Category Archives: Jim Calhoun

UConn 60, Michigan State 54: Wrapping Things Up At The Garden

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Rip Hamilton, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – What a day, what a weekend, what month.

What a ride.

I asked UConn fans via twitter if they would rather be in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Final Four. Most who answered didn’t get it, but a few did.

The point being, quite frankly, the UConn brand endures. Kevin Ollie has been promising that, and his promises have a way of being kept. The Huskies will raise a banner of some kind when they come back to Gampel, as he promised. They are back in the Final Four, waving their “Amercian” flag, as Ollie said.

Conference affiliation matters, it matters in recruiting, it matters in money. But getting t the Final Four and winning it is about who you are. The Huskies had what it took, even if the AAC didn’t impress the selection committee.

It was joyous, the nets coming down, the celebration on the floor. The crowd was phenomenal. Players were wearing bits of the nets they cut down tied to their hats as reporters entered the locker room. The former Huskies were sharing in it.

Unforgettable day.

Here’s some Kevin Ollie at the podium:

   “It was just a great game plan.  Our players, our student?athletes executed the game plan perfectly.  My coaching staff came up with a great design out there and the defense was amazing.  It was great to get off to a great start, and we wanted to fight.  We wanted to throw the first punch and I think we did that.  At the end of the first half we had a lull, and then in the second half we turned it on.

                “It started with ball pressure with Ryan Boatright picking up, then everybody denying Harris, because Harris got off on us the second half.  And we started having our attention there.  Shabazz did a great job, and then our bigs did an exceptional job.  Phil Nolan came in and give us huge minutes.  DeAndre was on the string and then didn’t let Dawson go off any.

                “It was just an amazing feeling to do it in Madison Square Garden, and for the NCAA not to be here for 50 years and then we come out and we win it, it just puts a great bow on this gift.  And we’re going to unwrap it again and we’re going down to Texas.

“We’re going to see where it takes us.  We play a great Florida team and we’re going to be well prepared, because I know about these guys’ heart, and that’s what got us through, it was a heart of a champion, heart of a lion and I love these guys.

“You can’t take it for granted.  I thank Coach [Jim Calhoun] for giving me this opportunity.  I knew what I had, though.  I had faith in my players, I had a great coaching staff, two of my coaches coached me and got head coach experience, and my belief in God.  I knew God was going to give me a way out of no way.  And I thank Him for this opportunity.  I thank Coach for always being there.  I thank my AD and my president, that gave me an opportunity and signed me for that one?year deal and then extended me during the season and their faith in me.

                “I just want to make these kids better people.  If we can do that and win a National Championship on the way, that’s good.

“We got a lot of great fans out there and we got a lot of great student?athletes that came through UConn.  You can see everybody come back Andre Drummond, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Richard Hamilton, even players that you don’t even know in the NBA.  It’s a big family.  And that’s what Coach created and I’m glad he passed me the baton, and I’m just trying to run on it and try to still create that environment, because it’s all about family with UConn.

“[The Huskies] did a wonderful job.  Yes, Big?10 is known for that, but American Conference is known for it, too.  And we got our American flag waving out our window going down to Texas.  And we’re going to keep it up high, and we’re going to keep playing the right basketball.

                “We’re physical, too.  Don’t get it mixed up.  We are predators out there.  And we’re going to go in and we’re going to do a great job.  We’re going to not only use our physicality with our muscle, we’re going to use our physicality with our mind.  I think that’s what we did tonight.  When they were physical, we played the right type of game.  We made hard cuts, we were going downhill, we shared the basketball.  And then when we get up to the free?throw line, that’s our toughness.

                “It doesn’t have to be a wrestling match.  We use our toughness mentally.  I think we put on the board ‘concentration and mental toughness’, and that’s what we had today.  Because concentration, if you go 18?for?18 in the second half, you got to be mentally tough.  And that’s what we have been doing if you’ve been watching us.  And we get up to that free?throw line, we knock them down.

 

“Madison Square Garden is a great place.  I don’t care if you ?? now from here whenever I walked in here in the NBA.

 “It’s always in the back of your mind and thinking about certain things, is this the right job?  Should I stay in the NBA?  You have those thoughts going on in your mind.  But at the end of the day I wanted to be close to my family and I wanted to come back to my second family, which is my UConn family.  And just to be around Coach all the time and him believing in me, even before this coaching thing, even as a 17 year old and believing in me that I could be a point guard.  And passing up on a lot of guards to have me come way from Los Angeles to Connecticut is like unbelievable.  And he always believed in me from day one.  And I thank him to death for it.  And that’s what I told him in his ear.  ‘Thank you for believing in me.’

                “And you know what, I can do this job, but I need a lot of help.  It’s not just a one?man show.  That’s why I got a great coaching staff, that’s why I got great players, and that’s why I want to just keep forging on and keep building.  Don’t lay on your success.  Keep building on your success.  I think we’re doing that and we are going to enjoy a trip to Texas again.

“That was just a great experience.  It’s a great time when you can get on that ladder, but I was really taking my time.  One step at a time.  And that’s what you got to do to get up top of the ladder.  You can’t skip no steps.  And the last two years we didn’t skip no steps.  We took one step at a time.  I he keep telling you that and that’s what it’s all about.

                “Guys believe.  They didn’t get out of their roles and they believe in each other, and we call it something called Level Five and that’s a championship mentality, and if we can have Level Five all the time, and not only on the basketball court, in the classroom, too, we’re going to be fine.

                That’s what we try to strive for each and every day to have that Level Five and play for one another and play this game the right way.  The right way is believing in what’s on your chest, on your chest and not what’s on your back.  We don’t play for what’s on the back of our jersey, we play for what’s on the front.  And it’s a great, great school that’s on the front.”

 

*****

Shabazz Napier was the Most Outstanding Player of the Regional. He averaged 23.3 points per game in Buffalo and Manhattan. DeAndre Daniels was also on the all-Regional team, along with Adeian Payne, Gary Harris and Duston Hogue.

Napier has now played in 141 games, a UConn record. He scored 1,925 to pass Ray Allen on UConn’s scoring list.

****

I messed up on Twitter. I thought Tom Izzo said he called timeout to give UConn fans a chance to enjoy the moment. He said he DIDN’T call timeout for that reason, but to convey something to his younger players. Want to set that straight. Here is his quote.

 “ Sometimes you got to pay the price of the process and sometimes ?? the reason I called timeout with six seconds left, it wasn’t so that the UCONN fans could really enjoy it a little longer.  I just told our underclassmen and that, that I didn’t think ?? we had a couple stretches where we didn’t bring it, but we did and I don’t want to ?? don’t trademark the line, but out?of?body experiences, a couple times I came out of the huddle and I was shaking my head, like I haven’t seen this before. Sometimes that happens with pressure.  Sometimes it happens with fatigue, and I just wanted our team to capture the moment and learn from it, so next year we can be better at what we do.”

 

****

All kinds of stuff from Paul Doyle, Jeff Jacobs, Rich Messina, Brad Horrigan and myself going up on our site throughout the night. Rich Coppola will have lots on FoxCT tonight, do check all that out.

… Well, I’ve done eight Super Bowls and 10 World Series for The Courant, never a Final Four. Glad to be adding that to my career. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some travel arrangements to make!

UConn vs. Michigan State: Setting The Scene at The Garden

by Categorized: Andre Drummond, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – The Huskies and Spartans are on the floor, the start of the NCAA East Regional final is about 25 minutes away.

Let’s set the scene at Madison Square Garden. Anna Negron has just belted out the anthem, impressively one might add.

Kevin Ollie’s featuring a light gray suit today.

UConn’s staying with the lineup it has been using – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Phil Nolan and Niels Giffey.

You know Lasan Kromah and Amida Brimah will be off the bench early, Terrence Samuel will get in  there for a spark. One wonders if Tyler Olander, who has played only three minutes in the tournament, gets some action today against this big Spartan line. He played well against MSU in Germany.

Michigan State starts Adreian Payne, Brandon Dawson, Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel  Valentine, no surprises.

Your refs: Mike Roberts, Tom Eades, John Higgins.

Andre Drummond is in the house, watching his former teammates. Imagine if he were on this team as a junior? Anyway, he was down behind the UConn bench chatting with Jim Calhoun.

