Q: Hey, Dom, the camera has shown Jim Calhoun sitting next to you during the Paradise Jam games. How does he react during this games sitting next to these games as a “fan?” and not as a head coach. I’m sure you have some interesting stories.
A: Appreciate the question, Rick. Obviously, I have to answer in general terms, because Jim Calhoun is not speaking for public consumption in those instances and it would not be very fair, or ethical, to get into specifics. For the record, he sat next to me the entire Wake Forest game, and the first half against Quinnipiac. He did a radio interview at halftime Sunday night and just stayed where he was the rest of the game.
Imagine sitting next to the most knowledgeable fan you could EVER imagine. He is surprisingly calm and supportive for most of the game, and is most pleased when a UConn player who has been struggling does something positive. For instance, DeAndre Daniels made a strong move to the basket the other night, he turned to me with a big smile and nodded his head, as if to say “that’s what I’m talking about.” Sunday, when Phil Nolan made a strong move, Calhoun turned to me and said, “THAT’s good to see!” He offers a lot of insights into the players’ backgrounds and their development, and what they need to do better, etc.
For me, I love to ask him about nuances and subtleties, because I have spent most of my career covering the NFL and MLB, college basketball is still somewhat new to me. He was great talking about the New Mexico-George Mason finish on Sunday, talking about the strategy, things he might have done differently coaching either team.
The Coach has something to say about nearly every play, and will share it freely. But over the last few minutes of the Wake Forest game, his old instincts seemed to kick in and he was animated – pounding the table, yelling a couple of times, jabbing me with his elbow. And when the game was iced, he let out a big sigh of relief. I imagine it was the same, times 10, during the Quinnipiac game, but again, he wasn’t near me down the stretch.
I think The Coach is gradually transitioning. He clearly loves still being part of the scene, he feels a responsibility for being around for the players he recruited. Of course, he talks about his grand-kids a lot.
I’ve had a little fun with it on twitter, but I hope I’ve conveyed that it has been a rare treat and a great chance learn about the game and team I’m covering this season. I only wish I had the brain-space to process THAT much information in a short time, and I hope he plops down right next to me again Monday night.