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Old 09-13-2012, 11:08 AM   #4
Thorpesaurous
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Default Re: Jim Calhoun to announce retirement

I've never been a huge fan. I know a handfull of guys who've played there, some personally before they went there, mainly Marcus Cox, but a couple others, and then I met a bunch of guys while they were there because I had a friend on the football team, followed by my brother who was a "supplier" of sorts to a lot of guys on the team.
For one, he was cheating. Getting kids to come out to farmland in the middle of nowhere to play basketball can't be easy, but he always figured it out, and I know for absolute sure how he did it. Frankly, that doesn't bother me that much, but it is something. For anyone who's ever been to Uconn, it really and truely is in the middle of nowhere. It's got a nice party atmosphere. Spring weekends there are nuts. But it's not a mecca of culture by any stretch of the imagination.
My second gripe is that he was always a huge who's next kind of a guy. I'm sure I'm a little hard on him for this because it had an impact on two guys I knew personally, the aforementioned Cox, who was a big time prospect and could've gone anywhere, got talked into Uconn, which at the time I didn't think was a great idea, but after showing some promise as a Frosh, he did something to get into the doghouse, and Calhoun's doghouse was pretty deep, and he would often just let guys die in there. He did a similar thing with my guy Rashamel Jones. Rash is on the shortlist of best HS players I ever saw. He had a big Frosh season too, including a big game on ESPN against Florida State where Dickey V was going nuts calling him the next in the great line of UConn stars, following Ray Allen. Of course Rash turned his ankle badly, wasn't really quite ready yet to start the following season, gave up minutes to newcomer Rip Hamilton, and never really got it back. The same thing happened to Rash's star recruiting backcourt mate, Ricky Moore. Then again it's hard to blame Calhoun too much for that particular calousness when he won a national title with those guys backing up Rip and El Amin, but it's still always bothered me, again in part to the fact that I knew the guy pretty well.
And my final criticism is mainly that he's an awfull offensive coach. I say this with a pretty good foundation. I'm pretty much a lifetime Nutmegger (that's someone from Connecticut), and I've watched tons upon tons of UConn basketball. I've seen them in person tons of times. As many of you know in here, I'm a fixture at the Big East tournament for one, and with so many friends up there over the years, I've seen them there too. And in college I actually rode the pine against them once. He's all read and react offensively, which is somewhat high minded, but it doesn't dictate anything to his players, and you end up with a ton of standing around. It kills guys who aren't instinctive, and made someone like Rudy Gay look horrible. It simply didn't behoove his players to be the best they could. And honestly, it's a huge part of the reason why he won titles mainly when he had guys who were elitely creative, like Kemba, and Khalid. His offenses gave guys way too much freedom, and it only worked when he had those special special guys who could really excel in that freedom. Some guys, like Gay, shrunk in it, other guys can't handle it's responsibility, like their current PG, Shabazz Napier.

All that said ... I have a huge amount of respect for the guy. He's one of the best defensive coaches of all time in my opinion. His 2-2-1 full court low risk, cause discomfort, style press is something that uniquely simple, and yet incredibly effective. I've tried to replicate it even on the middle school level to a great degree of success, even though I do it from a different alignment, it's notion of looking agressive but not leaving a ton of holes, then periodically throwing agressive looks at you, like trapping out of the second pass, or at a certain depth up the court, is brilliant and obviously wildly effective.
Secondly, his players consistently play hard. Probably has a lot to do with my gripe above of his somewhat shoddy treatment of players. But he obviously gets effort out of his guys. Always has. It's also probably a function of himself, he too is an exceptionally tough old irish bastard. He reminds me of one of my old HS coaches. He's come back from injuries and illness himself many times.
Thirdly, the guy turned out to be a great recruiter. He got his share of true blue chippers, but he also stumbled upon more than his share of guys who wound up being a hell of a lot better than anyone anticipated. Okafor, for one. Hilton Armstrong. Even his more highly recruited guys turned out to be undervalued some in the recruiting process, and were actually better than advertised. Ray Allen, Kemba, these guys were All Americans, but turned out to outperform even those lofty class ranks. Either a nod to his development skills in practice, or a nod to his eye for talent, but either way a nod to him.
And finally, the guy has been great in the press for his time at UConn. Not maybe from the press's perspective all the time, but in terms of entertainment. His openly ripping into dopey media questions for years has been a source of local amusement for me. He's like a Bobby Knight light, which I don't know if people know nationally. But he's a crotchety old straight shooter type who won't hesitate to call out the media when something stupid gets asked.

And that's my take beyond the "he's got 3 titles" case, which is it's own thing.

Last edited by Thorpesaurous : 09-13-2012 at 11:24 AM.
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