It hardly seems possible UConn could have realized what was in store in 1985 when it hired an Italian immigrant, just 31 years old, with a college coaching resume just five-years thick, to lead its women's basketball team into the 1990s.
You mean the little guy with the big ideas, the confident one with the sense of humor sharpened on all those Philadelphia street corners?
In Storrs, where the Huskies had 10 losing seasons in 11 years?
Well, look at him now.
Look at the Huskies now.
During his coaching career at UConn, Auriemma has not only turned Connecticut into the world capital of women's basketball, he has helped bring the sport into a brighter national spotlight.
He can be brash and opinionated. In fact, he usually is.
His verbal jousts with coaching legends such as Tennessee's Pat Summitt and C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers have made headlines.
He can be stubborn and defiant. His decision to stage a school record-breaking basket for senior Nykesha Sales at Villanova in 1998, three days after she tore an Achilles', earned him acrimony.
He can also coach. His ability to attract and mold high school All-Americans into unselfish contributors to a series of powerhouses has drawn praise.
And he has some bling: In addition to his six NCAA titles, he was an assistant coach for the United States' 1980 Olympic gold medal team in Sydney, Australia.
Mostly, Auriemma has re-written the record books at UConn.
After the 2008-09 season, his teams had won more than 85 percent of its games. That had translated into six national championships, 17 Big East regular season titles, 15 Big East tournament titles, eight selections as conference coach of the year and six Associated Press National Coach of the Year honors.
He has done so with players who have become icons in the sport — in college, the Olympics and in the WNBA. Players such as Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Jennifer Rizzotti, Shea Ralph, Nykesha Sales, Sue Bird, Svetlana Abrosimova, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi, Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore.
He even has his own coaching tree, the real measure of coach's influence. Among his former players to become college head coaches are Rizzotti at Hartford, Wendy Davis at Trinity and Carla Berube at Tufts. And former Auriemma assistant Tonya Cardoza is the head coach at Temple.
And Auriemma has done all that by winning consistently since breaking from the blocks in 1985-86 with a 12-15 record. He hasn't had a losing season since and has won at least 25 games each year since going 18-11 in 1992-93.
Three of those teams became undefeated national champions: 1994-95 (35-0), 2001-02 (39-0) and 2008-09 (39-0).
Auriemma has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. He's the first women's basketball coach to qualify for five straight Final Fours. He's also the quickest in history to 600 wins — taking just 716 games, reaching the mark on Dec. 31, 2006.
"I've had the privilege of being coached by some of the biggest names in women's basketball, but no coach has made a bigger impact on my life, both on and off the court," Lobo said. "He challenges you to gain something from your basketball experience and apply it to life after college.
"He got the most out of me as a player and taught me important lessons that carry into my daily routine."
In 2002-03, the Huskies set the Division I record for most consecutive victories (70).
In 2003-04, the Huskies tied the NCAA record for consecutive home court victories (69).
From 2000-2004, they won four national championships, including three straight from 2001-04.
In 2008-09, UConn won every game by double digits.
But there is more to Auriemma than basketball.
He has been involved in many charitable endeavors, including Geno's Cancer Team, co-founded with his wife, Kathy, which encourages philanthropic acts at all levels of Connecticut schools.
Auriemma was born on March 23, 1954, in Montella, Italy. He is a 1981 graduate of West Chester (Pa.) State with a B.A. in political science.
Before coming to UConn, he worked as an assistant girls and boys high school basketball coach and was a college women's assistant at St. Joseph's University (1978-79) and Virginia (1981-85).
He resides in Manchester with Kathy and their three children: Jenna, who was married in the summer of 2008, Alyssa, an aspiring musical theater performer, and Michael, a former All-State guard at East Catholic High who began his college career in 2008 as a walk-on at St. Joseph's (Pa.)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun