UConn’s Dailey to be honored as Woman of Inspiration
STORRS — When Chris Dailey first caught a glimpse of the 7-foot-2 gentle giant Margo Dydek 25 years ago, her initial reaction was how UConn’s future national players of the year Rebecca Lobo and Kara Wolters would fare against the shot-blocking dynamo. Then she wondered if there was a way of getting Dydek to come to Storrs to suit up for the Huskies.
All these years later, Dailey has so many more thoughts bouncing around inside her head as she will receive the Woman of Inspiration named in honor of the late great WNBA star during Tuesday’s game at Mohegan Sun Arena between Connecticut and visiting Seattle.
“She had great skills. We thought we had two players with great skills who were a little different as post players, and she was tremendous,” Dailey said of Dydek, who played for the Sun from 2005-07 and died of a severe heart attack in 2011. “We played them twice and split with them. We played them in Belgium and France. That always stuck with me.”
“It is kind of a neat connection to have, because we saw her so young and then I was able to watch her play in the WNBA.”
UConn took its team to Europe to play some exhibition games and at the end of that season, the Huskies won the first of their record 11 national titles. What has followed has been one of the most impressive runs for any women’s sports team with Dailey at the side of Hall of Fame head coach Geno Auriemma.
hey always know to be good guy/bad guy almost and they complement each other in every way,” UConn senior forward Gabby Williams said. “Just paying attention to detail, there are a lot of things she won’t let you get away with. Right now it might be annoying and you might be tired of it, but I know (former players) miss it and wish they had CD around.”
Diana Taurasi, a member of three national championship teams at UConn before becoming the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, said as much in her return to Connecticut on Friday.
“She made me a respectable human being. When you are around CD, you can see there is a certain way to live life,” Taurasi said. “I didn’t understand at the time I was in school, but now that I look back on it, I learned more just about life than I did about basketball and every time I see her I make sure to thank her for that.”
Dailey prefers to remain in the background. With a walking sound bite like Auriemma at the helm of the UConn program, she has been able to do her work in relative tranquility. But with an award like this one coming her way, she took time to reflect on how meaningful her time with the Huskies has been.
“I was given the opportunity to give other young women the experience that I had as a player (at Rutgers),” Dailey said. “I loved college, I did well in school, we played at the highest level for basketball. There wasn’t anything that I couldn’t have done more in college than what I did, I just enjoyed everything about it. Now to be able to give that opportunity to young people and help them grow, I couldn’t be happier.
“I don’t think anybody gets into coaching thinking they are going to get an honor. You love teaching the players, you love teaching the game and to be recognized for doing something you love, it is a good feeling.”
Dailey’s original career path was to become a teacher. She has done just that but not quite the way she had envisioned. Rather than teaching in a high school or junior high school setting, she has be educating some of the best women’s players to ever play basketball.
The undefeated seasons and national titles have come at a fast and furious pace, although that isn’t what drives Dailey.
“I think I learned a lot about myself as a teacher,” Dailey said. “I learned a lot of things about myself as a person. We’ve had different staffs that have challenged me in different ways.
“You couldn’t be any good at what you do if you don’t grow. I would have left a long time ago if I felt stagnant as a coach or as a person, but every year is different. Every year we get challenged and we challenge ourselves every day.”
Dailey joked that only once did she seriously think of leaving UConn.
“My dad always told me I could come home if Geno wasn’t nice to me so I had an out,” Dailey said. “He challenged me to try to come somewhere and build something. I had been at Rutgers and I built it as a player. I always thought that if I am going to be a head coach, I need to prepare and learn how to build something from the ground up. I didn’t know if I’d stay here this long; I didn’t know if I would work with him this long but I’ve loved every minute of it — well, not every minute but most of it. My very first summer if I could have packed all my things in my car and gone home, I would have because we were running camp and he was a pain in my neck. That was the only time in all the years that I worked here that I wanted to go home in the worst way.”
Dailey is happy she stuck around and so are the people she influenced along the way.
“It is amazing to me,” Dailey said. “We have had a lot of good people here. We have had a lot of good support. But we have never gotten caught up in the wrong thing. People will talk about, ‘Oh they have this nice building.’ We won 10 national championships without a nice building. So I don’t think you have to have a nice building to win or to do it the right way or to recruit good players. I think it is a reflection of what we have done and our players have done, having this kind of environment. I think it is more the people we have brought here.”