Friday, September 28, 2012

Xavier Rathan-Mayes Skipped UConn Visit to Study for SAT's, His Dad Says

Xavier Rathan-Mayes's father, Tharon Mayes, says that his son postponed his scheduled visit to UConn this weekend because "there were some extra things he wanted to take care of. He wanted to prepare for the SAT's. He really wants to do well on those."

Asked if he believes his son is still considering UConn, Tharon said: "Absolutely, yeah. He plans on making his decision soon. He's been up to UConn already, so it's not like he hasn't visited the school. He said he just wants some time to think about it. He says he's gonna surprise us."

Mayes went with his son to his trip to Illinois last weekend and said it was a "good trip for him." Mayes, of course, starred at Florida State back in the late-80's/early-90's, but insists he's not pushing his son towards any school.

"When he asks for (advice), I'll give it," Tharon said. "It's his experience, it's got to be his decision."

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Xavier Rathan-Mayes Postpones Visit to UConn

Just spoke with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who was slated to make an official visit to UConn this weekend. Instead, he said he is in the process of re-scheduling the visit, and that he will "hopefully" still visit Storrs at some point.

Rathan-Mayes was vague as to why he postponed the visit, saying only that he "just had to be at Huntington (Prep) this weekend." He said he is still planning on announcing his collegiate choice at a press conference from his Toronto home on Oct. 13.

Asked again if he plans on still visiting UConn, Rathan-Mayes said: "I think so."

Elsewhere, according to Dom Amore of the Courant, Kevin Ollie is making his in-home visit to Jabari Parker tonight (Thursday).

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Husky Run is Thursday, Oct. 11

The annual Husky Run will be held on Thursday, Oct. 11, beginning at 2:30 p.m. outside Gampel Pavilion.

Normally, the event is held on the Wednesday before First Night. However, coach Kevin Ollie will be attending the Jimmy V Classic dinner in New York City on Oct. 10, and he didn't want to miss the Husky Run.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jimmy V Tix On Sale Now

Tickets for the 2012 Jimmy V Classic presented by Corona - to be played Tuesday, Dec. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York City - are now on sale.

The 18th annual event features an ESPN doubleheader of Georgetown vs. Texas at 7 p.m. ET, followed by N.C. State vs. Connecticut at 9:30 p.m. All four teams were participants in the 2012 NCAA Championship.

Ticket prices are $250, $150, $100, $75, $40, $30 and $15 and can be purchased at <> , by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866-858-0008 or by visiting the Madison Square Garden box office.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jim Calhoun to Speak at Middlesex Chamber of Commerce Breakfast

Still seems odd to see "former UConn coach" next to Jim Calhoun's name:

Chandler Howard, Chairman of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, announced that Jim Calhoun, former University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Coach, will serve as guest speaker at the Chamber’s October Member Breakfast Meeting on Monday, October 1, 2012.

The Breakfast will be held at the Crowne Plaza Cromwell, 100 Berlin Road, Cromwell, with Networking beginning at 7:00 A.M., Breakfast Buffet opens at 7:45 A.M. and the Breakfast Meeting Program 8:00 to 9:00 A.M. Cost is $20 for Chamber members and $30 for non-members. The event is sponsored by Connecticare.


Noah Vonleh: Indiana, OSU, UNC Recruiting Me the Hardest

Noah Vonleh, one of the top big man recruits in the country, has reclassified from Class of 2014 to Class of 2013. Here's what we wrote about Vonleh back in the early summer.

Here's a statement Vonleh released through New Hampton School earlier today:

New Hampton School student Noah Vonleh announced today that he has reclassified and is now a member of the Class of 2013. He will graduate from New Hampton School in May of 2013. A native of Haverhill, Massachusetts, Vonleh arrived at New Hampton School in the Fall of 2011 and reclassified from his original class of 2013 and became a member of the Class of 2014.

Regarded as one of the top basketball high school basketball prospects in the nation, Vonleh enjoyed a solid first year of play in the highly competitive NEPSAC Class AAA League and followed up with a stellar summer playing for the Mass Rivals AAU program. He also competed in various camps and invitationals, including the Adidas Nations where he earned MVP honors. Vonleh, who originally reclassified to 2014 to gain another year of physical, emotional, and athletic maturity, believes he is ready to make the jump to college.

"When I left Haverhill High after my sophomore year, I wasn't sure how my game would develop and how much I would mature physically and emotionally," Vonleh said. "I thought going to 2014 would be the best thing for me as I went off to boarding school and enrolled at New Hampton. My mom and I have continually tracked my progress. This summer we looked at things from an NCAA eligibility status, and it was easy. With one change to my schedule, an English class, I am able to graduate with the class of 2013."

"I’m ready academically. I’m more mature now in so many ways. I’m a different person and player. From a basketball standpoint, I’m working harder than I ever have. I’ve come a long way physically and emotionally since I arrived at New Hampton. After this year, I will be ready to really contribute to a top program next year. I’m in the gym every day, working really hard now to be ready."

Vonleh credited his mother, along with AAU coach Vin Pastore and New Hampton School coach Pete Hutchins, for helping him evolve on and off the court and guiding him through the process.

"My mother is a great model for me and she's helped me make a good decision," Vonleh said. "I love her and want to thank her for providing me with many things including stability and opportunity, and for showing me how to work hard."

Vonleh, who will begin to narrow a list of approximately 15 schools in the coming weeks, said that Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio State have recruited him the hardest. He is not eligible to take official visits until early November when he receives the results of his first SAT. He was motivated to announce his plans sooner than later because he did not want to rush the process.

