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.
Has there ever been a more interesting – and talented – player in UConn women’s history than the fabulous Svetlana Abrosimova? She came to Storrs from St. Petersburg, Russia as a teenager and soon become one of the great players in college basketball. And after her college career, she enjoyed a long WNBA and international professional career. To this day, she is still the favorite player of Geno’s mother – and many of those who watched her grow up.
“There are so many people oversees who want to know about the famous American coach, and often ask me questions about Coach Auriemma. At first, I usually tell them how funny and sarcastic he is. I would tell them how much he loved saying to me that his Mom can play better defense than me, or how he wanted to get me a ticket and send me to Siberia because I missed 5 out of 10 free throws at practice.
“He would scream at me for not setting a pick, and I would pretend that I don’t understand and don’t speak English while making Dean’s list in school. But I also tell those people that now, after all these years, I know that he influenced me more than any other coaches in my career. His knowledge of the game, of preparation and hard work at practice, importance of teamwork made me a different player.
“In 12 years playing professional basketball, I went from team to team, traveled from country to country, changing coaches and teammates so quick that sometimes I couldn’t even remember their names right away. Because of what Coach A created in Connecticut, it makes me always feel that I’m part of his big family, part of something very special and unique. I’m very grateful to him for changing my life. He is amazing and he knows that.
“Congratulations Coach on such a great achievement! And P.S., I can not wait to have him come to Russia and visit Siberia. It’s not too bad after all.”