Geno Auriemma coaches his 1,000th game at UConn on Feb. 22 at Houston. To commemorate the milestone, the Hartford Courant will occasionally publish a memory or remembrance of the Hall of Fame coach from someone who helped play a role in his journey.
The media that covers UConn basketball was once commonly referred to as “The Horde,” a reference to its sheer size. While it once was significantly much larger and attentive, there remains just one constant in print, Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. No one has seen more – or knows more – about the program and its history than he.
“In January 1996, UConn took a road trip to Knoxville, Tenn. and
Miami, Fla. January 6 brought UConn to Thompson-Boling Arena for the second time
that season,” Adamec said. “The Huskies had lost their opener to Louisiana Tech (the
last season opening loss) seven weeks earlier. It was the
first time they would play the Lady Vols there and Tennessee came in
with a NCAA record 69-game home winning streak.
“Even though it was a rematch of the previous year’s national
championship game, and both teams were in the Top 5 of the polls, a
crowd of only 10,584 showed up as a winter storm was forecast to hit
Knoxville that evening.
“I was sitting next to the New London Day’s Mike DiMauro on press row, across from Geno and the UConn bench. In the first half, two
Tennessee defenders trapped Rita Williams on the sideline. We had a
clear view. One of them pushed Rita out of bounds. You couldn’t miss
it, but the officials did and referee Sally Bell called traveling. Mike and I burst out laughing at the absurdity of it. Welcome to
“Somehow, maybe while he was looking for an official to complain to, Geno noticed our reaction. He looks over at us and yells across the court: “Now you know why they’ve won 69 in a row.”
“Anyway, UConn ended the game on a 12-2 run to win 59-53. Amy Duran
hit a huge 3-pointer from the corner and Jamelle Elliott’s three-point play gave UConn the lead for good with 2:18 left. Those two then hit three free throws each in the final minute to put it
“That winter storm? It arrived on schedule and our flight and the
team’s flight to Miami Sunday morning were cancelled. In fact,
Knoxville was paralyzed. Downtown was shutdown. School was called off
for the next two days. We figured we would just spend the day locked
in our hotel rooms.
“But that afternoon, one of us — either Bruce
Berlet from the Courant or Paul Marslano from the New Haven Register
— got a call from SID Barb Kowal. Geno had arranged for the sports
bar at the team’s hotel to open up and we were invited over. The
players were either playing pool (Jennifer Rizzotti was the one to
beat) or video games or with the pinball machines and us media types
hung out at the bar with each other and spoke to the coaches that
went by. A good time was had by all.
“We (us and the team) finally got the last flight out of Knoxville
Monday night to Charlotte for our connection to Miami and we arrived
around midnight. How much snow had fallen in Knoxville? FOUR inches.”