UConn's Geno Auriemma passes Pat Summitt for 2nd on Division I women's basketball wins list

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma got his 1,099th career victory on Tuesday as the Huskies defeated Butler 103-35 in Storrs, Connecticut.

It moved him past the late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who was 1,098-208 from 1974 to 2012, and into second place for wins in Division I women's basketball.

Leading the victory list is Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, who has 1,105 wins.

"I wish she was still with us coaching," Auriemma said of Summitt, the winner of eight NCAA titles. She died in 2016 from the effects of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. "And I wish I had to work a lot harder to catch her. I didn't think I would be coaching long enough to be in this position. That certainly wasn't my goal. There have been times when I have felt like it doesn't matter to me.

"It still doesn't, whether I get to a certain number or don't. But having accomplished a milestone like this, it's more of an opportunity to reflect on almost four decades of coming here every day and doing the same thing, and trying to do it the best that you can do it. The fact that it's been at one school is probably more significant to me than the actual number."

Auriemma, 66, is in his 37th season at UConn, where he has won 11 national championships and taken part in the Women's Final Four 20 times, including the past 12 in a row. He gave credit to his assistants too: associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been with him since he started at UConn in 1985, and Shea Ralph and Jamelle Elliott, who are both former UConn players.

Auriemma has a career record of 1,099-142; his winning percentage of .885 is first in Division I women's history. He also is the fastest to reach 800, 900 and 1,000 victories. He has coached seven fewer seasons than VanDerveer, 67, who began her career in 1978.

The fact that they were all born within two years of each other -- Summitt in June 1952 (in Tennessee), VanDerveer in June 1953 (Massachusetts) and Auriemma in March 1954 (Italy) -- and battled against each other in getting to the top three spots on the victory list stands out to Auriemma, as well.

"You probably couldn't find three more different people growing up in three more different environments, right?" said Auriemma, whose family moved to the Philadelphia area when he was 7. "To converge at that place is pretty improbable."

Auriemma and Summitt had a sometimes contentious relationship as the series between their teams elevated the women's game from 1995 to 2007, when they met 22 times. That included UConn victories in the 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2004 national championship games. But Auriemma has been a donor to the Pat Summitt Foundation, which raises funds for Alzheimer's research.

"We have a long history," Auriemma said earlier this month. "If that didn't exist, I don't know that we'd be talking about it like this. We'd be talking about, 'Hey, you're not that far behind Tara.'

"Back when Pat was alive and winning championships, everybody would talk about Pat in two ways. One, 'I admire her so much, she wins so much, she does it the right way.' Then you had the other part of the population that would go, 'Man, I want to beat Tennessee so bad.'"

Auriemma said the Huskies then found themselves in the same position.

"The more games we win and the further we go, the more admirers we attract and the more people that don't want us to win anymore," he said. "I admire Pat for the way she handled that all those years, because I don't think I'm handling it as well as she did. She had a lot more restraint and a lot more sense than I do. That's probably what I miss about her. She was always able to look past all the trivial stuff and concentrate on the big stuff."

No. 3 UConn will face No. 25 Tennessee in Knoxville on Thursday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).