Tag:Jim Calhoun
Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:56 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2011 12:30 am
 

Scholarship issue a very sensitive one at UConn


By Matt Norlander

HARTFORD, Conn. -- “Jim, this is our first chance to ask you about Andre Drummond—”

And then the statement was cut off before it could turn into a question.  It was uttered by Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs, the state’s most frequent and fearless prodder of Jim Calhoun. The agitated UConn coach knew what was coming. Before it came, he rambled on for a few minutes in a terse tone regarding his team’s 79-71 win over Fairfield, a game in which the Stags outscored the Huskies 45-33 in the second half. Calhoun was already his usual ornery self in the wake of a miserable final 20 minutes — he didn’t want questions regarding a scholarship situation that was secretly resolved weeks ago.

“Andre Drummond gave the information at the time, which was correct,” Calhoun said, referring to Drummond taking (not possibly taking — taking) teammate Michael Bradley’s scholarship at the start of the season. “It was then received by the NCAA, it us took two and a half months to work it out. My first responsibility was not to tell the press what was going on, because it’s not any of your business. It’s a private matter between two young men. ”

This is UConn, a public university and the biggest sporting deal in this state. The goings-on of the program are of constant interest and curiosity by the public, privacy matters be damned. May not be fair, but Calhoun reaps so many benefits of all he’s done, he knows how the game works from the opposite end. He was just defending his players and his team.

His reputation too, yet again, which is connected to the fact the No. 1 prospect of the 2011 class strolled onto campus after fall text books hit the school store shelves. No matter: Drummond had a spot on the team, nary an hurdle. There are skeptics of that, fair or not.

For many, it seemed wrong that Calhoun — now about to serve his three-game Big East suspension, handed down by the NCAA last season after — was able to get Drummond on the team. That’s why questions and curiosity abounded. The two don’t connect, but uneasy connotations lingered with how the Huskies got off getting arguably the best player in this class and could squeeze him in despite only have 10 scholarships available.

Calhoun stood there Thursday night and continued his defense/attack all at once.

“I’m not going to tell you about their private life. One’s a walk-on, that’s Andre Drummond, and the other one has a full scholarship,” Calhoun said. “I don’t know why it’s your business or anyone else’s business, to be honest with you. ‘Because we need to know.’ You need to know what? … I don’t know what this has to do with anything.”

Calhoun wanted to get back to bitching about his 10-1 team’s bad game.

"It's a very unusual situation, but we'll go into full detail later about this, so we can tell everyone, so they can hear the story." – Jim Calhoun to me, outside Gampel Pavilion on  Oct. 14 of this year.

Calhoun himself never went into full detail. Outgoing sports information director Kyle Muncy did this week. We’ve heard the story, and we want to know more. Now Calhoun and Drummond don’t want to share anything else. Yes, it’s also an extremely sensitive issue for Drummond. For Bradley? I don’t know. The redshirt freshman wasn’t made available to speak after the game.

“Before I was coming in, Mike called me and said I’m going to give my school, and I was like, ‘Man, you don’t gotta do that,’” Drummond said. “I don’t really need to say anything to anybody because that’s between me and him. It really doesn’t need to go out publicly to anybody, you know what I’m saying? Besides, no one asked me what’s going on, so I’m not going to make it my problem to go and tell somebody, ‘OK, me and Mike decided not to do anything.’ So I just kept it to myself.”

Drummond said he’ll take a scholarship next year, an indication he won’t look to leave for the NBA draft. Another conversation for another time, but I did find it interesting he dropped reference to returning next year a few times, as if to try to give this story some spin.

“All I know is, me and Mike, we did what we had to do,” Drummond said. “I let him keep his scholarship, because I feel like deserved it. I can pay my way in. Nobody needs to know what I’m doing, like if I’m paying my way, I don’t need to go around and tell [people].”

Drummond’s only been on campus for a few months, but he knows what the program means; he grew up in Connecticut, which is also why he took the loan on. It makes much more logistical sense that an in-state kid who will make NBA millions in the coming months or years accept walk-on status, rather than a player from a poor background in Tennessee accepting the burden of tens of thousands of dollars in dues.

Drummond being a walk-on also does not count against UConn’s APR, which is also why the Huskies are in a scholarship crunch.

The hazy details of this story still float out there. It was originally reported that Drummond got the scholarship. Calhoun, Drummond and everyone else accepted those reports and responded accordingly, despite the fact all the time Bradley and Drummond were technically of walk-on status. When Bradley took the scholarship in late October, no one surrounding the program made any effort to clarify the situation. It’s a positive thing — why not put it out there? The Huskies and Calhoun were lambasted for how this originally came about.

When Drummond and the school did the smart, sensible thing, they kept quiet. What a strange thing to do.

