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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Geno Auriemma reacts to signing five-year contract

On the day that he signed a five-year $10.8 million contract which will keep him in place as UConn women's basketball coach until the 2017-18 season, Geno Auriemma could help but be a tad bit reflective about what a wild ride it has been.

When he accepted the UConn job back in 1985 when he was a well-respected assistant coach at Virginia, he could barely contain his enthusiasm at a bump in salary.

"When I shook hands with (former UConn AD) John Toner and I went back to the office and his secretary gave me a one-page (contract) and it was very simple, it said 'Geno Auriemma is going to be the head coach at the University of Connecticut for five years at a salary of 29 (thousand) and change and that was a huge step up from what I was making at Virginia, I thought I hit the lottery. You do the absolute best you can and you keep your fingers crossed and that is kind of what happened."

Now he is one of the most well-paid coaches in women's athletics and considering that he will be 64 at the time the contract expires, it figures to be the final contract of his Hall of Fame coaching career.

"I don't think anybody thinks that far ahead," Auriemma said. "I think there comes a point in every coach's life where they seriously consider making a move, maybe it is early in their career when the grass is greener on the other side and the lights are brighter and maybe it is in the middle of your career where that is your last shot at it or it is at the end of your career when I have had enough of the pressure, I have had enough of the grind so to have lasted 28 years at the same place doesn't happen much anymore and I certainly didn't come up here my first year and think 'yeah, I am going to be here for the rest of my life.' That was just never a part of it."

Auriemma is now the state's highest paid employee, something no other women's basketball coach can say. He credits that partly to having a young men's basketball coach as well as the championship culture at UConn.

"We've always had a great commitment to the women's basketball program," Auriemma said. "The expectation level here is the highest of any place in America and it has been like that for a while now. We are also the only place in the country where a station like SNY pays us a million dollars to broadcast women's games, that doesn't exist anywhere else. It is just a unique place, a unique situation and I am fortunate that I am here and I have been here at the perfect time at the perfect place."

Auriemma also didn't seem to think that the uncertainty regarding what conference UConn will be playing in for those next five years will negatively impact his program.

"I don't think we got to be where we are as a basketball program by thinking about the past and fretting about the future," Auriemma said. "We are where we are because we always believe in ourselves. I know the men's program had the benefit of the Big East to help raise the level of the program to the point where we became the dominant men's program in the Big East. We never had that and we had to believe in ourselves and we helped raise the level of the Big East to a national level. We don't think about what could have been, where are we going next and what is in the future for us. The only thing we think about here every day is how can we put the best product on the floor that we possibly can, how can we put ourselves in position to win championships every year and as long as we keep doing that, I think we are going to be one of the major athletic departments in the country. Our goal is to win championships and whether it is the Big East or any other conference that we are in, that is not going to change. President (Susan) Herbst and Warde (Manuel, UConn's AD) have made it very clear that is not going to change, not one bit."



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