"I anticipate that it will change the way some schools recruit me, and it will make me have conversations with different coaching staffs about my possible role in their programs," Vonleh said. "I need to figure out who is interested in me now that I am in the Class of 2013 and where I might fit on their roster and at their university."

Though Vonleh is now eligible for selection in the McDonald's All-American game, he made it clear that his motivation to move back to his original class was ignited by a desire to challenge himself. He wanted to take the time to find the ideal college fit.

"I would love to play in the McDonald's game, but that is not the reason I'm re-classifying," Vonleh explained. "I'm ready because I have a different approach now. I have a better understanding of what it takes to be a great player and I'm more of a student of the game."

Vonleh, who only recently turned 17, will now have to count on an already hectic recruiting process becoming more intense. New Hampton coach Pete Hutchins believes that Vonleh has taken advantage of the learning environment at New Hampton, and thinks he is bracing for a terrific season for New Hampton, a school that has won six New England championships, produced six NBA players, and counts four graduates as Division-I basketball coaches and two alumni as top NBA executives.

"Noah is a wonderful kid who really has taken advantage of the opportunities he's had at New Hampton," said six-year New Hampton School head coach Pete Hutchins. "He has really put in the work in the classroom and on the court. He showed that he was an incredible talent last year, but he's come back this year with a new mindset. He's really transformed himself as a player and I see a level of maturity in him that makes me think he will be ready for success on and off the court in college after this year." 


Plans Set for First Night, Husky Run

This year's First Night festivities will include a new wrinkle: women's volleyball!!!!

The Oct. 12 festivities get underway with a FanFest outside Gampel Pavilion starting at 3 p.m. on Fairfield Way. Gampel's door open at 4 p.m., with fans able to watch the UConn-Cincinnati volleyball match.

The autograph session will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m., and the event begins at 7 p.m. (How long do volleyball matches last, anyway? Hopefully not more than three hours).

Also, the annual Husky Run tradition will be continued under new coach Kevin Ollie. The run around campus is slated to be held on Oct. 10. That could change, since Ollie will be in New York City that day for a Jimmy V Classic Dinner and wouldn't be able to attend the Husky Run. But as of now, the run is still Oct. 10.

Meanwhile ... not all the news about former UConn basketball players has been good lately.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kevin Ollie Helped Mentor a Young LeBron James

Howie Dickenman was recently quoted in some media outlets saying that Kevin Ollie was signed by both Cleveland (in 2003) and Oklahoma City (2009) to help mentor LeBron James and Kevin Durant, respectively, early in their careers.

Dickenman is a Jim Calhoun disciple, however, which means statements like this can sometimes be ... well, a bit of an embellishment.

I put in some calls to people who were with the Cavs and Thunder at the time, and while I haven't heard back from anyone with the Thunder, I did get to talk to Jim Paxson, the former NBA all-star who was Cleveland's GM when it signed Ollie to a five-year (yes, five-year), $15 million deal.

It's really been the only long-term deal Ollie has signed (including now, of course, what with his one-year deal at UConn).

“I think for him,” recalled Paxson, “it just gave him more motivation to prove he deserved that.”

Hard to believe Ollie won't have the same motivation now at UConn.

Anyway, turns out Paxson did sign Ollie with the expressed desire to help mentor and tutor LeBron. Here's some of what he had to say:

“We thought he could come in and be a bridge for us at the point guard position,” Paxson recalled, “and also be a good influence on our younger players, the primary one being LeBron.”

And what made Paxson believe Ollie would be a good influence on King James?

“I just think his professionalism and approach to the game is what players followed,” he said. “Even though LeBron was a great player when he first came in the league, along the way, in my first couple of years around him and even after that, (LeBron) was always looking for veterans in the league that did it the right way. Kevin had a good approach with LeBron and other young players – being a professional, showing it on a day-to-day basis that you’ve got to show up, work on your game, work on your body.”

Ollie played all 82 games that season, the only time in his NBA career he ever did so. He only started seven times, however, and averaged a mere 17.1 minutes per game as he never quite fit in with coach Paul Silas, who was in his first year at the helm.

Interestingly, when Ollie went through spells of little playing time, he was picked up by some of the very same guys he was signed to help mentor.

“When at times he didn’t get to play a lot, LeBron and the guys kind of rallied around him and kept his spirits up, too,” Paxson recalled. “They appreciated how he came to work every day, how he was still trying to help them. He helped pick up some young guys, and was also picked up by them because of the type of person he was.”

Paxson always believed Ollie had the potential to be a head coach someday.

“It was more based on some of the conversations I would have had with him,” Paxson said. “He was looking at the game as a team, what was best for the team. You just kind of had that feeling that, if he wanted to pursue that and follow that path, he had the right demeanor and way about him and would have a chance to have some success.”

While Paxson has faith Ollie can handle the job, he knows it won’t be easy.

“At any level, when you move over from the assistant’s chair to the head coaching chair, you have to make the final decisions – whether to substitute, take timeouts, etc.,” he noted. “The pace and flow of the game is a little different than when you’re sitting there as an assistant.

“But I think he will relate well to the players and find a way to get the most out of them.”

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Jabari Parker Will Get In-Home Visit from Kevin Ollie

UConn at least has a foot in the door in the recruitment of Jabari Parker, the most hyped high school basketball prospect since LeBron James.

Kevin Ollie will get an in-home visit with Parker sometime next week, according to Parker has also added UConn to his list of prospective landing spots.

Parker, a Class of 2013 forward, had previously listed his top 10 schools in July, and it included BYU (he is of the Mormon faith), DePaul, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Stanford.