Classic matchup today, not much to be said that isn’t already up on our website. UConn has the better backcourt, Michigan State the stronger front court. Let it fly.

UConn Vs. Michigan State: Taking The Train, ‘Not Backing Down,’ Notes, Quotes and Thoughts From The Garden

by Categorized: Alex Oriakhi, Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Roscoe Smith, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – First, how to get there. Metro North will again provide a special train, added to its regular schedule of trains running between New Haven and NYC’s Grand Central Terminal on Sunday morning.

Here are the details from  the Governor’s Office:

Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that MTA Metro-North Railroad will run a special, extra New Haven Line train on Sunday, March 30, to accommodate the UConn men’s basketball fans expected to travel to New York City for the NCAA tournament game at Madison Square Garden (MSG).

 

“With another great win last night, I have no doubt that thousands of Husky fans will be heading down to the Garden on Sunday to show their support,” said Governor Malloy.  “Another win, and our next stop will be the Final Four.”

 

The special train – the “Huskies Fan Express” – will depart from New Haven’s Union Station at 10:40 a.m., and will make just three intermediate stops before arriving at Grand Central Terminal at 12:23 p.m. The train will stop at West Haven at 10:45 a.m., Bridgeport at 11:03 a.m., and Harlem-125th Street at 12:10 p.m.

 

For the return trip, the train will be ready and waiting at Grand Central to depart as needed based on what time the game ends and fans arrive at Grand Central.

 

UConn games at the Garden have historically drawn big crowds from the Bridgeport and New Haven areas, and many of the fans take Metro-North to the games. Fans are urged to buy round trip tickets at their boarding station.

 

******

The Huskies have a different destination in mind: Arlington, Texas, home AT&T Stadium, also known as Jerry World, for the Cowboys owner who built it. UConn toured it during their disastrous Houston-Dallas trip at the start of 2014, a reminder of where Kevin Ollie wanted them to go. “It seemed far away then,” Niels Giffey said.

Now UConn is one game away.

But the road is blocked by Michigan State, and that’s formidable. The Spartans have size and experience inside, and the tandem of Adriaen Payne and Brandon Dawson could be too much to handle. We’ll see. UConn’s guards are more experienced, which gives them an advantage.

Whether UConn’s backcourt or MSU’s front court takes control, the game will be about defense. Both teams hold opponents under 40 percent. UConn’s defense broke down in the second half against ISU, something that can’t happen Sunday if the Huskies are to have any chance.

Lot of talk at the podium about Tom Izzo replacing a legend, or program-builder in Jud Heathcote and how Kevin Ollie is doing the same. It’s not easy, more often than not it proves impossible, but both these guys have done it. They were around earlier and players and/or assistants and had the support of their predecessor, but, mainly, both are very comfortable in their own skin and that’s probably the key to stepping into a high-pressure situation like this.

This is the topic of my main advance for the game. Paul Doyle is writing about Payne, Jeff Jacobs about the slap-gone-viral. Lots of stuff in the UConn notebook. Just a ton UConn content on our main web pages, going up this evening, including John Altavilla reporting from Nebraska with the UConn women.

Let’s change it up, and give you some Shabazz Napier stream of consciousness at the podium:

“Like I’ve always said, I felt like I owed this university a lot.  I felt like after my first year we won, and the sophomore year I didn’t play up to my capabilities.  I felt like I owed the Continue reading

UConn 81, Iowa State 76: Wrapping Things Up At The Garden

by Categorized: Daniel Hamilton, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – Well, here the Huskies are. On Jan. 2, when the Huskies were in Dallas and Kevin Ollie took them out to Arlington to tour the site of the Final Four, what did you think? On March 5, when he grabbed the mic at Gampel Pavilion and said he planned to come back in April and raise a banner, what did you think?

Kevin Ollie is no Don Quixote, it turns out. He knew what he was doing, talking about. His belief in his players, even as he was chiding them after tough losses, is paying off in a big way  now, isn’t it?

One win away. The Huskies will play Virginia or Michigan State for the chance to go back to Arlington, for real, on Sunday. Wow. What a ride it is becoming;  the Huskies appear to have caught lightning in a bottle. Can’t put anything past them now. Here’s the game story for the Saturday Courant.

