UConn’s reversal of fortune takes just one month
Heading into the postseason at the end of February, Connecticut
coach Jim Calhoun had lost his battle with the NCAA, his
sister-in-law to cancer, and four of five basketball games.
He’s had a better March.
Star guard Kemba Walker said it was tough to watch Calhoun go
through those hard times, and one of the best parts of UConn’s run
to the Final Four had been seeing a smile return to his face.
”I heard guys say he lost it, you know his coaching ability,
something like that,” Walker said. ”So, for us to be in the Final
Four, especially being a team that was picked to be 10th in the Big
East…it’s special after all this program has been through.”
On Feb. 22, Calhoun was cited by the NCAA for failing to create
an atmosphere of compliance within his program and was suspended
for the first three Big East games during the 2011-12 season.
The NCAA also hit UConn with scholarship reductions for three
academic years, recruiting restrictions, permanent disassociation
of a booster and three years probation for recruiting
Calhoun missed the next game at Marquette to attend the funeral
of his wife’s sister. The Huskies lost that game and two of the
next three to end the regular season.
Calhoun said he began to see the team getting down on itself.
So, after losing to Notre Dame 70-67 on senior night, a loss that
dropped the Huskies to the ninth seed in the Big East tournament,
Calhoun put them through one of the hardest practices of the
”It’s a young team, 21-9 wasn’t a bad ending,” he said. ”We
were going to the NCAA tournament. But damn it, we weren’t going to
put our shoulders down and we were going to play.”
He said that’s exactly what they decided to do.
”These kids were going to give it everything they had, leave it
on the Madison Square Garden floor,” he said. ”And five days
later, they actually took something from Madison Square
That would be the championship trophy. They then continued the
roll into the NCAA tournament, and haven’t looked back.
UConn guard Shabazz Napier said he thinks the team has taken on
the personality of its coach.
”We don’t let down from a fight,” he said. ”We’re willing to
battle anytime, and that’s the type of person he is.”
Calhoun has spent a lot of time since the Huskies’ win over
Arizona in the West final being introspective.
He has acknowledged making mistakes over the past two seasons.
But he also told reporters that he is content right now – of
course, the winning helps – because he feels he has been true to
himself, to his family, to God and to his players.
”Have I done everything the right way? No,” he said Tuesday.
”But I did it my way. I’m not Sinatra right now, but I have. I am
who I am, and quite frankly my skin and the person living inside
that skin is pretty comfortable with who he is.”
Calhoun, who turns 69 in May, will make a decision about whether
to return for a 40th season sometime after the Final Four. He said
speculation that a third national title would push him into
retirement is off base.
”Standing on the podium would be a bad time to make any
decision,” he said. ”And quite frankly, if things don’t go well
it would be a lousy time to make a decision.”
For now, he’s just enjoying a run with what he calls a special
”I think about my grandchildren, I think about my wife. I think
about friends who I’ve lost recently,” he said. ”I think about
the joy of being able to coach, the joy of going to a Final