Tag:Jim Calhoun
Posted on: April 5, 2011 8:38 pm

Will Calhoun and Stevens stay put?

Posted by Eric Angevine

It’s not often we spend time wondering if coaches who play for the national title will stick around, but this has been an unusual season that way. There are legitimate reasons why either Jim Calhoun or Brad Stevens might leave a cushy nest feathered with elite play after this season, so let’s look at the gears that are grinding in Storrs and Indianapolis.

Jim Calhoun

The thought process surrounding Calhoun possibly leaving the University of Connecticut goes something like this: he’s old and the sherriff’s after him. The man is 68, he has three national titles under his belt and he’s already in the Hall of Fame. Why continue to drive that nail? UNC head coach Roy Williams went on the Dan Patrick Show today and advised Calhoun to “go to Hilton Head and tee it up and relax and enjoy your grandchildren.” Obviously, ol’ Roy can be counted on to dispense accurate advice about golf, but his own self-interest in chasing a third title of his own might not make him the best arbiter of another coach’s future plans.

The rest of the question is: should Calhoun run before the NCAA smites him? There’s still plenty of concern around the program that things could get ugly in that regard, so doesn’t it make sense to step down rather than risk getting caught in the mess? Sure, another guy runs, but Calhoun likes to fight even when it doesn’t make sense to battle on. The cantankerous fellow famously refused to accept his slap on the wrist – a three-game suspension -- from college basketball’s governing body this fall. He fights everything all the time. It’s what makes him a great coach, but the old expression will tell you that only a fool fights in a burning house.

So, if we were to take odds on Calhoun retiring one step ahead of the law, an eminently sensible move, we’d have to guess that there isn’t a chance in Hades of such a result happening. The former stonecutter will have to be carried kicking and screaming out of the arena if he’s going to go.

Brad Stevens

Here, the assumption is that Stevens will follow the lure of big money to another job. Obviously, Butler is pretty much THE plum mid-major job at this point, but American culture is built upon upward mobility. The conventional wisdom says that nobody turns down the big bucks when they're offered. Thad Matta didn't, and he's now coaching the elite Ohio State Buckeyes. Todd Lickliter didn't, and he's... not so busy these days, since Iowa fired him after a horrific run.

That's where things get confusing for Stevens. Is it worth messing with the good thing he has? Back-to-back Final Fours? Matta can't say that. Heck, only Tom Izzo and Ben Howland have recent experience on that score, and look how hard it was for them to maintain that level even with all the money in the world at their disposal. At last accounting, Butler poured 2.8 million into basketball at the small private school, putting them 98th overall in hoops expenditures. That's right in the range of most A-10 schools, but not in the Gonzaga/Memphis stratosphere. All told, it's not a bad place to be at all, and Stevens seems like the kind of guy who measures twice and cuts once. He's not going to make a rash decision that he might regret later.

Scuttlebutt says that Stevens would certainly leave for the right opportunity, and that's just sensible. If Indiana or Purdue ever came calling, wouldn't he have to listen? But none of the jobs open today are anywhere near that no-brainer level. Again, we say this guy stays put.

Will both guys be back in the national title hunt next season? It's a tall order. But as long as they're bringing the coaching genius to a sideline near you, college hoops is going to be a fun ride again in 2011-12.

Photos: US Presswire

Posted on: April 1, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 8:08 pm

Calhoun has taught young dogs old tricks

Posted by Eric Angevine

Experience is one of the factors most often linked to a team with Final Four potential. It is the thing most obviously missing when the Connecticut Huskies take the floor.

At least, the players haven't logged much time on their odometers. Kemba Walker might seem like he's been around forever, but it's easy at times to forget that he's just a junior. With a lineup composed primarily of freshmen and sophomores, the Huskies weren't supposed to get anywhere near Houston, if we're honest about the preseason whispers.

