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Auriemma, Dailey key to preparing players for WNBA success

The UConn coaches have played a major role shaping some of the WNBA’s top players.

WNBA: Minnesota Lynx at Los Angeles Sparks Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout his time as head coach at UConn, Geno Auriemma has had a familiar saying that helps show why he has led the program to 11 national championships, 10-straight final fours and two win streaks that stretched at least 90 games: “If you chase perfection, you’ll catch excellence.”

Granted, Auriemma and associate coach Chris Dailey have led the Huskies to their share of perfect seasons, but the quote is more than just wins and the rare losses. It speaks to the way Auriemma and Dailey prepare their players for not only the games ahead, but their future endeavors on or off the basketball court.

“When you talk about Coach Auriemma and Coach Dailey, they just have a way of bringing out the best in you,” Diana Taurasi said. “They’re just all about making you better, and they really care and they’re invested in you, and I think we take that very seriously. Once you get to UConn now, there’s a certain level you hope to achieve with all the greats that have played there. It’s a pretty special place.”

That mantra was prominently displayed this weekend in Seattle, where seven former Huskies took part in the 2017 WNBA All-Star game and made up nearly one-third of the 22-player roster.

Much like Taurasi, Maya Moore quickly picked up on what it meant to play at UConn and how it prepared her for her WNBA career.

“It’s something that you get pretty quickly your freshman year when you get to campus. It’s about business, but it’s about the game,” Maya Moore said of Auriemma and UConn. “You learn how to appreciate the game when you walk in there and that’s what really keeps you willing to excel. You have to love the game and there’s no way you can last there if you don’t love the game.”

Moore was brilliant as usual in the All-Star game, scoring a game-high 23 points with three rebounds and three assists to claim her second-straight All-Star game MVP award. While Moore was an excellent player even before she stepped on campus, she credits Auriemma and Dailey for pushing her to make her even better.

“The little details that separate good from great are harped on from the moment you get there, doesn’t matter if you were an All-American out of high school, those little details are going to get you playing time,” Moore said. “By the time you graduate, you should be pro ready, and that’s what they tell us...So when you make that jump, you know what it’s going to take to win.”

The success of Moore, Taurasi and other former UConn stars such as Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Tina Charles in the WNBA and internationally have helped establish UConn as not only a basketball powerhouse, but a school with a knack for churning out top-level WNBA talent. With these types of players, a strong culture and the guidance of Auriemma and Dailey, future WNBA All-Stars continue to be groomed at UConn and likely will for the foreseeable future.

“That culture has been established for the last 30-plus years with the consistency of CD and [Auriemma] and just their dedication to the game of basketball and us as players,” Moore said.