UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Chris Dailey was impressed, and it had nothing to do with the top-ranked University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 88-64 victory over Oklahoma in the Naismith Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
As part of the postgame celebration of win No. 1,000 for head coach Geno Auriemma and his associate head coach Dailey, several members of the 1985-86 Huskies -- their first team -- were introduced to the sellout crowd. Among the players returning to the state was Jennifer Weideman.
"She came from France and that's pretty impressive," Dailey said. "I don't know if I would have come all that way.
"When I think of Jen Weideman, we had to explain to her who John Wooden was. So we've come a long way from that first year."
Another 15 players, including Auriemma's first recruit Kris Lamb and UConn's first All-American Kerry Bascom, watched their former coaches reach the milestone.
Auriemma is the fourth women's coach to win 1,000 games. His winning percentage of .881 is No. 1 all time. Baylor's Kim Mulkey is second among active coaches at .842, and would need to win her next 203 consecutive games to pass Auriemma's number.
Dailey has guided UConn for seven games that Auriemma has missed and the Huskies are 7-0 including the 1989 and 1997 Big East Tournament championship.
"I knew they were planning stuff for after the game and were trying to be secretive about it," Dailey said. "The only thing that I wanted was for our players to put the confetti on Geno and not on me. I can't wait to watch it again."
The Huskies' coaches have always stressed family with the program, or "Once a Husky, always a Husky." That came through Tuesday night as current and former players mingled together.
Some members of Auriemma's first team graduated for any current players were born.
"That first team being here to support us and the coaches shows what kind of impact the coaches have on people," UConn guard Katie Lou Samuelson said. "Those first wins they had all those all years ago started everything. I'm sure that they feel they've been part of something special because they were the ones that started it all. They'll always be a part of it."
"One of the things about this is program is that it's bigger than you," UConn forward Azura Stevens added. "Every player that comes into this program feels that responsibility to carry on what has been done here. You don't want to be that player or team that brings things down. You want to carry on the legacy and the tradition that's here. There is so much history."
Auriemma joins late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt (1,098), Stanford's Tara VanDerveer (1,018), and North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell (1,000) in the 1,000-win club. The 2006 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee also became the fastest to reach four figures (1,135 games) ahead of Summitt (1,187), VanDerveer (1,228) and Hatchell (1,376).
His original team finished 12-15, Auriemma's only losing season. But those Huskies did feature UConn's first all-Big East first-team player in Peggy Walsh -- who was here Tuesday night -- and were able to take seventh in the league to avoid the dreaded 8-9 game of the Big East tournament. They also won their first seven games, at the time the longest winning streak in school history.
"I remember thinking that it was going to be really easy," Auriemma said. "I thought how could it be hard? I was so self-assured and so cocky and so full of myself that of course it was going to be easy. There was no way that I could fail. There was no way that I could not live up to the expectations that I had for myself of that the people who hired me had for me.
"It wasn't until maybe the middle of January or early February that year that it started to dawn on me, "Man you are not as good as you thought you were, and you're only going to be as good as the players you are going to be able to get here.' I think I realized I'm pretty good at what I do, but it doesn't matter unless you get players that are really, really good. Each and every year, it got better and better.
"That first year was a real learning experience for me. "I was under the impression that I could do anything. I didn't know any better at the time."
UConn has had current players participate in the last two FIBA world championships for Team USA with Maya Moore making the 2010 club and Breanna Stewart gaining a spot in 2014. Junior All-Americans Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier may be long shots for the 2018 squad that will compete in Spain next summer, but they're thrilled just to be considered. They are among 29 players who were named to the 2017-20 national team pool by USA Basketball last Thursday.
"I felt really honored and I'm super excited to be in the pool," Collier said. "It was great to be at the training camp last fall and I'm excited that I'll get a chance to go back and play with the people on that team."
Eight former Huskies -- Moore, Stewart, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Stefanie Dolson, Tiffany Hayes, Diana Taurasi, and Morgan Tuck -- were also included in the pool.
"Just getting into the pool, I want to show that I can be a consistent player and someone they can look to for years to come," Samuelson said.
USA Basketball has scheduled a mini-camp for Feb. 9-11 in Columbia, South Carolina. Samuelson and Collier will not be there as the Huskies host Wichita State on Feb. 10 and Louisville Feb. 12.
"I don't think I'd want to take a game off," Samuelson said. "We have a lot of things to take care of this year and we're going to focus on that. But I'm really excited to be part of the pool."
UConn senior guard Kia Nurse played in the 2014 world championships for Team Canada prior to her freshman season with the Huskies. The Canadians have qualified for the 2018 event.
"As someone who has been in that situation, to play for your country and going for the pinnacle of your sport is an amazing journey," Nurse said. "I'm excited for those two that they will get a chance at it."
Samuelson, who entered the game shooting 84.1 percent for her career and 85.7 percent for the season from the foul line, missed both ends of a two-shot foul for the first time in her career with 6:57 remaining. Her next free throw will be No. 200 of her career ... Nurse made the 200th 3-pointer of her career in the second quarter, the 12th UConn player to reach that plateau. "I didn't know that," Nurse said with a smile ... Redshirt sophomore Batouly Camara got in for the final 34 seconds Tuesday night. She had made her UConn debut against DePaul on Dec. 8 after missing seven games with a right knee injury. "I feel a lot better," Camara said. "It has been a little difficult to turn and to run but I do feel a lot better every day being able to go through full practices and gaining trust within myself." ... UConn freshman wing Megan Walker did not play (flu) ... Sophomore guard Crystal Dangerfield entered the game second in the American Athletic Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.2) but had just one assist and four turnovers, the first time in nine games she's been plus in turnovers ... The Huskies' next home game is their AAC opener against Memphis Dec. 31 at the XL Center in Hartford.