More Media Day Musings
***As we're sure you know by now, UConn was picked by the league's coaches to finish 10th out of 16 teams. Their reactions:
"First time in a long time I've got a chance to be coach of the year. That's the way you've got to do it. You've got to be No. 8 or below, otherwise it's not going to happen."
"We're probably where we belong. Seton Hall has more known answers than we do at this particular time. We could have been 11th or 12th … today.
"If we were 12th, that would have been OK. I wouldn't tell my players that. We are Connecticut, we have won a couple of games. But right now, the people beyond Kemba … you don't know.
"Not as much respect for the name as I would have liked. Conversely, if you made us 12th … whether I live with it or don't live with it, you picked us third last year, and we weren't third. We should have been fifth, and we screwed it up. We're a better team than what we played.
"We're the most unknown team in the league. I truly believe that.
"I like to be first, though. You guys aren't that smart, but you aren't that dumb, either. You've got a pretty good idea that you have some talent up there and you're going to win some games. Right now, you're saying we're not going to make the NCAA tournament – they're not going to take 10 teams. You're saying that maybe we can qualify for the NIT. I think we can do more than that."
(Umm, coach … when you say "you guys," you do realize that this it the coaches' poll, not the media poll. But I digress)
"It's going to make us work harder, just give us the will to win.
(Is 10th place fair?) "Yeah, I think so, just because we have a lot of freshmen who aren't ranked as high as a lot of other freshmen. I think it's fair enough. I expected us to be 12th or something. I'll take 10th, and hope we have the chance to win some games."
"We've got a lot of young players, a lot of guys that people don't really know. To me, we have a lot of guys that can play. I think we might surprise a lot of people this year."
"I love it. We use that as motivation at the gym. We just have to play with a chip on our shoulder every night."
***Calhoun had a few poignant moments regarding the NCAA investigation and all it's entailed.
He was asked what the worst part of the entire ordeal has been, and he said there was only one thing that truly bothered him.
"At Ford Field in Detroit (at the 2009 Final Four), 72,000 people and hearing a chant of 'Cheater' by the whole Michigan State section. My grandchildren were in the crowd, not in that particular section, probably didn't hear a word. But I did. I was very sensitive to that. I may be a lot of things – profane, I can give you a lot of different things I am. But that word, I'm not. That was, to me, the worst thing."
But he insisted that the entire process has only emboldened him.
"The worst thing to do, at least my friends tell me, is to come after me. I'm usually better coming out of a corner than I am up on a pedestal. I'm a natural underdog, I guess – sometimes for no apparent reason. And if I can't be the underdog, I'll make myself the underdog, some way or another."
***Oh, there's another thing Calhoun isn't too pleased about: opening the Big East season on Dec. 27, at Pittsburgh.
"I don't like playing two days after Christmas, I don't care where it's at. And then playing New Year's Eve (at home vs. South Florida) … I don't like it. It puts us in a hole. No one designed it that way, but we're a young team.
"How do you eliminate that? I'll eliminate it: 16 games. I think we should have a preseason. We need to protect the properties of the terrific institutions throughout our league. I just don't think that Connecticut should be playing Pittsburgh – or anybody – on Dec. 27. For us, it happens to hurt more, but that's not malice. We've got to get those games in.
"I don't like New Year's Eve, anyway. I don't know what the fuss is all about."
***Due to some overcrowding at different tables, Calhoun met with the media at a table that had the West Virginia banner behind it (Bob Huggins would take the seat for the second half of the session).
This led to the "Oops!" moment of the day. A young female reporter, perhaps still in college, asked Calhoun: "Coach, despite the graduation of Da'Sean Butler, do you think you can get back to the Final Four like you did last year."
Obviously, she thought Calhoun was the West Virginia coach. Calhoun handled it with aplomb – and certainly a lot better than if someone like me had asked the question – pointing out that UConn had been to the Final Four two years ago and essentially ignoring the fact that Da'Sean Butler never played at UConn.
However, maybe this explains why Jabarie Hinds chose West Virginia over UConn. Maybe he thought he was committing to Calhoun, not Huggins! OK, maybe not.
More to come later ...