No matter what, Calhoun goes full-speed ahead

After nearly 43 years of marriage, Pat Calhoun doesn’t even bother anymore.

Her two sons and daughter-in-law give her that look, the one that questions and prods on whether or not she will tell her stubborn husband what to do.

“They assume I’m going to control his life and tell him what he can and can’t do like a 7-year-old,” she laughs. “But I have no control over him whatsoever. I’ve given up.”

Her husband, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun, celebrated his 67th birthday in May. He could — and probably should — be spending his July sitting on a beach somewhere, playing with his six grandchildren.

Instead, he sits on chairs and in bleachers with aching ribs watching ugly AAU basketball.

A year ago, Calhoun spent the weekdays receiving radiation treatment for skin cancer and the weekends on the recruiting trail.

He was hospitalized in March for acute stress the night before UConn’s NCAA tournament opener against Chattanooga and wasn’t allowed to coach the first-round contest.

Calhoun isn’t quite 100 percent this month, either. He broke eight ribs (that was the final tally by the doctors) in a bike accident about a month ago — but still spent seven of the first 10 days around the country eyeballing recruits.

“He’s an animal,” said former UConn assistant Tom Moore, now the head coach at Quinnipiac.

“I really enjoy the game,” Calhoun said. “Plus, if we’re going to recruit these kids, I feel like you have to be out there watching them. I don’t feel like there’s any choice.”

But there are plenty of coaches — most of them healthy and many nearly half Calhoun’s age — who opt to go out a few days here and there in July instead of spending all their time in a gym basically babysitting recruits.

There have been valid excuses for Calhoun to join them. Along with his health issues, he faces an NCAA investigation into possible recruiting violations. Other coaches in his situation might call it quits.

But he’s not a quitter.

“All the other stuff wears on you,” said Calhoun, owner of 805 wins and two national titles. “You work so hard to get to where you are. When you move up the totem pole, it’s a chance for other people to take shots at you.”

In 37 years as a head coach, the last 23 at UConn, he’s proven he can absorb blows, psychological and physical. Nothing’s stopped him yet.

“How are you, as a player, going to pretend you’re hurt when he goes out there with eight broken ribs?” said former player Scott Burrell, now an assistant under Moore at Quinnipiac.

On June 13, Calhoun took a nasty spill over his handlebars when he hit a pothole going 33 miles per hour. After getting a new helmet and wheel, Calhoun finished the 50-mile charity event before collapsing due to dehydration.

He was taken to the hospital — basically against his will — by his doctor and son.

“He was beat up,” said Burrell, who was at the charity race. “He’s a tough guy, though. He bounces back quick.”

That was about three weeks prior to the ever-important July recruiting period, when coaches evaluate prospects and made their presence felt in order to help secure a commitment from players.

“The first four or five days it hurt to sneeze,” Calhoun said.

But he was out nearly every moment possible in the first 10-day period, except for a couple of days that he spent at former UConn star Rip Hamilton’s wedding.

“Sure, I’m worried about him. But something inside of him makes him tick differently. I don’t think he can even help it.”
&#151 Pat Calhoun, Jim’s wife

Wednesday begins the second 10-day period and Calhoun will start things off in Las Vegas until Friday or Saturday. Then he’ll head to Orlando before a day or so at home with his family and then it’s off to Phoenix or another destination to see more potential UConn Huskies.

He wears a vest, sleeps with pads that protect his ribs and applies medication to help numb the pain.

“Sure, I’m worried about him,” Pat Calhoun said. “But something inside of him makes him tick differently. I don’t think he can even help it. He can’t put that motor in a slower gear. Part of me is concerned and the other part is saying, “Good for you.'”

“We have to get after it,” her husband added. “To make sure UConn stays where it is.”

Calhoun got back on the bike this past weekend for an 18-mile ride — and he’ll be in the gym for the better part of the next 10 days.

“I love him, but he’s crazy,” Pat Calhoun said. “If he listened to me and stayed home, he’d be unbearable. This works out better for me.”

You won’t hear any complaints from Jim Calhoun, either.