Geno Auriemma is best known as the head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. During his tenure with the Huskies, he has compiled a total of 1,062 wins and has led the team to 11 NCAA Division I Tournament championships.
What many people do not know is that prior to his coaching career, Auriemma attended West Chester University. While in college, he helped out as a coach for Bishop McDevitt High School. In 1978, he became an assistant coach for St Joseph’s University. He later was given a job as an assistant coach for Virginia University in 1981, a position he held for four years until he became the University of Connecticut head coach in 1985.
Auriemma graduated from West Chester with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1981. When asked about his college experience, he said that, “for me, it was the first time that I was exposed to diversity and variety of things that take place on a college campus. Getting to know classmates that were younger and older than me, and learning about people with different backgrounds: these were things that opened up the world to me [at West Chester University] because I had been clustered in a small school environment. It opened my eyes to a lot of things that I needed to see.” He has since returned to West Chester to visit his niece during her tenure at the school, and was amazed at the transformation and the change that took place over the years since his graduation.
‘I look for players that are looking to be pushed. They want to become something more than they are.’
In 2006, Auriemma was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. In his 34 seasons as head coach, the Huskies have only suffered a losing season once, which took place in the 1985-1986 season.
Under Auriemma’s leadership, 13 players have achieved multiple seasons of All-American honors under Auriemma including Jennifer Rizzotti Nykesha Sales, Svetlana Abrosimova, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi, Rebecca Lobo, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Kara Wolters, Stefanie Dolson, Breanna Stewart and Bria Hartley. These players have all combined to win eight Naismith College Player of the Year awards, seven Wade Trophies and nine NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards.
When asked what he looks for in his players, Auriemma said, “The kind of players that I look for are the ones that are completely opposite of the way I was when I was in school. I look for players that are looking to be pushed. They want to become something more than they are. They want to be coached, want to be good teammates. Obviously, talent has something to do with it, but I think it’s all those intangibles that separate our players from other players.”
He credits Jim Foster, former Saint Joseph’s basketball coach who was coaching at Bishop McDevitt at the time, with giving him the inspiration to enter the coaching field. “While I was at West Chester, Foster had asked me to help him coach his high school team. I had to drive 40 miles in 50 minutes every day to go to and from practice and I kept doing it and I enjoyed it. That’s when I realized, I must like this and this must be good for me.”
The advice that Coach Auriemma has for college students at West Chester University is to work really hard at something you love and make a lot of friends. He says that you will have a sense of accomplishment if you are able to do those two things during your four years (or more) at West Chester.
The 2019-2020 Huskies season is underway, and Auriemma and company are poised for another great season, and will look to win their twelfth championship in team history, and the first since 2016.
Erick Klambara is a first-year student majoring in media and cultures. EK924666@wcupa.edu