Monday, November 18, 2013

Jim Calhoun: "I Wasn't Upset with BC. I Was Upset with Decisions Made, Behind the Scenes"

UConn faces Boston College for the first time in nearly nine years on Thursday at 7 p.m. in a 2K Sports Classic game at Madison Square Garden.

The two former Big East rivals are, of course, no longer in the Big East. BC left for the ACC in 2005, a controversial move at the time that proved to be somewhat prescient. While the Eagles' athletic teams are now largely wallowing in obscurity and neglect, the programs are, at least, flush with money.

When BC announced it was leaving 10 years ago, Jim Calhoun vowed never to play the Eagles again. His very public dissing of BC and animus toward athletic director Gene DeFilippo helped lead to a Cold War between the two schools for years. A couple of years ago, DeFilippo admitted to the Boston Globe that BC was instrumental in keeping UConn out of the ACC as conference expansion raged on.

"It was a matter of turf," DeFilippo told the Globe. "We wanted to be the New England team."

Tensions have eased in recent years. As far back as 2007, Calhoun admitted he wouldn't mind scheduling the Eagles. I asked Calhoun about the whole situation last week, and he's happy to see the two schools renew their rivalry -- and hopes to see it continue in the future.

“I wasn’t upset with BC. I was upset with decisions made, behind the scenes, which I’m not going to go in great detail about," he said. "But, in 2005, a lot of us kind of had to hold the thing together. They were a verbal, ‘Yes, we want to hold this thing together.’ But what they were saying and what was going on, not through the school itself but from the athletic department, wasn’t necessarily fact. So, from a selfish standpoint, to have a good rivalry in Boston, because I enjoy going back there every year … Rivalries are great, and BC should be a very natural rivalry, them being in the ACC and we being, certainly, at that level.”

“I’ve never been one to hold back on how I felt about things, and that’s how I felt about it. I don’t apologize for it. I mean, why would we ruin a New England rivalry?”

While Calhoun said he wasn't upset with BC, there's no doubt that he and DeFilippo, who's now retired, didn't see eye-to-eye, to put it mildly.

“No, not at all, when that started. He and I got along before that. But he and I had a disagreement over the direction they said they were going, but they weren’t going. But, that’s all in the past, it’s all in the future now. I think it’ll be a very good game for us.”

Calhoun would like to rekindle more New England rivalries, not just with BC.

“I watched UMass (at the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Boston last week), the best team of the six. I’m not telling Kevin (Ollie) who to play, but that’s not a bad rivalry for us, either. When John (Calipari) got there and they got good, we played them.”

*** On a conference call today, Kevin Ollie also talked about rekindling the BC-UConn rivalry:

"It’s a great team, right in our region. We had a lot of wars in the Big East. I remember a lot of them when played at UConn. Coach Steve Donahue is doing a great job, they’re explosive on the offensive end. (Olivier) Hanlan is one of the top point guards in country, he's doing wonderful job. They’re going to continue to play their type of basketball."

Ollie said his fondest memory of BC-UConn was a game up at Chestnut Hill lwhen "we were down 29 or 30 -- I may be exaggerating, I get that from Coach Calhoun -- and we came back. I remember that game vividly. We always had some tough battles. I love the challenge Boston College presents every game."

UConn, of course, was 8-0 vs. the Eagles when Ollie was a player, in the midst of an amazing 23 straight wins the Huskies had over BC from 1988 to 2000. UConn won 28 of the last 31 meetings and is 54-35 all-time against BC -- though the Eagles did win the last match-up on Jan. 5, 2005 in Hartford.

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