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.
Tammi Sweet was a junior guard on Auriemma’s first team in 1985-86. Even though the program had won just three Big East games in her first two seasons under Jean Balthaser, many of the upperclassmen Auriemma inherited seemed to be confident their way of doing things was the right way.
“My sense of him was that he had an idea. But we had our own ideas of what we wanted to do,” Sweet said. “What stuck out to me, what epitiomzied him to me in the first year, was something that happened at practice. He got mad at us. He left. Then he came back. He was upset that we were weren’t hustling.
“Finally, every one had left the court and it was just me and him there. And he said to me, “Tammi, you weren’t working hard enough,’ I looked at him and said, ‘My high school coach would be appalled to hear what you are saying to me, There is no one on this court that is working harder than I.
“He didn’t skip a beat. He looked right at me and said, ‘Yeah, but are you working as hard as YOU can.’
“I sent him a card many years after I graduated to tell him what a pivotal moment for me in my life because it was true. It was so profound in that moment. And that is when he got my respect. That’s when I decided that I would follow him.”
“When I came back for an alumni weekend some years later, he came up to me and said, ‘Hey look, it’s the biggest pain in my ass.’”