Coach Geno Auriemma: From Montella to UConn

Quest’articolo tratta dell'allenatore Geno Auriemma nato a Montella, un paese piccolo nella regione Campania. Lui è emigrato dall’italia negli stati uniti quando era ragazzino. Lui e sua famiglia non sapevano né la lingua inglese né la cultura americana. Auriemma doveva imprarare la lingua rapidamente per aiutare i suoi genitori a comunicare. Aurimemma aveva una passione per gli sport e giocava a calcio e baseball quando era adolescente. Quando fu al liceo, fu introdotto al basket. Lui qui sviluppa una passione per questo sport. Auriemma prese differenti posizioni come allenatore in diverse università. Quando era allenatore dell’Università di Connecticut per la squadra delle donne, ebbe eccellenti risultati per l’università. Sotto il suo controllo, la sua squadra vinse 43 stagioni, andò diciassette volte nelle Final Four, ebbe sei stagioni perfette, e vinse 11 campionati. Aurmemma fu  nominato allenatore dell’anno per le università americane otto volte, sette volte allenatore dell’anno in un’altra lega, e tre volte allenatore d'America. Auriemma fu fantastico ed ebbe ancor più successo quando diventò l’allenatore per la squadra nazionale anche per le Olimpiadi. Auriemma è ancora oggi una leggenda nel mondo di basket. 

The dream of coaching women’s college basketball was never even a remote thought in 1961 for Geno Auriemma. At age seven, Geno was journeying to a multiethnic, changing America from the town of Montella in the Campania region of southern Italy. Geno’s humble life originated from the poor beginnings of the backward, little Italian town where piped-in gas, heat and running water were considered to be luxurious living items. The progressive impetus of a new, American life would radically change this naive Italian kid, his parents and his younger brother and sister, forever.

“I arrived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, not being able to speak English. I don’t know the customs. I don’t dress the right way. I feel out of place, so I’m constantly self-conscious and unsure of myself,” vividly writes Auriema in his book, “Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection.” From birth on, Auriemma was a natural leader and this mantra was firmly ingrained in his DNA. It was not uncommon for Geno to help his parents, Donato and Marciella, interpret, negotiate and often remedy English language issues. 

Astoundingly forward-thinking for a child, he voluntarily rose to the challenge of being the unconventional and relentlessly assisting, assuring, assuming kid. Auriemma did so by interpreting tax statements, making mortgage payments and communicating parents’ concerns to lawyers. As the eldest son, much was expected. He instinctively guided and taught his younger siblings, Ferrucci and Anna, the new language and the American ways. This was an incredible display of leadership and initiative, placing the family’s needs first, the most important Italian characteristic culturally instilled in Geno by his Italian parents. 

“At this point, I’m talking to my parents strictly in English. It is hard for them, but necessary for me. I know they need to understand English. They also need to speak Italian to me, to make sure I never forget Italian,” writes Auriemma about those early years in Norristown. “I lived a different life than most fourteen- and fifteen-year-old kids my age. I am on my own with a lot of responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, I never felt unsafe or unloved, just not that connected,” writes Auriemma. 

For Italian-born Auremmia, soccer was his first love, but he soon became very interested in baseball. In his sophomore year, however, he learned to appreciate the game of basketball, imparted to him by then Coach Buddy Gardler at Bishop Kenrick High School. In 1978 and 1979, Auriemma worked as an assistant coach at Saint Joseph’s University. He then returned to be the assistant coach at Bishop Kerrick, his alma mater, until 1981, the year he earned his BA. Auriemma then accepted an assistant coach job with the University of Virginia and worked there until 1985.

Auriemma remained “old school” in teaching; tough and gritty. He adopted and molded his coaching style to that of Coach Gardler; demanding, fair and unassuming. “I was fortunate enough to do what I love to do – and that is to teach and coach,” writes Auriemma. “I am a hard-ass,” he admits. He pushes his players hard, emphasizing, “I demand sometimes more than they can give. But I don’t know what that is until I find out what they can’t give.” “I push them, prod them, challenge them, and take them to the brink. I don’t want them ever to land face first in a hot bed of coals. Believe me. It hurts,” writes Auriemma.

“He’s the guy everyone loves until he gives it to you straight, and then you hate him for it. But underneath the anger, you know what he’s saying is true,” writes his former All-American and now professional, 10-time all-star player Diana Taurasi. “He forced me to be somebody special, and I will always be grateful.”

Before Auriemma arrived at the University of Connecticut, the women’s basketball program had only one winning season in its history. Amazingly, since his arrival in 1985, the Huskies have had only one losing season – his very first year with the team. Since his arrival in 1985, the UConn women’s basketball team has won 43 regular season tournament titles, advanced to 17 Final Fours, posted six perfect seasons, and won 11 national championships. 

Auriemma is an eight-time, AP College Basketball Coach of the Year, seven-time Naismith Coach of the Year and three-time American Athletic Coach of the Year. His cumulative record at UConn remains the best winning percentage in the history of the sport. Auriemma was the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Team from 2009 through 2016, during which time his team won the 2010 and 2014 World Championships. He garnered gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, going undefeated in all four tournaments. “We have won 11 national championships, and we’ve never taken any of them for granted. Every one of those championships is special,” emphasizes Auriemma.

Candid and honest describe Auriemma, but they are just labels. Auriemma transcends all of that. He continues to contribute to and transform women’s basketball today.