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Jim Calhoun, Hall of Fame UConn Head Coach

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
March 30, 2023 6:29 pm

Jim Calhoun, Hall of Fame UConn Head Coach

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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March 30, 2023 6:29 pm

Jim Calhoun joined Zach to discuss why Danny Hurley has been the perfect fit at UConn and if the Huskies should be considered a blue blood. 

Zach Gelb Show
Zach Gelb

Alrighty, welcome back in and this is that Gelb show Coast to Coast on CBS Sports Radio. UConn, the Huskies are back in the Final Four and let's head out to the guest line right now and welcome in UConn royalty, basketball royalty, as he is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

That is a man that coached UConn for many years and did win three national championships building that program and that is the legendary Jim Calhoun. Coach, great to hear your voice, appreciate the time. How are you?

I'm doing pretty good. Tomorrow morning I've been here, did the team a nice farewell yesterday and then tomorrow I'll be joining them out in Houston and it's that time of year, you know, it's a fun time of year for a lot of us. A lot of great things happening, a lot of heartache and excitement and that's hopefully what college basketball will always be.

Well, no heartache with this squad so far, Coach. UConn's just been so dominant throughout this tournament. They played exceptionally well, you know, it's funny because early in the season, you know, I told them they made it look easy and it's not easy, they're free, but they're out of the league schedule to get 14-0, they were doing great and didn't get back to the Big East or into the Big East and in the 6 out of 7 games and they were shocked. I think some of us had watched them before they were but, you know, the best thing is they didn't do anything to learn from it.

They didn't stay pat, they changed a few things, changed locations, etc. and get their way out of it and you're right right now and I know I'm biased, you know, Husky forever, but regardless, I think at this moment they're the best team in the country. Other than the changes in terms of coaching and just what they've done to kind of tinker a few things, what have you really noticed about the toughness of this team to overcome that adversity like you were talking about? Well, a couple things we have which most people don't, if you think about the field of 68, very few teams have a double setup, we have a double setup. Sanogo was a legitimate big-time scorer, 16-17 points a game, 20 points a game within the tournament and then Donovan and Kringen, the 7-foot-2 freshmen, great, well that gives us a couple things. It gives us ten fouls, it gives an inside game most people don't have, it gives us shot blocking ability and rebounding. I think that makes a great deal. Conversely, some of the things that came happen, Jordan Hawkins, who started a little bit early, is now arguably the best shooter in the country and I know that you can't say a short term, but remember in the games thus far, the four biggest games thus far, I'm sorry, tournament games thus far, he's shooting 52% of three.

I'm not much of a mathematician, that's pretty good. I just think the team has learned how to be itself, they have terrific pieces, whether it be Jackson, the great athlete who does so many things, the bench which has been sensational, the freshmen, Alex is the 68th freshman who's been terrific for us late, this has been minutes matter of fact. We just grew. Does it always happen that way?

No, if it's that easy, not that easy, but automatic plan, let's readjust, they just have the pieces and that's the thing I keep saying, if you got pieces, you always got a chance. We all know as legendary Jim Calhoun is here with us, the basketball lineage of the Hurley family and now to see what Danny's doing with the program that means so much to your coach. I just love when you have a coach on the northeast that's passionate, he goes crazy on the sidelines and then obviously wins, but from what you kind of see, why has Danny been such a perfect fit for UConn? Well, I think that when Kevin Ollie, my former player was here, won the national championship and then things didn't go well, UConn, once you get used to it, we won 17 biggest championships. That's not a brag, that's a fact and very simply, and then we won four national championships.

So when Danny came, he had to be a tough son of a gun because the bar was pretty high. First couple years didn't go quite as well as you'd like. That didn't cause him to do anything except recruit better, find more pieces to fit into the the puzzle we all have and use not only recruits, which he did wonderfully, the two freshmen are sensational this year, but also go into the portal and get some guys that would fill out lack of three-point shooting and point guard play. I just think he's done a terrific job and he's very enthusiastic, as you said. I don't know if anybody coaches him.

I don't know any, but if I knew someone, I'd let you know. But Danny does that. He's a very passionate coach who really knows what he's doing. Do you see some of yourself in him?

I wouldn't accuse anybody of being that. That's a nice thing. He's a nice person. Why would you call him Jim Gallo?

Why would you call someone Dracula? It's the same kind of thing. Once again, I say to people, I say, well, Tommy Izzo was a dear friend. He had a little bit of passion, still has passion. I think just being passionate.

Everybody has a different way to get to the mountain. In Danny's way, he's very persistent. That's what he does. He's a basketball coach.

He first got there. He complained to me about a few things as a Danny. Grow up. He said, what?

I said, grow up. You're at UConn now. If you don't win games, they're going to say bye to you.