His father, Sonny Parker, told regarding the UConn upconming visit:

"It was Jabari's decision. He's picking all the schools for the home visits. He's talked to coach Calhoun previously before. That's one of the schools that showed some interest to him. He's had conversations with them previously. Of course, coach Kevin Ollie came in, and (Jabari) wanted them for a home visit."

Even if this is still a long shot, pretty impressive for Ollie to get a foot in the door.

*** Elswhere, as you've probably already heard, they're getting the band back together: UConn appears close to hiring Ricky Moore as an assistant coach.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Season is Less Than Two Months Away

And here's where it will begin for UConn (and, for that matter, all of college basketball), when the Huskies face Michigan State on Nov. 9 at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Apparently the hangar will seat about 3,500 fans:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reggie Cameron Talks About His Final 7 Schools

Joey Natale over at Coast 2 Coast Hoops got Reggie Cameron to break down his final seven schools. UConn is on the list. So is North Carolina, Georgetown, Michigan, NC State, Seton Hall and Miami.

Here's what Cameron has to say about UConn:

  • "UConn has always been a favorite in my area because they're always winning. I have some family in Connecticut too. Coach (Kevin) Ollie and the staff are great coaches and people. The environment at UConn is great as well. Jim Calhoun's retirement won't affect my decision because Coach Ollie is my main recruiter from UConn."


Updated UConn Men's Basketball Schedule

Here's the updated 2012-13 UConn men's basketball schedule, with local times and TV:

Thu 1 AIC (exhibition) Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 7:00 pm
Sun 4 UMass-Lowell (exhibition) XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 1:00 pm
9 Armed Forces Classic Ramstein Air Base, Germany
Fri 9 vs. Michigan State ESPN Ramstein Air Base, Germany 5:30 pm
Tue 13 Vermont SNY Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 7:00 pm
16-19 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Fri 16 vs. Wake Forest CBS Sports Network 6:30 pm
Sat/Sun 17/18 vs. Iona or Quinnipiac TBA TBA
Mon 19 vs. New Mexico or George Mason
or Mer
cer or Illinois-Chicago TBA TBA
Sun 25 Stony Brook SNY Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 4:00 pm
Thu 29 New Hampshire SNY XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 7:00 pm
4 Jimmy V Classic Madison Square Garden, New York
Tue 4 vs. North Carolina State ESPN Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y. 9:00 pm
Fri 7 Harvard SNY Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 7:00 pm
Mon 17 Maryland-Eastern Shore SNY XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 7:00 pm
Fri 21 Fordham SNY XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 7:00 pm
Sat 29 Washington ESPN2 XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 7:30 pm
Tue 1 at Marquette* ESPNU Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wis. 8:00 pm
Tue 8 DePaul* SNY Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 7:00 pm
Sat 12 at Notre Dame* SNY Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame, Ind. 2:00 pm
Mon 14 Louisville* ESPN XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 7:00 pm
Sat 19 at Pittsburgh* ESPN2 Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pa. noon
Sun 27 Rutgers* SNY XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 2 :00 pm
Thu 31 at Providence* ESPN/ESPN2 Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, R.I. 7:00 pm
Sun 3 USF* SNY Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 2:00 pm
Wed 6 at St. John’s* ESPNU Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y. 7:00 pm Sun 10 at Seton Hall* SNY Prudential Center, Newark, N.J. noon
Wed 13 Syracuse* ESPN/ESPN2 XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 7:00 pm
Sat 16 Villanova* ESPN/ESPN2 XL Center, Hartford, Conn. noon
Thu 21 Cincinnati* ESPN/ESPN2 XL Center, Hartford, Conn. 7:00 pm
Sat 23 at DePaul* SNY Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Ill. 8:00 pm
Wed 27 Georgetown* ESPN2 Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. 7:00 pm
Sat 2 at Cincinnati* SNY First Third Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio 2:00 pm
Wed 6 at USF* ESPNU Sun Dome, Tampa, Fla. 9:00 pm
Sat 9 Providence* ESPNU Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. noon
Tues-Sat 12-16 BIG EAST Championship ESPN Madison Square Garden. New York, N.Y. TBA

Xavier Rathan-Mayes Will Make Official Visit to UConn Sept. 27

Xavier Rathan-Mayes will make his official visit to UConn Sept. 27-29. He will visit Illinois this weekend, he told me in a phone conversation.

Rathan-Mayes got a visit from Kevin Ollie and Karl Hobbs on Monday at Huntington Prep in West Virginia.

"It was great," the Class of 2013 guard said. "We had a great discussion, talked about the way I'd fit into the program. I really love Coach Ollie. He's just a great person, a great guy. I think he's definitely going to do special things with UConn in the future."

Rathan-Mayes said he had "mixed emotions" to see Jim Calhoun retire.

"It's sad to see Coach Calhoun go out like that, after having such a great career, bringing UConn basketball from nothing to a national powerhouse," he said. "But I'm really happy for Coach Ollie. We've had a great relationship for a year and a bit. Just the kind of guy he is, he really deserves it."

Rathan-Mayes' in-home visits are done, and he's already made an official to Florida State, where his father, Tharon Mayes, starred in the early 90's. Tharon, of course, is a New Haven native who is back living in the city.

Rathan-Mayes said he will make his college decision on Oct. 13 at his home in Toronto. He said he doesn't have a leader in his mind right now.

"It definitely plays a factor, my dad playing at Florida State," he said. "Not a lot of kids can say their dad played at the same school recruiting you. My dad being from Connecticut, me playing at UConn when I was younger, I think it would be just as special. I know a lot of people there from Hillhouse, friends and familys down there."

He didn't say anything about Illinois, but then I didn't ask.

