Jamelle Elliott spent four years at UConn as a player from 1992-93 through 1995-96, helping lay the foundation for greatness during that unforgettable undefeated season in 1994-95. She earned her Master’s degree at UConn in 1997. And, beginning with the 1997-98 season, she would spend 12 years as an assistant coach under Geno Auriemma before accepting the head coaching position at Cincinnati in May of 2009.
Auriemma and Elliott, 39, will once again be reunited Sunday when the Huskies host the Bearcats at Gampel Pavilion. There is much that Auriemma misses about no longer having Elliott at UConn on a full-time basis.
“I think most of it is her personality and the kind of person that she is,’’ Auriemma said. “There’s something unique about Jamelle. There’s something special about her. Her spirit. The way she treats every situation like it’s the most important thing in the world. And she loves life every day. She’s passionate about what she does. She’s one of the most loyal human beings I’ve ever been around in my life. She was here for half her life, which means that for 15, 20 years or so she impacted my life. So it’s always good to see her.’’
Said Elliott, who was part of six of UConn’s eight national championships: “After college I was there so it was like a run-on sentence, you go from college to graduate school, to coaching, so it runs close together. So I look at it that way more than it’s been that long since I’ve been in college. Connecticut will always be a second home to me. I still go back and visit a few times a year outside of work. It will always be a special place for me.’’
Auriemma cherishes the time he has to catch-up with Elliott and his former players and assistant coaches. The games, though, do not provide him with much delight.
He is 39-0 when facing a former player or assistant coach serving as either a head coach or an assistant. Auriemma is 4-0 against Elliott, winning by an average of 36.3 points.
“It’ll be fun tonight when I see Jamelle, and tomorrow obviously,’’ Auriemma said. “As far as the game is concerned, I don’t know about that. I’ve kind of been through that on both sides being an assistant at Virginia and then having to play Virginia and knowing that we weren’t as good as them it’s kind of tough. And then having to play Virginia or having to play Vanderbilt when Jim (Foster) was there or Ohio State and knowing that we’re a lot better than them that’s equally tough. I’m sure if every year we played Tonya (Cardoza) and Jamelle or Jen (Rizzotti) or anybody else that’s a head coach and every year it was 50-50 who’s going to win I think that would be a lot of fun. But, unfortunately, it’s usually one way or the other and it doesn’t make it as much fun as it could be.’’
Elliott is credited with recruiting senior All-American center Stefanie Dolson …
“I remember Jamelle being one of the first ones to tell me that she thought Stefanie was going to be really, really good,’’ Auriemma said.
Said Dolson: “The few times I’ve met her she’s a lot of fun. She’s always one of those people that you kind of look forward to seeing because no matter the circumstance she’s going to be happy and like, `Hey, Stef.’ She’s always a good time. I’ve talked to her about people on her team and how much I’ve grown from when she was recruiting me.’’