If you win a lot of games, they'll give you a lot of money and be very happy. He listened to that and started complaining about small things. I'm just kidding a little bit, but more importantly, he took on the fact of taking the UConn job all of a sudden and is now five and into six years and made a magnificent job with it. Being a good coach and having good players is a tough combination. That's what's happening at UConn. Coach, when you win and you get a lot of money, you got to definitely tell the media not to dime back and get some facts, right?

Not a single dime back. The other thing I would like to do, I said, Danny, if you're going to talk to me, make sure you bring some facts. Those are two things I want to call these two. He's a good man. I'm more serious now. UConn is very serious, I think, for the best team there now.

But I really believe that the day, and this doesn't make him a genius, but it makes him at least smart enough. I remember 100 years ago, not quite 100, I went down and met with Dean Smith to get some inside knowledge of not a basketball team, but a program, something that's ongoing. I talked to him for a couple of days down in North Carolina. Danny has brought me into the fold to ask questions. I just think all of us need to do a life that we think we have all the answers and the best way to do it, but there's always other ways that sometimes may work better at UConn, may work better there. I give a lot of respect to Dan to understand that he asked questions and that's a real good thing. Obviously, whatever we told him, he more than applied it and had a terrific coaching year when he turned the team around to be, as I said, now the best team in the country.

That's awesome. The legendary Jim Calhoun is here with us. I want to look back at your three national championship teams.

I'll start you off with the first one in 1999. You guys only had two losses on the season. You ended up beating Duke in the title game. What do you recall about that first trip to the Final Four? Well, I had good motivations. I don't necessarily bet on games, but we were a nine and a half point underdog and our record by everybody was 33 and two.

Give you an idea. I didn't use that every minute, probably every second I did, to say they don't think you're good, but you're really good. We had a terrific team, Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin and Jake Bosco. Guys were on to play in the NBA, but we were a really, really good team. We faced a great Duke team. For our state, it was special. When we came back home, I still wear a Route 84 coming from the airport and just 15-20 miles away.

You would not believe the people lined up on the highway all the way there. They're very special. Obviously, first time is a very special time and that team was a wonderful team led by Richard. And then when you get your second title, like what did that mean to you?

Because hey, the first title, it's unbelievable, it's great, so appreciative and obviously it was an unbelievable moment, but then to go get a second one, it puts you and the program in a different category. Well, we had a great team. We had six first on draft choices. We're a team that didn't over the years have a lot of quoting McDonald's, All-Americans.

We like the Wendy's. We get kids who probably ranked 50th in the country, 100th, 125th in the mecca, Oga, 4th, Ben Gordon. That team had those six first on draft choices and five of them were lottery selections, two and three in draft that year, Ben Gordon and mecca, Oga, 4th. I would have felt really disappointed though when we got healthy near the end of the year if we hadn't won the championship, but it was a special, special time and it was a special, special team. Jim Calhoun talking about a special player and you know it better than anybody. The players are obviously the most important. When you go through that dominant run and you look back at what Kemba Walker did in 2011 with the Big East tournament and then the national title and he probably should have been the player of the year, just how do you look back at that all those years later?

Well, you couldn't have said it better. You know, as a guy now at that point getting into seven years of age and you'll be around a lot having great teams and etc, etc, but that young team because Kemba was a junior, Shabazz Napier was a freshman, Jeremy Lamb was a freshman, two guys who wanted to play a while in the NBA, Kemba was a magical, that season was magical. I still remember that Bill Clinton came to the game at Madison Square Garden semi-final to win five games, five days in the Big East and he said what made you guys special?

This is President Clinton and I said that little guy right there because he was special. Not only was he a great player, emotionally he was terrific for our kids and I'll tell you guys not many more guys are ever coached in 50 years more enjoyable than him and the run was something very special for all of us and then to take six in a row in the NCAA tournament was absolutely special. I still to this day still remember that when we looked at each other, Kemba and I and hugged after which that was one of the great trips of my life. Coach Jim Calhoun here with us for a few more moments on the Zach Gelb show on CBS Sports Radio. Coach, some of the conversation surrounding this final four drives me crazy when you hear having a four, two fives and a nine isn't good for college basketball and since I have you here, I also hear people say there's no blue blood in the final four. I would say UConn is a blue blood with what you've done. When you hear that, people go there's no blue blood in this final four.

How do you respond to it? Crazy. 17 Big East titles in 22 years. Now we didn't have very good coaches inside as cynical as I can. Let's see John Thompson, Rick Pitino, I'll go through the list. Beyheim, et cetera, Louie, Roy Massimino.

He goes for all these different guys and you say, are you crazy? Oh, by the way, we only have it thus far, five trips to the NCAA tournament since 99 and four national championships. I don't know about anybody else, but I think it hadn't been the fifth.

