West Hartford resident Meghan Pattyson Culmo reflects on her more than 30 years with the UConn Women’s Basketball program.
By Ronni Newton
Meghan Pattyson Culmo has been called the “mayor of UConn basketball.”
“Well if that’s the case it must be a very small town,” she said with a laugh during a recent interview.
But other than the coaching staff, Culmo, who has been a part of UConn Women’s Basketball for more than three decades, probably knows the program better than anyone else, having had roles as a player, assistant coach, and, since the late 1990s, as an analyst with several media outlets.
She will admit to being the “voice of the Huskies.”
“I guess you could say that. It’s not untrue,” said Culmo. “I’m definitely the most consistent voice.”
Culmo’s friendly and unassuming nature makes her ideal for the role she now holds – as a color commentator, teaming up with play-by-play announcer Allen Bestwick to cover the UConn women for SNY.
Culmo has lived in West Hartford for 20 years. She started off in a third floor apartment of a house on Prospect Avenue, and then moved to an apartment on Robin Road before buying her first house in West Hartford with her husband, Angelo Culmo, whom she married in 2003. They now live near Bugbee School, and that’s where their three children – a boy and two girls –attended elementary school. The oldest is now a sophomore at Hall. Her second child is a freshman at Hall, and the youngest is in seventh grade at King Philip.
“This is home now. My kids were all born here,” she said.
Meghan Pattyson was one of Geno Auriemma’s earliest stars. She grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and according to the profile from her induction into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2009) she was the leading scorer for the Central Bucks East High School girls basketball team. She also played sweeper for the soccer team, helping them earn a pair of league championships.
Unlike young girls today who dream of playing basketball for Geno and the UConn women, Culmo, a natural networker, made her decision based on the chemistry she immediately felt with both Auriemma and Associate Head Coach Chris Dailey.
“My first conversation with Chris lasted an hour,” Culmo recalled. Both were born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, they knew some of the same people.
“The same with Geno. We both clicked,” Culmo said.
The renowned coaches were in just their third year coaching at UConn when she made her decision to join the recruiting class of 1988, more than 30 years ago.
“I went there because of the people,” Culmo said. “We’ve been through anything you can imagine, but the people are still the same.”
A year after graduating from UConn in 1992, Culmo was back with the team as an assistant coach, but after two seasons she knew she didn’t aspire to be a head coach, and moved on to do something else.
“I didn’t really have this plan.” She had majored in mass communication and media studies, but wasn’t necessarily planning on a broadcasting career. She did, however, follow a principle that has led her in the right direction throughout her career: “Surround yourself with good people and who knows where the world will take you.”
After a lunch with Joe D’Ambrosio, that path led to radio, and he became her first play-by-play partner covering the UConn women in 1996. “I’m so lucky because I learned a lot,” she said.
From there she moved to TV, partnering with Mike Gorman on CPTV. His wife, Teri Schindler was their producer. She worked for CPTV until SNY took over the coverage in 2012.
Being the voice of the Huskies hasn’t been Culmo’s fulltime job. She worked for Lifetime, for the MSG Network. She was traveling all over the country. She said a producer she got to know well, a man named Adam, gave her some good advice.
“He said this is a really crazy business. You need to have a regular business and do this on the side.”
Culmo said it was really good advice and she took it to heart. That man, Adam Silver, now the NBA commissioner, remains one of her good friends.
She continued as the voice of the Huskies, but using her networking skills she found a job with Roy & Leroy as a lobbyist. She admitted that when she started she didn’t even know what lobbying was, but it ended up being an ideal fit for her talents and ability to form relationships. She stayed with the firm from 2001-2013. After that she spent four years in development with UConn’s athletic department, and since 2017 has owned her own business, Culmo Consulting LLC.
“COVID put a damper on that,” she said of her business, but I’m getting back out there. “I love to connect people, to connect with people.
“COVID has hurt things, but we’ll be back.”
The Auriemmas aren’t just friends, they’re an extension of her family, Culmo said. On the advice of Auriemma’s daughter, Culmo said she’s taken on a challenge of walking at least a mile a day every day this calendar year. Her daily loop is actually 2.8 miles, and it’s a great break from quarantine.
Culmo’s kids are engaged in hybrid learning, and her husband, who works in a sales position in the liquor industry, is also working from home.
The pandemic abruptly ended UConn’s season last March, and this year has been different in many ways, including the ability to celebrate wins at Geno’s restaurant in Storrs.
She usually gets to know the team members really well, but this year access is limited.
“It’s strange not to have crowds, but I’m just grateful to be there.”
Before the season started, she couldn’t even attend a practice. And she broadcasts from the concourse at Gampel Pavilion rather than from courtside. Media isn’t allowed within 25 feet of the court, and that includes cameramen.
“I don’t know them at all, which is sort of strange,” she said of this year’s team, which includes a host of new players.
It was immediately apparent, however, that freshman Paige Bueckers was a special player.
“She’s incredible to watch,” Culmo said. “She’s also a great person, a great human. She has incredible poise for a freshman.”
It’s also fun to watch Bueckers’ banter with Geno, she said. The two have a great relationship.
“He speaks so highly about her. She’s one of the special players. They don’t come around too often.”
Culmo travels with the team. The schedule has been a moving target with so many games rescheduled, and also challenging are the protocols at different sites. On one of the trips, the team members had to eat their dinner in their rooms.
When CPTV’s arrangement with the Huskies ended it was hard for a lot of people, and Culmo thought that would be it for her role as the voice of the Huskies. “My first thought was that it was a pretty good run.”
But she got hired by SNY, which has brought the coverage up to another level.
At first she was shocked that SNY, which covers major New York sports, wanted to take on the UConn women.
“I’m sitting in the SNY office in Manhattan, and they’re psyched to do UConn women,” she said of the initial meetings. “I’m like, are you serious?”
She reports to Curt Gowdy Jr. and said he’s a great boss.
“It’s a wonderful environment. They went out on a limb to cover college women’s basketball, and it’s been a success. Now, working with the Big East, it’s an important package for them. The ratings are the best ever,” she said.
“I’m someone who came from the day when no one cared about women’s basketball,” Culmo said. She thinks that gives her a deeper appreciation for it.
Because fans aren’t allowed, Culmo knows that her role is even more important, because it’s the only option for fans can feel part of the action.
Having basketball being played “gives people a little bit of feeling normal in winter in Connecticut.”
Culmo said her family rarely watches her, however. Teenagers, she said, find it somewhat embarrassing that she’s a public figure.
“That’s crazy,” Culmo said of her 24 years covering UConn. It wasn’t what she planned, but then again she’s not planning anything different right now. “I never rule anything out. I never thought I’d be a lobbyist, it just evolved.”
Culmo said she’s planning to hold a basketball camp through West Hartford Leisure Services this summer.
Her kids are athletic, but while she and her husband (he played football at Springfield College) were driven to play at the next level, they have never pushed their kids.
“We’ve already had our experiences,” she said. “This is their deal.”
Her son played football at Hall and planned to also basketball. Her older daughter plays field hockey and lacrosse and rec basketball. Her youngest is a really good swimmer and also plays soccer.
Culmo tries to keep everything in perspective. She feels very lucky that women’s basketball has grown, and she has come along for the ride with the Huskies.
“I’ll always be really grateful,” Culmo said.
This story originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of West Hartford LIFE.
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