Here’s Kevin Ollie at the podium:

“First I just want to thank all the fans that came out and supported us.  We can really hear them cheering for us, but then we could also feed off them.  We can also draw off their energy.  They just did a wonderful job.  My student?athletes played together, they played hard, and at the end of the game we played 40 full to get this win.  And only thing we’re looking forward to is a Sunday matchup, whoever that might be, and we have to stay together and play another 40 full [minutes] and get the win.”

Coach [Calhoun] just said ‘Congratulations’, and I love Coach and I love him being around.  He’s always a sounding board for me.  If I ever have a question he’s always there to answer it.  He’s like a second father to me.  He really gave me an opportunity to take over this program, and he’s built this program on pride and tradition.  And I just want to continue to keep the torch alive.

                And he’s passed me the baton, and I’m just trying to run with it the best way I know how, and the best way I do know how is to keep our team together, keep us Continue reading

UConn-Iowa State At Madison Square Garden: The Talking Is Done, It’s Time For The Main Event

by Categorized: Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – It’s chilly outside and, for some reason, shivery inside here in the basement of Madison Square Garden, but there will be plenty of heat and electricity in the building 24 hours from now.

The Huskies and Cyclones wrapped up their day of practice and press conferences. All that’s left is a good night’s sleep, and the game at 7:27 p.m. on Friday. UConn tries to avenge its loss to ISU two years ago in Jim Calhoun’s last game.

Spent some time with the TBS broadcast crew when I got to the Garden, here’s a post on that.

The Huskies, who practiced elsewhere earlier, just did a shoot around for the public at the Garden at noon. Ollie was exhorting “game speed, game speed.” UConn will need to be up to speed; Iowa State plays fast, likes to score within 10 seconds. Transition defense will be a key for the Huskies.

Both coaches are relatively young, 41, and spent 13-14 years in the NBA, so it’s inevitable that some pro style is intertwined in their approaches. That’s the focus of the main advance for the Friday Courant. Bill Raftery thinks all four coaches in this regional could coach in the NBA, if they aspired to.

Shabazz Napier was asked if he watched the NCAA Tournanent last year. “To be honest, I didn’t watch one game. I was more into River Monsters. … I love to fish.” (Who knew?)

Another one of those one-on-one duels Napier hates to talk about, this time with DeAndre Kane, is the subject of the UConn notebook for tomorrow. We also have our capsule look at the matchup, photos from Brad Horrigan, video. Jeff Jacobs is writing about the ticket frenzy, the importance of playing at Garden and all of that. Paul Doyle is writing on UConn’s history of great point guards. … There’s an avalanche of content going up on our main website as the night progresses.

Got a nice e-mail from Maureen Bialosuknia, whose husband, UConn legend Wes “The Continue reading

Kevin Ollie On WFAN: UConn Has Come ‘Full-Circle’

by Categorized: Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
Date:

NEW YORK – The Huskies finished up practice Wednesday and headed to Manhattan.

I’m told, BTW, Shabazz Napier practiced both Tuesday and Wednesday and though his bruised right shin in a little sore, it didn’t limit him.

Meanwhile, Kevin Ollie appeared with Mike Francessa on WFAN, the full interview can be dialed up here, along with Jim Calhoun’s interview with Francessa earlier in the show. Ollie went over the state of the UConn program as the Huskies ready for Iowa State and the Sweet 16. One of Ollie’s themes: The Huskies, denied the chance to play in the Big East Tournament, earned this twist of fate that has landed them back at The Garden for something even bigger.

Ollie:

“We just stuck together. I had players that bought into system and culture we were trying to build. It’s kind of come full circle for us. We weren’t able to play in last Big East Tournament last year, now they get this chance and these kids deserve everything.

“The sanctions kept us out last year, from playing in the last Big East Tournament we were going to be able to participate in. It was tough. When you keep fighting in those dark days, this is what happens. I’m so proud of these guys for not giving up during the dark times. Now, look at the possibilities. We have a chance to go to Madison Square Garden and play a great Iowa State team and maybe get a chance to play for the Final Four in our back yard.”