No one else has done that. So what is the blue blood? You have to win championships in the toughest league in the country during that time, particularly the Big East. If you win the most national championships in your era, a 25 year period, does that make you blue blood? Or is that just a crazy game given to school that might have won 25 years ago? I have nothing against 25 years ago, but I'm saying to you simply is that we've been incredibly good. Our schools have been great. I won a couple of championships, Kevin won one, and now we're ranked in the top five in the country. You can make it that. That's the blue blood.

Ray Allen, Kimba, Mecca, Daniel, you go through the list. We are certainly blue blood. I don't worry about that. I know that we've beaten enough good folks over the year, had enough championships that there's no doubt in my mind that we won. And we may be the program of the century thus far.

Wrap it up with Jim Calhoun. Didn't mean to get you worked up there, coach. You know what?

If you put a striped shirt on, that would do it. Or you take something that isn't true. I'm just making sure that if anybody wants to feel like they want to lie for whatever reason, go ahead and enjoy yourself. But once again, as you asked me earlier, I come back with some facts. 100% right.

I know how much you love this university and I know how much it means to you. I know it didn't end well with Kevin, but he won a championship. Now we're seeing what Danny is two wins away from doing. Just to see the success still be there years later with what you built. What does that personally mean to you? I'll give you, someone though I really had great respect for, Dave Cabot, who's a smart man, I imagine just an incredible guy, put the biggies. I asked him one time, how do you measure success? 17 biggies championships, national championships, first round draft, whatever the case may be. He always said to me, you measure greatness by what happens over time. And for that, here we are, 99 our first championship, 2003.

I think on the edge of another championship, to make it our fifth. I think you measure greatness by the institution blue blood where you want, by how the situation that you helped develop stands over time. Coach, before we let you run, wrap it up with Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, back in the biggies with St. John's.

How did you react to that one? He'll win, he'll get players and the biggie just became tougher because Rick and I wasn't buddies. He was at BU, I was at Northeastern. We probably deemed just like each other because our schools were a mile apart in the same league. Then he was at Providence, I was at UConn. And then he was at Louisville, I was at UConn.

So we always were fighting against each other. But anybody who doesn't tell you he's a great coach, he's a great coach. He's going to do well. He's going to get players and St. John's fans should be very happy today.

This new era of the biggies, I know there were some questions when you had some of the changes. It has just been wonderful to watch. And now you also throw in Ed Cooley leaving Providence to go to Georgetown. Those games coming up this year, Coach, are going to be must watch. I was shocked that Cooley left.

I was shocked too. And I know Ed very well. He's a good young coach. I got a chance to get to know personally well. And a few years up and out, I went down just to talk to him about coaching.

That's a good man. And one reason other people do things isn't necessarily mine to do anything except observe, never interpret. It's his life. Now, once again, my wife was getting out of coaching tonight. It's a great time for you to get out. When she saw some of the checks being printed for coach today, why'd you get out so early?

There's a lot of reasons. But I think when Ed was stating these reasons, he has very good reason in himself of why this is after 12 years be a good time to switch. I wish him best of luck. He's a good man and a heck of a coach. And last one for you, legendary coach Jim Kowloon here with us. Three national championships with the UConn Huskies. The rest of the coaches in this Final Four.

We talked about what Danny's doing. We all know how much of a legend Jim Larrinega is. He should probably be in the Hall of Fame one day. What Dutch has done building off what Steve Fisher started at San Diego State has been really special. And then what a joy it's been to watch the Owls of Florida Atlantic with Dusty May. How about these other three coaches in the Final Four? Well, I mean, Jimmy's been great. He caused one of the worst days of my coaching career when George Mason did this in the Final Eight.

I'll never forget it. He's done a terrific job. He plays his coach. He's a good man. And honestly, I'm sure it's going to be one of the highlights of his life to not just go to the Final Four, but have a chance to be maybe one of the things. The Dutch's situation, I know the whole what got started, Steve Fisher was a good friend. I know Dutch being his assistant, but I remember him at Michigan also.

He's done a terrific job. And I'll tell you what, nobody in the country plays defense like they do. And he's probably right. You know, with the movement out in the Pac-12, there's no doubt in my mind he might become one of the, quote, teams in California.

By the way, God bless you. I just think that for a young guy to take a program over in Florida that a lot of us can't. Florida International, that's not important. When I was at Northeastern, he used to call it the directional school.

So I don't worry about those kind of things. All I know, he's won 35 games. He looked well coached.

He always has done an incredible job to get where he has been, except for the UConn game, God bless him. Coach, absolutely love it. Enjoy the trip out to Houston. Good health to you and the family and really do appreciate you making some time for us today. My pleasure. Appreciate it.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-01 12:12:24 / 2023-04-01 12:20:17 / 8

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