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Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection    by Geno Auriemma & Jackie MacMullan order for
by Geno Auriemma
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

My first encounter with women's pro-basketball was at Madison Square Garden in 1997, the initiation year for the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary! My interest in WNBA prompted me to read Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection, written by Geno Auriemma, coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies women's college basketball team. Many of Geno's players have gone on to further fame. Among them are Rebecca Lobo, Diane Taurisi (who wrote the book's Foreword), Swin Cash, Nykesha Sales, Sue Bird, Tamika Williams, and Svetlana Abrosimova (from Russia).

Geno Auriemma is considered one of the greatest basketball coaches of our times, an 'icon in women's basketball'. He is controversial, confrontational, demanding, and driven, but it is his force as a perfectionist that drives this coach to drive his players to reach their ultimate ability. Geno tells his assistants and players, 'Your biggest strength is your biggest weakness ... The media loves to ask me questions. Why? Because they know I'm going to give them a straight answer. What's my biggest weakness? I give them a straight answer ... people want me to be 'politically correct' - That's not my personality ... so I accumulate more scars.' The media likes to write of Geno's outspokenness, and has field days condemning his faux pas.

Auriemma is loved by and loves his players, even with the yelling and criticism he dishes out before, during, and after the games. He is proud of the athletic and educational programs at UConn. Geno and his players have a record win of five NCAA championships beginning in 1995, with a 35-0 season, and all games are played to a sell-out house. He has been named national coach of the year five times, and inducted into the NE Baseball Hall of Fame. In conversational-style, the coach writes a candid and honest story of his life and family as an immigrant from Montella, Italy to Norristown, PA, his struggles in facing new customs, learning to speak English, and his determination to get to the Final Four. Geno has the 'soul of a true competitor' and invokes the same in his players. He refers to his physical, mental, and emotional scars, and proudly and rightfully boasts of his team.

The main substance of the book is Geno writing about the players, their backgrounds, what they had to learn, where they were going, the injuries they suffered, and what some have achieved. Geno's wife Kathy is supportive of him and his players, but stays out of the limelight. Co-author Jackie MacMullan writes, 'I spent eight months with Geno Auriemma ... and here's what I've figured out about him: there's a method to the love, the hate, and the fear ... to make sure the UConn women become the best players they can be. But the real trick is to make sure they become the best people they can be while they're at it.' In her Foreword, Diana Taurisi writes, 'Coach pushed the pedal for four years. And when I look back on it, I'm not just talking about basketball. He made me become a better person ... He forced me to become somebody special, and I'll always be grateful. People always wonder why all the UConn players always come back. It's because we have something - somebody - worth coming back for. Thanks, Coach.'

Geno admits that he finds recruiting the toughest job of all,as there are times when parents have interfered with their daughter's choice of offers. His talk-right-to-you style and honesty is refreshing, making a leisurely, easy-breezy read. Geno says, 'Not everyone is going to agree with you ... Sometimes we ask ourselves "Why am I coaching? Why do I need this crap? ... because we love the game.' Enough said, Coach Geno!

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