Photo: AP

Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:18 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Calhoun knows Napier is the key for UConn



By Jeff Goodman


Everyone can talk all they want about Jeremy Lamb, how he's primed for a mammoth season in which some even have pegged him as a Preseason First Team All-American.

They can talk about the new guy, talented freshman Andre Drummond - who could well become a lottery pick after this season.

They can talk about veteran big man Alex Oriakhi and how if he becomes consistent, this UConn team could go back-to-back.

But none hold more to the Huskies success this season than Shabazz Napier.

And it's got nothing to do with the fact that backup point guard Ryan Boatright is still dealing with NCAA eligibility issues, either.

With or without Boatright in the fold, Napier is the most important man in Storrs, Conn., this season - and one of the most important in all of college hoops.

"Shabazz is the key to UConn," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun admitted to CBSSports.com.

Napier was the guy who played alongside Kemba Walker a year ago. He was a relentless defender who brought toughness to the table. Now he'll be asked to run the show.

Thus far, in two exhibition games, Napier has dished out 28 assists and committed just four turnovers.

"He was better running the team in the games than he's been in practice," Calhoun said.

Some question Napier's ability to shoot the ball - after he shot just 37 percent overall and 33 percent from long distance as a freshman.

"I'm not worried about that at all," Calhoun said.

Two things that Napier can do: Guard and shoot the ball.

Running the team will be the key for the Huskies, though.

Photo: AP
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:35 am
 

UConn's Bradley out 6 weeks with ankle fracture

By Matt Norlander

The player who gave up his scholarship so Andre Drummond could play for UConn this year will miss the first four weeks of the regular season.

Michael Bradley, a freshman forward for the Huskies, tweaked his right ankle over the weekend in one of UConn's first practices. After initial hopes of a sprain, it was discovered he had a fracture in that ankle. He's scheduled to underdog a routine surgical procedure and then endure six weeks of rehab.

UConn's season begins Nov. 11 against Columbia.

It's an ironic situation, given how much attention the school, Huskies coach Jim Calhoun, Drummond and Bradley received over the scholarship issue, which still hasn't been publicly explained by Calhoun. Bradley, who wasn't expected to be a player of large impact this year, grew up in a group home in Tennessee, is on financial aid for this season.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 10:17 am
 

Calhoun perfectly fine with extended NBA lockout

By Matt Norlander

Jim Calhoun sure knows how to get himself into this blog as frequently as possible. That's because he's one of the most opinionated guys in college basketball. And when you operate a blog that revolves around the fifth-most popular sport in America, the people with the loudest voices often receive the most attention.

Three national championships go a long way as well.

On a day when we reported his team was locked into an agreement to be the second tip-off in the newly formed Carrier Classic, the 69-year-old coach told the Chicago Tribune he's embracing the lockout. And all basketball fans should make the most of it, do the same, and occupy their time by watching more college ball than they normally would. Why is Calhoun sharing this with a Chicago-based reporter? Because he was in the Windy City to  receive the Ray Meyer College Coach of the Year Award at the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner. Duh.

Here's what he said, re: lockout.
"Now you're going to have to watch us, whether you like us or not," Calhoun said. "It's a good thing for me, personally. We have 12 kids coming into the NBA. ... Ray Allen and a kid who was great when he was here and would like to still be here probably, Ben Gordon. And Rudy Gay … those guys are with our students right now. So we have all-star games, which I can't see unfortunately, every day of the week. But for a kid like Kemba Walker, we want to kind of get him on to his career."
Calhoun's referring to the fact that all these NBA players have been spending their September staying in shape in Storrs. The pros can't be in NBA-affiliated facilities, so plenty of 'em have headed back to bounce the ball on campus. College coaches can't work out/coach their guys until Oct. 15, so they get secondhand information. Restrictions at the NBA level have forced college players into the gyms and turned them into de facto coaches at a time when the real coaches are still waiting in the hallways to start their seasons, further enticed by the squeaking of the sneakers they hear through the corridors.

It serendipitous situation for the college players. College teams could actually see an uptick in productivity, fluidity and overall competence because of the help and playing time against some of the world's best. And for the pros, who must be plenty nostalgic, there's also benefit on their end, as they stay in shape with about as good of competition they could ask for on a weekly basis.

And let's not forget the fact this rare offseason fusion strengthens the bond and affiliation between former player and university. The programs and schools can have residual benefits from this.

As for realignment (we got Calhoun on record about that earlier this week, too), here's what he told the Tribune:
"I know for sure that I can introduce myself as Jim Calhoun, UConn baskeball coach. After that, I don't know what else I can tell you," Calhoun said. "I do think we are very attractive. We have won 10 championships in men's and women's basketball in the past 13 years. ... But when all is said and done, and all the talk about what is best for the student-athletes, and also what's best for academics ... it's money. And it's more money. ...

