NEW YORK– As Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun sat at the podium with players Ryan Boatright and Jeremy Lamb, following his team’s 81-67 win over DePaul in the first round of the Big East Tournament, questioning began about Calhoun’s recent health concerns.
“Thank God it’s no longer a nerve pain and I’m not walking with a cane anymore,” he said, seeming upbeat. Then he added a joke: “I couldn’t walk with a cane on the sidelines because the officials might have been hit.”
A hearty laugh echoed through the press room. But then, an unexpected change.
“By the way, speaking on that note, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank, generally speaking, almost everybody in the media for the way you’ve treated this,” he said with a palpable sense of sincerity.
Some reporters looked around at each other in what seemed like disbelief.
“You reported what happened, you didn’t make value judgments about it. I know people are going to talk about retirement, any other thing, because we’re talking about the sport,” he continued. “But I have great respect, and generally speaking, for the way you’ve treated me and my family…”
It was undoubtedly sincere, there’s no arguing that. He reiterated that fact at different points, as he spoke.
The real question is timing. Why now?
His team needed a win and they got it. As they try to shake the “underachieving” label, it seems these Huskies are trying to come together at the right time. Could it be an attempt to seize on the spirit?
It did, though, have the sound of a swan song. Speculation about his retirement has resurfaced since news of difficulties with his health. But doesn’t it seem this question comes up every year?
Whatever the reason, Calhoun and his Huskies move on, playing West Virginia on Wednesday at noon.
But, if I were to take a guess, it will be a while before we see a repeat of Tuesday’s press conference.