Why Geno Auriemma already believes UConn women’s basketball ‘got it right’ with 2024-25 team (2024)

UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma got a text of congratulations from longtime associate head coach Chris Dailey after his five-year contract extension was announced Tuesday.

“Are you in or out?” Auriemma texted back.

He didn’t receive a response, but a conversation about the future with his right-hand assistant is one of the top items on Auriemma’s to-do list. Dailey began as an assistant on his original UConn staff in 1985 and has never wavered, earning a promotion to associate head coach just three years later. She is one of just two assistant coaches inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, and she has a perfect 17-0 record serving as acting head coach in Auriemma’s absence.

“Hey, she has a house in Florida now, so she might want her winters free,” Auriemma joked. “She might want to coach remotely.”

Auriemma’s extension through 2029, which will make him the highest-paid women’s basketball coach in the country in 2024-25, was somewhat surprising as he enters his 40th year at UConn at age 70, but Auriemma said he is as excited for this year’s team as he has been in years after less than a week of summer practices. Part of his optimism comes from the Final Four run at the end of a grueling season, despite it ending in heartbreak with just seven active players on the roster.

Auriemma has plenty of experience where men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley is now (assuming he stays at UConn), trying to reconstruct a roster following the high of winning back-to-back national championships. He said starting the process after a more challenging year adds to his optimism during the summer, especially seeing his squad as healthy as it has been since the start of 2023-24.

“You start workouts in June and you compare this team in June to the team that just won a national championship and you go, ‘We suck … that’s natural coach behavior,” Auriemma said. “When (we) have 10 or 11 or 12 players at practice, it reminds you like, wow, you don’t have to make concessions all the time. You can actually run a practice like you used to run a practice, and you start to see all the possibilities … I like looking out there and and realizing that, if Paige (Bueckers) doesn’t get 30 tonight, we still have a chance to win.”

It’s the offseason but the Huskies are putting in the WORK pic.twitter.com/kl7TTOrnDM

— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) June 6, 2024

The first summer session comes with low expectations for Auriemma in terms of the actual product on the floor. Instead, the month of workouts is focused on developing chemistry, giving players critical time to understand each other’s strengths and tendencies.

“When somebody hits the bottom of the rim four times, that still pisses me off, but in terms of expecting perfection or expecting it to be great, no. Zero,” Auriemma said. “I just want to see how we behave with each other. Do we blend in well? Does this new kid understand that when Paige is open pass her the ball? And do they also understand, ‘Hey I’m open, I’m gonna shoot it because I can make this.’ And then they make it. You want to see, are they confident? Are they smart enough, and do they make the right play at the right time?”

Five players, including 2021 No. 1 recruit Azzi Fudd, are set to return from season-ending injuries this year for UConn, but the team also lost two multi-year players to the WNBA Draft, and they’ll be challenging to replace. Nika Muhl graduated as a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year and the program’s all-time assists leader, and Aaliyah Edwards was a first round pick at No. 6 overall by the Washington Mystics after earning near-unanimous All-American honors in 2024.

But Auriemma isn’t worried about replicating what was lost, especially not with a stacked freshman class and his first transfer portal addition since 2022. The incoming recruiting class ranks No. 2 in the country headlined by No. 1 prospect Sarah Strong, a 6-2 forward and the 2024 Naismith High School Player of the Year. Transfer point guard Kaitlyn Chen was the 2023 Ivy League Player of the Year and led Princeton to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths coach by UConn alum Carla Berube.

“You’re trying to make the same meal, but you’re doing it with different ingredients, and that’s just what coaching is,” Auriemma said. “So we need a new Nika. Well, you ain’t finding a new Nika. We need a new Aaliyah Edwards. You’re not gonna get a new Aaliyah Edwards. How do we get some of the same things but in a different way? That’s what you’re trying to do.”

“I think we get it right more times when we get it wrong, and … just watching them work out, being around them every day, I think we got it right. And I think we got it right last year. I feel really, really good about where we are right now.”

Geno Auriemma offers first impressions of UConn women’s basketball newcomers, updates injury report

Why Geno Auriemma already believes UConn women’s basketball ‘got it right’ with 2024-25 team (2024)
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