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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gampel turns 20

Neither Geno Auriemma nor Chris Dailey minces any words when it comes to the impact of Gampel Pavilion.

If not for the construction of the facility, which opened 20 years ago today, there is no NCAA record 70-game winning streak, no six national championships, no way the UConn program becomes one of the most successful programs not only in women's basketball but in women's collegiate sports.

"If this place doesn't open, nothing that we've done would have been possible," Auriemma said. "Even when it did open, we weren't sure it could happen but I think the fact that we were able to have a growing program and have as nice a building as there is in this part of the world at that time and certainly in the Big East certainly put us over the top."

Since UConn dispatched Providence 81-59 on Jan. 21, 1990, UConn is 266-16 at Gampel Pavilion. Nine of those losses came in the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons. Since the beginning of the 1993-94 season, UConn is 210-5 at Gampel. With a win over St. John's on Feb. 13, the Huskies will have a perfect record at the on-campus facility for the 12th time in the last 17 seasons.

"We used the building in recruiting and once we could show them there was a hole and (now) there's a building," said Dailey, UConn's associate head coach. "It was part of the attraction for some of the kids, our in-state kids Kathy Ferrier, Laura Lishness, those guys were hoping to have the opportunity to play in the building and they did.

"I never really think about it (the gaudy record at Gampel) except last year our scorekeeper after 20 years retired and I put together a little momento for him and I asked somebody to give me what our record was here, when I saw that I thought 'wow.'"

Before Gampel Pavilion opened, UConn played its home games at dank, dreary Greer Fieldhouse. It didn't stop stars like Kerry Bascom, Wendy Davis or Leigh Curl from playing at UConn, but certainly the combination of a state of the art facility combined with a program on the way up combined for a perfect storm which led to three perfect seasons with a shot at a fourth this season.

The memories from opening night 20 years ago stays with Auriemma and Dailey to this day.

"We have the picture of the opening tap but I haven't thought about it," Dailey said. "I don't really think about it. I remember our kids being amazed that people are in the building watching them stretch and they asked 'why are they here.' I said 'they are watching us.' The timing of this building played a big role, the attention, aside from the fact that we had a good team, I think a lot of people came to see the building and they found out we were pretty good and that was the start of everything. It was a big part of everything. It was a big part of the excitement on campus, we were going to have a new facility and we were just starting to get good. This was an important part of the timing of what our program has been able to do."

Auriemma jokes that UConn officially intentionally didn't show him Greer Field House when he came to interview for the job in the mid 1980s because he may never have agreed to leave his job as an assistant at Virginia had he known where he would be playing his home games.

Auriemma is rather nostalgic looking back at the first game he coached at Gampel.

"I remember not knowing anything of what to expect, whether anybody's going to come in and not come in," Auriemma said. "The lights were so bright, much bright than it used to be in the Fieldhouse. Everybody just stood around the concourse, nobody came down to the seats. You opened the doors, walked in and said 'what is going on down there and watch the whole game from the concourse.' We were the dry run for the men, the men played St. John's on that Saturday."

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