New HBO series on Auriemma and the Huskies humanizes superstars of the basketball world

UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma gives a a thumbs up to his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against SMU, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

On Wednesday night, the first episode of "UConn: The March to Madness," premiered on the HBO family of networks as it provided the nation with fantastic access to head coach Geno Auriemma and into the lives of the players both on and off the court. The summary of the episode provided by HBO for the premiere episode was: With the loss of three senior All-Americans after the 2015-16 season, head coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies re-boot for the 2016-17 campaign as they seek to maintain their historic winning streak.

Narrated by Ray Donovan and sabertooth from the X-Men series, Liev Schreiber, the special opens up with head coach Geno Auriemma questioning how this year’s team goes on from here. How does the 2016-2017 Huskies follow up four straight national championships? As Auriemma says, “Were sitting here with the best program ever created and we expected to create something even better than the best ever. I have no idea how you do that.”

Among many things, the show does a great job humanizing Auriemma and the players, as it shows them as normal people, instead of superstar basketball players. Along with this, the show is able to give an insight into their thought processes and how they view the game of basketball.

Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier laugh on the bench with teammates as UConn women’s basketball team defeats Temple 90-45 on Wed., Feb. 22, 2017 at the XL Center in Hartford.  (Jackson Haigis/ The Daily Campus)

Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier laugh on the bench with teammates as UConn women’s basketball team defeats Temple 90-45 on Wed., Feb. 22, 2017 at the XL Center in Hartford.  (Jackson Haigis/ The Daily Campus)

With interviews from former players such as Sue Bird and Maya Moore, the players explain how it is like playing for Auriemma and what he looks for in a player. In covering women’s basketball this season, I have had the unique opportunity to watch many practices as this program gives the average fan a chance to see what goes on a day-to-day basis.

From showing practices, locker room speeches and road trips, the hour long first episode introduces Husky Nation to a fun group of college kids who only have winning on their minds. The first episode starts with the home game against No.2 Baylor and traces the season through other big games such as the road game against No.2 Notre Dame, No.4 Maryland and No.6 South Carolina. The show as a whole gives the fan a great recap of the season, the milestones broken and the reactions both Auriemma and his staff have to each accomplishment.

Even though things are serious most of the time on the court, the special is able to show the Huskies off the court, as fans learn junior Gabby Williams is the master chef for the team while sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson is better shooting jumpers than cooking. In the episode there are one-on-one interviews with a multitude of players, as the one that stuck out for me was the one following the Baylor game with freshman Crystal Dangerfield. Without giving too much away, the episode is able to show how a freshman from Tennessee is able to uproot her life and play basketball in Connecticut, along with the challenges that brings.

Overall, the first episode is a must watch for UConn basketball fans and students as it shows how fellow students are able to balance academic work with being part of a national championship program who have won 105 games and counting. This episode is also able to show something that people who cover the team have known for a while, that Auriemma is one of the funniest people around and he is quotable as anyone.

The second episode of the series will premiere on March 8 at 10 p.m. as it will cover the Huskies as they partake in the American Athletic Conference tournament this weekend at Mohegan Sun. UConn will have its first game of the tournament this Saturday at 2pm against either the Memphis Tigers or Tulsa Golden Hurricanes.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.