Today is Jim Calhoun’s 70th birthday, and he graciously sat down with me earlier this week for a lengthy interview. The finished product appears in The Courant. There was much more - the story could have been twice as long - but there is only so much space in print. The coach told his own story, magnificently and movingly, and I’d like to share some more of it here. …
“There’s a lot of sweat equity involved in the process, a lot of early-on times of saying, ‘Oh, God, what did we get into.’ … I want people to say the five best programs in the history of college basketball are North Carolina, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky and – they have a tough time saying it –Connecticut. I want that legacy very badly for UConn.”
On leaving on top:
“I guess I could have walked away in Houston [after the 2011 title], with my grandkids hugging me, and I kissed Pat, and all the great things. That was wonderful. I’m only trying to do what I think is best. If somebody came up to me and said ‘it’s time,’ that might affect me. I think I will know the exact right time for me.”
On his future role:
“Since I came here, I got it to a point where 20 wins and NCAA Tournament is a disappointing season, then I may have best vantage point going forward. I’m not going to do anything that’s going to hurt the university. As a matter of fact,I’m here to make sure it does go for the best for the future of the school.”
“[Niels Giffey] talks about the opportunity he has to graduate from college. He spend 2 ½ hours in the weight room last night. Ryan Boatright was in there with him. Is that our influence? Maybe. But we weren’t here. It’s the [player] in the mirror who has to do it. We give them a road map, we give them travel plan, they follow that plan. I’ve never made a player, except my two sons.
…Michael Bradley came in and said to me, ‘coach, I’m going to have a career and keep playing basketball, but I only have one grandmother and she has cancer.’ So I said, Michael, then you should go [to Western Kentucky].”
The passage of time:
“I’m here today, because that’s all God gives us. I’m not promising anything. People can speculate, but it’s pure speculation. I have a contract. I’ll know when the time is right. I’ll know. It’s going to be my choice, and Pat’s, and that’s the best way to do it. And when I close the deal, whether it’s short or long-term, I won’t have any regrets. I’ve never felt I that I don’t make mistakes.
… The way you keep young, I keep biking. I keep looking back to see if time is catching up with me, but that’s what a rearview mirror is for. And I keep biking like crazy up those hills to make sure it doesn’t.”
To read the full story on Jim Calhoun, click here.