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.
“So, Geno calls and informs me that he has been invited to sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during 7th-inning stretch at Wrigley Field in the spring of 2002,” Bruno said. “Geno had just completed a great run [to the national championship] with easily his best UConn team up until that time – and many believe of all time.
“Geno decided to make it a father/son field trip to Chicago with his son Michael, who was about 12 years old at the time and very much into baseball. Dave Leitao [the former UConn men's assistant coach] had just been hired by DePaul [as head coach] so the night before the Cubs game we were all able to have a fun reunion/welcome dinner with Dave, Geno, Michael and me at a great Italian restaurant, Sorriso, located on the Chicago River.
“The next day at Wrigley was vintage Geno. When you sing at Wrigley, it is really not at all about how well you sing. You are allowed to say one short sentence before you begin. So Geno, in only the way Geno can, deadpanned from the press box to 40,000 Cubs fans below says, “Doesn’t anybody in this town work?”
“With that simple line, he got 40,000 baseball fans fired up to sing like you had never heard before. These Chicago baseball nuts sang so loud because they were all so proud to be……..NOT WORKING. But because Geno led the crowd on so well, you never even heard Geno sing.”