Thursday, June 13, 2013

George Blaney: "From an Early Age, I Was Intrigued by the Game. That Never Left'

George Blaney just finished up a teleconference with media members. One of the first things he did was to thank the press for treating him "fairly and professionally" over the years. Probably doesn't mean much to most readers, but it's nice to hear every once in a while. And make no mistake, the feeling is very mutual.

Here's more of what he had to say:

"I've just always tried to represent UConn, Jim (Calhoun) and this year Kevin (Ollie) to the best of my ability. Hopefully, I was able to do that."

“The game has always intrigued me, it has been my life. The players and coaches that have been with me have made it very special, and I hope that I was able to give back to it to some degree.”

"From an early age, I was intrigued by the game. That never left."

(on why he's deciding to retire now, at 73)

“When I turned 65, which is a long time ago now, I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t look as much into the future as I looked at that day. From that point on, I really just looked at how I felt that day, what I was going to do. I just started feeling that this was the right time. I always thought I’d know right time, and hopefully this is.”

Blaney noted the story of former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote, who said he'd know it was time to retire "as soon as I get a bad team."

He said he called Heathcoate yesterday and told him, "I’m not taking your advice, because we have a really, really good team. But, I’m going to give it up.”

“I was really fortunate to have mother and father that thought sports were important, father good bball player, at Vill., went to every game I ever

(on his relationship with Calhoun)

“We’ve been friends for so long, and I think the reason is the game. What always made our friendship so terrific is that we could be together for 24 hours a day for years, then not be together for long periods of time and pick up where it left off. I will never underestimate what he did for me in hiring me here.”

“He’s a remarkable individual, he really is. The things he does for people that nobody knows about, and how smart he is -- his ability to analyze things and get to the core of what the problem is is really remarkable. He’s been a good friend and he’ll continue to be a good friend. I’m privileged to have him in my life.”

Though, he noted, "Pat (Calhoun) really hired me, not Jim."

(on taking over for Calhoun so many times when Calhoun was ill)

"Our first NCAA tournament game (in 2009), we beat Tennessee-Chattanooga by 63. He's in the hospital, I go see him after the game and he's still pretty sick, I figure I'm gonna be coaching the next game. The next day at 9 a.m., Jim calls me all excited, 'I'm getting out, I'm getting out.' I don't say a word. He tells the story that I wasn't too excited about him getting out of the hospital."

"It was a big thing to me that he had enough faith in me to allow me to coach, and players responded, I hope. It was always Jim’s team. I tried to do what Jim would have done, in my own personality. I didn’t try to change things. I did wind up coaching a lot of games.”

So what's next? Blaney said he and his wife, Maryellen, will live in their house on Cape Cod that they've had for many years, and he'll "take it day-to-day."

"There’s not going to be a hard part to it, because I’m not a history guy. If I do look back, it’ll be with great pleasure, and all the good things that happened to me and I put into it.”

Blaney added that, once the season starts, "I hope I’ll be around. I have too many friends here, too much invested in the team. I think they’re going to be a great team this year, I really do."

Blaney said that, if there was one best memory he could come up with about his career, it would have been stepping onto the floor for the national championship in 2004 for the first time.

"I'd been to 46 Final Fours, so to step on the floor was very special," he said. "That probably was as good a feeling as any that I've had."


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