The career of Jennifer Rizzotti has been impacted by many people over the years. From her parents, Tom and Carol, to UConn head coach Geno Auriemma to former teammates, they have all played a significant role in who she has become … a Hall of Famer.
But there is one person that seems to stand about them all at this juncture. And it is this person that Rizzotti chose to introduce her tonight during the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tenn. It is her husband, Bill Sullivan.
The two met while they were at UConn. They will celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary July 17. They have two wonderful children – Holden, 8; Conor 4. They coach together at Hartford. And tonight they will share in an event that will forever cloak Rizzotti in greatness.
“He’s kind of been with me through it all,’’ Rizzotti said. “I think it’s pretty special. I know he wasn’t there where I was in high school or at the beginning of my college career, but we started dating in ’95 and so it kind of all coincided with our beating Tennessee and he was there for that, and beating Kansas and then winning a national championship and just the following year being an All-American and Player of the Year. So he’s been with me through all of it. I played a couple years professionally in Hartford and then when I decided to get married that was when the league folded and I had to run off to
Houston. We’re rushing our wedding to fit it in through my basketball season.
“So he’s always been there and he’s known how important playing basketball was a part of my life and he’s always supported that. He’s spent months in the dead of heat of summer in Houston to be with me and he was there when I decided to get into the coaching career and actually do both for a while, the coaching and playing. And so he’s never made it difficult for me to kind of follow my dreams. He’s always been there to support me. And so I kind always give thanks to my parents for their genes and making me who I am and I always, obviously, I’m eternally grateful for Geno for the opportunity to play at UConn because it was certainly the best decision of my life and led to everything since then. But I’d have to say that Sully’s influence on my, not just playing career, but my life in general has been the most important.’’
Auriemma and close friend/former UConn teammate Rebecca Lobo, who have also been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, will serve as co-video presenters tonight. Narrowing it down to just one proved to be a difficult task. So Rizzotti opted to ask both of them to contribute to the event.
“I couldn’t pick between the two of them,’’ Rizzotti said. “So if I can have them both, let’s do it.’’
Here is some more background on when Rizzotti told her mother that she was going to earn a scholarship to play college basketball …
“I think I was in either eighth grade or ninth grade,’’ Rizzotti said. “I think it might have been early high school would be my guess. She said I was pretty definitive about it. I don’t remember if I came home from a camp and somebody was talking about it or what made me actually decide that would be my path or if I had watched the limited games that were on TV. But I just kind of knew and I think that was probably the last time I made a statement like that because there certainly wasn’t any statements after in college like, `I’m going to play professionally’ or `I’m going to be a coach’ or `I’m going to do this.’ I kind of just worked really hard and let life and my profession and my future kind of fall where it may and it’s worked out pretty well for me.’’