Auriemma says players and winning championships are more important to him than reaching 1,200 wins


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Geno Auriemma says he’s less excited than his staff about the prospect of becoming the third coach in Division I college basketball history to reach 1,200 wins.

It’s a milestone the Hall of Famer could get on Wednesday night when No. 11 UConn (19-4, 11-0 Big East) faces Seton Hall (13-9, 5-6).

Auriemma would join former Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski (1,202 wins) and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer (1,206) , who received widespread acclaim last month when she became the winningest coach in college basketball history.

The 69-year-old Hall of Famer has been playing down his own accomplishment, joking that if his sports information director had her way the school would put up a sign at the XL Center reading, “I’m Number Three.”

“Anything to celebrate something,” he said.

“I like to think that our basketball program is going to be more remembered for the 11 national championships that we have, rather than the number of wins that I have or may get down the road,” he later added.

But Auriemma’s accomplishment is unprecedented in several ways.

He’s going to get to 1,200 wins faster than anyone else, reaching the milestone in his 39th season. Krzyzewski coached for 47 years and VanDerveer is in her 45th season as a head coach.

And unlike Krzyzewski, who also coached at Army, and VanDerVeer, who was at Idaho and Ohio State before Stanford, Auriemma has done it all at a single school.

He turned UConn from a program that had just one winning season before he arrived in 1985 to perennial title contender. In addition to the 11 titles, the Huskies have also been to 22 Final Fours and recorded six perfect seasons. His teams haven’t won fewer than 25 games in a season since 1992-93.

“What stands out to me is the totality of what he has built in Storrs,” said Rebecca Lobo, who led UConn to its first title in 1995 and now serves as an ESPN analyst. “The national championships, league championships, the consecutive win streaks, the teams that seem to yearly get inducted into the Huskies of Honor, the sure-fire Hall of Fame players. Twelve-hundred is amazing on its own, but when you look at it intertwined with everything else, it’s mind boggling.”

And DePaul coach Doug Bruno, a longtime friend and assistant coach on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic team, said Auriemma’s impact goes far beyond the numbers because he has widened the audience for the sport.

“I’ll argue with anybody in any bar in any town in the world and the United States of America about which college program has done the most (for the game),” he said. “And it’s UConn.”

Current star Paige Bueckers, the 2021 National Player of the Year, said she came to the school specifically because she wanted to play for Auriemma, just like her childhood basketball heroes.

“From the start, he expects the same out of every single player; he builds a relationship with every single player,” she said. “And he demands greatness and you can see it in the championships and the success here, the total number of wins, the players he produces for the pros, the Olympics.”

Auriemma has been cryptic when asked how long he might continue to coach, but said it will have a lot to do with the quality of the young women he can recruit to the school and nothing to do with how many wins he ends up with.

“We’re still getting the kind of players that I like to coach and I enjoy being around,” he said. “But my friends back home (say) ‘Hey, Stay. Stay until you get it, so you can become number one.’ For what purpose? Seriously, for what purpose?


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