So what gives? Credit the man on the bench, of course. Jim Calhoun is 68 years old, and he's been in the Basketball Hall of Fame since 2005. He's old enough that one of his star players, Jeremy Lamb, is the son of a player who knocked his Northeastern Huskies out of the NCAA tournament in 1984. Live long enough, and these things stop seeming like coincidences and more like the expected fruits of a full life.

Calhoun played the wise, fatherly role to the hilt in Houston, referencing the popular Fred McMurray sitcom My Three Sons (1960-1972) when asked to remark on his status as the elder statesman of the Final Four coaches.

"Shaka is the brilliant and very smart, but cool, fighter," he told the assembled media at Reliant Stadium. "Brad hasn't said the wrong word, ever. He's your middle child. Then we have our problem older child who is also brilliant and a terrific, terrific basketball coach."

Laughter rippled around the room at that. Calhoun didn't need to say the name of his Saturday opponent, John Calipari, for the room to get the joke.

Calhoun might go for the easy chuckle when he's on the dais, but there's little doubt that he came to Houston to take care of business and bring home his third NCAA championship. It took every ounce of his coaching acumen to turn Kemba Walker and a bunch of unproven freshmen and sophomores into the formidable unit that took the floor during open practice today. He'll make it sound easy, because that's what he does. When asked about facing a Kentucky team he already beat once back in November, Calhoun made it sound like a walk in the park.

"On Maui, it was house money. We weren't even supposed to make the (NCAA) tournament, let alone be near it. We just kind of played free and easy," he said. "(Now) I think the stakes of the game are entirely different. I really like that Maui trophy. It's kind of cool. But this is another one I think that's a lot more important and that we'd rather have."

Sounds innocuous, but that statement reveals a lot about how Calhoun approached this season, and why he's considered one of the greatest of all time. Reading between the lines, it seems clear that Calhoun gave his charges plenty of opportunities to mess up -- which they took full advantage of -- without getting called on the carpet too much. Perhaps he showed his kids that he expected more when the Big East season ladled out nine disappointing losses; worked night and day to teach them how to best support the rampaging ninja in the Walker jersey so they'd be ready when it really counted. Whatever he did, it's led to this point: nine straight wins with an option on two more. A program that was an object of pity for sympathetic souls and derision for enemies this summer is now 1/4th of a championship quartet.

The team has become tough and prickly just like the coach who stoked the furnaces of their success. One might say they take abrundage at any suggestion that they lack the power to survive and advance yet again. Well, 'one' might not say that, but Calhoun would. He coined the malapropism in Friday's news conference, once again in reference to Calipari in his days at UMass.

"John really was trying to claim New England," Calhoun said. "He could never say he parked the car in Harvard Yard, he didn't know what clam chowder really was. I took abrundage to it, but I take abrundage to a lot of things."

Check out your Oxford English Dictionary, and you'll find 'LOL' and 'OMG' in it, but not 'abrundage'. Not yet. If Jim Calhoun can somehow convince his Huskies to pound their way into the NCAA final on a wave of abrundage, it's sure to become the latest addition to the lexicon.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 11:25 pm

Walker's Big East legacy now cemented, iconic

Posted by Matt Norlander

NEW YORK — The championship game’s still to come, but why wait another 24 hours to state what’s true now? Kemba Walker is a Big East tournament legend. Icon. Bar-raiser. He’s approaching the title of mythical figure as the hours pass, it seems. These terms are relative to UConn fans, of course, who hold Walker as close to their heart as any player in program history.

That’s because he’s so vital to UConn continuing to play basketball late into March. To chasing a Final Four, which was a laughable notion at the start of this season. But the statistics alone prove Walker’s Big East tournament legacy — forget about his Connecticut one; that was etched months ago — secured. Most points in a Big East tournament, now that honor belongs to Walker, who’s put up 111 points in four games.

He demolished the standing record: Eric Devendorf’s 84 in 2009. Walker’s 111 is so efficient that it’s precedent-setting. His triple-ones aren’t just best in Big East history — they blow by any single-tournament scoring record in every conference’s record book. (Yeah, have to note this: Jimmer Fredette seems determined to challenge Walker, as he lit up New Mexico for 52 in BYU’s Mountain West semifinal.)

