For me, that competitive streak shows when I lift a colleague off of a story that he’s in the middle of typing because I can see that he is just not on his game today leaving a sub off the bench, or myself, to take over. True story.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t. All kidding aside, it’s hard not to subconsciously live life in a competitive manner reminiscent of Calhoun’s. Even if you were a competitive person before you started watching the Old Irish Bostonian coach a game, like me, you probably saw that competitiveness rise a couple of notches.
With Calhoun, 70, deciding to ride off into the sunset today after an illustrious career — 873 wins in division 1, 625 at UCONN, 4 Final Fours, 3 national championships and countless NBA professionals — that is what I’m left thinking about.
About a man who brought it every single day of practice, every game, every road trip in a recruit’s home. About a man who persevered despite multiple bouts with cancer, multiple injuries and other hardships.
My lasting image may be of a coach yelling instructions to a player on the sideline but I’ll never forget him as the man who woke up a sleepy town in eastern Connecticut, transforming it into a national power for collegiate basketball virtually out of nothing. Talk about power.
When Calhoun arrived in Storrs, CT over 26 years ago, the Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball program wasn’t much more than a rickety old arena and some funny white and orange jerseys. Now, over 26 years later, UCONN is a national power with a legacy of 20 some odd NBA professionals and the three national titles I spoke of.
Now a new dawn rises in Storrs as the program turns to one of those NBA pros who apprenticed under Calhoun, former UCONN guard Kevin Ollie, who will be tasked with furthering that legacy but also forging a new UCONN image that mirrors his own style. Anybody who has ever met Ollie and spent any amount of time around him, knows that he has every ability to not just pick up the mantle but to take it up and run with it in the way that Kemba Walker ran fast breaks.
As Calhoun embarks on a new chapter in his life, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to a coach that for all of those accomplishments at UCONN still found time to coach me.
Best of luck coach.