He looks around Gampel Pavilion, 10,000 seats. Every game, they all get filled up—as do the 16,000 for the Huskies' games at the Hartford Civic Center. He calculates the box office gross. The Huskies also have a five-year, $4 million in-state TV contract. Believe that? Women's college hoops: seven figures, in a small state. Geno, who is paid a base salary of $700,000, plus incentives, adds in the merchandise sales and the million or more he knows comes in for special contributions. "All of a sudden we're an eight-, nine-million-dollar-a-year business," he says. "We lose three or four games, it's like what's wrong this year? We lose four or five, I guess my family's gonna need police protection. And all this on the back of some 19-year-old kid who's fighting with her boyfriend, and she's got her period, and she has to make a foul shot. And then all of a sudden I start thinking, If I don't recruit this one good kid, is all this jeopardized? I mean, how much longer can it keep going up and up?" He lifts his hand, like a plane rising skyward, but in counterpoint he shakes his head mournfully. "It's gotta blow up sometime."
But you just won another title.
"Misery," he shoots back.
You mean, then, you've reached a point where you can't be happy?
"Yeah, you really can't be. Not for yourself. I'm just happy for the kids. I can't share what they have. But what I can do is try and teach them how to share it among themselves the same way I did when I was on a team."
He wins national championships with women, but it's still not quite as dear as it was to come off the bench as a boy for Buddy Gardler at Bishop Kenrick. Geno always throws a big party at the Final Four so his buddies can come, and for once it's not just Geno and his women. It isn't easy loving the team and being the head of the team but never being able to really be part of the team. "You know what I miss?" Geno asks.
He's at the head table, at a UConn alumni dinner in Danbury, where he had just wowed the crowd, cracking wise. All these fans of women's basketball. Wide-eyed girls with cameras. Adoring older women. And: men. Guys 40-50 years old who never even knew UConn had a women's team when they went there and are now cheering Geno, asking him about his plans for rotating substitutes and who's gonna bring the ball up, Diana or Maria? You're not going to get this anywhere else in America. And the season is still seven weeks off. This is what Geno has built. Only it's a house that he can't really live in.
Meg Pattyson, his old player and assistant, has come with him to the dinner. "So, all right, Geno, what is it you miss?" she asks.
"I miss being able to be with the guys. You know, hanging out, drinking beer, playing cards."
"Telling dirty jokes," Meg says.