"I think there will be new leadership unlike the NCAA presently runs us. And yet I have always felt that when you do that, we better view all of the other schools if that does happen. The (NCAA) tournament is too special; don't mess with it. It's too good."
Calhoun's in an interesting spot because, while most basketball coaches are unlikely to be truly tapped into their university's situation, he absolutely is. New president Susan Herbst is a huge fan of Calhoun, and the two of them essentially kicked former athletic director Jeff Hathaway off campus. If UConn can or is going to move, Calhoun's very clued in. He won't go beyond that publicly, though.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 11:25 am
 

Calhoun: 'UConn needs to take care of UConn'



By Jeff Goodman

Jim Calhoun's line: UConn needs to worry about UConn.

"We have a lot to offer," Calhoun told CBSSports.com on Monday morning. "We're very attractive now. This isn't 25 years ago."

Calhoun went onto talk about the national championships, the continued growth and success of the football program and the location of the school in regards to its media coverage from New York to Boston.

"It's a different world now here," he said.

Calhoun wouldn't talk specifically about the possibility of UConn heading to the ACC (he said he'll leave that to UConn president Susan Herbst), but he sure sounded like a guy who knew his program was in for a change.

Multiple sources have confirmed ESPN's report over the weekend that UConn is in serious discussions to go to the ACC.

"What UConn needs to do is put it head down and take care of UConn," Calhoun said. "Do what's best for us - just like everyone else needs to do what's best for their institution."

Calhoun, 69, sounded upbeat about the potential change of conference home.

"I'd face any challenge. Anywhere," Calhoun said. "Line 'em up and let's play them. I'd be excited by it."

My sense is that Calhoun would welcome the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Coach K and Roy Williams and Duke and North Carolina as his career winds down.

That may not have been the case a year ago, when the Huskies appeared to be on the downward spiral, but now after a national title - and the addition of the program's best recruiting class in a while - Calhoun's swagger is at an all-time high.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE

Posted on: September 12, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:17 am
 

NCAA deflects issue of UConn scholarships

By Matt Norlander

It's a Monday morning after the first weekend of the NFL season, so few general, Joe Q Six Pack sports fans are invested in the college hoops scene, what with everyone eager to quarterback. (My analysis: the Bears are winning the Super Bowl. NEXT QUESTION.)

Somehow, we press on over here in our digs, and I wanted to bring this item to your attention.There was a good column filled with a lot of curiosity written by Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant over the wekend. Jacobs has been on fire this year, and I thank him for giving the blog a little bit of extra content fuel.

Jacobs -- probably the most outspoken sportswriter at any of the Connecticut newspapers -- had been mainly silent since the news of Andre Drummond's arrival to Connecticut's campus. Why? Why did the most prominent sports voice at the state's biggest newspaper sit on this for so long? Well, he wanted to talk to the NCAA, particuarly president Mark Emmert first. But it appears Emmert wasn't made available to discuss why a program that's been put on probation, that's suspended Jim Calhoun for three games, that won a national championship despite living under the heat lamp of the NCAA for the better part of the past two years, was able maneuver within the system once again.

On Friday came my answer from Erik Christianson, NCAA director of public and media relations: "We do not know the specific details of this situation, so we encourage you to contact the institution for that information."

So much for expanding the public discussion.

Going to UConn for answers does nothing. All you'll get from the school is a quaint and correct, "We worked within the system that's allowed."

Jacobs makes the point that UConn isn't at fault here, and he's exactly right. It's faulty to blame a school for finding ways to win within the weak/manipulable rules that are already at play. UConn knew it could get Andre Drummond in this year and knew it'd have to boot someone off the scholarship docket to do so. Turns out it's Michael Bradley, a kid who grew up in a Tennessee group home who's taking the hit. (He'll no doubt end up not really incurring that debt, right? So who's ultimately paying for that, and when?) With Drummond, the Huskies a legitimate national championship team, the first group with that acclaim coming off a title since Florida five years ago.

And the reason Drummond's even learning about the best and most boring spots in all of Storrs, Conn., is because the NCAA still has a one-year-renewal scholarship policy. A mini contract for players the institution vehemently refers to as amateurs. If you implement a four-year -- or even a two-year -- scholarship policy/guarantee, Drummond is at St. Thomas More Prep right now, gearing up for a quiet post-grad season. Jacobs merely wanted to ask Emmert about that, above anything else.

