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Auriemma looks back before before entering Hall of Fame

Auriemma looks back before before entering Hall of Fame

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A year before Connecticut hired Geno Auriemma as its women's basketball coach, he was turned down at another school.

After 21 years, it's obvious the Huskies made the right choice. Auriemma is now a Hall of Fame coach.

Auriemma headlines a group of six new members of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame who toured the hall Friday and spoke to reporters before tonight's induction ceremony.

Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, Janice Lawrence Braxton, Katrina McClain Johnson, Bentley College coach Barbara Stevens and former Brazilian Olympian Maria Paula Goncalves da Silva also will be inducted.

Auriemma has won five national championships, including three straight from 2002-04, and holds the NCAA record for consecutive wins with 70. Under Auriemma, the Huskies have had eight Final Four berths and two perfect seasons.

The Huskies finished this season 32-5 after losing to Duke in the NCAA Regional final. His record stands at 589-116.

Auriemma was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., this year and will be inducted in September.

He recalled interviewing at DePaul before he was hired by Connecticut in 1985.

"I didn't get the job. I didn't know what that meant," he said.

When he interviewed at UConn, Auriemma did not believe he was the school's first choice.

"But I knew if I got offered the job I would take the job. There's no doubt in my mind about that," he said. "I didn't know exactly what I was getting into."

Auriemma said being elected to the halls of fame has made him to reminisce about his career.

"You don't really have time as you're going along coaching-wise to kind of stop and say, 'Here's where we are at this point in time and here's what we've done,"' he said. "You're forced to look back at how it all kinda came about."

Davis-Wrightsil, Braxton and Johnson were college stars in the 1980s.

"It's so humbling to be a part of something so big as this especially when you see the people that I'm going in with. I think we're all really blessed to have been a part of the evolution of women's basketball," Davis-Wrightsil said.

She helped Texas to the 1986 national championship, capping a 34-0 season as a freshman. She was a two-time All-American and national player of the year as a senior. She won a bronze medal as a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1992 and played 10 years as a pro.

Davis-Wrightsil stepped down as the chief operating officer of the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars last month. She lives in Austin, Texas, and is able to spend more time with her foundation, TeamXpress, which offers a mentoring program for girls.

Braxton helped Louisiana Tech to a 130-6 record between 1980 and 1984 when the school won national titles in 1981 and 1982. She won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics and Braxton played professionally for 15 years in Italy and two with the WNBA's Cleveland Rockers. She lives in Cleveland and works at a car dealership.

"I played a long time ago and for people to think enough of me to consider me to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor enough, but to be inducted is a big honor," Braxton said.

Johnson was the 1987 national player of the year with Georgia and a three-time Olympian. Georgia went 116-15 during her career and was the national runner-up in 1985. Johnson was the leading scorer for the 1988 U.S. gold medal Olympic team, and she won another gold in 1996.

"I've learned to appreciate it over the years after it's all said and done. Unfortunately when we're playing we don't appreciate it because we're so engulfed in the playing that we don't really understand how good it is to be accepted like that," said Johnson, who writes Biblical books for children, has a foundation and takes care of her three children ages 2 to 6.

Stevens is the winningest women's coach in Division II history with a record of 711-193. She became the coach at Bentley, in Waltham, Mass., in 1986 after coaching at Clark University and Massachusetts. Stevens has taken Bentley to seven Final Fours, and the Falcons were runners-up in the 1990 national championship.

Da Silva, known as "Magic Paula" in Brazil, played on her country's national team for 22 years. She won a gold medal in the 1994 World Championships and a silver medal in the 1996 Olympics.


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