For UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year.
“I love Christmas. I really do,” he said. “I love it more now because I don’t shop, my wife does all the shopping.”
However, it wasn’t always like that. His favorite part of the holiday used to be going out on Christmas Eve to get all of his shopping done and feeling all the Christmas Spirit in the air.
“That used to be my favorite time to walk downtown on Christmas Eve and do a lot of shopping and be part of the mix,” Auriemma said. “Feel the energy, stop in, grab a beer, get caught up in the whole thing. I love going to New York when you can’t walk down the street because it’s too crowded and you feel alive. Obviously I don’t get to do that as much.”
For Auriemma, though, Christmas wasn’t always about presents. Growing up in Italy, his family didn’t have enough money for anything like that. It wasn’t until they moved to the United States and spent a Christmas with family already here that Auriemma really experienced a “typical” Christmas.
Now, Auriemma and his team do a Secret Santa for each other every Christmas. Although it’s supposed to be random for who gets who, Auriemma said he usually tries to rig it so he can get one of the seniors and give them a nice gift on their way out. But the more exciting part is seeing who ends up with Auriemma.
“I’m always anxious to see who gets me. The things you get,” the coach laughed. “Tierney [Lawlor] had me one time and I got this really cool scarf, I still wear it. Somebody got me a little travel bag full of stuff [with] all the lotions and creams and stuff.”
But what was the best gift he ever got?
“Heather Buck. Best gift ever. Flash frozen Stonington scallops. I said ‘This is the most amazing Secret Santa gift of all-time,’” he said. “I would ask anybody, I guarantee you’ve never gotten Stonington scallops for Secret Santa. She’s really proud of being from Stonington. I opened it and I looked at her and went ‘It’s amazing.’”
Ultimately, it’s not his Secret Santa gift, the shopping, or anything else commercial that makes Christmas special for Auriemma.
“Christmas for me is Christmas Eve with all my family and friends at my house,” he said. “That’s everything. If I didn’t have that, I’m not sure I’d love Christmas this much.”