A coach is a leader, teacher and mentor. Coaches are experts in the sport that they have chosen. A coach is a role model and a community leader. Wooden and Jamison (2005) accurately defined the role of a coach:
The coach must never forget he is, first of all, a teacher. He must come (be present), see (diagnose), and conquer (correct). He must continuously be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and everything that may be helpful to him. As has been said, he must remember, others, too , have brains (p. 93).
UConn Women’s Basketball team has had so much success, but who is behind all the success?
One of the most successful coach/leader is Geno Auriemma, head coach at the University of Connecticut (UConn) of the Women’s Basketball Team. He has redefined the meaning of success in 34 years at UConn. Geno has transformed the UConn program from only 1 winning season to 11 national titles, 18 Final Fours, 6 perfect seasons (1995, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2016) and 45 conference titles. UConn has recorded winning streaks of 90 and 111 games and 4 straight national titles from 2013-16. Like the success on the court, UConn’s teams have a 100% graduation rate among 4-year players. Geno is the first coach in Women’s Basketball history to lead a team to five consecutive Final Four appearances on two separate occasions. The team’s10 consecutive Final Four appearances is also a record in Women’s Basketball. Auriemma has earned a combined total of 30 National Coach of the Year honors, 9-time National Coach of the Year and named the Conference Coach of the Year 14 times. Geno accumulated 900 wins in fewer games than any coach in the history of Women’s Basketball. Because of his success, Auriemma was recognized and inducted to the Women Basketball Hall of Fame (Knoxville, Tenn.) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Springfield, Mass.) in 2006.
Geno has not only coached at the collegiate level, he has had a successful 8 years as the head coach of the U.S. National Team that won the gold medal in the London Olympic Games in 2012 and in Rio Games in 2016. The U.S National Team, which had six former Huskies, had an unbeatable record of 16-0 to receive the gold medal. Auriemma took UConn to its 23rd thirtieth winning season in 2016-17 and its 22nd in the past 24 season. UConn won the conference tournament 11 of the past 13 seasons. The UConn Huskies have been successful for many years, and Geno Auriemma has been the key to the entire Women’s Basketball Program’s success. (most of this came from http://www.uconnhuskies.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/auriemma_geno00.html ).
The Formative Years of a Coach
Geno Auriemma grew up in Montella, Italy, with his parents Donato and Marsiella and siblings Ferruccio and Anna. The family had no luxuries like running water, heat, and electricity. Geno and his family had to work hard everyday to survive their circumstances in Montella. In 1961 the family immigrated to the United States from Montella. They settled in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Back in Italy, Geno’s first sport was soccer; but in Norristown, there was no soccer team for him to play on, so Geno switched to baseball. He played baseball through his senior year at Bishop Kendrick High School during his sophomore year, Geno also played basketball under Coach Gardler. Buddy Gardler was one of the most significant influences in his life. It was Gardler who first inspired Auriemma to become a coach, and Gardler is who Geno models his coaching style after. Gardler was old school, tough and gritty. Gardler made the rules clear and that everyone was expected to follow the rules. It was easy to play for Buddy Gardler; players just had to do everything he told them with no questions asked. Geno Auriemma manifests that same coaching style as Gardler.
In 1978, Geno landed his first job as the assistant coach at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia. In 1981, he accepted the assistant coaching job at the University of Virginia. Geno had great success at the University of Virginia. So when the job opened at the University of Connecticut, Geno didn’t jump for it. He wanted to meet with John Toner and Patricia Meiser (John Toner head athletics director and Patricia Meiser assistant director of The University of UConn) about the position. While visiting the university, Geno found what his purpose was. He took the job at UConn in 1985. It was not easy for Geno to build his program, but he was diligent, committed, and confident that UConn was going to be successful.
Moral Character -First; Talent – Second
When Geno and his staff are out recruiting, they put a huge emphasis on looking at player’s body language. In his program, if a player’s body language is bad, then that player will never get into the game. Never. Geno does not care how good the player is. It does not matter who she is. Geno would rather lose a game than allow that player to get away with attitude and what he calls “me, me, me” thinking that shows she thinks everything is about her. Everyone from the coaching staff to the players knows that he is serious about having positive body language and enthusiasm for every game. Geno watches game film on his team and checks to see what’s happening on the bench. If somebody is asleep on the bench, if somebody looks like she doesn’t care, if somebody’s not engaged in the game, that person will never get in the game. Geno and his staff have the ability to mold high school players into unselfish, motivated players who think about the team more than themselves .
The Geno Way
Geno Auriemma is truly a leader, teacher, and role model. Auriemma is a natural leader who strives for excellence in everything he is involved in. Auriemma leads by an example, set the tone for his program, but he also determines the culture for his basketball team to display. Maxwell (2011) believes that leaders are the one person in the organization who can most effectively set the tone and pace for the rest of the people working or playing for them. Players’ actions and behaviors are directly correlated to the actions and behaviors of the head coach. The team’s atmosphere, decision-making, trust, productivity, and potential, all directly stem from the team leader’s attitude, values, character, work ethic, and personal growth (Maxwell, 2011).