Although he’s been rather busy with other things lately, UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said Saturday he hadn’t forgotten about another important line item on his agenda.
The UConn athetic program may be in Big East forever or it may leave before very soon. But Manuel wanted to make sure Geno Auriemma will be his women’s basketball coach wherever fate eventually takes the program.
“Negotiating his contract extention hasn’t been on the back burner [during conference realignment discussion],” Manuel said Saturday. “It’s been on the front burner.”
And sometime very soon, Manuel said, Auriemma will have a new five-year contract extension that will continue his run as Huskies coach through 2018 – at least. The new deal is expected to make Auriemma the highest paid coach in the history of Division I women’s college basketball.
Manuel said neither he or Auriemma had discussed length of the new deal. Auriemma has mentioned he would likely want five years and Manuel says he worked under the assumption that would be its term.
“I wasn’t sure whether I’d have even have this many [contracts] at UConn,” said Auriemma, now in his 28th season. “I didn’t know if I would have been able to go this far and to this age . Right now, if I feel the way I feel now, five more years sounds really good. Four years from now I might say, ‘That’s it, I’m done’ or a might say ‘Hey, I can do this for another five years.’ I don’t know how I will feel. Much of it depends on if we keep getting the same kind of players we’ve been getting.”
According to Manuel, Auriemma’s new deal will begin next season. He is completing one signed in the summer of 2008 that was worth $8 million, including a base salary of $300,000 the first year. That contract called for an annual $25,000 increase. He is making about $1.8 million this season.
He also received $1.1 million for speaking and media appearances in the contract’s first year. And that increased by $75,000 annually. Auriemma also received bonuses for NCAA tournament appearances, Final Four appearances and any additional national titles.
Since he signed the last contract, Auriemma’s teams have played in four consecutive Final Fours, won two national championships and compiled the longest winning (90) in the history of the men’s or women’s Division I college basketball.
He has also recruited the last two high school national players of the year, sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and freshman Breanna Stewart, who on Saturday became only the second freshman ever selected as the Paradise Jam Tournament’s MVP.
The deal which expires after his season surpassed the one signed by Tennessee coach Pat Summitt in 2006. Her deal, which ran through last season, included $1.5 million in the final season. Summitt is no longer Tennessee’s coach.
“I love the game and I love watching it being played in a certain way,” Auriemma said. “I enjoy going to practice and watching my players execute things they weren’t sure they could and then seeing it come alive in games.
“But the game is hard to enjoy if you don’t enjoy the people that are around you. That’s what makes it very special for me, what makes me want to coach as long as I can.”
The extension likely guarantees that Auriemma will approach Summitt’s all-time record for victories (1,098) over 38 seasons. Auriemma now has 809, sixth all-time. He is also one national championship shy of tying Summitt’s record eight.
Auriemmma’s UConn teams have averaged 36.7 wins over the last four seasons. And should they maintain that over the next six it would place him approximately 75 victories behind his greatest rival when his next deal rolls around. He would also be 64 at that point.