|Dick Vitale, left, Donny Marshall, center, and Calhoun in 1994. (Getty Images)|
STORRS, Conn. -- Many of them wanted to transfer, quit or even fight. Some despised him while they were here, but then grew to respect him soon after their departure.
Jim Calhoun or Bob Knight? Take your pick.
They are both crusty, old-school, hard-headed and have more than their share of run-ins -- with players, opposing coaches and even the media. You either love them or hate them, but one thing is for certain: You have to respect them for what they have done over the course of their careers. Knight finished his career with 902 career victories and three national titles. Calhoun won just 27 fewer games and also has a trio of national championships to his credit.
"I couldn't stand him when I was here as a player," said former UConn forward Donny Marshall. "I hated him."
He had plenty of company.
"It's the same with every guy in every era," added former guard Tony Robertson. "All that changes is the names."
It's identical to what's been uttered from those who played for Knight back in the day. Both he and Calhoun demanded consistent effort, wouldn't back down from anyone and were all about toughness and discipline. If you didn't have mental resolve, you didn't have a shot.
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Robertson was known for his toughness coming out of a rough neighborhood in East Providence, R.I., back in the late 1990s, but he was no match for Calhoun -- who nearly broke him early in his career.
"I almost transferred after my sophomore year," he said."I couldn't deal with him."
Talk to guys who played for Knight and they'll tell you he prepared them, whether it was for the NBA, overseas or life outside of basketball. Ditto for Calhoun. Teenagers had a difficult time understanding the tough love while they were on campus, but years later they are able to appreciate their former coaches.
"He taught us how to work and never take a play off," said former UConn forward Kevin Freeman. "Not just in basketball, but in life."
"Everything he taught me from 1991 to 1995, I've used the rest of my life," Marshall added.
Their systems were different. Knight ran his renowned motion offense while Calhoun relied more on a fastbreak offense. Calhoun is a Bostonian while Knight grew up in the midwest. However, their methods -- and personalities -- were fairly similar. Knight would toss chairs, Calhoun would hurl obscenities. Both lacked patience, were intimidating personalities and got into their share of trouble over the years. They both had their favorites, but treated just about everyone the same.
Freeman recalled when his UConn team lost to Seton Hall on senior night. Calhoun responded by having them practice at 2:30 a.m. and Richard Hamilton, who had become a face of the program at the time, came in with an eye injury.
"He didn't want to practice, but Coach got him a pair of goggles and we ran for three hours," Freeman said. "He treated everyone the same. No one got special treatment."
Both made their share of adversaries within the industry, although Calhoun stockpiled a few more over the course of his 40-year head coaching career. Reporters hated dealing with both, and each had their issues with administrators. Myles Brand forced Knight out of Bloomington while Calhoun essentially ran former athletic director Jeff Hathaway out of Storrs.
There are differences: Calhoun developed the reputation of skirting the rules, especially after the program faced sanctions a couple years ago in the wake of the Josh Nochimson investigation. Knight was always considered clean and always prioritized academics while UConn won't be able to play in the postseason this year due to low academic scores.
Calhoun is the modern day Knight, even though he's just a year younger than the coach-turned-broadcaster.
"We all hated playing for him because he pushed us in ways we had never been pushed," Marshall said. "But in the end, we knew he did it for us."
Sounds just like another Hall of Famer.