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Gathering some of the many reactions to Jim Calhoun’s retirement on the internet

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One of the most interesting aspects of a sports figure’s retirement are the reactions of fans and media alike. With Jim Calhoun ending a coaching career that’s spanned four decades, there’s no shortage of opinions in regards to a run that resulted in 873 victories and three national titles.

But what makes the reactions to Calhoun’s career so interesting are the different views provided by national writers and members of “The Horde”, the famed group of beat writers that followed the Connecticut program’s every step. Below are a sampling of the various commentaries on Calhoun’s career.

Dana O’Neil (ESPN): “Calhoun can be combative, prickly and at times downright difficult to like. He ambles on his aching hip into the locker room of retirement with his share of detractors and critics. Frankly, not everyone will be sorry to see him go. But whether you liked him or loathed him, you had to respect him.

“I personally enjoyed the crusty New Englander. He was blunt, often to his own detriment, and his news conference filibusters gave more than one stenographer carpal tunnel syndrome. But you always knew where you stood with him and you always knew where he stood. And usually he stood his ground, defiantly.”

Mike DeCourcy (Sporting News): “Calhoun always insisted 3 o’clock on winter afternoons would feel so empty if he weren’t on the court at Gampel Pavilion—not far from longtime assistant George Blaney, who was clinging to the same obsession—and sarcastically goading his players into elevating their level of play. That is what Calhoun did better than anyone, ever: Coaching ‘em up.

“The other legends recruited prospects acknowledged to be transcendent talents and turned them into champions, which surely is no mean feat. Those guys had to find players who filled the roles around Lew Alcindor and Isiah Thomas and Christian Laettner and James Worthy. They had to call the right plays, manage the egos, throw a tantrum when it seemed most prudent and build the team’s collective belief.”

Jeff Goodman (CBS Sports): “Sure, he’s a guy who has taken shots as his career wound into its twilight. There were the NCAA sanctions — which included Calhoun being suspended for a trio of league games — due to the program’s involvement with former manager-turned-agent Josh Nochimson. There was the postseason ban this season.

“But Calhoun will ultimately be remembered for taking a program that was irrelevant and turning it into a national powerhouse. There were three national titles — in 1999, 2004 and 2011. It became a factory, churning out NBA players and victories, with the one constant over the past 26 seasons being Calhoun.”

Les Carpenter (Yahoo! Sports): “Back when he first transformed UConn from Big East joke into conference contender he seemed to be a man with integrity. He might have yelled too much at his players or screamed irrationally at referees. He often had the look of a haunted madman desperate to do anything to win a game. But he was also a teacher, a leader, someone who appeared to care about his players enough to send many of them into the world with college degrees.

“Then something happened in the lust for championships. He changed. People talked about it. Newspapers launched investigations following leads about a coach and a program that maybe weren’t so clean anymore. The investigations came up dry but the rumors continued to swirl. The coach who despised the instant winners and talked of his disgust for the titles they bought, was starting to follow that very path.”

Gary Parrish (CBS Sports): “And it’s why it would be wrong to spend this space waxing poetically only about how Calhoun made college basketball relevant in New England, about how he built a program out of nothing in the middle of nowhere, about how he signed and developed Rip, Emeka, Kemba and dozens of other NBA Draft picks, the last being Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb.

“That’s some of story, and that portion of the story is really impressive. It’s why Calhoun is in the Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. But the other part of the story is about a bully who apparently didn’t demand the same type of excellence in the classroom from his players that he demanded on the court, about a stubborn man who walked away only when his body failed him yet again, about a rule-breaker who left a program on probation, banned from the NCAA tournament and without the kind of talent necessary to compete in the Big East.”

Alexander Wolff (Sports Illustrated): “But insecurity looks better when you consider the alternative, which can morph easily into complacency. And there was no room for complacency at UConn, a school with no tradition of Final Fours until Calhoun arrived in 1986. His first NCAA title team, in 1999, went 11-0 on the road that season, in what was the perfect tribute to its coach’s personality. “When I walked in his sneakers, we dreamed of the postseason and being the best in New England,” one of Calhoun’s predecessors, Dee Rowe, told me this week.

“Maybe, once, do what Holy Cross did in 1947 [when the Crusaders brought the region its first NCAA title]. Jim dared to pursue excellence. He dared to dream. What he’s done is simply miraculous, because he did it in Storrs, Connecticut, where you … don’t have restaurants or movie theaters or clothing stores, not like Lexington or Chapel Hill. No one had ever done it before, and no one will ever do it again.”

