Former UConn guard Carla Berube gained noteriety in the Husky history books for two clutch free throws against Tennessee in the national championship to ice the game and clinch the program’s first-ever championship. Now, Berube is in her 17th year as the head coach of Tufts women’s basketball where the team is a constant threat to win a championship.
“I’m not like coach [Geno] Auriemma. We haven’t won [a championship] yet,” Berube said as she chuckled. “So, we are down 11. But I want to make sure my players have a great experience and they leave Tufts saying, ‘That was an incredible four years,’ and I hope that basketball piece was a big part of that.”
While they haven’t clinched a championship yet, Tufts is in the midst of a run at the national championship after finishing with a 22-2 regular season record. The team defeated Haverford in the second round of the NCAA tournament and are slated to play Messiah on Saturday in the Sweet 16.
As the head coach of the Jumbos, Berube has tried to create a camaraderie that Auriemma has been able to create at UConn with his program. One way she has done that is with the annual alumni game.
“You want them to feel like a big part of the program because they helped build such an amazing program,” Berube said. “It’s also about giving back and helping our current student athletes with, just talking about their experience here and what [alumni] have done after graduation… It’s a big part of our program and it’s clearly something I learned at UConn.”
Berube is still in communication with Auriemma frequently. He was the first person she turned to when she became the coach of the U16 and U17 USA Basketball teams because he has coached at the same level. He was able to answer all of her questions about international basketball, shorter shot clocks and what she should try to run during the games.
Lauren Dillon, who is currently an assistant coach at Tufts, is only one year removed from her days as a player at Tufts. But, she said this was an opportunity she could not pass up.
“Coaching beside [Berube] has been quite the experience,” Dillon said. “We’ve always had a great on-court relationship. Being her point guard and captain, there has always been a great level of trust between us. To be on her staff this year has just felt like a greater extension of that, more like a natural progression than anything else.”
Dillon said that her sense of humor is something she has learned about Berube since she has taken the assistant coaching job. But while Dillon was a guard at Tufts, playing the same position that Berube did in college, the former Husky taught her everything there is to know.
“[Berube] taught me a lot [at] both ends of the floor. She broke the game down into a very simple one, showing me what to look for and what reads to make,” Dillon said. “She taught me the importance of always looking to be a threat. Defensively, she’s a mastermind, but more than that, she makes you want to work as hard as you can to protect your basket and give everything you have for your teammates.”
Being there for her players is something Berube learned from Auriemma. She said he instilled in her how to be a good teammate and it has translated into her being a phenomenal college coach.
“[Auriemma] was tough. It was tough love,” Berube said. “But you always knew that he was in your corner and he wanted the very best out of you. I think that’s one of the greatest things that coach is able to do. He is able to get the most out of the players that he has on the team and get them to play at their highest level.”
While Berube doesn’t constantly talk about her UConn career, Dillon said she understands that her time there has helped make her who she is today.
“We all know it’s ingrained in her coaching style, our culture and her perspective on the game,” Dillon said. “She’ll recount some of her experiences, especially their national championship run, and what it took for them to get there, inspiring us to want to do the same.”
Berube became the head coach of Tufts prior to the 2002-2003 season. The year before she became the head coach, the team had a 9-14 overall record and won only a single conference game. Then in her first year, the team went 17-7 and they have been a powerhouse in the New England Small College Athletic Conference ever since, which is one of the most prominent conferences in Division III sports. Berube said this job is something she has fallen in love with over time.
“Tufts University is such a great place to spend four years,” Berube said. “You get an incredible degree, and it’s an incredible experience. It’s just like UConn; talented and great student athletes want to come and play at a place like that.”
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.