"It’s hard. There are a lot of great things about all the programs. "My mom and dad are on the phone with me constantly, writing down the pro’s and con’s. I wouldn’t say one’s standing out right now." 

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Warde Manuel, Current Players, Pat Calhoun, and Holding out Hope for Big East Tourney

So what is Warde Manuel looking for as he evaluates Kevin Ollie this season?

“I’m looking to see how he is on the sidelines, how he handles decision-making, how he does substitutions and things that are normal in the course of a game,” he said. “How does he handle a loss with a team, how does he motivate them the next day to come back and play. How's he handling practice and the staff and all the things that come with being a head coach at this level.  I want to see it, because I can’t turn to somebody and say, ‘Hey, how did he do? How was he as a head coach?’ I need to see that. It really, truly is a long-term plan. I want to see where Kevin is before I extend that long-term contract. But I love Kevin, I’ve enjoyed working with him the past six months. I see why Jim believes in him so much, but I want to see it myself before I would make that determination.”

*** R.J. Evans is a Connecticut kid who, as a graduate student, is getting one season to live out a dream and finally play for his hometown school.

He probably thought he’d get a chance to play for the legendary Hall of Fame coach, too. But that’s not to be now.

“There’s no hard feelings with me,” Evans said. “Coach Calhoun made the decision, he’s part of our family, so I’m behind him 100-percent. He made the best decision for him. Tomorrow’s a new day, Coach Ollie’s our coach and we’ll go from there.”

Evans added that, in Calhoun’s new role as special assistant to AD Warde Manuel, he’ll still have a big presence with the team.

“In essence, he’s still my coach,” Evans said. “I don’t really see him as not being my coach anymore.”

Sophomore DeAndre Daniels at least got to play one season under Calhoun.

“I wanted to play for Coach Calhoun all my years that I’m here, but he has to do what’s best for him and his family,” Daniels said. “That was him retiring, so be it. Coach Ollie’s from L.A., too, so we had a real bond. He’s one of the other reasons I came here.”

Sophomore guard Ryan Boatright said he found out about Calhoun’s retirement through a text message from Daniels Wednesday evening.

“It was a shocker to everybody,” Boatright said, “but I believe Coach had to do what’s best for him, his family and his health. We’re still going to have to pull together and perform. KO’s a great coach, I love to play for him. We’re all going to miss Coach Cal cussing us out on the sidelines, but he had to do what’s best for him.”

Getting used to Ollie as head coach won’t be a problem, according to Boatright.

“Everybody’s comfortable with KO,” he added. “We probably talk to KO more than we talk to Calhoun, anyway.”

*** Pat Calhoun, Jim's wife of 46 years ("the best recruit I ever got,” according to Jim), said the decision was pretty much known within the last couple of weeks.

“It was 100-percent his decision, it will always be 100-percent his decision,” she said. “He knew that I supported him. He knew that I would prefer he stay coaching forever if that was possible, fully knowing that, obviously, it wasn’t.”

Still, even she wasn’t completely convinced he’d go through with it.

“I’ve always said that, until I saw him up there (on the podium), I’d never believe it,” she admitted. “When I left him in the office today, I said to him, ‘Do not change your mind.’”

And now that he's retired, can Pat do anything to keep her husband off bicycles?

"I'm hoping we can stay with the indoor spinner, but that's probably wishful thinking on my part," she said. "I'm hoping he at least goes for a thicker tire or something. I don't know, training wheels, I'm not sure."

*** UConn is still holding out hope that it could play in this year's Big East tournament, though a league source said it's still a "very remote" chance.

UConn's last chance will likely come at a league presidents' meeting in early November in Chicago. The league's bylaws have not been amended to exclude teams banned from the NCAA tournament from the conference tournament, though the presidents agreed this would be the case back in March.

*** Geno Auriemma was out of town on Thursday and unable to attend the press conference, but he issued a statement:

"The great success achieved by the UConn men’s basketball program under Jim Calhoun’s leadership helped propel the University of Connecticut onto the national stage. His contributions to this University have been positive and will be long lasting. I want to take this opportunity to wish Jim Calhoun all my best in a long, happy and healthy retirement.

I have always admired Kevin Ollie as a person and as a player and know that he will make the most of this opportunity. He has had great success in everything he has done and I am confident this will be no exception."

And here's what football coach Paul Pasqualoni had to say:

"Obviously Coach Calhoun is a great coach, everybody here will miss him and what he has done. I think Coach Ollie, if that is the direction the university goes in, . Obviously Jim Calhoun is a legendary coach, a guy I have tremendous respect (for) his toughness. I have tremendous respect for his coaching ability. He has won every place he has ever been. He won here early in his career. I remember when he came here it was probably a so-so first year. The next year they were on the rise and never stopped getting better. It is one thing in sports, in high level I-A athletics and pro sports, it is one thing to get there, to bring your program, to elevate your program but it is a whole another thing to keep it there. What I admire the most about Coach Calhoun is the same thing I admired about Coach Osborne when he was at Nebraska. Not only did these coaches get their programs to the top at the highest level, they kept them there and that is a true sign of greatness to me."

*** Ollie's salary of $625,000 is "annualized" -- meaning, essentially, it's pro-rated. So, he'll actually earn $384,615 this season. On top of what he's already earned on his assistant coach's salary, of course.

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Some Memories of Jim Calhoun

I only caught the last five years of Jim Calhoun’s career, though that was bountiful enough: from two Final Fours and a national championship to the NIT and first-round exits; from Kemba, A.J. and Hasheem, to Nate Miles, Ken Krayeske and Josh Nochimson. A little bit of everything. Like my time covering the Red Sox beforehand, there was (is) never a dull moment covering UConn.

