STORRS - Chloe Pavlech got to play in the 2014 and 2015 NCAA Final Four as a point guard with the University of Maryland women’s basketball team.
The Cincinnati native attended the 2016 Final Four in a different role after her playing days ended when the Terrapins were eliminated by Washing-ton in the second round of the tournament. While in Indianapolis, she took part in the WBCA’s “So you want to be a coach” program.
By that time, Pavlech had already started work on her master’s degree; the two-time all-Big Ten academic selection had earned her bachelor’s in journalism in three years. Coaching, though, would allow her to stay close to the game she had been a part of most of her life.
She reached out to UConn assistant coach Marisa Moseley, who was one of the first to recruit her when Moseley was on the Minnesota staff.
“I told her that I was looking into getting into coaching,” Pavlech said. “Coach Mo said, ‘Hey, we might have something here.’ I didn’t think anything of it. When the position opened up and she offered it to me I said, ‘Yes, I would love to do it.’ She was always one of my favorite people, super nice and super great to me.”
So after playing against UConn in all four of her seasons at Maryland and watching the Huskies finish those four seasons with a national championship, Pavlech is now one of them. She is a graduate assistant at UConn and began work here on a master’s degree in sports management in January.
She’ll be on the UConn bench Saturday when the top-seeded Huskies open NCAA Tournament play against No. 16 Albany in a Bridgeport Regional first-round game at Gampel Pavilion.
“Chloe loves the game, she loves hanging around the gym, she’s always paying attention to what’s going on, and she’s a quick learner,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She has a good way about her. She’s going to be successful in whatever she does.”
Pavlech played in 108 games, with 69 starts, for Maryland, finishing with 341 points, 109 rebounds, 280 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7, and 76 steals. She was a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference all-freshman team in 2013 and completed that season by scoring 11 points in a loss to UConn in the Sweet 16 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Her career high of nine assists was set against the Huskies in an 83-73 loss on Dec. 28, 2015, in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.
The Terrapins were 119-21 in her time at College Park, but 0-5 against UConn, including a loss in the 2015 national semifinals in Tampa, Florida.
“I used to look at them as the bad guys,” Pavlech said. “Now that I’m here I see them as the good guys. A lot of people ask, ‘How is it there? How’s Coach Geno? How’s CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey)? How are the players?’ The answer I always give is that it’s just different here. I can’t really explain it, and I don’t think anyone can unless they’re in it every day and experiencing it all of the time.
“When I came here my eyes were opened up to a lot more things that I didn’t even know existed. I keep learning and watching a lot of film. It’s been really cool to see the different offenses and, for me, I get to take the best of both worlds, from here and from Maryland, and combine it.”
Of course, being around Auriemma is always an adventure, and the Hall of Fame coach has lived up to expectations.
“The way Coach comes across, if you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t think that he’s the nicest guy in the world,” Pavlech said. “But he’s one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. He’s hilarious. He has very witty comments and he and CD are a lot of fun. I’ve joked with my mom that when I do get into coaching that hopefully we’ll see Coach Geno at one of my games. And hopefully CD will help me out for a couple of seasons and then she’ll officially retire.
“When he talks to the players, I think of the things he says more from a coach’s perspective. When you’re a player it’s more getting amped up and you hear the strategy and message. As a GA, while I listen closely to the message and strategy, I’ll watch the players’ faces, see if anything he says triggers something in them and capture the whole experience.”
Being only a year removed from competition also allows Pavlech to relate to the current players easily, including 18-year-old freshmen like Crystal Dangerfield.
Like Dangerfield, Pavlech was thrown into the fire as a freshman when injuries left the Terrapins short handed. She understands what the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native is going through because she’s been there.
“Chloe will talk to me and tell me, ‘It’s OK, it gets better at the end of the day,’ “ Dangerfield said. “I really enjoy having her work with me. Talking to her is like having a regular conversation and you can talk about anything. She always reminds me to stay calm. It sounds simple. But at the same time when things are getting thrown at you and yelled at you, it’s a great reminder and very helpful.”
But there was one situation this season that Pavlech could not have prepared for.
On Dec. 29, the Huskies went to Maryland to take on the Terrapins at the Xfinity Center in front of a sellout crowd of 17,950. Instead of having the fans’ support and her former teammates having her back, she was on the other sideline and had to walk past her former coach, Brenda Frese, to get there.
“The toughest part was just seeing my teammates because I miss them a lot, and I do miss playing every day,” Pavlech said. “Coach Frese and I were super close when I was there. It was just so different going back, especially since I was wearing blue. It’s funny. The only two dresses I had left in my closet that I hadn’t worn were red and blue. UConn pays the bills so that decision was easy.
“When it was first over for me I didn’t miss playing at all,” she added. “But now watching them, especially when they played Maryland and being back at Maryland, it made me miss playing. I always tell them, ‘Don’t have any regrets.’ I definitely have a few regrets. I wish I had worked harder, things like that. You take the game for granted. That’s one of the reasons UConn is so good is that they don’t take anything for granted.”
UConn held on for an 87-81 win in College Park to continue its winning streak, which is now at a NCAA record 107.
“It looked odd seeing her in blue, for sure,” Frese said. “But I’m so proud of her next step and helping them out. Chloe’s got a bright future ahead of her.”
Whether that’s in coaching or in journalism remains to be seen. Jasmine Lister, who was UConn’s graduate assistant the previous two seasons, became an assistant coach at Washington after finishing her work here.
Pavlech does plan on being back next year to continue work on her master’s degree. So she’ll be learning in the classroom and on the basketball court. Auriemma is willing to help anyway he can.
“The challenges for Chloe are whatever she wants them to be,” Auriemma said. “When you’re in her situation, you insert yourself in as many scenarios as you can and learn as much as you can while you’re here. She’s here on the court and she can take on as big of a role as she wants.
“If she wants to come down here with Shea (assistant coach Ralph) and be a big part in drills, that’s what I want her to do. If she’s with the practice guys, she needs to make sure that they’re organized. We’re trying to give her as many looks as we can and let her see ... She’ll have to make the decision if this is what she wants to do or not.”