Former players show support for Calhoun, UConn

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was in his element Saturday,

watching dunks and no-look passes while hearing the roar of

approval from the crowd.

After an offseason filled with allegations of NCAA violations

and reports of low academic performance rankings, the Hall of Fame

coach got a chance to showcase some of his program’s greatest

successes at his biennial charity basketball game.

”It’s my 25th year at UConn and I couldn’t be prouder of the

family that we’ve created,” Calhoun said. ”We’ve made mistakes,

but it remains a program that shows that it’s got family, it’s got

heart and it’s got a lot of accomplishment, too.”

About 30 former UConn players, including NBA stars such as Ray

Allen, Caron Butler, Rudy Gay and Emeka Okafor, showed up Saturday

to support Calhoun and raise money for the Jim and Pat Calhoun

Cardiology Center at UConn’s medical center.

The alumni game, played before about 6,000 fans who paid more

than $20 a seat to watch, comes about two weeks before UConn is due

to respond to allegations that Calhoun’s program committed major

NCAA violations.

”Everything can go through down times,” Allen said. ”But the

people who believe in the organization, the people who believe in

Coach and believe in the players that he brings in there, will

stick by his side and the university’s side no matter what

happens.”

The NCAA and the school have been investigating Calhoun’s

program since shortly after a report by Yahoo! Sports in March 2009

that former team manager Josh Nochimson helped guide player Nate

Miles to Connecticut, giving him lodging, transportation, meals and

representation.

In May, the NCAA outlined eight major violations, from making

numerous improper calls and texts, to giving improper benefits and

improperly distributing free tickets to high school coaches and

others. Calhoun is cited for failing to promote an atmosphere of

compliance.

UConn is preparing a response and is expected to release its own

report by Aug. 20. If the school confirms the allegations, it is

obligated to impose its own sanctions.

”I can tell you of all nights, that’s probably the far last

thing away on my mind,” Calhoun said.

But it was on the mind of some players, who said part of the

reason they showed up was to let people know of the positive impact

Calhoun has had on them and other UConn players.

”I’ll just sum it up like this,” Butler said. ”He’s the

closest thing to a father that I’ve ever had.”

Khalid El-Amin, who has spent much of his pro career in Europe

since leading the Huskies to their first NCAA title in 1999, said

Calhoun has always been there for him, and he’s just returning the

favor.

”I’m going to be the first one to say that UConn is the best

program,” El-Amin said. ”Everyone is going to run into a few

bumps in the road, but I’m sure they will recover in the matter of

a year or two.”