Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jim Calhoun: 'It's an Incredibly Emotional Thing for Me'

Some notes and quotes from a special tribute to Jim Calhoun held at Gampel Pavilion Sunday night:

*** Among those who attended were Ray Allen, Ben Gordon, Kemba Walker, Rudy Gay, Donyell Marshall, Donny Marshall, Andre Drummond, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeremy Lamb, Scott Burrell, Jeff Adrien, A.J. Price, Stanley Robinson, Kevin Ollie, Andre LaFleur, Patrick Sellers, Glen Miller, Karl Hobbs, Tom Moore, Steve Pikiell and Eric Hayward. I’m sure I missed a few – more than a few. Gov. Dannel Malloy was there, too. As were the members of this year's UConn team (including Tyler Olander), Warde Manuel, George Blaney, Dee Rowe … you get the point. A tremendous outpouring of support for Calhoun.

*** There will be busts of Calhoun and Geno Auriemma inside the new practice facility.

*** It was also announced on Sunday that Stadium Road on campus will now forever be known as Jim Calhoun Way.

*** Some of what Calhoun had to say before the program:

“It’s an incredibly emotional thing for me, personally. Telling A.J. ‘Congratulations on the birth of your daughter.’ Jeff just got his contract. A long, long time ago, I said I wanted to get into coaching to hopefully affect some people’s lives. They’ve affected mine, I know for sure. I knew it would be an emotional day, but when I see them, it just does something to me, certainly.”

“It’s an incredible bond that never gets broken. As long as they’re fair with you and you’re fair with them, and they had my back, and I had their back … people always say, ‘Coach, you’re too tough on those guys.’ It’s because I love them. I suffer when A.J. didn’t do well, Scottie, Ray, whoever it may be. I jumped out of my chair this year when Ray hit the big 3-pointer for the Miami Heat. Those things don’t change.”

(on the state of the UConn program)

“I think it’s in very good shape. I never had any questions with the guy I wanted to be the coach. I think he’s done an incredible job, and he’ll continue to do an incredible job. The kind of support we had … I was thinking last night, how special the game was – not necessarily the game, per se, but the atmosphere. We used to have basketball games like that at the Civic Center, 16,000. We need to have that, and we will have that.”

*** Ray Allen a great story that defined how the bond among UConn players is built.

“One of the things that I always think about is Eric Hayward. He comes to mind a lot when I talk about our bond that we share. We used to start practice every year in the field house. The trash can was over in the corner, and it was over in the corner for one person. They said, at some point, Eric Hayward’s gonna throw up in the trash can. I was like, ‘Somebody throws up during practice?’”

“Over the course of that year, we’d run suicides we had to be at the line in 28 seconds. Early in the year, Eric never made it. Every time he didn’t make it, we’d have to run again. Coach didn’t care, he didn’t have any sympathy for us. It got to the point where we started running over to Eric, watching him and making sure we did what we had to do to get him over that line in 28 seconds. That was a moment where I saw true growth and I understood what Coach was doing. As much as, at that moment, we didn’t particularly like Coach, it created that bond and got us together. In order for us to grow into a team and be a unit, we had to help Eric get to the point where he could beat this suicide in 28 seconds. Once we got him over that line, it was like we had a sense of accomplishment.”

*** Of course, there’s been a rift in that UConn bond recently in the case of Tate George, who’s on trial for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme that bilked clients out of millions. Among them, apparently, is Charlie Villanueva.

Asked about George, Calhoun simply stated: “I haven’t talked to Tate in five years.”

Burrell on the situation:

“It’s very sad to see it happen. You don’t know if he’s innocent, guilty until the trial … It’s sad to be in that situation. The last time I saw him, he said it wasn’t true. He sent an email to a lot of us saying it wasn’t true. So, we’ll see what happens.”

*** Sticks says he’s heading to Canada in a few weeks to play professionally for the Moncton Miracles of the National Basketball League of Canada.

Here’s Sticks talking about Calhoun as a “father figure”:

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