, or, Man I actually missed on this one. Or, you didn’t anticipate a lot, and also you go, Wow, this child is approach 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 finished 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 Yr out of highschool, we coach them the identical. We begin initially 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 proficient 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 maintain 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 obtained right here to going to the Ultimate 4. Then on Rebecca’s crew, we had Jennifer Rizzotti, Nationwide Participant of the Yr. We had Kara Wolters, Nationwide Participant of the Yr. We had Nykesha Gross sales, who ended up being a two-time All American right here and a WNBA celebrity. The Diana Taurasi period had 4 Olympians and a number of All-Individuals and Nationwide Gamers of the Yr. 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 approach. They had been all coached the very same approach, and possibly that’s why we had related successes with each one in all them, as a result of we hardly ever modified the system. I don’t care in case you got here in with the flexibility of Maya or Stewie, otherwise you got here in with restricted means like a few of our different gamers, it didn’t matter. We had been going to educate you the very same approach and we had been going to get the identical outcomes. Wanting again, that consistency of how we’ve finished it’s one thing we’re happy with.

SLAM: Do you assume the system and consistency are what’s contributed to this system’s success?
For certain. The response that we get loads of instances is, You might have the most effective gamers. And I’d assume, effectively, we have now a few of the greatest gamers, however we don’t have all the most effective gamers. If we’re capable of get two of the most effective gamers within the nation yearly, that’s solely two out of, say, 24 within the All-American Recreation. So, the opposite 22 went someplace [else]. So you may’t simply say we received as a result of we get the most effective gamers. However I believe the consistency and the type of gamers that we get, that to me is the differentiator between us and different applications. 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 Ultimate Fours and people 22 Ultimate Fours have all come since 1991. In order that’s in 33 years. That’s fairly superb. Twenty-two Ultimate Fours in 33 years. That’s fantasy land, OK? In 22 Ultimate Fours, we received 11 nationwide championships and we’ve misplaced 11 instances within the Ultimate 4. We don’t win on a regular basis. I believe our purpose 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 right this moment’s web world, you’re both the most effective within the nation otherwise you’re the worst within the nation. No one ever says, Yeah, they’re fairly good! Which is unhappy as a result of there are loads of fairly good groups. However now you’re both high otherwise you’re the worst. There’s no in-between. That’s not the true world. When you’re a crew or a coach or a participant, you begin to really feel the stress of these expectations. When you’re not cautious and also you get caught up in that, it doesn’t matter what number of good gamers you have got, you’re going to have a tough time successful.

SLAM: What has been the most important issue that’s made this system click on?
We’ve heard on a regular basis that the UConn period or the dynasty is in demise, you understand, that it’s—it goes again to what I mentioned: there’s this notion that in case you’re not successful nationwide championships, you’re not superb. I simply assume that, what makes it click on, particularly in right this moment’s world, is that you just don’t permit your self to be caught up in all that stuff as a participant. You don’t turn out to be [caught up in the] web and what individuals 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 little bit of themselves in an effort to win a championship and to play with different terrific gamers. There’s loads of gamers that need to go to a faculty the place they’re going to be the focus and it’s going to be all about them. What makes it click on for us, and why individuals would speak about 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 targets for the large purpose, the crew purpose. That’s a bit bit rarer right this moment than it was once I began.

SLAM: Have you ever considered your legacy?
I’ve thought of 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 marvel, 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 believe a few of 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, select a coach that you just assume goes to win 11 nationwide championships that’s teaching right this moment. You’d be hard-pressed. Choose a crew that received 111 in a row. Choose one which received 90 in a row, 3 times…Title a program that’s going to go to 14 straight Ultimate Fours. Issues that we’ve finished legacy-wise are going to be undoable now. That’s most likely not a nasty factor as a result of that implies that the sport has grown a lot that it’s going to be harder to perform any of these issues. Gamers are going to extra colleges than ever earlier than, totally different colleges. 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 folks that have labored right here and performed right here, some issues—we’re going to be within the report 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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Images through Getty Pictures.

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