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.
Of all the coaches Geno Auriemma has worked against – and with – during his 29 years on the sidelines, its doubtful any have had the professional and personal impact DePaul’s Doug Bruno has had on him. When you see these two together, in any situation, you see evidence of true friendship and respect. But Bruno is also a great coach. And for all those reasons, Geno asked USA Basketball to allow Bruno to travel the world with him during the last quadrennial of World Championship and Olympic basketball.
“Only six hours earlier, the 2012 USA Women’s Olympic Basketball Team had beaten France to win Gold. It is 5:00 a.m.,and Geno and I are the last remaining from the post-game party that had ended less than an hour earlier. We were sitting on a couch at the entrance to the Mayfair Westbury Hotel, which was where both the men’s and women’s USA Basketball teams headquartered. Geno was smoking a well-deserved cigar and we were both describing to each other what it felt like to ‘Win Gold.’
“We concurred that emotion No.1 was ECSTASY: Ecstasy for our players who had worked so hard to get there. These are ‘The Best Players in the World’ but they are still human and they play basketball YEAR ROUND with never a break. These women put their total blood and guts into winning Gold and we were ECSTATIC for them.
“Emotion No. 2 was RELIEF: Relief because as easy as it looks to ‘Win Gold’ it is not. While we do have ‘The Best Players in The World’, as a coaching Staff, all you have to do is lose one game, and, rightly or wrongly, you become a failure. Geno asked me after our close semifinal win over Australia, ‘Yo Bruno, you coach close games like these all the time?'”
“Emotion No. 3 was THANKS: Thanks for all of the great people who had helped us along the way. Thanks for ‘The Best Players in the World who were also great people'; Thanks for USA Basketball’s Carol Callan, Jim Tooley, Jerry Colangelo, Renee Brown, Dan Hughes, Kelly Krauskoph, Jen Gillom, Marynell Meadors, Ed Ryan, Caroline Williams, Jamie Carrie, Ellis Dawson, Jenny Maag, Craig Miller, Ilene Hauser, Lauren Westendorf and so many many more.
“Thanks for our UConn and DePaul program’s administrations and our staffs without whose support we could never give the time necessary to coach this awesome Olympic Team; Specifically, thanks for Geno’s UConn staff who were with us in London: Chris Dailey, Shea Ralph, Marissa Moseley and Keith Anderson; Most Importantly, thanks to our great families who put up with us coaching both our day jobs and a USA Olympic team for the last four years.
“It is 5:00 AM and the Sun is already rising. With the exception of Geno and I softly discussing the above emotions, it is all quiet in The Westbury lobby when the elevator door slowly opens and out walk two recently wreathed Olympic champions schlepping their own bags as they began to make their way to the hotel door. Then another elevator and two more of ‘The Best Players in the World’, also carrying their own bags; then another and another and by 6:00 AM almost the entire Olympic Team,’ The Best Players in the World’, were making their own way, lugging their own bags, back to the United States to be at their WNBA practices within the next 24 hours. After we quickly hugged and said our goodbyes to these great people, Geno and I repeated to each other the words of the 1950’s Peggy Lee song: ‘Is that all there is?’ Is this all there is ‘To Olympic Gold?’
“Poof! The disappearance of ‘The Best Players in the World’ walking off into the foggy London morning was like the end of a fairy tale. However, while our time together in London goes Poof like a Fairy Tale with the disappearance of ‘The Best Players in the World’, the achievement of earning Olympic Gold will never be a Fairy Tale; The Achievement of Earning Olympic Gold will last a lifetime……..Thanks to…….. ‘The Best Players and The Best Coach in The World.’