I think I got a somewhat watered down version of Calhoun. No doubt, he could still be as cantankerous as anyone. He still yelled at press conferences from time to time (see: Krayeske), but not with the same fervor as he did at late Register columnist Dave Solomon. He didn’t seem as overly interested and, at times, agitated about what we wrote about him – at least with the local press. He was actually calm at about 95 percent of the practices I attended (the Sunday morning, post-Rutgers practice this past January being a notable exception).

He was really pretty accessible – often taking my calls to his cell phone or returning them in timely fashion. If I stopped by Gampel on a July day and stopped by his office, he usually had time to talk for a few minutes.

My lasting impression of Calhoun will be that he was the worst loser I’ve ever seen in sports. I don’t really mean that negatively. Other than Tiger Woods (whom I’ve never really covered), I’ve never seen someone so irritated and upset – sometimes even immature – after a loss. His sidelines behavior could be embarrassing, and it essentially stemmed from the fact that his team wasn’t winning, or playing hard, or playing well – and, by extension, embarrassing him in front of some 15,000 people.

One of his most embarrassing episodes came during a Dec. 6, 2007 game at Gampel against Northeastern. On the heels of a postseason-less prior year, the Huskies weren’t playing well and were in danger of losing to the Huskies (Calhoun’s alma mater!) and he was pulling tantrums all night until finally being ejected by Wally Rutecki. After the game, he called Rutecki “incompetent.” Not one of his prouder moments.

Calhoun’s insatiable hatred of losing is a huge part of what made him so great. I’m not a big fan of the cliché “he willed his team to win,” but Calhoun really did do that. He willed his team to win.

I think that’s part of the reason why Calhoun doesn’t boast the same type of coaching tree that guys like Dean Smith, Coach K and others have. Sure, he’s had assistants go on to other jobs, but nobody like a Roy Williams (Smith), a Mike Brey (K), etc. I think part of that is because his success isn’t built so much on coaching philosophy and X’s and O’s. Rather, it’s been built on a competitiveness and appetite for victory that can’t be taught or imitated. In that sense (and many others), he’s really pretty similar to Bob Knight, who doesn’t have the most impressive coaching tree, either (Coach K aside).

The first time I really introduced myself to Calhoun was in August, 2007, shortly after I took over the beat. He wasn’t enamored with my predecessor at the Register, and the very first words he said to me after I introduced myself was, “Well, I didn’t like the other guy …”

Straight and to the point, no doubt. You pretty much always know where you stand with Jim Calhoun.

Last night, myself and some other beat guys engaged in a #calhounmemories tweet-fest on Twitter. I don’t have the tenure of guys like Neill Ostrout or Ed Daigneault, so I didn’t have as many stories. But here are two of my favorites, told to me by other people:

*** UConn recruited both Kirk King and Austin Croshere back in the day. It got King, but Croshere went to Providence. Every time UConn played the Friars and Croshere hit a 3-pointer or a big hoop, Calhoun would twirl around to his assistants and scream, “Wrong guy!!!!”

*** At a coaches’ golf tournament a few years ago, Calhoun got what he considered an inconvenient tee time. While on the putting green surrounded by other coaches, Calhoun could apparently be heard muttering, “How many (bleeping) national championships do you have to win to get a good tee time around here!?!?!”

There ain’t two Jim Calhouns, that’s for sure. A true original. He’ll be missed on the sidelines.

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Ryan Boatright: 'Coach Had to Do What's Best for Him'

Caught Ryan Boatright on his way to Gampel about a half-hour ago. Here's what he had to say about Jim Calhoun's retirement:

“It was a shocker to everybody, but I believe Coach had to do what’s best for him, his family and his health. We’re still going to have to pull together and perform. KO’s a great coach, I love to play for him. We’re all going to miss Coach Cal cussing us out on the sidelines, but he had to do what’s best for him.”

“Everybody’s comfortable with KO. We probably talk to KO more than we talk to Calhoun, anyway.”

Boatright said he learned of the news via a text from DeAndre Daniels at around 6 p.m. on Wednesday. He said the team hasn't met with Calhoun yet but is slated to do so today.

As for his other teammates, he's only spoken with Daniels and walk-on Brendan Allen and "they feel how I feel."

And as for how things went for Boatright this summer: “Good camps, got a lot better, put on weight. I’m good.”

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tim Welsh, Scott Burrell on Jim Calhoun's Retirement

Former Providence coach Tim Welsh:

"He was always one of the fiercest competitors from afar. When you were toe-to-toe against him, he was not only one of the top coaches but one of the toughest guys on the sidelines.You always knew when you played his team, it was going to be a streetfight, and it was also going to be a track meet as well. They were street-tough, but they also played a game you liked to play and watch: uptempo and fast, but you knew you were going to have to play tough to win."

In my career as a sports writer, I can say I've never seen a worse loser than Jim Calhoun -- in the sense that he hated it so much. Refused to accept it, and a long-winded diatribe aimed largely at his players, sometimes at the media, usually followed. But Welsh came from a different point of view.

"When we were fortunate to beat him, he was always very gracious in defeat. He respected the other coach. He was trying to beat their brains in, but he knew their job was on the line and they were trying to do the same thing he was doing. He never showed another coach up. His sideline antics -- they were never against another coach, maybe the refs, but not a coach."

"The game will thoroughly miss him," Welsh continuted. "He's one of the personalities of the game you don't see. A lot of the great personalities are out of the game. Coaches now are more robotic, but he had that Boston, streetfighter mentalith, 'I'm the underdog.'"

