After requesting an audience with the UCLA legend, Auriemma was asked to take a seat next to Wooden, who placed a hand on the UConn coach`s knee.
"I just sat there and listened," Auriemma recalled Friday. "Whenever he would pose a question, I would answer and try not to sound stupid. He was describing for me how he saw the game of women`s basketball and comparisons he could make to the game when he was coaching.
"I always knew after that he admired the women`s game and appreciated the way we play at UConn. It was something I`ll keep with me for a long time."
Auriemma will have a chance to put his name next to Wooden`s today when the Huskies play Ohio State (noon, ESPNU) and try to match UCLA`s NCAA record 88-game win streak.
If No. 1 UConn gets past the No. 11 Buckeyes at Madison Square Garden, it will go for No. 89 Tuesday night against No. 15 Florida State in Hartford, Conn.
UCLA`s record was established between 1971 and `74. UConn`s run started with the opening game of the 2008-09 season and has been marked by the vast divide between the Huskies and their competition.
They have won their last 87 games by an average of 33.3 points. During the streak, they are 29-0 against ranked opponents and 16-0 against teams in the top 10.
Only two games during the streak have been decided by fewer than 10 points. The Huskies beat Stanford 53-47 for the 2010 national championship. The closest call came Nov. 16 when they beat Baylor 65-64. The Bears led with 2 minutes, 47 seconds remaining, marking the latest lead for any opponent during the streak.
The seeming ease of UConn`s wins is artillery for those who downplay the streak. A longtime admirer of UCLA`s program and Wooden, who died last spring, Auriemma does not try to compare the accomplishments.
"This is something that stands on its own merits of what we`re doing," he said. "I don`t compare myself or view myself in context with any coach, especially someone like John Wooden. I`m more worried about how my players can navigate all of this."
The Huskies have built their streak with the help of the game`s superstar, forward Maya Moore, a two-time national player of the year.
She is another in a long line of UConn All-Americans and this season became the program`s all-time leading scorer. Moore leads the team in scoring, averaging 24.2 points, and has played in every game during the streak.
But ask her about surpassing UCLA`s streak and she goes into full avoidance mode.
"I don`t think our approach has changed that much," she said. "We know the history behind these last two years, but the main things we`re focused on are quality of practices and making sure we come in feeling confident and prepared."
The Huskies` last loss came against Stanford in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in 2008. They followed with consecutive 39-0 national championship seasons.
This season they broke the NCAA women`s record of 81 consecutive wins set by Division III Washington University between February 1998 and January 2001.
Auriemma`s team will try to match UCLA against Ohio State and coach Jim Foster, who gave Auriemma his first coaching job. If the Huskies fall behind, it will be an unusual moment because they have trailed for only 132 of 3,480 minutes during the streak.
But Auriemma figures the pursuit of the record could make things interesting.
"It`s a little nerve-racking for the players and their families because so much has been said about it," he said. "I wouldn`t be surprised if it does affect them. They`re only human. Hopefully it will wash itself out as the game goes on."
Auriemma said he didn`t give any thought to the schedule when it was being made. Thus, the Huskies must face two ranked teams in three days with the streak on the line.
He has remained low key around his players when it comes to the enormity of the UCLA streak and the aura of the program and its legendary coach. But if the Huskies are able to surpass the mark, Auriemma said he would take time to deliver a history lesson.
"I haven`t up to this point," he said. "But at some point before they leave for the holidays, I`ll do my best to give them a pretty good understanding of what this whole thing was about and who exactly (Wooden and the Bruins) were and what they stood for."