DALLAS -- Since 1989, Geno Auriemma's University of Connecticut women's basketball team has won at least 23 games on 28 occasions. The one miss came in 1993 when the Huskies finished 18-11.
The Big East Coach of the Year that season was Georgetown's Pat Knapp. The WBCA national Coach of the Year was Iowa's C. Vivian Stringer. Yet, some would still argue -- 11 national championships, 17 Final Four appearances, 40 league titles, and 24 years later -- that Auriemma may have done his best or one of his best coaching jobs just to get that team, which lost its last three games (the Huskies haven't lost two in a row since), into the NCAA tournament.
Whether Auriemma did his best job with his current club has entered the debate. After losing the top three picks of the 2016 WNBA Draft -- All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck -- the Huskies went unbeaten against the toughest non-league schedule in the country then swept through the American Athletic Conference for the fourth straight year. UConn will take a 36-0 record and 111-game winning streak into Friday night's Final Four semifinal game against Mississippi State at the American Airlines Center.
For his efforts, Auriemma was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year on Thursday.
"We probably didn't do anything different this year," Auriemma said. "We didn't work any harder. We didn't work more hours. We didn't watch more film. We didn't come up with any new drills. It really is about putting the players in a good spot and then letting them do the rest. They did. That's why we're here.
"I just think if you're consistent and you try to put the same effort into it all the time, that's the best you can do. Some years it's going to work out perfectly and some years it's not. Some years it ends in a championship and some years it doesn't. Not every year turns out to be perfect. But I like to think that every year our coaching staff puts the effort in, puts the time in, and we try to give our players the best chance of being successful. This year, the challenges were different than they were last year for sure. There were a lot of things we tried to cover up and we've covered them up pretty well up to this point. I'll bet you there were times where we've won national championships or gone to the Final Four and didn't get Coach of the Year. It's not like you're unbeaten and you're the Coach of the Year. Some years they vote for you and some years they don't."
Washington senior Kelsey Plum was the AP Player of the Year, the first from the Pac-12 Conference so honored.
It's the ninth time Auriemma has been named the AP Coach of the Year, which has been handed out since 1995 (1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2016, 2017).
The Hall of Famer received 26-of-33 votes from the AP board. Oregon State's Scott Rueck received three votes followed by Drake's Jennie Baranczyk (2), Mississippi State's Vic Schaefer (1), and Duke's Joanne P. McCallie (1).
"It wouldn't be possible if the players didn't work harder than we did," Auriemma said after thanking associate head coach Chris Dailey, assistants Shea Ralph and Marisa Moseley, and graduate assistant Chloe Pavlech. "This is as much their award as mine."
In 32 seasons, Auriemma owns a career record of 991-134. He ranks third on the all-time wins list behind the late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt (1,098) and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer (1,012). His winning percentage of .881 is No. 1 all time.
He has led the Huskies to records of 11 national championships and 18 Final Fours. Since 1989, UConn has also won 23 league regular season and 22 league tournament titles.
"We had our ESPN meetings back in September, and I was in charge of talking about women's basketball in front of all my colleagues," ESPN analyst and former UConn All-American Rebecca Lobo said. "I said, 'This season is wide open. It's not going to just be UConn and everyone else. They are going to lose this year.' That's what everyone thought. No preseason All-Americans to three AP first- and second-team All-Americans.
"It's the player development. It's the way he has gotten them to jell together. They have had injuries they have had to deal with. Yes, I think it is his best job so far."
Plum, a 5-foot-7 guard from Poway, Calif., finished as the NCAA's all-time leading scorer with 3,527 career points including a record 1,109 this season. Both marks had been set in 2001 by Southwest Missouri State's Jackie Stiles.
This season she averaged 31.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. She shot 52.9 percent from the field, 42.8 percent from 3-point land and 88.7 percent at the foul line while leading Washington to a 29-6 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16.
"From last season to this season I worked on being more efficient," Plum said. "I tried to go for 50-40-90 role and I tried to be the best teammate possible with the best attitude. And I was going to be in the best shape. With those things in mind I was able to go out and play the game I love and had a great time doing it.
"I got the (other team's) best shot every night. I saw different defenses. I think I got the kitchen sink thrown at me from box-and-ones, triangle-and-two, switching and hedging and all that stuff. It was great because as a player you get to challenge yourself within the game. There are so many things going on and you have to adjust. A lot of people don't get that challenge."
This season, Plum worked Jasmine Lister, who joined the Washington staff as an assistant coach after spending the previous two years as a graduate assistant at UConn.
"Jazz has been great," Plum said. "As an addition to our staff she just brought a new energy. She works extremely hard and I don't know people know that about her. She is a young, bright mind in this game. Her future is going to be special."
Plum received 30-of-33 votes from the AP board. UConn's Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson received one vote each with South Carolina's A'ja Wilson getting the final vote. UConn's Breanna Stewart is the only player to win the award unanimously (2016).