Jeff Jacobs (Hartford Courant): “Watching Calhoun break through to his first Final Four by beating Gonzaga in Phoenix in 1999 and then watching him break in tears afterward was one of the most amazing and moving days in UConn history. It was the only time I’ve ever seen Calhoun cry. It was the day UConn went big time. And it wasn’t nearly the end.

“Calhoun kept bashing away at anything in his way, opponents, cancer, reporters, athletic directors, until, by sheer force of will, the worst loser in the world bent destiny his way. He didn’t settle for one national championship. He would take UConn to two and then three titles, lift him among the pantheon of the greatest coaching names.”

Chris Elsberry (Connecticut Post): “Maybe that’s one of the reasons that Calhoun, who turned 70 in May and is the grandfather of six, decided to put down the clipboard for good. What’s the difference between three or four NCAA titles? What’s the difference between 870 and 890 wins? What’s another Big East championship on the resume? When you’ve done as much and won as much as Calhoun had won, it can only be desire that keeps you going. That desire must have finally started to fade.

“Because he could have stayed. His contract still has two seasons left to run on it. Apparently, however, in the aftermath of a disappointing first-round loss to Iowa State in the NCAA tournament; a three-game suspension by the NCAA for his actions (or lack thereof) in the Nate Miles recruiting affair; his players’ poor academics that led to a 2013 postseason ban; the transfers of Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith; the loss of Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond to the NBA draft; his absence of eight games with yet another medical issue, spinal stenosis; and, lastly, surgery on a fractured hip after a fall off his bicycle in early August, Calhoun must have felt enough was enough.”

Bob Moseley (Connecticut Post): “Maybe Calhoun thought he could reform a kid with questionable character. He lost on [Phil] Dixon but triumphed with Caron Butler, an at-risk youth from Racine, Wisc., who turned his life around. There have been many other success stories, and also some embarrassments along the way.

“But the good far outweighs the bad with Calhoun. His coaching has brought millions of dollars to UConn, elevated the school’s national profile, and lured thousands of prospective students to Storrs. He’s also been a staunch supporter of charities, including the Jim and Pat Calhoun Cardiology Research Endowment Fund. All things considered, he’s been a state treasure.”

Chip Malafronte (New Haven Register): “His legacy is firm. Complicated, perhaps, given his combative nature and recent controversies. But Calhoun is a Hall of Famer. A coaching legend. Seven Big East tournament titles, four Final Fours and three national titles. He is to UConn what John Wooden is to UCLA, Dean Smith to North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski to Duke. He leaves with the program on probation, unable to compete in this season’s NCAA tournament. It doesn’t help that the Huskies suffered major personnel losses in the offseason.”

Neill Ostrout (Journal Inquirer): “Calhoun’s three national titles put him in some elite company. Only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Adolph Rupp and Bob Knight have won as many in Division I basketball history. That’s odd to consider when one looks at the program Calhoun took over from Dom Perno in 1986. The Huskies were a regional power but rarely contended nationally.”That began to change with the surprising NIT title Calhoun and the Huskies claimed in 1988. And it shifted seismically with the 1989-90 Dream Season, a breakthrough campaign that saw the Huskies win a legendary NCAA Tournament game when Tate George hit “The Shot” and come within a Christian Laettner jump shot of making the Final Four. Although capable UConn teams fell short of the making the Final Four again in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998, the 1999 team of Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin and company “Shocked the World” with a win over Duke in the title game to give Calhoun and UConn their first national championship.”

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim (as told to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard): “I think it’s one of the great coaching jobs of all-time,’’ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said Thursday morning. “I think the biggest thing for me is when you take over at a Kentucky or Kansas or North Carolina or Duke, it’s still a hard job but you’ve got so many assets and so much tradition. If you do a great job there, it’s great. But if you take over a program like Connecticut, which was still coming out of the Yankee Conference, and do what he’s done. It’s pretty remarkable.’’

Lastly, while this isn’t a thought college basketball now has a new piece of art to consider. Kentucky had its Anthony Davis portrait made with cereal, and UConn can claim a statue of Jim Calhoun made out of Legos

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Former UConn forward Rudy Gay to play in Jim Calhoun charity game, receive Role Model award

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Rudy Gay will be among the former Connecticut players in town for Jim Calhoun’s charity game this upcoming week, but he will also be getting another honor, according to Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant.