Case in point: After Calhoun won his third national title, Welsh saw him at the after-party. Calhoun still had some nasty comments for certain media types who picked against his team in that game.

"That irked him," Welsh said with a laugh. "That's why he was so successful."

Here's what Scott Burrell had to say about Calhoun's retirement (colleague Bill Cloutier got the quotes):

"It’s a sad day for UConn basketball but he built a great legacy at UConn. He left on top no matter what the record says last year.

He’s going out as one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time.

He’s won three national championships and there’s not many coaches you can say that about.

I’m sure he’s happy with what he’s accomplished. I know his hip’s a little sore but I know deep down he’s happy."

Burrell said that he knew that Calhoun was going to retire he just didn’t know the timing of it.

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Jim Calhoun is Retiring

Jim Calhoun, who 26 years ago took over perhaps the weakest program in the Big East and transformed it into one of the most prominent in the nation, is retiring.

As first reported by NBC Connecticut, Calhoun is expected to formally announce his retirement after 40 years of coaching – 26 at UConn – at a press conference on Thursday.

It is expected that assistant coach Kevin Ollie will take over the head coaching reins, at least for the interim.

Calhoun has waffled on his decision since last season ended in March, saying that he intended on coaching out the final two years of his contract but reserved the right to change his mind. A broken hip suffered in a bike accident in early August may have been the final straw in determining that, at age 70, it was time.

Calhoun won three national titles at UConn and took the team to four Final Fours. He finishes with 873 career wins (sixth on the all-time list) – 625 of them at UConn. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

The Huskies won the national championship in 2011 behind a miraculous performance by Kemba Walker, but have otherwise been hit with plenty of controversy in recent years. Low Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores will keep UConn out of the postseason this year. A few years ago, the program was also docked scholarships due to recruiting violations.

Calhoun has also battled numerous health problems in recent years, from cancer (prostate and skin) to broken ribs and a broken hip from bike accidents.

As he has indicated in the past, Calhoun is expected to remain with the program in some capacity. According to his 2010 contract extension, he was due to receive either a one-time payment of $1 million or secure employment in a full-time position in the athletics department for a maximum of five years at an annual salary of $300,000.

Ollie has never been a head coach at any level and has only been a UConn assistant for two seasons since retiring from a nomadic, 13-year NBA career. However, Calhoun has been privately lobbying for Ollie to be named as his successor, though first-year athletic director Warde Manuel has balked about naming Ollie a “coach-in-waiting.”

According to reports, Ollie will be given a one-year contract but will not be labeled an “interim” head coach. Associate head coach George Blaney will remain on the staff, as well as assistant Glen Miller. Director of basketball operations Karl Hobbs will be bumped up to assistant status, as well.

Ollie has drawn rave reviews among recruits. Contacted Wednesday evening, Kareem Memminger, the AAU coach of recent UConn commit Kentan Facey, said: “If Kevin takes over, we will still honor the commitment. Anybody else, we’ve got to look at it.”

Ollie has huge shoes to fill. Calhoun is one of only five college basketball coaches in NCAA history to win three national titles (1999, 2004, 2011).

Calhoun began his collegiate coaching career at Northeastern in 1972 and took that program to the NCAA tournament five times before taking over the reins at Storrs in 1986.

After a 9-19 inaugural season, Calhoun’s UConn teams never finished below .500 again over the next 25 years. They won the National Invitational Tournament in 1988, and two years later won their first Big East tournament title while riding a “dream season” to the Elite 8.

UConn won seven more Big East tourney titles under Calhoun and 10 regular-season championships. The program reached the Sweet 16 13 times under Calhoun and got to the Elite Eight nine times.

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Big East Commish Mike Aresco's Statement

Statement from BIG EAST Commissioner Mike Aresco: 

“The University of the Notre Dame has informed us that it is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports other than football. Notre Dame has been a valued member of the BIG EAST Conference and we wish them success in the future. However, Notre Dame’s departure does not change our plans. We have prestigious institutions that are excited to be a part of the BIG EAST. We remain committed to making the BIG EAST stronger than it has ever been.” 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Surgery for Shabazz Napier

On vacation this week, but will do my best to update blog whenever something goes down. Here's the press release on Shabazz Napier's surgery:

University of Connecticut junior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) will be out of action for the next several weeks as he recovers from surgery on his right foot to repair a bothersome stress fracture.
Napier, the Huskies’ most experienced returning player, had a right fifth metatarsal internal fixation performed Friday at John Dempsey Hospital at the UConn Health Center, basically meaning that a screw was inserted to promote healing of the fracture.
The fracture has been causing Napier discomfort for a few months and was the reason Napier decided to leave the Puerto Rican National Team after making the squad last spring. Rather than play hard on it all summer and possibly jeopardize his upcoming college season, Napier returned home for treatment.
According to the UConn medical staff, conservative treatment did not improve Napier’s condition, leading to the decision for surgery. Doctors said the operation was successful and Napier is expected to make a full recovery. He will be in a walking boot for a few weeks, but should be 100 percent healed by the time official practice begins on Oct. 13.
Napier played in all 34 of UConn’s games last season, starting 31, and averaged 13.0 points, 5.8 assists, and 35.0 minutes per game. In his two-year UConn career, he has scored 761 points and handed out 322 assists.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Will Jim Calhoun Stay or Go?

So, what do you think it will be, UConn fans?


Jim Calhoun Sounds Like He's Nearing Retirement

Just when you think maybe Jim Calhoun will stick around for another year or two, he goes and says this.