 Lots of content coming on courant.com, including my story on UConn’s history at The Garden, and Paul Doyle’s look at the highlights of that history, a photo gallery, some cool footage of the UConn-Manhattan NCAA game in 1956, and my chats with Jim Calhoun and Oscar Robertson at MSG this morning at an NCAA press conference. The Big O had an interesting take on Shabazz Napier. All that is going up on our main site

and will be in the Thursday Courant.

Jim Calhoun to Chris Russo: ‘Not Interested’ in BC Job

by Categorized: Jim Calhoun, UConn men's basketball
Date:

Jim Calhoun appeared on Sirius XM Radio with Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo on Tuesday and revisited the Boston College/return to coaching controversy of last weekend. The full audio available here.

Just passing this on … Here is a money quote from the transcript:

Host/Chris Russo:  “How interested are you in this BC job?”

 

Jim Calhoun:  “No, I’m not interested.”

 

Russo:  “Not interested?”

 

Calhoun:  “No. … Let me give you a little background to make everybody, not everybody, but just to, not clear the air but I don’t want to get involved in anything with the tournament, with our team playing and all the other things and so on.  But what happened is that when [our] good friend Doris Burke and then Andy Katz came over and they started talking, ‘Would you ever do it?’  Yeah, I would.  I would think about coaching but it Continue reading

On To The Garden To ‘Take Care Of Business;’ Wrapping Things Up In Buffalo

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Lasan Kromah, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball
Date:

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Snowing like a son-of-a-gun as we pull out of town on the Amtrak early Sunday morning.

 It’s a good time to be getting out of Buffalo.

It’s especially a good time if you’re the Huskies, who came, saw, survived and advanced to New York.

“We call The Garden our second home,” Ryan Boatright said, “because when we go there, we take care of  business.”

The business will be difficult, no matter who UConn finds in the Sweet 16, but there will be plenty of time to talk about that. Right now, they can bask in the glow of a job well done.

The 77-65 win over Villanova was a truly impressive performance in every way. UConn’s defense kept the Wildcats tossing up three pointers, and the offense got it done. Shabazz Napier, despite the foul trouble, was 9-for-13 and scored 25 points in 25 minutes. “Napier was just awesome,” Jay Wright said.

The 16-1 run while Napier was on the bench was as impressive as anything the Huskies have done all year, and the rebounding and ball-hawking were outstanding, after a tentative first few minutes.

Villanova, on the other side, really turned out to be a paper tiger. If the old Big East were intact they would not have had anywhere near the 29-4 record they did, or the seed they got.  UConn outplayed them, outscored them  68-46 over the last 30 minutes or so.

Due to the lateness of the game, your newspaper has our first version of the game story, with no quotes. The final version went online about 2 a.m. – here it is.

Now, on to Kevin Ollie at the podium.

“Great game by our guys.  They showed some resiliency.  They showed toughness, and they just played with a will. When Shabazz went out, guys stepped up, and that’s what a team is all about.  Then in the second half, he scored 21 points for us. But everybody was strong.  Everybody rebounded the basketball, and we just played together.  It was a gutty win. We’re going to the Garden.  We just love to plant seeds.  We’re going to keep planting seeds there.  We’re going to keep playing together and keep caring for each other.”

“I’ve seen a lot.  I’ve seen us being great for three.  When we called great for three, it’s not enough to go two slots.  We have to go the third slot.  They was penetrating and going out and getting easy threes.  So we wanted to run them off the three?point line.
“I think when Shabazz got his foul, his second foul, we started really turning up the defense another notch with him on the bench.  It’s nothing against Shabazz, it was just we got to take this moment.  The game is right now.
I think once they took Shabazz out on this last play and he hit three and was up nine, we went on a 16?1 run.  It was just a great run by us with our leader on the bench.  But that just shows you what kind of team we’re made out of.
“Everybody talks about we’re not deep, we’re not this, we’re not that, but we’ve got heart.  Every guy that comes in on the court, they stay positive, and they stay productive.
I’m going to keep saying the same thing.  That’s what our guys do.  That’s how we’re built.  We’re UConn made.  We’re UConn made through and through.  And every day we come out there and play with that toughness and play with that heart.”

