ORLANDO, Fla. -- Of the five starters and top two reserves on the 1995 national champion University of Connecticut women's basketball team, four went into coaching.
Two -- Jennifer Rizzotti and Jamelle Elliott -- were like coaches as players. Rizzotti is in her first season at George Washington University after a long run at Hartford while Elliott has been at Cincinnati since 2009. Carla Berube shocked coach Geno Auriemma when she entered coaching. She led Tufts University to the 2016 NCAA Division III final and reached the 100, 200, and 300-win plateaus faster than her Hall of Fame college coach.
But for Auriemma, the biggest surprise -- even bigger than Berube -- came last offseason when Nykesha Sales became an assistant to first-year Central Florida head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson.
"Nothing. There was not one thing I saw in Nykesha from the first time I met her that would lead me to believe that she would ever have any interest in coaching," Auriemma said with a smile Sunday. "It's still the most baffling phone call I got when she called and said she wanted to look into coaching. I thought she was kidding me.
"What I see and what I always saw in Nykesha was, first and foremost, what an incredible human being she is. She's the kind of kid that you aspire to have in your program and that you want to coach. She's what you want your program to represent -- unselfish, smart, clutch, respectful ... She's a coach's dream. Nykesha played on the same team with three national Players of the Year and never once who would you know she was the best player on the team in all that time. She would go out and do what she does without any special treatment, without any accolades. The only thing that mattered to her was the respect of her teammates and making sure that we won. If she decides to stay in this, I think she will be a tremendous coach. I really do."
On Sunday, Sales was on the opposite side from what she helped the Huskies to do so often from 1994-98. Top-ranked UConn used a 30-2 first-half run to blow it open and role to an 84-48 American Athletic Conference win over UCF at CFE Arena.
The Bloomfield, Connecticut, native wasn't complaining. Even with back-to-back losses, the Knights (10-4) are off to one of their best starts and already have more wins than they finished with a season ago.
"It's cool and it's adjustment just learning how to tell people what to do instead of taking instruction," Sales said after the loss. "Our team has done well and going into conference play we hope to do better."
Sales, a Huskies of Honor inductee, was a two-time All-American at UConn and graduated as the all-time leader in points (2,178). She still owns the career record for (447) and single-game mark for points (46 versus Stanford). She moved here as she started her WNBA with the Orlando Miracle, who became the Connecticut Sun in 2003. She led the Sun to two WNBA Finals and still reigns as the franchise's No. 1 scorer (3,955 points). She was an eight-time WNBA All-Star.
From 2013-16, after wrapping up her playing career, she worked with the Sun as a community liaison. When Abrahamson-Henderson gave her the opportunity to join her staff, she jumped at it.
"It's a lot of hours, and how it is and what it is to be a coach," Sales said. "I've been a player this whole time. I don't know the coaching life. The teaching, motivating players, making sure their academics are good ... A lot goes with it. Once I get the hang of it, I'll be fine."
Sales, though, joined a growing list Sunday. Auriemma is now 54-0 against opponents that have one of his former players or assistant coaches on their coaching staff.
Auriemma spent the non-league schedule downplaying the Huskies' winning streak as it approached their own record of 90. But after beating their seventh ranked opponent -- No. 4 Maryland -- Thursday and before they opened league play Sunday, the veteran coach addressed the run with his players.
"He just wanted us to catch our breath and appreciate it for a minute," said UConn junior Gabby Williams, who was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week Monday. "You do get caught up in the next game, the next game, the next game. It doesn't feel like 88 games, I can tell you that."
If UConn had held on to a 10-point second-half lead at Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014, the winning streak would be at 136. Seniors Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor are 129-1 in their time in Storrs, while the juniors are 89-1 and the sophomores 51-0.
But the Huskies aren't worried that the percentages may catch up to them. They've done a good job taking things in stride with every day and every game a new and separate challenge.
"It's not like we don't want to lose because of the streak," UConn sophomore Napheesa Collier said. "We just don't want to lose a game. It has nothing to do with the streak. It's the principle of not losing a game. That's more of the mentality that we have."
The best winning percentage for a four-year span in NCAA history was compiled by UConn's Class of 2011 consisting of Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon (150-4, .974). The most wins for a four-year span in NCAA history was compiled by UConn's Class of 2016 consisting of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck (151).
The Huskies headed back to Connecticut after the game Sunday. They'd been on campus for only about 36 hours since leaving Dec. 20 for their game at Nebraska.
"It will be good to be home, especially after a long trip," Williams said. "It will be good to have our fans back and be back in our apartments and our own beds."
UConn's next two games are at the XL Center in Hartford -- Wednesday against East Carolina (SNY, 7 p.m.) and Jan. 10 versus South Florida. The Huskies will then take a trip to SMU (Jan. 14) and Tulsa (Jan. 17). The games with the Mustangs and Golden Hurricane will also be shown on SNY.
But what did they leave behind? It was 75 degrees here Saturday, 80 on Sunday, and it's 80 Monday.
"It was kind of humid here which I really didn't like," Williams said. "But I got to see my family here and that was nice. I would rather have my bed and my TV and everything."
But what would southern California girl Katie Lou Samuelson rather have -- the comforts of Storrs or central Florida?
"It's really nice here," Samuelson said.