‘Shock The World’ … Peter Burns’ New Book On UConn Basketball Coming in October

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

Peter Burns, a New Haven native, Ansonia High and UConn grad, has written a book, “Shock The World,” a history of UConn men’s basketball under Jim Calhoun. As the Calhoun era ends, Burns’ book will be coming out on Oct. 9, and he will be appearing at book signings throughout the state in October and November. I hope to have Peter join us on a live chat during the season.

Burns, who teaches political science at Loyola University, says he began writing the book in 2005, to “take his mind off ” the tragedy of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans. I asked Peter for some of this thoughts and some highlights from his new book:

  1. What is the most surprising thing you discovered in writing the book?

 

 Peter Burns:  Several things come to mind when I think about things that surprised me as I wrote the book.

The former players love Calhoun.  Not one of them came close to saying anything negative about Calhoun.  In 2006, Tate George told   me,  “A lot of us didn t have our fathers in the household, so you go   from having your mother raise you to having a man screaming in your   face; it doesn t go over very well when you re the man of your household.”

 George had a lost feeling  when Calhoun remained silent.  He wished that his coach would shut up, but when Calhoun went quiet, George didn’t know what to do.  “In a game at Boston University in 1986, Calhoun said nothing and decided to let us run ragged,” George said.

The point guard realized how much he needed his coach as a result of this tactic.

When a father figure doesn’t reprimand you, George said of the silent treatment,  you don’t know whether you are doing right or wrong. Despite the screaming, former players like Tate regard Calhoun as a father.

Donyell Marshall regarded Calhoun as a father figure “I probably didn’t have growing up.”

Throughout the Calhoun Era, players echoed Marshall’s sentiment about the role that  the UConn coach played in their lives.  Chris Smith said, “Calhoun is a hard person to play for and anybody would tell you that; but as far as off the court, I’ve always looked at the program and Coach as family. If you stayed with he program you can call on Coach and he is there for you.”

 … Calhoun invited Rod Sellers into his office and talked about time-management, homework, smart decisions with women, and accountability. Sellers’ father died when he was 12, so the first time he heard these kinds of things from a man, they came out of Calhoun s mouth.  he same held true for other players, including Lyman DePriest, whose father died when he was young.

Caron Butler regards Calhoun as “the closest thing to a father I ever had.” He doesn’t have a relationship with his biological father.  Of all his former players, Calhoun maintains the closest contact with Butler. The two speak regularly on the phone.  Sometimes they talk about the weather and most often Butler tells Calhoun how he s doing.  Butler calls Calhoun on Father’s Day.  

 

UConn basketball is a family. Calhoun [made] it that way.

 

… Calhoun nearly had two players die in the 2004-2005 season. He visited A.J. Price and Rashad Anderson in the hospital every day.  This was not the first time   nor the last that Calhoun would visit a  member of his basketball family in the hospital.  After he left UConn, Phil Gamble, the second best player on Calhoun’s first few teams at UConn, suffered from skin cancer, which required surgery. When Gamble awakened from his operation on Christmas day, Coach Calhoun and wife Pat were in the waiting room.

You are a UConn grad and Connecticut native. Can you express what UConn’s rise  has meant to the culture and quality of life in the state?

Peter Burns:

 ”First off, Calhoun increased the value of my UConn degree. He and his teams made UConn a brand name.  When Calhoun took over, the name UConn also meant nothing to the nation.  In a 1987 episode of Cheers, Rebecca mentioned that she attended the University of Connecticut. She didn t say she went to UConn because at that time, few outside the state knew what those letters meant. Norm said the group was such big fans of their football team, ”the Fighting Insurance Salesmen.”

In the fall of 1987, few in the United States knew that basketball was the university’s athletic specialty.  Few knew that the Husky served as the school mascot.  Nobody cared.  Twenty-five years later, UConn is an international name because of Calhoun.