Interesting stuff from, in which Calhoun admits: “I was on a recruiting trip to Washington and as I was going around and talking to people and doing things, I said to myself, this could be the last recruiting trip I ever take. I know I have plenty of things I want to do. I have plans. I'm just going to go with how I feel. I will know.”

He added that he's waffled on his decision on whether or not to return for months, but admits: “I would be very, very surprised if I didn’t have something to say within the next two weeks.”

"Depends on how I feel sometimes, but I'm very close to knowing," he continues. "I'm just going to wake up one morning and I will know what is the right thing to do. I always said it I ever come here and say, 'Jeez I'm not sure, I will know it's time.''


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Breaking Down UConn's 2012-13 Schedule

Thursday             1              AIC (exhibition)                                Gampel Pavilion                               TBA
Sunday                 4              UMass-Lowell                   XL Center                                            TBA
Friday                    9              Michigan State                  Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany           5:30 p.m.
A homecoming for UConn’s three German-born players (Giffey, Wolf, Tolksdorf) kicks off season
Tuesday               13           Vermont                              Gampel Pavilion                               7 p.m.
Defending America East champs feature frosh Ethan O’Day from Mansfield, E.O. Smith
Friday                    16           Wake Forest                      St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands   6:30 p.m.
Demon Deacons 4-12 in ACC last year; first time facing UConn since 1991
Sat. or Sun.         17/18     TBD                                        St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands   TBD
Huskies could face Quinnipiac if both teams win or lose their first-round games.
Monday               19           TBD                                        St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands   TBD
UConn will face either Mercer, UIC, New Mexico or … George Mason!!!
Sunday                 25           Stony Brook                       Gampel Pavilion                               TBD
Sea Wolves still piloted by former UConn player, assistant coach Steve Pikiell
Thursday             29           New Hampshire                               XL Center                                  7:30 p.m.
Third and final America East foe on UConn’s schedule this season

Tuesday               4              North Carolina St.            Madison Square Garden               9 p.m.
Preceded by Georgetown-Texas as part of 18th annual Jimmy V Classic, benefitting cancer research
Friday                    7              Harvard                                                Gampel Pavilion           7 p.m.
Defending Ivy champions coming off first NCAA tournament appearance in 66 years
Monday               17           Univ. of Maryland-ES     XL Center                                            7 p.m.
Hawks went 7-23 last year, play in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Friday                    21           Fordham                              XL Center                                            7 p.m.
Rams are getting back on right track under coach Tom Pecora
Saturday              29           Washington                        XL Center                                            7:30 p.m.
First of a true Husky home-and-home series; teams will play in Seattle in 2013-14

Tuesday               1              Marquette                          Milwaukee                                         8 p.m.
A sort of homecoming for UConn freshman forward Phil Nolan, who hails from Suds City
Tuesday               8              DePaul                                  Gampel Pavilion                               7 p.m.
With Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young, there is some talent here
Saturday              12           Notre Dame                       South Bend, Ind.                              2 p.m.
Big East will need to find a new Scholar-Athlete of Year now that Tim Abromaitis is no longer eligible
Monday               14           Louisville                              XL Center                                            7 p.m.
ESPN’s first Big Monday game of year features Cardinals, who’ll be a consensus national top-10 pick
Saturday              19           Pittsburgh                           Pittsburgh                                           TBD
Pitt’s streak of NCAA tourney berths ended at 10 last year … but they were CBI champions!
Sunday                 27           Rutgers                                                XL Center                                 2 p.m.
Scarlet Knights seem to be on the right track under third-year coach Mike Rice
Thursday             31           Providence                         Providence                                         7 p.m.
Will New London’s Kris Dunn be back from injury by this game?

Sunday                 3              South Florida                     Gampel Pavilion                               2 p.m.
Bulls reached NCAA tourney for first time in 19 years last year, but must replace three starters
Wednesday        6              St. John’s                             New York                                            7 p.m.
Steve Lavin should be back at the helm after bout with cancer last season
Sunday                 10           Seton Hall                            Newark, N.J.                                      Noon
Hillhouse product Freddie Wilson hopes to see more playing time as a sohomore
Wednesday        13           Syracuse                              XL Center                                            7 p.m.
This will be the final time UConn plays Syracuse with the latter a member of the Big East
Saturday              16           Villanova                              XL Center                                            Noon
Jay Wright trying to bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor season, as well
Thursday             21           Cincinnati                            XL Center                                            7 p.m.
Bearcats went to Sweet 16 last year but will need to adjust to life without Yancy Gates
Saturday              23           DePaul                                  Rosemont, Ill.                                    8 p.m.
Around this time, we’ll remind you again that Melvin once de-committed from UConn
Wednesday        27           Georgetown                      Gampel Pavlion                                                7 p.m.
Young Hoyas don’t have a single senior on their roster

Saturday              2              Cincinnati                            Cincinnati                                            2 p.m.
Will Jim Calhoun accuse Mick Cronin of not voting a UConn player for all-Big East again this year?
Wednesday        6              South Florida                     Tampa                                                  9 p.m.
If nothing else, Huskies get a warm-weather respite
Saturday              9              Providence                         Gampel Pavilion                               7 p.m.
With no postseason eligibility, this will be UConn’s final game of the 2012-13 season.

Kevin Ollie Has What it Takes to Coach UConn

Here's my story from today's Register about Kevin Ollie, how he views this upcoming season and how he's viewed as Jim Calhoun's potential successor.

