In 1991 Geno was able to land the top high school prospect in the country, future Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo, who would lead Connecticut to a 35-0 season and their first national championship in 1995. Here's how Lobo described Auriemma's recruiting approach: "He basically said, 'You'll get what you earn. He was more honest with me than anyone else."
In 1996, Auriemma was able to sign the USA Player of the Year, Shea Ralph, who would help UConn to another National Championship. Here's how Ralph described Auriemma's recruiting approach: "Well, Coach Auriemma was the only coach that told me if I was really, really good I'd have a chance to play a lot, and if I wasn't, I wouldn't play at all."
In his book Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection, Auriemma described recruiting Diana Taurasi who would lead Connecticut to three consecutive NCAA Championships and become the all-time leading scorer in the history of Women's Professional Basketball:
"The first time I see her, I know. She has it all—the talent, the confidence, the presence, the toughness. I call her to let her know we are interested, and at first she sounds kind of blasé. She is the best player in the country and she's getting calls from absolutely everybody. I tell her a little bit about our program, and then I say, "Diana, if you work really hard, and do what we ask of you, you have a chance to be really good." All of a sudden, it's like a light switches on. Suddenly she becomes very animated and conversational. Later, Diana tells me she is tired of everyone telling her how great she is and how special she is. "Coach," she tells me later, "you were the first person who didn't guarantee me everything. You were the first person who said I'd have to work to be good."
Coach Auriemma's Challenge Don't Promise approach to recruiting is great, whether you are coaching a team or running a business. Sometimes a business will recruit future salespeople, employees or managers with "blue sky" exaggerated, potential future results in earnings or promotions. When recruiting promises don't materialize, disappointment and distrust occur, sometimes with the employee and employer blaming each other.
The other negative result of promising instead of challenging is that it can create an entitlement mentality where the player, employee or child expect just to be given certain things not earn them. This outlook does not encourage a strong work ethic.
As Abraham Lincoln said: "The worst thing you can do for those you love is the things they could and should do for themselves."