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Watching Chris Dailey win the national championship (as a player)

Here’s what we learned about the longtime UConn assistant coach and her playing days.

Chris Dailey (31) celebrates the 1982 AIAW championship with her Rutgers teammtes.
Woo-Rah Productions

For the last 34 seasons, Chris Dailey has worked closely with Geno Auriemma to build UConn women’s basketall into the dynasty it is today. Together, they’ve won over 1,000 games, 51 conference championships and 11 national titles.

But Dailey does have one trophy that Auriemma can’t claim: a 1982 AIAW championship with the Rutgers Lady Knights. The AIAW was the predecessor to the NCAA for women’s sports and that year was the first time the NCAA sponsored a women’s basketball championship. So it was the last year of the AIAW Tournament.

In that game, Dailey and Rutgers defeated Texas 83-77. However, the game was never shown on television and the footage from it has never been made public. Until this weekend when the entire game was posted on YouTube on Saturday as part of a promotion for an upcoming documentary on the team.

Dailey averaged 3.1 points on 35.5 percent shooting along with 2.6 rebounds per game as a senior. During her sophomore year, she led the team with a 51.6 field goal percentage. While one game isn’t a great barometer for anyone’s entire career, here’s what we learned about CD as a college basketball player.

Setting the scene

The title game was held at the Palestra in Philadelphia. Rutgers is clad in bright red uniforms while Texas wears white with orange trim. Both sides have sleeves on their jersey.

The video cuts in during player introductions with an audio overlay of the radio broadcast. Chris Dailey stands in the center of the court, greeting her teammates as they get their name called.

This CD looks much different than the one UConn fans are used to. She has long, brown hair instead of her short, blonde hair. She’s a co-captain and a starting forward for Rutgers, wearing No. 31 and a knee pad on her right leg.

The game

Rutgers wins the tip and starts with the ball, going left-to-right. On the first possession, Dailey posts up on the low block before drifting around on the far side of the key — a spot she’ll spend much of her time on offense.

Down the other end, Dailey sets up in one of the low spots in Rutgers’ 3-2 zone. Texas drives towards the basket and she steps up, arms straight in the air to contest the shot. The ball clangs off the rim and the Lady Knights are off and running the other way.

As a senior, Dailey’s role is similar to what Kyla Irwin did for the Huskies’ this past season: a little bit of everything to help the team. Dailey sets screens, opens up areas on the court for her teammates and looks to get the ball to someone else quickly whenever she touches it.

By unofficial count (stats are not readily available from this game), Dailey only takes two shots, both of which come off her own offensive rebounds. Even when she has a decent look from the elbow, Dailey never even sets eyes on the rim. She’s always looking to pass.

But the glass is where Dailey makes her living. Whenever the ball goes up, she immediately finds a body and boxes out. Even if she’s not in great position, Dailey fights to get around the defender and to the ball.

She spends most of this game in foul trouble thanks to some awful officiating, the play above included. Somehow, with every player under the basket reaching for the ball, Dailey gets whistled for a foul there.

With a handful of bigs in the rotation, Dailey sits on the bench a good portion of the first half (though the exact time is unclear since there’s no clock on the screen).

Despite being quiet early in the game, she doesn’t waste much time making an impact after she returns. Dailey grabs two offensive rebounds in short succession and while she can’t convert any points for herself, she manages to keep the possessions alive for Rutgers.

The second half, surprisingly, begins with another tip-off. Dailey snatches the ball and the final 20 minutes are underway.

Because of the aforementioned foul trouble, Dailey is on the bench for long stretches of the second half. However, she remains one of the most active and vocal players on the sideline and is always the first one to meet her teammates on the floor after a timeout is called.

Dailey eventually fouled out on a questionable blocking call when a Texas player barely made contact with her while driving towards the basket. Most of the calls against her were soft, ticky-tack fouls but the fifth and final was particularly egregious.

It wouldn’t matter, though. Rutgers held on and came away with an upset victory over Texas, claiming the final AIAW championship by a final score of 83-77.

After the immediate celebration after the buzzer soudned at midcourt, the entire team gathered under the basket for the all-important net cutting ceremony. It was the first time Dailey climbed the ladder to claim a piece of nylon but certainly not the last.

Soon after, Dailey and her fellow captain June Olkowski received the final AIAW national championship trophy and hoisted it with their teammates.

Looking back on her time in college, it’s easy to see how Dailey ended up as a coach. She wasn’t the most talented player on the floor but she did whatever her team needed. When fouls forced Dailey to the sideline, she remained engaged in the game and constantly rallied her teammates.

Today, Dailey’s most well known for being the associate head coach at UConn, and the driving force behind the mentality that has brought so much success to the program. Though the AIAW title came over a full decade before she arrived in Storrs, there’s no question it was a formative experience for Dailey and helped lay one of the first bricks in the culture that has helped the Huskies become one of the top teams in the sport, year in and year out.

You can watch the full game here.