A lot of people want Ollie to replace Calhoun (whenever that may be, perhaps even this fall), but AD Warde Manuel has backed off on essentially naming Ollie as a "coach-in-waiting." Let me say that I don't blame Manuel at all for being hesitant about this. If he simply kowtowed to Calhoun's desire to name Ollie as his replacement, it appears as though he's being bullied by the Hall of Fame coach. Manuel is the boss, and he has every right to take a long look at what type of candidate pool might crop up once Calhoun decides to ride off into the sunset (hopefully not on a bike).

But ultimately, with his UConn and NBA pedigree, the respect he garners from virtually everyone in the basketball world and his already impressive ability to recruit, Ollie would seem to be the right hire. And if you're worried about his lack of head coaching experience, consider this: when Shaka Smart took over at VCU after Anthony Grant left to coach Alabama in 2009, he had zero head-coaching experience, as well. Less than two years later, Smart had the upstart Rams in the Final Four, and he's one of the most coveted young head coaches in the nation. And, in fact, the man some hope someday takes over in Storrs.

The thing is, hiring Ollie is almost a no-lose for Manuel. If Ollie fails, the perception is that Ollie wasn't necessarily his man and he can go out and find a Smart or another hot young coach to take over. And if Ollie succeeds, everybody at UConn wins.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kevin Ollie: "We're Playing for Each Other and This Great University"

Took a swing by Gampel Pavilion today and ran into Kevin Ollie. However good or bad my day had been before my 10-minute conversation with Ollie, it was appreciably better afterwards.

Talk about a positive, uplifting guy. It’s no wonder that virtually everyone associated with the UConn men’s basketball program would love to see him as the next Huskies’ coach. Recruits love him (and UConn just got a pretty good pair in Kentan Facey and Terrence Samuel), current players and coaches love him and, of course, there’s no doubt that Jim Calhoun wants him as his successor. But that’s for another day.

As for today, Ollie is happy with the state of the program. He said Jim Calhoun has been back in the office several times, doing physical therapy with trainer James Doran, working out in the pool and weight room and “looking good.” He even went up to a Red Sox game recently (how that would make a noted Sox fan feel good, I have no idea.)

Ollie is very happy with the way UConn players have progressed over the summer, both in the gym and academically. He particularly points out Tyler Olander, who has made a major commitment in the weight room before a recent right ankle sprain put him in a walking boot.

“Every time you turn your ankle, you damage your ligaments,” Ollie noted. “It just takes time to heal back. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve had in my three years here. He’s worked tremendously hard to change his body, get in better shape. It’s unfortunate this happened, but everything happens for a reason. I’m glad it’s happening now and not Nov. 9 when we’re playing Michigan State. Hopefully, he can respond to it and his ankle can respond to it and he can get back on the court, because we really need his leadership.”

There is one question that Ollie, Calhoun, the players and virtually everyone around the program will be asked incessantly over the next few months (and, in many cases, have already been asked numerous times): “With no postseason tournament eligibility this season, what are the Huskies playing for?”

As I asked Ollie the question, his brow furrowed and an inquisitive look spread across his face, as if the answer was abundantly obvious.

“It’s competing every night,” he replied. “You go out there and compete every night. You’re still blessed to see another day, to put on this UConn jersey. You go out and compete. I know that’s a simple answer, but that’s what it is. You compete with yourself, first and foremost, because your mind is going to tell you what you’ve got to play for. The enemy is going to ask you that every day. If you can combat that, you can combat that in life. That’s what we’re trying to teach these kids.”

Ollie continued: “It’s not all about basketball skills, it’s about life skills. Things are going to happen to you in life that you can’t control. I didn’t want to play for 11 different teams, but I did. I wanted to be like Reggie (Miller) and play with one team, but it wasn’t (to be). I didn’t want to get cut on Christmas Eve, but I got cut on Christmas Eve. Now, what are you going to do? You expect to win, you prepare for the worst, and you accept whatever comes your way, and you capitalize on it. This situation, we’re going to capitalize on it. I believe that, and I believe these guys in the locker room are here for the right reasons, and that’s who we’re playing for. We’re playing for each other and this great university that we represent.”

As for tangible goals, certainly the Big East regular-season title is something the Huskies can aim for.

“That’s the one thing we can get. Can’t get the NCAA Tournament, can’t get the trophy on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but that’s alright.”

You listen to Kevin Ollie speak, and you start to realize that this could be a fun year to watch this team. It could really say something about their character, their will to win, along with their on-court abilities.

And it certainly makes you believe that Ollie is head coaching material, too. No question about it.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Tyler Olander in Walking Boot, Will Be Fine

Just got word that Tyler Olander is currently in a walking boot, but nothing to get too concerned about.

According to UConn assistant coach Glen Miller, Olander merely has a sprained right ankle and "will be fine."

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Terrence Samuel Commits to UConn

Just got off the phone with Terrence Samuel, UConn's latest commit. Soft-spoken young man. Here's a little of what he had to say.

Samuel, who visited UConn two weeks ago with his mother and his South Shore High assistant coach (and cousin) Shawn Mark, said the staff told him he could vie for playing time immediately as a freshman.

"They say I'm a big guard, bigger than the other guards they have," said Samuel, a 6-foot-3 point guard. "I have a lot more ability to rebound and push the ball."

He added that his greatest strength as a player is "getting my teammates the ball."

Samuel's AAU teammate on the New York Rens, forward Kentan Facey, committed to the Huskies a few weeks ago.

"It's definitely a great feeling, going to college with somebody you're familiar with," he said.

Samuel will play his senior season at South Shore High in Brooklyn this year. When asked about what he knows about UConn's history, his first answer was one word: "Kemba."

Samuel said he's met Walker a few times (though not on his visit), but doesn't really know the former Husky star.

He said he thinks he'll play for Jim Calhoun next year.

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