It’s not going to happen yet, but it’s inevitable. Currently sitting at 68 years old in his 37th year at UConn, Hall of Fame Coach Geno Auriemma is going to have to retire at some point. Many argue that Auriemma is the greatest coach in the history of college basketball, largely thanks to his 11 national championships and 1,146 career wins. Although few fans would like to admit it, Auriemma is going to have to retire at some point. He has done a phenomenal job with the Huskies and continues to do so. With his continuing streak of 13 Final Fours, there is no reason to even think about seeing him go from a performance standpoint, but age may become a factor at some point. Once he decides that he is ready to retire, there’s a coach on the other side of New York City (or Storrs South as many like to call it) who checks all the boxes and is a perfect fit for Storrs – Carla Berube.
This change wouldn’t even need to happen full-on in the next few years. Perhaps Auriemma could add Berube to the staff as an assistant so that she would be ready to flourish when he does retire. If she had the guarantee of being at the top spot in Storrs eventually, surely she’d leave Princeton, even if it meant a few years as the third in charge behind Auriemma and Chris Dailey. But let’s get back to why she would be the perfect fit.
The first critical box to check for the next coach is a strong connection to the UConn program. Berube checks this box fully. The Oxford, Massachusetts native spent four years with the Huskies, scoring 1,381 points and was a part of the dominant 1995 national championship team. As a key builder of the long-term success of the program, Berube knows her way around campus. Although she didn’t have a spectacular pro career, she served as a great leader during her time in college, where the Huskies went 132-8.
Berube almost immediately began coaching after college, starting at Providence as an assistant coach in 2000. Although the Friars went just 23-32 in Berube’s two years, she did enough to secure the job at Division III Tufts, where she flourished. After taking five years to rebuild the program, in her sixth year, the Jumbos broke out in a major way, advancing all the way to the Elite Eight with a 26-4 record in 2008. She made the tournament two of the next three years, and despite not advancing to the second weekend, the next eight years were magical. Two straight trips to the Sweet 16 were followed by a pair of Final Four appearances. To continue things, Tufts lost in the title game the next two years before getting bounced in the Elite Eight two more times, making her record 220-31 in her final eight years.
Although Berube then took over a very successful Princeton program, it is impressive how intact she has been in her last two years. In her first season in 2019-20, the Tigers won the Ivy League and were primed to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finishing 26-1. Last year, Princeton decided not to play due to COVID-19, making this current year her second campaign.
The Berube-led Tigers outperformed all expectations, beating No. 22 FGCU early in the year and finishing the regular season 22-4 and 14-0 in conference. They glided past Harvard and Columbia in the Ivy tournament before being named a No. 11 seed, despite their No. 25 ranking in the AP Poll. The Tigers proved the committee and their doubters wrong in the first round, beating No. 6 seed and AP No. 15 Kentucky 69-62. Facing No. 3 seed and AP No. 11 Indiana, the Tigers had opportunities to win in the final few possessions, but just couldn’t get it done, losing 56-55.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this team is that five of the top six scoring options are sophomores and juniors, meaning that this success isn’t going anywhere. On top of this returning talent, Berube knows how to recruit. In ESPN’s HoopGurlz top 100, Berube is bringing in Madison St. Rose (No. 46 overall) and Tabitha Amanze (No. 43 overall), a pair of players who could be program-changing with their high-prestige.
These listed factors really cover all of the bases of what would make a good candidate for the UConn job. Berube is a proven winner who knows how to take her team to success. She has also set Princeton up for future success, as the pipeline is looking solid with no reason to believe that they will be giving up an inch in the Ivies anytime soon.
Even this year, if the ball bounced a different way a few times, Auriemma would be prepping his team to play Princeton this Saturday in the Sweet 16. Taking a school from a conference like the Ivy league to such success is incredibly impressive, especially in such a short amount of time with the program.
If Berube sticks it out with the Tigers long enough, perhaps the stars will align such that she’ll be ready to move to UConn as Auriemma is set to retire. But if not, Berube will be causing the Huskies fits at whatever other school is fortunate enough to hire her.