This Week Belongs to Calhoun

UConnfan.com will spend the week honoring 2005 Hall of Fame inductee Jim Calhoun as he shares his thoughts on recruiting, his coaching tree, his induction, and fellow enshrinee Jim Boeheim. We'll take a five-part look at the Huskies' Top Dog and his upward climb to the pinnacle of college basketball. In part I Calhoun shares his thoughts on an emotional week that will end in Springfield with UConnfan.com's Kristi Chartrand.

As I glanced over message board posts and perused newspaper headlines last week I admit I felt slightly disappointment.

 

Jim Calhoun is about to claim his place among the greats as he's inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA this week. He will finally be rewarded for 30-plus years of wonderful coaching yet "the talk" centered on the laptop scandal involving Marcus Williams and A.J. Price. Bad timing? Perhaps. Their guilt/innocence and impending punishment is the hot topic around all of college basketball, not just in Storrs. But for the moment it's not up to the courts, or the University of Connecticut, or the long-time Husky coach – right now this case is being decided at water coolers and message boards across the Nutmeg State and there are plenty of critics ready, willing, and able to act as judge and jury in this case. Nothing lights up a message board like a Christmas tree more than two possible suspensions/expulsions/convictions! Well this week, I'm asking you to take a week off -- just like the 10-11 writers did on a conference call with the Husky coach last week. No one was told not to ask any questions related to Marcus and A.J. – yet every question directed at Calhoun, was about his upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame. That's the way this week should be.

 

We should be focused on how terrific Calhoun's accomplishments are. Celebrating how he took UConn from Big East cellar-dweller to national power. How he continued to win Big East titles at a school most said had no shot of competing with the conference's "big boys". To think of what it must've felt like to be Calhoun walking into that first Big East meeting with Hall of Famers John Thompson, Jim Boeheim, Louie Carnesecca, plus P.J. Carlesimo, Jim O'Brien, and Rollie Massimino who had just pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history, all in attendance. Makes you wonder what it feels like 19 years later to have more Big East titles than all of them.

 

The numbers are astounding and former UConn assistant Dave Leitao states the job his mentor has done at Connecticut should go down in history as one of the all-time best. Calhoun has never lost a first round NCAA tournament game. The Huskies have finished in the top 20 in ten of the last twelve seasons. They've advanced to postseason play in 18 of Calhoun's 19 years at Connecticut, and that's just to name a few.

 

While accumulating these lofty numbers the Hall of Fame never entered the Husky coach's mind until it was brought up to him prior to his second national title.

 

"I never thought about an induction to the Hall of Fame. I happen to be a person who believes that one season, one game at a time, and that's very cliché in coaching circles… Timmy (Tolokan) mentioned about two years ago the idea of putting something together for the Hall of Fame when I passed my 25th coaching year so therefore I was eligible – It then became something that I thought might possibly be attainable, but I never dwelled on it," said Calhoun. "I know when I got the call how thrilled I was about it but I never dwelled on it beforehand because I had no control over it."

 

The wait has finally ended for the New England native who is on the heels of one of the greatest individual honors a coach can receive.

 

"This has to be highlight of my professional career without question, this is an incredible honor," said Calhoun. "I just wanted to, like anybody else, be with the greats because that company is incredible company to keep. When I was told I was (in the Hall of Fame) it was again, the highlight of my professional career."

 

But he admits coming up with a speech hasn't been easy.

 

"It started to hit me on the plane coming back from the Michael Jordan flight school. It was a long flight from Vegas. That's why I'm making the point -- because it was a 5-hour direct flight to Boston.  I kept scratching…putting it down, scratching it out…so yeah it hit me how difficult it is in 3-4 minutes to encapsulate what has happened over the last 30 something years of my life. It's very difficult," Calhoun continued. "As you can tell I can talk. The good thing is ESPN is a live broadcast therefore you're limited in the speeches to 3-5 minutes so to try to thank everybody who has done so much for me -- is going to be impossible. So I'm going to try and hit the highlights and I'm going to try and talk about the game that I love," Calhoun said during his Wednesday conference call.

 

Calhoun will be accompanied on his walk into basketball lore by Bob Cousy -- a special friend, basketball icon, and soon-to-be fellow Hall of Famer.

 

"To have somebody that I have so much respect for as a player, Mr. Basketball -- and he will always be Mr. Basketball -- and then secondly someone who I have incredible respect for. Our friendship has developed as we've talked about this great game that we both love. Sometimes we see it from different vantage points, but nevertheless we share a great deal about this terrific game. To have the honor of having Bob Cousy escort me at the Hall Of Fame makes it even more special because he is a special person. For us New Englanders and probably for a lot of people in the country, he was basketball at one point," Calhoun stated.

 

So as this native-New Englander is presented with basketball's greatest honor in nearby Springfield, you can be sure that the entire Calhoun coaching timeline will be well-represented. The Calhoun's personally issued 97 invitations but expect upwards of 200 people with the contingent the University of Connecticut will bring, the buses from Braintree, and also a large group of supporters from his Northeastern days.

 

Friday, Jim Calhoun officially will be inducted in front of and for, New England basketball.

 


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