A Tale of 2 Legends: How Geno Auriemma compares to John Wooden

KPRC 2 Sports Director Randy McIlvoy puts the numbers side by side in comparing two college basketball coaching legends - UConn's Geno Auriemma and UCLA's John Wooden. All images used are courtesy Associated Press

With Final Four weekend arriving for the men and the women, it has people talking a lot about the longtime success at UConn by Geno Auriemma and his comparisons to the “Wizard of Westwood,” the late John Wooden. Their numbers will certainly amaze you.

What these two have done for the college game may never be matched.   John Wooden led UCLA from 1948 through the 1975 season,  setting the bar for what high-level success was all about.

His run included four perfect 30-0 seasons and was highlighted by a decade of dominance in which he won 10 national titles between 1964 and 1975.

What Wooden accomplished on the men’s side, Gene Auriemma has exceeded in college basketball’s women’s game.   Arriving at UConn in 1995 as a first-time head coach, Auriemma laid the foundation and has never let up.  In his 37 years leading the Huskies, he has won 1,148 games entering what is his 22nd Final Four appearance compared to the dozen earned by Wooden.   Auriemma also surpassed Wooden in 2016 when he collected his 11th National Championship.   All of his titles, by the way, came during UConn’s dominance between 1995 and 2016.  That stretch also included four straight national championships beginning with the 2013 campaign.

Throughout his run at Connecticut, Auriemma has stuck with his philosophy of recruiting players that embrace the need to be coached.  If they don’t, they’ll never be a permanent part of his program.  At the 2016 Final Four, he spoke on how the recruiting game has changed.

“Recruiting kids is harder than it’s ever been because kids want TV, the NBA, baseball, WNBA and what they see of people just being really cool, so they think that’s how they’re really going to act,” Auriemma said ahead of the 2016 Final Four. “We put a lot of emphasis on body language and if your body language is bad, you will never get into the game for us.”

Like Wooden, who coached four undefeated seasons at UCLA, Auriemma has enjoyed similar success, but also beyond that, coaching six of his UConn squads to perfect seasons, including his 1995 Rebecca Lobo-led team that finished 35-0. Along the way, 26 of his players have gone on to be taken in the first round of the WNBA draft and five of those were the overall number-one pick.

Auriemma is an icon and it’s his success at UConn that has made NCAA Women’s college basketball what it is today across the nation.  Just as Wooden has long been remembered for what he brought to the men’s game, Auriemma too will be what fans and coaches are still talking about in the years and decades to come.

He’s a winner in everything he’s tied to and that includes Team USA, where his teams won two Olympic gold medals and a pair of World Championships.  This much we know, his run in Storrs, Connecticut is far from over. He’ll certainly make room for more hardware as he solidifies his legacy as perhaps the greatest to ever coach the game.

Check the video above for Randy’s breakdown comparing the two coaching legends. All images used in the video are courtesy ASSOCIATED PRESS.