The 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season marked Geno Auriemma’s 35th year as head coach of the University of Connecticut’s women’s program. In 35 years, he’s become one of the most beloved sports figures in Connecticut, and has made a name for himself and his team in the sport.
Born in an Italian village, Auriemma eventually planted his feet in Storrs, Connecticut, when he was 31 years old. He spent time as an assistant coach at a few programs after graduating from college, and was set to take over a struggling women’s basketball program. It didn’t take him long to create a national powerhouse.
The Huskies are the most successful women’s basketball program in the country. They’ve mustered 11 national championships, including a record four in a row, 20 Final Four appearances, and 6 perfect seasons. During his tenure, 24 individual players have received WBCA All-American honors and 13 have been selected as NCAA National Player of the Year.
His success on the court granted him a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, alongside numerous Naismith Coach of the Year Awards. He was the fastest coach to reach 1,000 career wins on December 19, 2017, in his 1,135th career game, and currently holds the best win percentage in the sport (.884).
Not only has Auriemma transformed UConn women’s basketball into one of the greatest programs to ever exist, but he has done so with 100% of his 4-year student-athletes completing both their degree and a great deal of community service.
His commitment to the growth and success of his Huskies has made waves far beyond the bounds of Storrs. Carla Berube, who played for Auriemma on the first UConn National Championship team, is the current head coach of the Princeton women’s basketball team, and has said that she’s looked to Auriemma’s tactics while developing her own coaching style.
“I kind of feel like we’re his disciples,” Berube told USAToday in 2016 while she was the head coach at Tufts University. “We learned so much from him and we have so much to give to others.”
Over the past 30 years, Auriemma has done so much more than win basketball games. He has changed the landscape for women in sports. His approach to teaching is constructed around a distaste for the term “women’s basketball.” Instead, he prefers to think of them as basketball players. Plain and simple. His candid coaching style may be blunt, but by demanding so much from his team, Auriemma has seized national attention not only for his players, but for women’s basketball
In addition to his reign with the Huskies, he served as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team for eight years. Under his coaching, Team USA collected two Olympic gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 winter games, as well as two World Championship gold medals in 2010 and 2014.
Auriemma has coached women like Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Diana Taurasi who now dominate the floor of the WNBA, and he continues to recruit and develop some of the greatest women to ever play the game. While the global pandemic has placed a halt on the greatness of UConn Women’s Basketball, Auriemma and his Huskies will be ready to go when it returns.