Thursday was Jim Calhoun’s 70th birthday, and, as Dan Martin laid out for you, things haven’t exactly been great from Calhoun since he turned 69.
John Calipari is Public Enemy No. 1 when it comes to college basketball coaches, but few would argue if you put Calhoun second on that list. Not only are his methods of recruiting just as, if not more, questionable that Calipari’s, but he’s no where near the salesmen that the Kentucky head coach is. Where Calipari is charm and charisma, Calhoun comes off as a surly curmudgeon.
You haven’t cut your teeth as a college basketball writer until you’ve had Calhoun snap at you in a press conference.
That’s just who Calhoun is, and as Don Amore — the Hartford Courant’s UConn beat-writer — artfully laid out in this profile of Calhoun, there is a reason that Calhoun is such a popular figure in Connecticut. The architect of the UConn program does have his detractors, however:
He also can’t change the criticism that comes at times. There was the day a political activist got into a press conference and asked if Calhoun intended to give back any of his salary given the hard economic times. Calhoun shouted “not a dime” in a moment that still lives on YouTube. Just 13 months removed from his most recent championship, he remains a coach who rubs some the wrong way.
“The passion of the people here,” he says, “there’s always a very thin line between love and hate, depending on the day, the recruit, the kid who didn’t play as well as they thought. But the worst thing to have, when I came here, was apathy. I would rather have the hatred or the love, but you can’t have apathy. I don’t think anybody has ever said I lacked for passion.”
“You hear from the 5 percent — my players call them ‘the haters’ — the discontented, but I’m much more fulfilled when I go in the morning to get my papers, get my banana, get my coffee, and people say, ‘Coach, how’s your back? ‘Coach, we want you to stay.’ Those little things mean a lot. I cut stone, made candy, ribbon candy, worked at a gas station after my dad died. Those [working-class] guys appreciate the fact that maybe you say, ‘I worked hard for this and it’s mine.’ And, oh, by the way, I’ve probably raised a million dollars for charity in a given year. So don’t tell me about ‘one thin dime’ that I’m not giving back. I’ll make those choices.”
That last paragraph may be the most “Calhoun” quote that’s ever been published.
I strongly suggest any college hoops fan — especially UConn fans — read through that profile, as there are plenty of interesting nuggets in there, from Calhoun’s daily breakfast routine (a stack of papers, two coffees and a banana from his local gas station) to the nickname that Caron Butler has for him (Pops).
The most interesting, however, is tucked away into one of the final paragraphs. Calhoun, apparently, has plans to attend the finale of ‘American Idol’. According to Aaron Torres, who wrote a book on UConn’s run to the 2011 national title, Calhoun watches the show religiously.
You don’t say …
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.