Could it have been anyone else?
Rebecca Lobo and Geno Auriemma are already linked together forever in University of Connecticut women's basketball history. The two will come together again in September when Lobo's place in hoop history becomes permanent.
Auriemma will serve as Lobo's presenter when she is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in a ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall on Sept. 8. A presenter must be a member of the Naismith Hall. Auriemma was inducted in his first year of eligibility in 2006.
"He's the only one I would ask," Lobo said Tuesday prior to working as analyst for the WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and Los Angeles Sparks at Mohegan Sun Arena. "He's the only one I would want to be with me on stage. I wouldn't be up there if not for him."
Lobo, 43 and a native of Southwick, Massachusetts -- a 15-mile drive from Springfield, will be inducted as a contributor and will be the first former UConn player to be enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee, as a player in 2010.
A 6-foot-4 forward, Lobo was a two-time All-American and two-time Big East Player of the Year (1994-95) and was the 1995 consensus national Player of the Year. That season she led the Huskies to a 35-0 record and the program's first national championship. She earned NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player as she helped UConn rally from a nine-point second-half deficit to defeat Tennessee 70-64 in the final game at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
She finished her UConn career with 2,133 points, 1,268 rebounds, and 396 blocked shots in 126 games. Her school rebound record was broken by Tina Charles in 2010 and her school blocked shot record was topped by Breanna Stewart in 2016.
After earning GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America first team and graduating from UConn, Lobo was named to the United States national team and won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She began her professional career with the New York Liberty when the WNBA formed in 1997 and was an All-Star in 1999. She retired in 2003 as a member of the Sun.
Lobo is now an ESPN analyst for women's college basketball and the WNBA.
"I was thinking about this (Monday) at his charity golf tournament," Lobo said. "Nobody has had a bigger impact, outside of my family, on who I am right now than Coach Auriemma. Not only as a basketball player, but who I have grown up to be.
"I'm so grateful to him for so much. The things that I hated him for when I was in college I am so grateful for now. It was a no-brainer. I was just hoping that he would be around and be willing to do it."
Auriemma's presenter in 2006 was Dr. Jack Ramsay, the long-time Philadelphia area coach who guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship.
Joining Lobo in the Class of 2017 are Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, Kansas men's coach Bill Self, former NBA star Tracy McGrady, former NBA and ABA standout George McGinnis, former Bulls executive Jerry Krause, who died on March 21, former NCAA vice president Tom Jernstedt, ex-European star Nikos Galis, two members of the Harlem Globetrotters -- Zack Clayton and Mannie Jackson, and Texas high school coach Robert Hughes.
GENO DISHES ON DIANA
Diana Taurasi and winning are synonomous whether it's the three national championships at UConn, the three WNBA titles with the Phoenix Mercury, or the four Olympic gold medals and two world championship gold medals with Team USA.
When the 35-year-old became the WNBA's all-time leading scorer on June 18 in Phoenix's game with the Sparks at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, she did manage a smile on the outside but Auriemma knew what was happening on the inside. The layup with 45.3 seconds left in the first half cut the Mercury's deficit to 17 in what would be a 90-59 loss to the Sparks.
"I think she felt, from what I could tell, like she looked," Auriemma said on Monday. "I was surprised they stopped the game on the road to honor her when she's down 20. So you could imagine what she was thinking at that time. She takes the ball, they introduce her, and she fires the ball back at someone and walks off. Then she almost gets thrown out. It was like she did everything she could to say, 'My record is one thing but I'm disgusted with how this game is going.' Typical Diana."
Taurasi surpassed Tina Thompson's mark of 7,488 points. After the historic hoop, the game was stopped, Taurasi was presented the game ball, and the announced crowd of 9,916 that included her parents and former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant gave her a standing ovation."
Auriemma and Taurasi spoke after she broke the record.
"Like I said to her, I'm not surprised she did it. I'm not surprised one iota," Auriemma said. "She was the best player every time she stepped on the floor in high school. She was the best player every time she stepped on the floor in college. And with very few exceptions if any, she's the best player every time she steps on the floor in the pros, in the world championships, in the Olympics. It doesn't matter."
Taurasi currently ranks seventh in UConn in scoring with 2,156 points. She was 23 points shy of graduating with the school scoring record, then held by Nykesha Sales, and never seemed interested in getting it. The school's assist record, though, was a different story and Taurasi got that mark in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 against UC Santa Barbara during the Huskies' run to their third straight national championship.
The two-time national Player of the Year's assist record of 648 held up for 12 years until she was passed by Moriah Jefferson (659) in 2016.
"D played with so many good players her first two years that she never cared how many points she scored. She never has," Auriemma said. "She gets her points when they really mean something. She's not one of those guys who hits a three-run homer in the eighth inning when you're already up four. She gets them when you need them. She knew what she had to do. She was very proud of that assist record. That just proves again what a great teammate she is."
Taurasi is one of 10 women's players in history to win a NCAA national championship and WNBA title, and gold medals from the Olympics and FIBA world championships. The others are ex-Huskies Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Maya Moore, and Kara Wolters, along with Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, Brittney Griner and Sheryl Swoopes.