Surely it was a sign of things to come - the first seven games of Geno Auriemma's coaching career at UConn were victories.
His first regular season game was Nov. 23, 1985, a 73-67 victory at Iona. Lori Kulo scored 24 and Peggy Walsh, now Peggy Walsh-Meyers and working in the UConn women's basketball office, had 16.
"I remember how hard he worked us in practice," she said recently by phone from her Coventry home, the same town where Kulo resides. "He always stressed that working hard in practice prepared you for game situations. I also remember one time he told me I wasn't starting. I wasn't working hard enough in practice. Things changed after that."
Auriemma remembers something else about that game.
"I remember that game for the two [technical fouls] I got," Auriemma said by e-mail. "It was crazy. I was scared to death. Peg and Lori were great. We were on the bus on the way back when it sunk in that we won."
UConn then ripped off six more wins before losing nine of its next 11 and finishing the season 12-15, 4-12 Big East. Still, the seventh win also was memorable for Auriemma.
"There was a huge comeback against UMass for win No. 7," he said. "We were down 17 in the second half."
But this was not the UConn team as we know it now. This one ran into trouble.
"We were 7-0 and the kids thought we were the best team in the league," Auriemma said. "Same guys who lost 18 the year before. . . . Reality set in. But we reached our goal. We did not have to play in the 8-9 game in the Big East tournament."
Five national championships and 20 first-team All-Americans later, Auriemma is in the Hall of Fame. The team is on TV all the time, and the program is known throughout the country.
Walsh-Meyers has worked part time in the basketball office since that magical year of 1995, when UConn went unbeaten and won the national title and Rebecca Lobo was a household name. Auriemma brought Walsh-Meyers aboard just to handle the craziness associated with it all.
She said she sees no difference in Auriemma today.
"He has a way of making you want to play hard for him," she said. "He's the same guy as he was when he was making $30,000 a year."
Well, not only has his salary changed, but the expectations, too.
"The game today has changed so much," Auriemma said. "We were trying to be respectable. Now [the goal is] to win the national championship. Lots of fun stuff then. Easy to get excited; kids were awed by little things we did."
Now no one is awed unless UConn does big things.
Geno Had Immediate Impact
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