“The most valuable player in America, bar none, not even close,” Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. “Tell me the other guys who are getting 12 rebounds, six steals, assists, etc. It’s one of the great performances, certainly a player of mine, but I’ve never seen a guard dominate a game, inside and out.”

Since the five-games-in-five-days format is still a new one in the Big East tournament (and doesn't exist anywhere else), tomorrow’s numbers could be tagged with an asterisk, if you really wanted to be litigious.

Makes no difference. Walker’s lugged this team to a top-four seed, maybe better (definitely better if he and the Huskies win a Big East title), in the NCAAs and put himself amongst the names of the all-time Big East regular-season and tournament greats.

Big East basketball in Madison Square Garden in March is memorable in 2011 because of Kemba Walker. That's the basis here.

The last time a player had a run like this was Gerry McNamara, who fueled and fire and fought Syracuse to a Big East championship in 2006. He’s as revered at Syracuse as Walker will be five, 10, 15 years from now.

Friday night, in UConn’s 76-71 overtime win against Syracuse, Walker didn’t make any game-winning shots, but he did go for 33 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals and 5 assists in the Big East semifinal. And as nice as those stats look, hitting a game-winning shot against the top-seeded team (Pitt), then beating your greatest rival a night later, and in overtime, exorcising extra-session demons in the process, that’s the big stuff. Remember (how could you forget?) that this win was some redemption for Connecticut, which slogged through six overtimes two years ago, only to come up short, falling 127-117.

“I don’t want to go into another six overtimes — know that,” Walker said. “I was mad when it went into the first overtime.”

There’s been a lot of talk about how UConn playing four games in four days, and now five games in five, can be a detriment to the team. Jim Boeheim predicted Walker wouldn't slow one bit after Syracuse won against St. John's Thursday night. He was right.

Calhoun has no choice but to accept this format. And he doesn't let his team even approach the issue publicly. Play as well as they can as a team, but let Kemba get his biggest collegiate moment in his hometown. (Walker is from the Bronx.)

“No one’s bitching and moaning by the fact this is tough. We knew we needed it,” Calhoun said.

The added game is a bit overblown, anyway. The players would've been worked in weigh rooms or practice facilities anyway. And, again, Walker's got an ever-life battery in that chest. That the players can get tired, or this back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-bac
k run could have affects in the NCAA tournament ... Calhoun refuses to buy into that, though he did give up this nugget:

“He actually looked tired at the start of the game, not the end of the game, because that was winning time,” the Hall of Fame coach said about Walker.

As the game wore on, Walker grew thicker, deeper treads on his tires. Connecticut blew a six-point lead in the final minute, but this time, you couldn’t find an iota of a reason to put that on Walker. And in the extra five minutes, Walker was as vital to his team as ever, especially after Huskies forward Alex Oriakhi fouled out.

“I’d give them a day off tomorrow, but otherwise, we’d be practicing,” Calhoun said. “And they’d rather do a game. And so would I, to be honest.”

They get that game and one more chance to finish off an unpredictable, drama-filled season. Walker's so good, he makes you forget about all the trouble his coach and program have gotten into with the NCAA.

Walker’s a legend to Calhoun and his teammates because he turned his grades around and never let his head inflate.

“He never talks about the NBA. He only talks about us and his family,” Calhoun said.

Afterward, when the media horde had mostly died down and moved on to watch Louisville-Notre Dame or start filing their UConn-Syracuse stories, Walker slumped against the pale-white painted walls in the bowel of Madison Square Garden. He was eager for an ice bath and then a hotel bed. Before sauntering away, the most coveted man in Madison Square Garden cracked a joke.

“This is the most exhausting thing,” Walker said of the interview process. The horde is the one opponent he can't shake so easily. That's his own fault.

