Geno Auriemma seems to always find a way to have fun at the expense of his former players. Three-time UConn All-American Svetlana Abrosimova – one of his favorite targets – was back at Gampel Pavilion Thursday to be honored as part of the 2001-02 national championship team and its induction into the Huskies of Honor.
Since Abrosimova had not been back to Gampel Pavilion for a game in 10 years she was also recognized for her 2006 induction into the Huskies of Honor as a player.
“I’m glad we did the thing with Sveta,’’ Auriemma said. “It’s the first time Sveta’s been at Gampel since they did the Huskies of Honor. So it was good for her.’’
Of course, Auriemma then jokingly took off in another direction.
“She was complaining about something after the game,’’ Auriemma said. “Something about … Did they read enough of her accomplishments? Was she (mad) that they left out a couple of All-American nominations? She was mad that we didn’t spend enough time talk taking to her (Wednesday) night; that we spent too much time with some other people. She said, `I’ll see you in 10 years because you only want to talk to me every 10 years.’’’
The night was special for Abrosimova.
“When I walked in I didn’t see my name on the (wall),’’ Abrosimova said. “It was covered in black. So I was like, `Oh, my God, they think I died.’ It was funny. It’s exciting. It’s a great feeling.
“Only in Connecticut can it happen. That’s why it’s so special because nowhere else would people care. `OK, you left the college …’ They might remember you when it’s your birthday once in a while because it popped out on Facebook. But here’s it’s really special. People call me. They’re like, `Please come. We want to recognize you.’ I didn’t even play any games for this (2001-02) team. I was a grad assistant. So I’m really proud to be a part of this. And the older I get the more I realize how special it is.’’
Only four players from the team were able to attend the ceremony – Sue Bird, Ashley Battle, Maria Conlon and Stacey Marron. Auriemma said that it might be time to hold the inductions earlier.
“I wish a lot of the other guys would’ve been here,’’ Auriemma said. “The problem the only time you can get them here is October. So maybe that’s what we’ll have to do. Maybe next October we get the 2003-04 team, which is the same guys pretty much. There’s not much difference. But you can’t do it during a game because it’s just impossible to get them all her. Like Jessica Moore was here two days ago. And her team said, `You’ve got to come back.’ So she had to leave. So even when they’re here you can’t get them here. But we were together (Wednesday) night and talked about a lot of things, a lot of memories. It’s fascinating to see what’s happened to them in the last 10 years. Who would’ve thought that some of the experiences that they’ve been able to experience would’ve been there for them. But it was pretty special.’’
The night was special for Fairfield coach Joe Frager too. He coached Conlon at Seymour High School.
Conlon, who again will be providing color commentary for Fairfield women’s games on WVOF-FM 88.5 starting Monday, was on hand with her five-week-old daughter, Layla.
Here is what Frager remembers most about Conlon …
“I actually think about probably when she was a freshman at Seymour High School,’’ Frager said. “That’s what I think about. And I think back to the day that I found out she was attending Seymour High School. I was teaching a U.S. History class, period 7. And they said, `There’s a kid who’s transferring in from Derby. You know her? Maria Conlon.’ And I went in and I said, `We have the rest of the class off guys. You do whatever you want. I’m just going to sit at my desk and just be in a really good mood for the next 20 minutes. When I look at Maria I just see how much she’s matured. When I first got her as a freshman she wouldn’t even talk. And now to see how poised she is and doing well in the corporate world and getting out and doing the Pledge (of Allegiance Thursday night). She’s a mom now. So I’m really proud of her.
“She’s a competitor because, I’ll tell you what, minutes after the baby was born I had a text from her and a picture. So I was like, `That’s pretty impressive.’ She’s tough. It just makes me realize how old I am, No. 1. And, No. 2, what a great mom she’s going to be. And I asked her what kind of present she wants and both she and (her husband) Carmine just said `basketball gear’ right away. The kid’s not going to have a choice. No choice whatsoever.’’