Recruits, Auriemma the keys to UConn's rise
Editor's note: While covering the UConn women's perfect run in 2001-02, ESPN.com revisited each of the previous undefeated seasons in women's college basketball history as well as the Huskies' rise to prominence.
On Jan. 15, 1995, the day before the No. 2-ranked University of Connecticut women's basketball team faced No. 1-ranked Tennessee on national television, coach Geno Auriemma pulled together his team at the center of the Gampel Pavilion court.
"Being afraid is not all that bad, as long as you're afraid of the right things. Just don't be afraid to lose."
As it turned out, the Huskies weren't. They beat Tennessee 77-66 in a Martin Luther King Day matinee and became the nation's No. 1 team. The morning after, it was Auriemma who was afraid -- afraid to get out of bed.
"He didn't want to leave the room," remembered his wife, Kathy. "It's kind of like when you run a really big race. If you run well, you think, 'If I did it yesterday, now I have to do it again today.'
"When he goes to that office he knows what he's supposed to do, and it overwhelms him sometimes. He's got to meet that demand."
At the end of the 1994-95 season, however, supply ran well ahead of demand. Auriemma's team won its first national championship and finished with an unprecedented 35-0 record. That final victory came, appropriately, over Tennessee, the model program in women's basketball.
When, precisely, did that breakthrough moment come? Was it that classic Auriemma pep talk, or that torch-passing win over the Lady Vols during the regular season? Or was it that championship win over Tennessee? Or a subtler, under-the-radar moment that came before all the pyrotechnics?
"Man," said Rebecca Lobo, the leader of that 1994-95 team, "you're looking for the one moment when it all caught fire? That's a tough one. I'm not sure I really want to go there."
There is no indisputably correct answer, of course. One moment leads to the next, leads to the next, leads to the next in the Connecticut continuum. A few possibilities, arranged in chronological order:
Greg Garber is a senior writer at ESPN.com.