Photo: AP

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 2, 2011 5:50 pm

The Onion's latest parody takes aim at Calhoun

Posted by Matt Norlander

Jim Calhoun's often been a lightning rod for criticism, but not so much for humor, potshots or parody.

Enter the Onion Sports Dome, a weekly television program on Comedy Central that was berthed out of the snark and oft-linked online satirical newspaper, that hilarious fake news source known as The Onion. The empire of hilarity and invented news doesn't run from anything, and in a segment this week, the "Sportscenter" parody show pointed its satirical snipers at the UConn coach, stating he was using his impending death as a way of getting top recruits to the school.

It's incredibly macabre, but incredibly funny, meaning it's a typical at-bat for the kings of deadpan.

Onion SportsDome

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 23, 2011 7:01 pm

Calhoun won't coach tomorrow night's game

Posted by Matt Norlander

In an unfortunate case of coincidence and awkward timing, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun will not be at the XL Center for tomorrow night's home game against Marquette.

Calhoun will miss the Huskies' tilt against the Golden Eagles due to the death of his sister-in-law, Eileen Fucile, who died Monday. Calhoun will be tending to his family and funeral services in New Hampshire, missing his team's first game in the wake of the news that UConn got yesterday.

There is no room for cynicism in news like this, but the immediate removal from his first team's game does provide Calhoun a buffer, even if it wasn't wanted in this way. So despite the fact the coach would not have commented in the postgame press conference about his three-game suspension and all the other penalties levied against him and his program (which he very well could challenge), his absence makes for just-as-dramatic story lines and perspective in what is a very big game for Marquette.

Assistant coach George Blaney, who often stands among the media when Calhoun gives his postgame pressers, will once again step in and fill the role on the sideline. Blaney's of a similar mold to Calhoun; the players have as much respect for him as they do the man pictured in the forefront.

UConn is of course used to having Blaney instead of Calhoun on the sideline; the Hall-of-Famer, Calhoun, has missed 21 games in his career, primarily due to health reasons.

Calhoun's expected to return for the Huskies' game Sunday, on the road against Cincinnati.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 22, 2011 11:24 am

Sources: Calhoun to be cited, no postseason ban

Posted by Matt Norlander

The NCAA will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. today in which it will announce the fate it's put upon the Connecticut men's basketball program.

ESPN.com's Andy Katz has a source telling him Jim Calhoun will be cited for "failing to create an atmosphere of compliance" amid the Nate Miles controversy. That story was first broken after an investigation was done by Yahoo! Sports nearly two years ago.

Gary Parrish has confirmed Katz's initial report, which also states UConn assistant Beau Archibald will be given a two-year show-cause. What's a show-cause? It basically means Archibald cannot be hired by anyone at the NCAA level without the Committee on Infractions' say-so. (He's basically put on the shelf for two years, something some believe may happen to Bruce Pearl in some capacity eventually.) Calhoun's name will be draped over this, but it's not looking like the Huskies will get slammed by the NCAA.

UConn is not expected to be dealt any sort of postseason ban. That harsh punishment could've been avoided due to the fact the Huskies cutting themsleves via two years worth a probation and docking a scholarship for this season and next.

On the surface, and before everything goes public on behalf of the NCAA, this looks like UConn's going to get out of this mess without too many gashes; a multitude of scrapes is more like it.

Check back in with us just after 3 p.m., when we'll be updating the blog with news and commentary.

Photo: Getty Images
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 16, 2011 11:06 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 1:22 am

Walker returns to form, exhibits his best power

Posted by Matt Norlander

HARTFORD, Conn. — If Jim Calhoun can barely contain himself at the podium in the post-game press conference, then something really special just went down.

Kemba Walker’s about the only person in any arena who can make the UConn coach ramble on and on and on to the media. After a loss to Syracuse two weeks ago, Calhoun refused to talk about Walker’s play because it was so bad; the UConn junior scored season-low eight points in the Feb. 2 66-58 home loss to the Orange.