Gay is set to receive the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s “Role Model of the Year” award for his work in the community.

Among the work he has done in the Memphis area and across the country is a Christmas toy drive for children from single-parent households, a fundraiser for the Stax Music Academy, and a literacy awareness campaign.

He starred for two seasons at Connecticut from 2004-06, averaging 13.6 points per game and 5.9 rebounds. The 6-9 native of Baltimore, Md., went on to be drafted 8th overall by the Houston Rockets, but was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, where he has spent the duration of his career to this point.

Gay competed with the United States at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, a team that won gold for the US for the first time since 1994.

Calhoun’s charity game, which Gay will take part in this year, has been an annual hit, featuring past Connecticut stars, including Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Caron Butler, and Richard Hamilton.

This year’s game will take place Saturday, August 4, at 7:30 PM.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Wisconsin picks up its second 2013 commit in shooting guard Riley Dearring

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Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan picked up his second commitment in the 2013 class on Thursday morning, as Minnetonka (MN) native Riley Dearring verbally committed to the school.

Dearring, who stands at 6-5, averaged 14.5 points per game for Minnetonka High School last season and also held offers from Illinois State and Drake.

According to the story, Illinois and Clemson were among other schools that began to sniff around after Dearring played well during the first July open period.

“His confidence is at an all-time high right now,” said Marquise Watts, who coaches Dearring on the Net Gain Sports AAU team. “I think he’s putting everything together.”

Dearring joins a very good group of players that Wisconsin has been able to convince to cross the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, which features the likes of Jon Leuer, Kammron Taylor and Jordan Taylor.

In regards to Wisconsin’s 2013 class, Dearring joins point guard Bronson Koenig and they have the potential to be the Badgers’ back court of the future.

Apparently Dearring could have held out for more offers, but with he and his family convinced that Wisconsin was the right fit they saw no need to delay the decision.

“Me and my family, we talked about it a lot,” said Dearring, whose father grew up in Racine and is a first cousin to NBA player and Racine native Caron Butler. “We felt that Wisconsin was the best fit and we just thought it’d be the best situation and the best place for me. We felt, why wait any longer?”

Wisconsin had three starters from Minnesota on last year’s team (Taylor, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz), with Bruesewitz having been coached in high school by Dearring’s current high school coach Tom Dasovich.

Photo credit: 247Sports.com

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Is Jim Calhoun more likeable if he watches American Idol?

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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.

Dallas owner Mark Cuban weighs in on NBA draft age limit debate

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The debate about the NBA draft age restriction seems to be the flavor of the week, as far as hot arguments go, and now Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has chimed in.

Whereas David Stern wants the league to add another year to the already existing “one-and-done” rule that the NBA has in place, Cuban wants to add two years, keeping players in college through their junior years.

“I just think there’s a lot more kids that get ruined coming out early or going to school trying to be developed to come out early than actually make it,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com. “For every Kobe (Bryant) or (Kevin) Garnett or Carmelo (Anthony) or LeBron (James), there’s 100 Lenny Cookes.”

Lenny Cooke, you’ll remember, had a famous duel with LeBron James in high school, before their paths went separate ways, with LeBron where he is today and Cooke never having played a minute in the NBA.

“I just think there’s every good reason to do it, which is obviously why we didn’t do it,” Cuban went on to say, sarcastically.

An interesting point to make, though, is to look at the composition of Cuban’s championship team last season and how many stand at odds with Cuban’s new idea for the draft. Remember, he believes players should stay three years after their high school class has graduated.

Tyson Chandler, the anchor in the center, came to the NBA straight out of high school. Solid contributor DeShawn Stevenson went that route as well.

Jason Kidd, the veteran point guard, played two years at California before getting drafted. Caron Butler, though injured for the stretch run of last season, played two years at Connecticut before turning pro.

Dirk Nowitzki was a few days shy of his 20th birthday when he was drafted in 1998.

Peja Stojakovic had just turned 19 when he went pro.

To be fair, Cuban made a point that players should be able to develop in the D-League or head to Europe, as Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings did, before heading to the NBA.

But, with a roster so based on players who didn’t stay for three years in college, it would seem to steer Cuban’s argument toward the business side of the game. It’s better for the NBA business to have players who have developed, weeded out in college, so owners can make better drafting decisions.

This, of course, does not take into consideration the view of the players, who some believe should have the right to play, regardless of their age, so long as an NBA team wants their services.

And the debate goes on.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_