The comparisons are seemingly obvious. One man led his team to a whole bunch of consecutive wins. A few decades later, another man did the same thing. However, that’s where the comparisons should end when it comes to Geno Auriemma to John Wooden.
Auriemma’s UConn women’s basketball team won their 89th straight game on Tuesday, setting a new record for consecutive wins in college basketball. The record that they surpassed, of course, is that of Wooden’s UCLA men’s team that won 88 straight in the 70s.
It makes sense on the surface to compare Auriemma and Wooden, but instead of holding the two up to the light and trying to determine the similarities and differences between them, we should take their respective accomplishments and embrace them for what they are.
Think about it. Auriemma and the Huskies just won 89 games in a row, and they probably won’t let up anytime soon. Why can’t that be celebrated by itself? Say what you want about it. Say that it doesn’t mean the same because it’s women’s basketball. Say the streak is ruining women’s basketball and women’s sports, if you must.
But at the end of the day, Geno Auriemma’s job is to mentor young women in their quest through college, and to win college basketball games. There’s never been anything said to dispute the first goal hasn’t been achieved, and it’s impossible to say he doesn’t win, either.
Could Auriemma coach men and still have the same success? Who cares? We’ll likely never know the answer, but when we look back at his career and his body of work, will it matter? The fact remains that Auriemma has done his job, and he’s done it better than anyone. For that, he should be applauded. As should his players, and not just the ones who have been there during this streak. It goes back to names like Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Jen Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Shea Ralph, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and now Maya Moore. They bought into what Auriemma has sold them, and as a program they’ve built the best in the country — women’s or men’s.
Someday, we’ll likely look back on Auriemma’s tenure in Storrs, the same way we do with Wooden’s in Los Angeles. Sure, the streaks will be remembered, but we should compare the two as mentors and leaders, before even talking about what they did in terms of wins and losses, or x’s and o’s.
If Auriemma has it his way, though, it’s fairly obvious how he’ll be remembered. He’ll be remembered as a UConn guy who set out, with his team, to do their best. He put it better than anyone else could, just seconds after breaking the record.
“I’m not John Wooden, and this isn’t UCLA. This is Connecticut, and that’s good enough.”
Is Geno Auriemma on the same level as John Wooden? Will Auriemma ever get the respect he deserves if he spends his entire career coaching women’s basketball at UConn? Share your thoughts below.