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.
What would UConn women’s basketball be without Chris Dailey, who has been by Auriemma’s side since the very first day he arrived on campus? The process of building a program had to begin somewhere. And with Dailey’s daily help, Auriemma began to lay down the law right away.
“We didn’t have the most talented group [in 1985-86], but I remember how hard it worked. They were good kids who, in turn, helped us recruit better players. They were hungry for success, for a change. And Geno was straightforward with them. He told them just because they had new coaches didn’t mean that would win 25 games all of a sudden. He explained to them there was a reason they had won so few games and it started with how hard they work, the level of commitment, the way we do things.
“One of the first things we did was gave them sweaters to wear [as a team]. They had never had anything [gear] to wear as a group. They certainly wouldn’t have been fashionable now. They were blue, v-neck sweaters. But they wore them with such pride. We looked like a team, we acted like a team. It was a change for them. There were expectations now. They were being held to different standards, expected to act in a different way.
“I never asked them what the expectations were before. We respected Jean Balthaser and those who came before us. But we based our foundation on what we viewed as important. How you dressed, how you handled yourself, how you acted as a team, how we traveled and spoke to people. Things that seemed so simple, so easy.
“But we wanted to reinforce that there now was an expectation level [for behavior] that would lead to how we wanted to be viewed on campus. That started right from the beginning. Any successful business feautures certain [rules] that are important to [those who run it] that set you apart that the leaders of the program feel are important.
“Do they help us win? I don’t know. But I think attention to details helps win games. Worrying about your teammates, being a team, looking like a team, acting like a team helps you win games. Getting up early, working hard, doing things people don’t want to do helps you win games. Separating yourself in a positive way, worrying about others more than yourself helps you win games. Character building is what leads to the construction of successful people.”