But the NCAA hides and deflects issues to its member institutions. How is that leadership? Sitting back and allowing UConn to do what it did without so much as a comment isn't indicative of new policy, it's proof of continued contentment with so many of the system's flawed keystones. Emmert and Co. look compliant and complacent in place of proactive and perturbed over how UConn's seemingly gotten stronger despite sanctions for violations that would've forced 99 percent of programs to find a new head coach.

Photo: AP
Posted on: September 5, 2011 11:30 am
 

Video: Coach K talks about Jim Calhoun

By Matt Norlander

Some intra-company plugging here, if you please. Tim Brando recently started simulcasting his radio show on the CBS Sports Network, so we were eager to help spread the word as soon as he got some college hoops content on the air. We didn't have to wait long. Brando had Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on his show last week, and he asked the the Hall-of-Fame coach from Duke about the Hall-of-Fame coach from Connecticut.

Here's what K had to say:

Posted on: August 31, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 4:37 pm
 

Calhoun, UConn were always going to start easy



By Matt Norlander

The Big East expected UConn's first three games to be easy.

For most top-tier teams in most years, it is easy -- rather: unbalanced. That's really the more appropriate term. And it's unbalanced because TV networks get first pick of the best games in the best conference in basketball well before a full schedule is agreed upon. Those games are scattershot across the final six weeks of the regular season, when the sport spurts out of second gear and starts getting national recognition.

The early parts of the Big East schedule dovetail with college bowl season and the packed wildcard and divisional playoff weekends of the NFL. Networks by and large don't want hoops games in big spots at that point. So the Big East doles out underwhelming intra-conference matchups, saving the good stuff for later. It's smart business.

It's why people need to stop grousing about what was destined to be. It's hardly fair that Jim Calhoun's three-game suspension comes against inferior competition, but at the same time, it seems all too appropriate that Calhoun gets this sort of break. Having said that, there is some rightful complaining being done because, if you look at UConn's first three games in recent years, there's always one or two teams that are considered good-to-great baked into the first portion of the Huskies' schedule. This time around: at South Florida, St. John's, at Seton Hall. A change of pace, for sure, as the best of that group from last year (St. John's) graduated nine seniors.

“The (scheduling) process was the same that is has always been," Big East associate commissioner Thomas R. Odjakjian said. "We put in maybe 25 percent, manually, of the schedule. It varies year to year, and we put it into the computer."

What's interesting: Sometimes the software the league uses can't conjure up a schedule when doing a blind simulation. The unnamed software is the brainchild of Arthur Steiker, 59, who is the managing director of Bortz Media and Sports Group. The NHL, NBA, ACC and Pac-12 also use his scheduling software, which he resisted putting a price tag on. (It seems it's very, very pricey.)

The league has a computer designated at its headquarters to only be used for scheduling; that's all it does. Each summer, it's fired up and the multi-week process begins. The conference's slate is put together by computer first and checked by Big East officials after to confirm all teams jibe with what's been BINGO'd out to them. No league has as many obstacles to overcome like the 16-team Big East. No league shares more pro arenas, has more concerts, circuses and special events to plan around. The computer spits out many simulations; Odjakjian said it took more than 200 this year before one-fourth of the schedule was doable.

“If we gave the computer more than 25 percent of (the league's schedule), it would overheat. Last year we asked it to do too much, it came up with a million scenarios and no solutions," he said.

One schedule simulation can take as long as 12 hours. The Big East uses their headquarters and Bortz Media's in Denver to optimize arranging a slate as quickly as possible. It's a very tedious process, even after the big games have been tacked to dates.

"The Syracuse game was picked by CBS in February, at Syracuse. ESPN picked for GameDay the Syracuse game at Connecticut. Those games in February so obviously they were not going to be one of the first three games," Odjakjian said. "UConn never even gave us a phone call to say, ‘What are you going to do?’" When we started the process we called the athletic directors and associate athletic directors and told them how we were handling. Since CBS and ESPN didn’t want any games against other highly ranked teams in the first week of the season -- which is normal because you’ve got bowl games and less time slots, you‘ve got sweeps in February -- there were only so many teams left and that happened to be teams that came out."

There is a formula to be obeyed. No team starts with three away or home games. The matrix of the schedule is determined in early June.

"We knew people would scrutinize it closely, but that’s how it came out. There was no conspiracy at all; it was totally, totally honest process,” Odjakjian said.

Fortunately for the league, it was able to get its intra-conference schedule out at its earliest point in eight years, thanks to the NBA lockout. Last season, LeBron James' decision pushed back the NBA's scheduling, thus affecting the Big East well past its usual deadline. It's easy and understandable to lament UConn's easy break to start its Big East season, but the fact of the matter is, the odds favored this. Right or wrong, this is the math. Math never got in the way of a good conspiracy theory, though.
 
 
 
 
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