UConn athletic director Warde Manuel was just waiting for a signature from Geno Auriemma this winter to make it official. He had placed a new five-year contract on Auriemma’s desk that would ultimately pay him $10,860,000 through the 2017-18 season.
But rather than jump at the chance to sign it, Auriemma let the contract sit for a while. Frankly, he said he was unsure if he truly wanted to continue coaching.
Auriemma just led the U.S. to the gold medal in London last summer. He has achieved extraordinary success since being hired at UConn in 1985. Was it time to walk away?
“When Warde (Manuel) and I talked about our contract, he said, `What’s the hold-up? Why haven’t you signed it? And I said, `I don’t know if I want to do this anymore,’’’ Auriemma said. “He goes, `Are you serious?’ I said, `Yeah, I don’t know.’ So I went home and I said, `Kathy, you know, now that we just won the Olympics and (were on the way to winning) a national championship, maybe it’s time to move on to something else.’ She just looked at me and she goes, `You’re kidding me, right?’ And I said, `No, actually I’m being serious.’ She goes well, `I’m being serious, too. You’re signing that five-year contract, and that’s all there is to it.’’’
Auriemma is 839-133 (.863) in 28 seasons at UConn. He has led the Huskies to an NCAA record-tying eight national championships and 14 Final Four appearances, including a current record-setting run of six straight trips. They set an NCAA record – men’s and women’s – by winning 90 straight games and they have finished undefeated four times.
It was officially announced Friday at Gampel Pavilion that Auriemma will again serve as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. It is a term that will culminate with what is expected to be a gold medal run at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
No one would blame Auriemma if he walked away at that point. He will be 62. He likely will have at least one more national championship on his resume. He will have absolutely nothing left to prove. And his grandsons will be that much older.
But judging from Auriemma’s response Friday, right now it appears that there is no end in sight when it comes to his stay at UConn.
“There’s always that feeling when you look into the future and you say, `If I get to this point in time that’s going to be enough for me.’’ Auriemma said. “But then when that date comes, you have a tendency to go, `You know what? I feel pretty good. I want to keep doing it.’ It’s like when you meet somebody who’s 90, or somebody tells you, `Hey, my grandmother died. She was 92.’ You go, `I’ll take 92 right now.’ Until you’re 91 and 10 months then you go, `Come on, give me 93.’
“So I think when I get to 2016 hopefully and there will be some championships between now and then that I’ll still have enough in me to want to keep doing it. I would say there’s a better chance of that than there is of 2016 coming and me saying because we won a gold medal, hopefully, and because we won a couple national championships, hopefully, that that would be enough to make me say, `No, I don’t want to do it anymore.’ I’m one of those people too that the more successful we keep being, the more I want to keep doing it. I think there’s a better chance that if we start losing I’ll go, `I’ve had enough.’ Actually, other people will say, `You’ve had enough.’ So the more success that we’re fortunate to have the more I want to stay and keep having it.’’