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.
When Kathy Auriemma first met her husband, he was a quite different guy than the one UConn fans now follow and fawn over. He wasn’t a Hall of Fame coach. He was just like many young men, trying to figure out what to do with his life and how best to support a wife and young family. He eventually figured it out.
“When I first met Geno we were both 18 years old and he was a jack-of-all trades,” Kathy Aurieimma said. “He worked construction, he sold shoes, he bartended, he stocked shelves. And then this coaching thing happened. Once he got into coaching, it was clear he had put it above everything else. He began to focus on it and you could sense his confidence building. His enthusiasm for what he was doing was contagious and I had tremendous faith in him. He never wavered. You could tell he was very good at it, he kept at it and he found success.
“In October 1984, we were still at Virginia [where Geno was an assistant to Debbie Ryan]. He came home one day a few weeks after practice had started and said to me, in a very definitive way, ‘Next year at this time I will be coaching my own team.’ I said, ‘Oh, OK.’
“You know, Geno is a pretty enthusiastic guy by nature. But what was fascinating about the Connecticut [interview process] was how off the charts his enthusiasm was about it when he came home. He just kept talking about how many interesting people he has met when he was there; what a great guy John Toner was, Tom Jackson [the football coach], Dom Perno [the men's basketball coach]… He went on and on. He just fell in love with the people. He was just so excited thinking about being a part of it all. Thankfully, they offered him the job and from there it was a no-brainer.”