UConn Women's Basketball: The Closest Dynasty to John Wooden's
by Michael Whitlow 9-16-2015
In 30 years as head coach of the Connecticut Huskies, Geno Auriemma has built one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports. Since the 1985-86 women’s college hoop season — Auriemma’s first season with the Huskies — UConn has only missed the NCAA Women’s Tournament three times, and each of those came within Auriemma’s first three years as head coach.
After missing the tournament in the 1987-88 season, Auriemma laid the groundwork for what would become the single greatest run in women’s college basketball history. For the next 27 seasons, UConn would go on to win 10 national championships and appear in 16 Women’s Final Fours. Along with their dominance, they tore down Pat Summit’s empire in Knoxville with Tennessee and became the gold standard of women’s basketball.
How has UConn become the most dominant program in college sports? Well, two things: 1) Geno
Auriemma is the master and 2) The array of talent that Auriemma has coached in Storrs during the last 30 years is simply astonishing.
Here’s a list of the women Auriemma has coached during his tenure as UConn head coach:
· Kerry Bascom (first UConn player ever to be named to a women’s all-american team)
· Rebecca Lobo (current analyst for ESPN, Olympic gold medalist, led UConn to first title in 1995)
· Nykesha Sales (school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,178 points, eight-time WNBA All-Star)
· Swin Cash (Three-time WNBA Champion, 2002 Women’s Final Four’s MOP)
· Tamika Williams (Two-time NCAA Champion w/UConn, NCAA’s all-time leader for FG%)
· Sue Bird (No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft, two-time WNBA Champion w/Seattle)
· Asjha Jones (No. 4 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft, two-time WNBA All-Star)
· Diana Taurasi (considered by many as one of the greatest players in college history, 2009 WNBA MVP)
· Tina Charles (Two-time NCAA Champion w/UConn, 2012 WNBA MVP)
· Maya Moore (First woman to sign with Jordan Brand, two-time NCAA Champion w/UConn)
· Elena Delle Donne* (2015 WNBA MVP, three-time WNBA All-Star)
· Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (No. 3 overall pick in 2015 WNBA Draft, NCAA all-time leader in three-pointers made)
*Delle Donne requested a release from her scholarship offer from UConn in order to stay closer to home. She would go on to play basketball and volleyball for Delaware.
To put things in better terms to understand UConn’s dominance (especially as of late), the Lady Huskies haven’t missed the Final Four since the 2006-07 season. There are some great women’s programs that haven’t been to the Final Four eight times. UConn’s been there 13 times(!) since the turn of the new millennium. (UConn’s worst season since the turn was in 2004-05, and the Lady Huskies still won 25 games and made the Women’s Sweet 16.)
Sure, the Lady Huskies haven’t won 10 titles in 11 years like John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, but eight straight Final Four appearances and five national titles isn’t too bad either.
On Tuesday, Auriemma and the Lady Huskies made their seemingly annual trip to the White House to visit President Barack Obama as NCAA Champions. Auriemma, ever the firecracker, laid down the gauntlet for UConn to do something no women’s program has ever done: Win four titles in a row.
“[Obama is] going to be here one more year and there’s no better way for him to go out than to host us again,” Auriemma said.
Can UConn finish off the quartet of titles and tie UCLA for the most college basketball titles ever by one program this season? There’s no question that this season will be more of a challenge for the Lady Huskies. Breanna Stewart is back to cap off one of the best careers in UConn history, but losing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes to this past WNBA Draft isn’t going to be easy to recover from after a 38-1 campaign last year.
During the pathto that elusive fourth straight title, new foes and old foes will stand in their path. The Lady Huskies travel to Columbus to play a 24-win Buckeye squad that lost a tight one to national contender Maryland in the Big Ten Women’s title game last season. Also in the Huskies’ path to the 11th title, the Lady Irish of Notre Dame.
UConn and Notre Dame have both established themselves as not only the two best programs in the women’s college game today, but they’ve developed quite the rivalry, even with Notre Dame’s jump to the ACC from the Big East. The two programs have met either in the national semifinals or the national title game in the last five(!) NCAA Tournaments, with UConn holding a slight 3-2 edge over Muffet McGraw and the Lady Irish.
Despite the challenges along the way, the most dominant program in college sports will be favored to do something historic once again, and will have the Commander-in-Chief in their corner as well.
“I don’t want to jinx it, but no [women’s] team has ever won four in a row,” Obama said. “I’m just saying you get here one more time we might have to name the [White House] basketball court after you or at least you can guide the tour.”