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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Geno Auriemma's path to 1,000 games has impressed many

It is easy to look at the last 29 seasons that Geno Auriemma has paced up and down the UConn sideline and get caught up in the numbers and there are too many gaudy statistics to list here.

Whether it is the eight national titles, 14 Final Four appearances, four perfect seasons, 14 WNBA first-round draft picks, six winning streaks of 30 games or more Auriemma’s run with the Huskies is something to behold.

However, there’s a risk of looking at Auriemma’s resume in a two-dimensional world. Who couldn’t win nine out of even 10 games with Kerry Bascom, Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Jen Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Svetlana Abrosimova, Shea Ralph, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi, Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Stefanie Dolson or Breanna Stewart on your team?

Well, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, who knows a thing or two about coaching at a high level, said meshing great players into a cohesive unit is not as easy as Auriemma makes it look.

“He has to be really proud,” Stringer said. “I think it speaks to excellence over a long period of time and he is to be admired. He settles for nothing other than that, his kids play for nothing other than that and people in Connecticut have nothing but great pride in the way he executes. They think that it is easy, it is not. You can get a bunch of gosh darn knuckleheads who thinks this is easy. It is not easy coaching great players. Sometimes it is difficult coaching people who are trying to be great so he's done a great job.”

Two of the aforementioned players agree with Stringer’s take on Auriemma’s greatness.  

“I think he really deserves it,” Sales said. “If you had the opportunity to be coached by him you would see that he puts a lot of hard work into what he does. He is very observant and he makes sure whatever he has for them works well, there is a lot of studying and a lot of intelligence when it comes to the game

“When you have a lot of great players and a lot of them are trying to do different things it can be a clash but he first earns you respect and that comes straight from recruiting. When you get there you respect his style and you have to because he is really good at this. He has always had  four or five players who are super talented and can play on any team. He studies, he observes and he makes sure everybody is involved equally. Being on a professional level for a long time it can be tough coaching different personalities and styles of players who are really, really good but every year it seems like everybody gets along, there is never any trouble or clashing on the team and he comes up with a million W's so I have to give him a lot of credit for that.”

Fast forwarding to the present day, current UConn co-captain Dolson has an appreciation of Auriemma’s ability to bring in top-flight talent and get them to pursue the team goals rather than get caught up in individual accolades.

“It is one of his strengths bringing in those all-star players and making sure he gets the most out of them and they don't just come through and think they are so great that they don't need to get better,” Dolson said. “I think another of his strengths is he takes players that people don't expect to be All-Americans and turns them into players who are on people’s radar and people take a second look at. He is a great motivator to get people to do what they can do.”

Dolson is also quick to credit another person who has been there with Auriemma since the first day – associate head coach Chris Dailey.

“She is kind of behind the scenes,” Dolson said. “She is that coach that teaches you the basics, teaches you how (hard) to go and always gets your butt in gear and make sure you are doing the right things. Sometimes the rules she has are tough for people but she keeps people in line and have them focus on the same goal so they are working together so I think the things that CD does are just as important if not more as the things that Coach does.

“It is incredible how well their relationship has worked for so long, they balance each other out. They bicker and it is always fun to watch the two of them because they are like two little kids who pick on each other. One will pick on the other and the next day the other one will pick on the other and it is constant banter back and forth. It is a lot of fun. It goes back and forth. They are both hard on us but if Coach is really getting on us in practice, CD will let up a little bit and make sure she is supporting us and doing the right thing. Sometimes Coach is going through drills and CD will make sure she is on us, make sure we are going hard and running, doing the right things and staying together as a group.”


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