Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies have won 11 NCAA Championships during his 33-year tenure in Storrs. They have a chance to tack on a 12th this weekend in the Final Four in Tampa.
Standing in the way is a frequent nemesis in Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame. Arike Ogunbowale nailed a game-winning shot for the Irish in last year’s national semifinal in Columbus to deny the Huskies another championship. In fact, Auriemma and company last won it all in 2016.
Before seeing if he can lead the program back to the promised land, let’s look at the 11 national championship teams he’s coached.
1995 NCAA Championship
Auriemma, a native of Montella, Italy, had to top the legendary Pat Summitt and Tennessee in the NCAA final for the program’s first championship. The Huskies won 70-64 over the Volunteers in Minneapolis to cap off an undefeated 35-0 season.
The key member of the team was point guard Jennifer Rizzotti, now the George Washington head coach. During the 1995-96 season, she set school records for assists with 212 and steals with 112. This earned her a 4th-round selection in the WNBA Draft to the Houston Comets.
2000 NCAA Championship
The Huskies avenged their only loss of the season in the finale against Tennessee for the program’s 2nd title. Back in February, they dropped a 1-point decision to the Volunteers, but won in the rematch by 19 in Philadelphia.
If Rizzotti started the tradition of stellar point guard play in Storrs, Sue Bird continued it in 1999-00. The 5-foot-8 dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel averaged 14.4 points per game. This earned her the No. 1 pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft to the Seattle Storm. She’s since won three professional championships.
2002-04 NCAA Championships
From 2002-04, Auriemma only lost 5 games en route to 3 NCAA Championships. The losses were to Villanova (twice), Duke, Notre Dame and Boston College. The title game wins were over Oklahoma and Tennessee (twice).
These years saw a slew of WNBA talent, including Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Tamika Williams and Diana Taurasi. All were top-10 selections.
2009-10 NCAA Championships
These two seasons are some of the greatest in collegiate history. Both ended 39-0, as Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery averaged 19.3 and 16.5 points apiece. The winning streak eventually ended in 2011 at 89 in a row.
The Huskies marched through the 2009 NCAA Tournament with double-digit victories in all of their games, culminating in a 22-point rout over Louisville in the final.
The next tournament was tougher, but Auriemma and company still ended up on top with a 53-47 squeaker over Stanford. Montgomery (in 2009) and Tina Charles (in 2010) both went in the WNBA first round.
Maya Moore ended up as the No. 1 pick in 2009 to the Minnesota Lynx. President Barack Obama was quoted as saying that UConn in 2010 was, “the best team in all of sports, any sport, any gender, by far.”
2013-16 NCAA Championships
As the 3-peat and the 2-peat weren’t good enough, Auriemma and the Huskies went on a 4-year stretch in the early to mid-2000s with championships each year.
The most impressive was a 40-0 finish in 2013-14, which ended with a 21-point rout over Notre Dame. The men’s team also took home the title that year, which also occurred in 1999.
The Fighting Irish exacted revenge last year in Columbus, so can Auriemma and his program hold serve this year for a chance at a 12th title?