June 5, 2024 

What Geno Auriemma’s contract extension means for Connecticut

Nika Mühl: 'I feel like he knows something special is about to happen'

UConn director of athletics David Benedict announced a five-year extension to the contract of head women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma on Tuesday. The Hall of Fame head coach will remain at the helm of the program through the end of the 2028-29 season.

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“I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work alongside Geno Auriemma and his staff to add to what is already the gold standard for success,” Benedict said in a statement. “Coach Auriemma has dedicated over half of his life to UConn and our women’s basketball program and will undoubtably be known as one of the greatest collegiate coaches of all time. His presence, dedication and loyalty to this university and state is priceless and will be critical as we enter the most transformational period in college athletics in the past 40 years.”

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The contract, which runs through April 2029, includes an annual base salary of $400,000 and an additional $2.94 million in compensation for speaking, consulting and media obligations — a figure that increases by $200,000 each year through the term of the contract. Auriemma’s salary of $3.34 million makes him the highest-paid women’s college basketball coach in the country — surpassing LSU head coach Kim Mulkey, who earned an estimated $3.26 million during the 2023-24 season.

“I’d like to thank David Benedict, [UConn president] Radenka Maric and the University of Connecticut leadership for their trust in me and their commitment to the women’s basketball program,” the 70-year old Auriemma said. “I still find it hard to believe that I’ve been at UConn for over half my life. I feel like there’s so much more that can be done, and will be done, and I’m excited to be the one to do it with my staff and my team. I’m probably as excited about these next few years as I’ve ever been over the last 40.”

Auriemma’s accolades speak for themselves — 11 national championships, 59 conference championships and six undefeated seasons. The eight-time Naismith National Coach of the Year, 17-time conference coach of the year is a 2006 inductee to both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. His 1,213 career wins place him just four wins shy of the Divison 1 women’s basketball wins record held by Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, who announced her retirement in April.

“I texted him when I saw the extension, and I’m just very happy for him,” said former UConn and current Seattle Storm guard Nika Mühl. “I’m like … I thought he was sick of us, I thought he was sick of these kids. I wasn’t expecting a five-year extension, but that’s what he does — he just surprises people. And I can’t wait to see him become the most winningest coach of all time.”

The Huskies enter the 2024-25 season following an unexpected run to the program’s 23rd Final Four. With just seven available players, the Huskies overcame significant adversity, just narrowly missing the national championship game following a 71-69 defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Auriemma said at the time that the Huskies had “no business” being in that position with the amount of talent sitting on the bench, but credited his seniors like Mühl for carrying a young team to the sport’s final weekend.

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There is reason to believe the Huskies can reclaim their spot atop the sport this season. With guard Paige Bueckers as the centerpiece of a talented roster, the Huskies return guard Azzi Fudd, bigs Jana El Alfy and Ayanna Patterson and veterans Aubrey Griffin and Caroline Ducharme. The program welcomes No. 1-ranked high school recruit Sarah Strong as well as top-20 recruits Allie Ziebell and Morgan Cheli and talented Princeton transfer Kaitlyn Chen.

“I would like to see what it’s like, if you can string together three or four years with the way it used to be where there were no injuries,” Auriemma said during Tuesday night’s Coaches Road Show. “You had everybody available that was on your team. And I’d like to see what it would be like if we had the opportunity to do that once again.”

With an influx of talent and a decades-long established culture of excellence, Auriemma has the chance to etch more chapters into his already remarkable coaching legacy.

“I’m just very excited for the girls and for the program itself,” Mühl said. “I feel like he knows something special is about to happen and that’s why he did it.”

The Next’s Rowan Schaberg contributed reporting for this story.

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Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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