Geno Auriemma is now a member of one of college basketball’s most elite groups – the 1,000-win club.
Auriemma became the fourth women’s coach to reach that milestone with No. 1 UConn’s 88-64 win over Oklahoma on Tuesday night in the Hall of Fame women’s Holiday Showcase. He joined Pat Summitt, Tara VanDerveer, and Sylvia Hatchell, who earned her milestone victory earlier Tuesday. Mike Krzyzewski is the only men’s coach to have won 1,000 games.
“It’s a number that’s significant because so few people have been able to do that,” Auriemma said. “It’s funny, two in one day can’t be that hard. There are just so few opportunities to coach that many games. You feel incredibly fortunate that you’re one of a very, very select few and some of the great coaches that ever have coached.”
He is the fastest of the group to achieve the mark, doing so in his 1,135th game, during his 33rd season at the helm. The Hall of Fame coach has gone 500-36 since winning his 500th game in 2003. That includes winning 100 of his last 101 contests.
Hatchell got her 1,000th win in 43 years of coaching when North Carolina beat Grambling State.
Sitting by Auriemma’s side for the 1,000 wins has been associate head coach Chris Dailey. She’s been with Auriemma since he took over at UConn in 1985. Dailey led the Huskies to seven of those victories while filling in as head coach. Auriemma was suspended for four games in 1989 for playing an extra game that season. That year, the Huskies won their first Big East tournament title with Dailey at the helm.
She also coached three games when Auriemma’s father died in 1997. All seven of those wins are credited to Auriemma.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Huskies dumped Gatorade buckets full of confetti on Auriemma and Dailey. And fake $1,000 bills dropped from the ceiling with Auriemma and Dailey’s pictures on them.
“If you look back and you think about the significant accomplishments, not just in sports, but it’s always done in pairs,” Auriemma said. “Our best teams have been dominated by two people. I don’t think anything this difficult can be accomplished by one person. I don’t think so. My title makes me responsible, me the recipient of all this. There’s no way that we’d be having this conversation if I had hired somebody different.”
Players from Auriemma’s first team in 1985 that beat Iona for win No. 1 were in attendance and introduced to the sellout crowd. His current team held up masks of Auriemma and Dailey with their pictures from 1985.
Fans held up signs they were given that said “GEN1000 career wins.”
Auriemma was presented with a Hall of Fame jacket, a cake from the Mohegan Sun where the game was played, and a commemorative plaque.
“Wow Coach, 1,000 wins!!!! You have created and are continuing to create an untouchable legacy in the world of sports, let alone basketball,” Breanna Stewart, who won 151 games at UConn, told The Associated Press in a text. “We set the bar high at UConn and you have continued to do that. I’m so happy to say that I am a part of your 1,000 wins!”
UConn (9-0) led 48-33 at the break before Oklahoma cut its deficit to seven midway through the third quarter, shocking the crowd. The Huskies responded with a 13-3 run to close the period, that was capped by a steal off an inbounds play for a layup by Katie Lou Samuelson to give UConn a 64-47 advantage headed into the fourth quarter. Napheesa Collier, who scored 21 points to lead the Huskies, had seven of them during the spurt.
The Huskies got a scare when Gabby Williams went down in the first quarter after picking up her second foul. The senior forward went to the locker room for a while, before coming back to the bench later in the period. She came back in before picking up a third foul early in the second quarter.
Maddie Manning scored 15 points to lead Oklahoma.
“I’m a competitor. It’s an amazing accomplishment, but I wish it had happened against somebody else,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “Obviously he has set the bar at a crazy high level. It’s both the way his teams play and the way they conduct themselves. It’s total class, and the momentum that he has been able to capture and ride through a couple of decades is almost incomprehensible.”
UConn heads to Toronto to play Duquesne in a homecoming game for Canadian Kia Nurse on Friday.