 

“[Napier’s] just tough?minded.  A lot of things he’s been through in life made him that way.  His mother Carmen is one of the toughest ladies around, and he’ll be the first to say that, how he was raised and what she had to do to keep their home together, and I think he gets that toughness from her.
“He goes out there and plays.  I told you on many occasions he does whatever we need to win.  If that’s scoring a scoop shot, that’s being my unpaid coach for 12 minutes, you know, that’s what he does.”

“We’ve been telling Terrence [Samuel] and all of our guys, you’ve got to recover quickly.  For me, I’ve got to be positive over there because they’re looking at me, and I have to have the right body language when he makes a mistake. That’s what I try to do with Terrence.  He’s going to be a great player for us.  He’s maturing right now.  Like I told him, once he stepped on the free?throw line the last game, he’s not no freshman no more.  You’re all sophomores.  This is the big stage, and they’re stepping up and playing wonderful basketball.”
“Things you don’t see.  I keep telling you.  They work hard in practice.  Kentan [Facey's] working hard.  You don’t see it, but he’s working hard.  All our guys have that passion and that want to get better.  We tell our guys, every time you step on the court, Try to do something better.
Terrence is maturing, and he’s a great competitor, but he’s also a great teammate.  He’s going to be a great basketball player for us and a great student?athlete for the University of Connecticut.”

“I just explain, we plant seeds.  We plant seeds every day in practice.  Sometimes you’re not going to see them growing the first day or first two days, but sooner or later, they’re going to grow.  That’s what they do each and every day.”
“Lasan [Kromah] has been working hard.  He does different things for us to win.  You know, against Saint Joe’s, he played tremendous defense on Galloway that last possession.  We just want our guys to be solid, just continue to play their role, be solid, and just contribute in so many different ways.”
“You don’t have to be a great player all the time, but you can always be a great teammate.  That’s what we try to strive for all our guys to be great teammates on and off the basketball court.”

“[When Shabazz went out], I just believed in my team.  I’m hurting for him because I don’t want him coming out of the game.  But like they just said, we’ve been hurting a lot, but we stayed here.  We’re hurting, but we’re still here.  That’s our motto.  We’re going to be here.  We’re going to stand up.  We’re going to say I’m present.
If Shabazz is on the bench, we’ve got to keep going forward for him, and we got to uphold each other.  I think that’s what we did.  Then Shabazz got back in.  I knew he’s a tough player.  He’s going to get back in there, and that’s what he did, and he led us to victory. “
“He was just unbelievable that second half.  You know, 21 points, crucial threes, dagger threes.  You know, it looked like he was 30 feet out and just making them with all the utmost confidence in the world.  Great game by him.
But it was a great thing, when he’s on the bench, our other players can step up and provide a great spark for us.”

“I just want to keep riding Uncle Mo.  That’s the momentum.  Wherever it takes us, it’s going to take us.
We got to stay together as a team.  We can’t get drunk off success.  We got to make sure we understand we go back to work on Monday.  Give the kids the day off and then go back to work.  We see who we’re playing, and we’ve got to prepare.  That’s what we need to do, and whatever happens is going to happen.
We’re going to write our own story.  We’re not going to let anybody write it for us.  We’re going to continue to learn and grow and appreciate this journey that we’re on.”

****

Here is Jeff Jacobs take on the game, and pics from Steve Dunn.

****

Some player quotes, from the podium and the locker room, which was fun to work at 1 a.m..

From Shabazz Napier

On his injury:   I was trying to get open for the ball, and I think it was Hilliard was playing me aggressively.  I just tried to make a move, and he kind of kicked me or kneed me in my shin area.  The pain was just excruciating.  I couldn’t really put pressure on it.
Continue reading

UConn Vs. Villanova, Kevin Ollie, Jim Calhoun, Notes and Quotes From First Niagara Center

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball, Warde Manuel
Date:

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Let’s start with the “news of the day.”

Is Jim Calhoun going to coach Boston College? I don’t believe so. Will he coach somewhere? I wouldn’t bet against that, would you?

It is hard to imagine Calhoun severing his ties with UConn, a school that named a street after him. He has the run of the place, and can do what almost anything he wants. … Almost.

