Just chatted with Jim Calhoun, who is heading to Sarasota, Fla., for Dick Vitale Gala on Friday night, at which he will be one of the honorees …
The event, in its eighth year, has raised $10 million for pediatric cancer research and the Jimmy V. Foundation. This is, as one imagines, a cause near and dear to Calhoun’s heart, as a cancer survivor.
“Jim Valvano did a lot of great things during his life,” Calhoun was saying, “win championships, help kids, change lives. But what he did when he was losing his own life, and he knew it, to set up a situation that keeps on helping people is just incredible. Something like this means a lot to me. It inspires me, not that I’m not already inspired but we can all use more inspiration, to see what more I can do to help people.”
Valvano passed away in 1993. Calhoun first met him in the early 1970s when V. was an assistant under Dee Rowe at UConn and he was recruiting one of Calhoun’s players at Dedham (Mass.) High.
“He could motivate anybody,” Calhoun said, “he could convince of anything. If he didn’t coach, he could have been an entertainer – he was that good, and that captivating.”
The always-glittering Dickie V. Gala at the Ritz Carlton is also honoring former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden and Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, and it is sold out.
Calhoun, who turned 71 on May 10, is still a whirlwind of activity. His role at UConn going forward has not yet been finalized, but he said, again, he is not walking away any time soon.
“Warde [Manuel], between hiring a hockey coach and other things, has been busy and I have been traveling all over the place,” Calhoun said, “but there is no problem at all. Things are set up well for me at the University.”
Meanwhile, one of Calhoun’s several charity events is set to go in about three weeks: his annual Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk event in Simsbury on June 8 to raise money for the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UConn Health Center.
… And, yes, Calhoun, who fractured his hip in a cycling accident last Aug. 4, will ride again.
“It won’t be the same bike,” he said. “I have a different bike, and I will be testing it out over the next couple of weeks.”
On coach Kevin Ollie, and his recent recruiting successes, Calhoun said, “We never lost momentum. We had two lottery picks [Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb] last year, and that’s important for recruiting. I think we’re going to be very good next year, and as good, if not better, the year after that.”