But Wednesday night? Calhoun was so chat-happy he only had time to allow three questions from reporters. The UConn coach of 25 years couldn’t move his mouth fast enough when talking about how big his team’s 78-70 home win over No. 9 Georgetown was and how fun Walker was to watch.

“He’s leading a lot of young people to some awfully good places,” Calhoun said of Walker. “At one point in the middle of the second half when we finally took the lead, he just wanted to beat everybody. You could see it. I’ve never been able to see a guy do those kinds of things. And those are the kind of magical things that he’s done throughout the entire year. … It was a pleasure to watch him compete like that.”

We shouldn’t — and won’t — talk turning points with UConn because its situation doesn’t call for that kind of praise; after all, this is a 20-6 team that’s assured itself of a 5-seed at worst after ending Georgetown’s eight-game winning streak. Calhoun clearly considered this win his team's most important since the Maui Invitational in November.

Walker’s play, however, does enable us to discuss turning points for him. Man, oh, man what a show. A massive uptick/a return to form was due for No. 15, who put on his first impressive, efficient performance since Jan. 15 against DePaul — and does that really even count? — wherein he scored 31 points, the same tally he had against the Hoyas.

Walker’s night was highlighted by a play that will go famously be remembered as one of the best of his college career. An intentional bank pass/shot from the foul line to himself, which he caught, then put through the hoop with an off-balance bunny shot. If you haven’t seen the highlight by now, just zip to the video at the bottom of this column.

“It was the only play I could make,” Walker said of the Kobe-like maneuver. “I had Henry Sims on me. I stepped back, picked my dribble up, I didn’t have anything. It was just me and the rim and the backboard.”

Walker was believed to be a distant third, perhaps even fourth, behind newcomer Nolan Smith of Duke, in the national Player of the Year race. But Walker won’t ever truly be out of the running, not when he’s dazzling up scoreboards and dropping thousands of jaws — like he did tonight. His play at the XL Center put to bed all doubts of who should be the Big East Player of the Year, at a minimum.

When asked to explain his play against a top-10 team, Walker said, “I just took whatever the defense gave me.”

Pretty sure Walker took everything, period.

“He basically put us on his back, led us to victory and scored every way possible,” teammate Alex Oriakhi said.

On the flip side, Georgetown coach John Thompson III was dour as could be after the loss. He credited some of Walker’s play, but was matter-of-fact in summing up why his team — which was in the game until the final minute — fell to 20-6 and 9-5 in the Big East.

“Our defense was horrible today,” Thompson said.

Funny how Walker can make coaches say that. The Hoyas lost for the first time in more than a month (Jan. 12 at Pittsburgh).   Thompson’s point guard, Chris Wright, explained why Walker did what he did and does what he does.

“He stretches the ball screens out very well, and it forces the bigs to keep stretching, so it’s hard for the guards to get back in front,” Wright said. “So then he plays around the screen and it’s to his advantage. … Once he got in the lane, he pretty much was doing whatever he wanted.”

For all Walker did, and for as incredible as he was to watch, how about the carousel of Robins that have emerged to Walker’s Batman? This is a definite pattern. At the beginning of the year it was Oriakhi who was playing a strong complementary role. Then freshman Shabazz Napier showed promise and helped UConn get out to a 10-0 start. For a portion of January, Jeremy Lamb became the No. 2 guy for the Huskies.

Now: Hello, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel.

Walker is not the only reason UConn is where it is. This rotating posse of supporting players is keeping the Huskies unpredictable for opponents and steady in week-to-week chunks. McDaniel’s come a long way from the disappointing player he and fans considered him to be last season.

“I learned a lot from last year,” Coombs-McDaniel said. “Like, when you sulk and stuff and don’t get playing time, and you do nothing about it, you’re not going to get any better.”

On the topic of giving Coombs-McDaniel more minutes after he put up a career-high 25 points in Sunday’s 75-57 win over Providence, Calhoun said, “That seemed to be a good idea.”