Let’s face it: every great coach misses it after retirement, and many come back. Sometimes it’s a mistake, but it happens. Where do we start? Vince Lombardi came back after a year to coach the Redskins. Bill Parcells came back multiple times. Red Holzman came back. Earl Weaver, Jim Leyland. You think  there’s a chance Phil Jackson, whatever his title, will end up on the Knicks bench? This list goes on and on. Bill Snyder. Bud Wilkinson. Dick Vermeil.

As he neared 70, Joe Torre flirted with retirement each year but would always say, “I don’t want to miss out on any fun,” and he’d come back. Jim Boeheim expressed similar sentiments today, that he won’t retire until he is sure he is ready, because every coach he has talked to misses it.

The attention Larry Brown has gotten at SMU clearly intrigues Jim Calhoun, and it could also intrigue a school out there, one that needs to be put on the map. A school like that would love to have Calhoun for however long they could get him, and gladly take whoever he’d want as a designated successor.

I’m not saying this is going to happen, I’m saying don’t be shocked if it done, because this type of comeback has happened a hundred times before. When coaching is in the blood for 40 years, it never completely gets out. And Calhoun is tanned and rested.

Here is my story on it for the Saturday Courant, and Jeff Jacobs’ take on it.

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Shabazz Napier said if Calhoun does come back, he’d apply for a job as one of his assistants some day. He was joking, but Kevin Ollie was serious when he said Napier could be a coach one day. Then he said he would fight Calhoun for his services.                                        ********

Ollie was exceptionally good on the podium today – relaxed, funny, charming.Here’s more from his press session, as we shift the focus back to UConn-Villanova and the NCAA Tournament:

“[Villanova’s] a great, amazing three?point shooting team.  I think they’ve taken probably, I think, top ten in three?point attempts.  I think they’re in the top five of made three?point field goal shooting teams.
So we’re going to have our work cut out for us.  We’ve got to run them off the three?point line.  We’ve got to play Pinkston down low.  He’s a great player also.  That’s what gives them their balance, and that’s what makes them tough to guard. Jay [Wright] does a wonderful job exploiting matchups.  So we’re going to have to be able to be matched up and play our type of basketball and just play with energy and passion.  Hopefully, we can come out with the win tomorrow night.”

“I don’t care who we’re playing. We want to get to the next round.  It’s great to see Jay [Wright].  It’s great to see a foe that we’ve had so many battles against.  Villanova’s a great team.  We’re going to go out there and play.
But we’re worried about and concerned about UConn and our keys to the Continue reading

On Righting The Wrongs of 2012; Notes, Quotes From Practice In Buffalo

by Categorized: Alex Oriakhi, American Athletic Conference, Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Rip Hamilton, Roscoe Smith, RPI, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Syracuse basketball, UConn men's basketball
Date:

BUFFALO,  N.Y. – Wrapping up a long day at the arena with some notes, quotes and thoughts.

A recurring theme in the UConn locker room – and in any sport one does get a much better feel for a team by working the locker room – was the opportunity lost two years ago against Iowa State. That’s very much on players’ minds.

“We were talented,” Ryan Boatright said, “probably the most talented team in the country. But the chemistry wasn’t right. We weren’t together as a whole.”

That team had two lottery picks, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb, and two other standout big men in Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith. But the pieces just didn’t fit together.

“I wasn’t the leader my sophomore year that I should have been,” said Shabazz Napier, who was in his first season as the starting point guard.”

Boatright was in and out due to the NCAA reviews, and Jim Calhoun was in and out due to the suspension and the illness. The team faded in February and was blown out by Royce White and Iowa State in the tournament. “You lose in the first round,” Boatright said, “and then we couldn’t play last year, it sticks with you.”

That, more than the perceived slight of the No. 7 seed, will be UConn’s motivation against St. Joe’s Thursday night. Here is our main advance for the Courant.

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Here are some excerpts from UConn at the podium:

Kevin Ollie

It’s just a great opportunity for us.  People see obstacles that we went through, I see opportunities.  We did a great job.  My guys stayed loyal.  We thought we’d be an NCAA Tournament team last year, and now we just took over that same mindset on into this year.
It’s always a players’ game.  They kept this university afloat when everybody else was Continue reading