 

Calhoun and his Huskies gave an identity to the state.  Unlike the Sox and Yankees, UConn is our team.  I remember going to the beach in Rhode Island in 1995 and seeing people with UConn shirts. I had never seen this before.  When I went to UConn, people were more  likely to wear Carolina or Michigan shirts than UConn basketball shirts. Calhoun’s Huskies provided the state with pride and an identity. The quality of life improved because UConn basketball, men’s and then women’s, gave people something to look forward to in the winter. Mike Gorman, who called Big East games there in the first years of Gampel, saw the Huskies games as a cultural event and the entertainment for the week for those in attendance. The crowd lifted you up with them,  Gorman concluded.  Huskies  games were the cultural events and entertainment for the whole year.

UConn fans ruled Madison Square Garden during Calhoun s time at UConn. The train ride alone to MSG from Connecticut was enough entertainment for a year. …On the train ride back to Connecticut after the 1998 Big East championship game, my friend John Erlingheuser and I hugged everyone in our car.  It was a party back to Connecticut.  Calhoun and his teams gave us a great feeling.

                                                                                         *****************

Peter Burns will be at Barnes and Noble at the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester on Oct. 20 at 1 p.m, and at B&N in Milford Oct. 20 at 4 p.m.

He will be at Barnes and Noble in Enfield, Nov. 17 at 10:30 a.m. and at B&N in West Hartford on Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. Other appearances:

Groton Public Library   November 19 at 7 p.m.

Derby Library   November 20, 2012 at 6:30 p.m..

Canton Public Library   December 15 at 1 p.m.

Howard Whittemore Memorial Library, Naugatuck, December 18 at 6:30 p.m.

Hall Memorial Library, Ellington, CT   December 19 at 6:30 p.m.

Woodbury Public Library   December 20 at 7 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “‘Shock The World’ … Peter Burns’ New Book On UConn Basketball Coming in October

  1. Sven Svenson

    ”First off, Calhoun increased the value of my UConn degree. He and his teams made UConn a brand name. When Calhoun took over, the name UConn also meant nothing to the nation. In a 1987 episode of Cheers, Rebecca mentioned that she attended the University of Connecticut. She didn t say she went to UConn because at that time, few outside the state knew what those letters meant. Norm said the group was such big fans of their football team, ”the Fighting Insurance Salesmen.”

    Sven absolutely believes Burns is right about Jim’s impact on the value of Sven’s UConn degree. Also, Sven and Mrs. Dom love the Cheers reference.

    Rebecca: How could you take advantage of a lonely, older woman like that?

    Sam: Ohhh… sweetheart… When the lights go out, everybody’s the same age! And nobody’s lonely.

  2. Publicus

    It’s refreshing to read a realistic view of what Calhoun did for UConn, the state and all of us. After reading a lot of the scurrilous versions of Calhoun printed on the net, especially Yahoo Sports, which is a toiletnbowl, it is a breath of fresh air. I also am a proud UConn alumnus.

  3. Michael K

    (sarcasm on) You mean Peter Burns didn’t consult with the writers at Yahoo.com to find out what a terrible guy Jim Calhoun is? :-)

    1. Paul Knopick

      I’m sure the Yahoo boys will let us know how evil Calhoun is when the book is published.

  4. carl DBLURNB

    Know pete burns personally.great guy,very intelligent.cant wait to read book .good luck pete

  5. Paul

    It is nice for a lot of the REAL things coach stands for and does comes out into the public eye. Its easy to pick a person’s faults but when a man gave so much to so many people he deserves a lot of credit. He has done a lot of things “off the record” for the good of people and no one gets to see that side.

  6. Elizabeth Van Ness

    Peter Burns will also be appearing at the Canton Public Library on Saturday, December 15th at 1pm. More publicity will be coming soon. The event is free and open to the public by registering at the Canton Public Library at 40 Dyer Avenue Canton, CT 06019. Our phone number is 860-693-5800.

  7. Shirlee-Ann Kober

    Peter Burns will be at the Lucy Robbins Welles Library in Newington on Monday evening, December 17 at 7:00 p.m. Copies of his book will be available for purchase and signing.

Comments are closed.