No Excuse for Hitting Players, Jim
Although I was at the UConn-Rutgers game Saturday night, I didn't see Jim Calhoun's interaction with DeAndre Daniels during a late-game timeout. Too busy tweeting and writing a game story.
I hadn't even heard of the alleged incident until a few days later, and didn't see the video until this evening. After watching it, there is no doubt in my mind that Calhoun hit Daniels. There is also no doubt in my mind that it is not a fireable offense, in the vein of Bob Knight or Woody Hayes. Or, you could argue, past incidents by Calhoun, as detailed in this column by the Courant's Jeff Jacobs that needed to be written.
Two or three years ago, I saw Calhoun hit Stanley Robinson in the abdomen with both (open) hands, out near the middle of the floor after callling a timeout. Really whacked him hard. A collective gasp could be heard from the first 10 or so rows behind UConn's bench. Nothing was made of it by any writer -- myself included. Maybe I should have, maybe not. Just Jim being Jim, y'know?
But there's no room for that. I don't even believe there's room for Calhoun's in-your-face screaming at Ryan Boatright the other night. We laugh about it, tweet about it, and the players usually seem to be able to brush it off pretty quickly. But there's no need to embarass an 18-year-old kid like that before 15,000 people and on national TV. Why? Because he made you look bad, Jim?
Calhoun is a tremendous coach, even a bit underrated (you rarely hear his name mentioned in the same breath as Coach K, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight and Dean Smith, even though he's got more national titles than Smith and as many as Knight). Perhaps no one in the history of the sport has done a better job at building a program from nothing than Calhoun.
But there's no room for making physical contact with kids, no matter how innocuous it may seem.