SAN ANTONIO — A Connecticut champion is being recognized nationally for breaking the glass ceiling for women in basketball.
UConn Associate Head Women’s Basketball Coach Chris Dailey, known as a trailblazer in the sport, led the team in two victories during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. She has inspired women both on and off the court with multiple victories during Women’s History Month.
“She is leading the team and she just makes you feel like you can do anything,” said Ashley Coleman of Bloomfield.
Coleman and Carleen Chisholm of Avon, who is also an alumnus of UCONN, were both inspired by Coach Dailey. “I never saw her as an assistant coach,” Chisholm said. “I always saw her as a coach.”
These women meet each weekend with “Fit and Fab”, a group of women that exercises together and encourages each other. Chisholm said they are leaders like Dailey, but at their home, jobs, and in their communities.
“It’s overwhelming to see her in her element coaching these ladies,” Coleman said. “We don’t usually get to see a lot of women doing that.”
Coach Dailey has played an important role at UConn.
“You do have a feel for it and your part of it in a different way,” Coach Dailey said about serving as a head coach at the start of the NCAA Basketball tournament. “Instead of making the suggestion, you're making the decision.”
Coach Dailey stepped in for Head Coach Geno Auriemma, who stayed home for the first two games due to COVID-19.
“They’re in great hands,” Coach Auriemma said with confidence prior to the games. “You couldn’t have better people in charge down there.”
Coach Dailey led the Huskies to victory against High Point and Syracuse setting the stage for Geno to come back. The team then made it to the Elite 8 upon his return, defeating Iowa in the NCAA Basketball tournament.
It was not the first time Dailey took Coach Auriemma’s place, but the pressure was on.
“This time stepping in is definitely different,” Coach Dailey said. “Because the other times if we lost, the season still continued. In this situation it’s much different, because if we lose our season is over. “
Coach Dailey and the UConn women’s basketball program have inspired across the nation. Even a former college basketball player recognized the importance.
“As in women’s basketball coaches, we don’t have the same numbers we had 20-30 years ago,” said Dr. Deborah Stroma, now a UNC professor. “Whenever we have an opportunity on the big stage to highlight women’s coaching success, we want to do that.”
Dr. Deborah Stroman said she played under Coach Auriemma when he was an Assistant Coach at UVA in the 80s. She believes Coach Dailey has adopted Coach Auriemma’s style of play.
“But she has a track record of winning,” Stroman said. “In fact, she’s undefeated when Coach Auriemma has not been able to be the head coach for the games. It’s also important to note that she is a very very successful coach, as she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. So this isn’t anything new for her to be able to lead the program.”
Dailey helped Auriemma lead the Huskies to 11 NCAA championships in 35 seasons.
“When I think about Coach Dailey and her entry into women’s basketball, it was because her former coach at Rutgers University, Theresa Grentz,” Stroman said. “She gave Chris the opportunity.”
Coach Auriemma said he felt Dailey was someone he would want at his side if he became a head coach.
“Chris’s time at Rutgers as an assistant coach was during a time when Rutgers was one of the best programs in America and she was a big part of that and she worked for a legendary coach,” he said.
While shadowing legendary coaches like Coach Auriemma and Coach Grentz, Coach Dailey has also become a legend and now inspires other women maneuvering their own way down the court of life.