“Where Jamal reminds me of Rashad Anderson is that they never met a shot they didn’t like,” Calhoun said. “And if they miss a shot, they’re going to take the next one. … I couldn’t be happier for Jamal.”

With a stabilized role, McDaniels was able and ready to be the latest beta to Walker’s alpha.

“I’m trying to be that glue guy, that hustle guy, for the team,” Coombs-McDaniel said. “[Earlier in the year] I was working from outside-in, especially when I was starting. I’m not the type of shooter to just come in and start knocking down 3s. I have to have a feel. I’m mature enough know that, and now that’s what I’ve been working on.”

But for the 19th time at UConn, Calhoun is a 20-game winner. Kemba’s the reason why.

“I think tonight is just a giant win for us in a hundred different ways,” Calhoun said. “It really was. I mean, they’re (Georgetown) really good. Here at home, to get a win like that, and have the crowd so much involved. … It’s an awful lot of fun. It really is, with these guys.”

Jim Calhoun is having fun and enjoying a season with a team that’s certainly got its share of flaws. That is the power of Kemba Walker who's still every bit as electrifying as any other college player in the country.


Posted on: December 27, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2010 4:04 pm

Game of the night: UConn at Pitt

Posted by Matt Jones

So it begins.  The stench of their putrid pre-conference basketball schedules is dissipating and the start of the daily grind of life for Big East teams is about to begin. Big Monday kicks off tonight with the special triumverate of Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery and Pittsburgh underachievement, as it is Jim Calhoun and the UCONN Huskies coming into the Steel City for the official kickoff of Big East play. 

This has been an especially sweet non-conference season for Jim Calhoun , as he has brushed off the whispers of critics who suggested that the glory days of Husky basketball have passed, and watched his UCONN team begin the season 10-0. Calhoun went to Maui over Thanksgiving with low expectations and a perpetual scowl on his face, and came back as Tournament champion, with victories over then-Top Ten Michigan State and Kentucky in the process.  He has watched as his star guard Kemba Walker has become a National Player of the Year contender, averaging 26.5 points a game and creating a set of highlights that has been unmatched on the national level.  For the first time in recent memory, Kemba Walker and his Maynard G. Krebs goatee have located arguably the coolest basketball player in the country in the decidedly uncool locale of Storrs, Connecticut.  And in the process, Jim Calhoun has become relevant nationally once again, and made his decision to "not give back one dollar" of his salary seem reasonable.

Meanwhile, our friends in Pittsburgh have followed a similar path to recent years under Jamie Dixon . They came into the year with high expectations and a mediocre early schedule, thus giving the Panthers a Top Ten ranking and the buzz associated with a 12-1 ranking.  Their early victory over Texas looks better and better as the season continues, but the beatdown at home at the hands of Tennessee gives Pitt skeptics (of which I am usually one) much-needed ammunition. Pitt once again has had success with balanced scoring, and hard-nosed defense, but this year has also added tremendous passing, averaging 20 assists a game and producing some of the best ball movement that Panther fans have seen in a number of years.  They come into tonight's game with UCONN still a bit of an unknown factor, looking the part of a Big East Championship contender, but with a number of questions that still must be answered.

Tonight at 8:30 we kickoff the official start of "games that matter" in college basketball and the winner of this game gets an early leg up in the Big East and potentially takes the mantle of favorite going into conference play. Outside of NASCAR, rarely does a sport begin its season with its most important event, but when the final tally in the Big East is taken, this initial game could go a long way in crowing the conference champion. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, it will be the first game that the CBS College Basketball Blog follows in-depth, a fact that has to make the Pitt and UCONN players even more amped up for the game.  At the end of the night, we will know which of these teams are contenders and which are pretenders, all the while being mesmerized by Bill Raftery's voice and Jay Bilas's fascinating hairline. I hope you are as excited as I know I am.


Crown the early Big East Favorite
2.  Does Kemba Walker Reclaim his spot as leader for National Player of the Year
3.  Determine the Status of the Jim Calhoun Smirk (continuing or wiped off for a night)
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com