Morgan Valley arrived in Storrs in the fall of 2000 to play for the UConn womenâ€™s basketball team.
Would she have believed then sheâ€™d be back two decades later as an assistant on head coach Geno Auriemmaâ€™s staff?
â€śI really thought I would never leave,â€ť Valley said with a laugh Wednesday. â€śItâ€™s the greatest place on earth.â€ť
Valley resigned as head coach at the University of Hartford to return to her alma mater. Sheâ€™ll replace Shea Ralph, who was hired as the head coach at Vanderbilt last week.
She joins Auriemma, Chris Dailey, and Jamelle Elliott, who were her coaches as a player (2000-04), on the Huskiesâ€™ staff.
â€śWe wanted to get someone in here who had varied experiences, and certainly Morgan, since her playing days at UConn, has had an impact at numerous schools around the country,â€ť Auriemma said in a statement. â€śWe thought itâ€™d be the perfect situation for us. Morgan is familiar with who we are, what we stand for, and what our goals are. I think theyâ€™re perfectly aligned with Morganâ€™s values and goals, and weâ€™re just excited to have her back with our program.â€ť
Valley is scheduled to start work at UConn on Monday.
The Colchester, Vermont native was a high school All-American at Rice Memorial and was part of three national championship (2002-04) and four Final Four teams at UConn. During an injury-plagued career, she saw action in 108 games and totaled 282 points and 263 rebounds.
She began her coaching career as a student assistant at UConn in 2004-05 as she completed work on her bachelorâ€™s degree in human development and family studies. She would serve as an assistant at Holy Cross (2005-07), New Hampshire (2007-08), Towson (2008-10), UMass (2010-14), Virginia Tech (2014-15), Washington (2015-17), and Arizona (2017-19) before getting her first head coaching job at Hartford two years ago.
The Hawks went 1-28 a year ago - stunning Stony Brook in their final game - and were 3-9 this past season before halting their season due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Valley met with her Hartford players Wednesday morning.
â€śHalf were angry, half were happy,â€ť Valley said. â€śYou build relationships with 18-22-year-old players and they and their parents trusted me. There were a lot of emotions and I understand that. Time will take care of that.
â€śI wouldnâ€™t take (the experience at Hartford) back for anything,â€ť she added. â€śThe people I worked with are amazing. I will forever be grateful for the love and support they showed me. Itâ€™s a great place, but the opportunity to return to UConn was just too great to pass up.â€ť
In a statement, Hartford athletic director Maria Feeley thanked Valley for everything she has done over the past two seasons to rebuild the Hawksâ€™ program and wished her the best.
Hartford has been in the news since reports came out earlier this month that school president Greg Woodward was considering moving the athletic program from Division I to Division III.
Was that a factor in Valleyâ€™s decision?
â€śIf you get a chance to work with Coach Auriemma and at the Mecca of basketball, you have to take it,â€ť she said. â€śTake the D-3 out of it. Thereâ€™s no better opportunity and itâ€™s a no-brainer. Thatâ€™s all I can say.â€ť
Valley returns to Storrs to a team that will be considered one of the favorites for the national championship.
The Huskies are coming off a 28-2 season that included a sweep of the Big East regular season and tournament titles and a 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Final Four. The starting lineup is expected to return and theyâ€™ll add one of the top recruiting classes in the country along with graduate transfer and two-time all-Big Ten player Dorka Juhasz from Ohio State.
â€śI want to learn as much as I can, but I also want to try to help in any way that I can,â€ť Valley said. â€śWhatever the players or staff need me to do, Iâ€™m going to try to provide it. Iâ€™m hoping to bring a lot of energy and give as much of myself as I possibly can to a program I truly love.
â€śIâ€™m beyond ecstatic. I canâ€™t even explain how I feel. Itâ€™s been an emotional day for sure, but overall itâ€™s amazing.â€ť