NARRAGANSETT — At first glimpse, you’d think Jim Calhoun was content in a well-earned life of leisurely retirement.
As Calhoun moved around Point Judith Country Club on Tuesday, mixing a sharp 7-iron with his trademark sharp tongue, it was clear the 76-year-old likes golf. He loves the beach home he moved into two years ago, one that sits a 3-wood off Green Hill Beach in South Kingstown, where he welcomes his six grandchildren and proudly continues what he laughingly calls “Connecticut’s invasion” of South County.
One look, however, is never enough to get a firm read on Jim Calhoun. The man who first coached Northeastern to national prominence and then did the unthinkable and turned Storrs, Conn., into a college basketball destination spot isn’t ready to extinguish his Basketball Jones. He may have walked away from UConn in 2012, a year after cutting down the nets in Houston for a third national championship, but that didn’t take. He wants back in.
“My wife Pat, she’s been with me for 51 years,” Calhoun said. “She knows how obsessive I am. It’s no surprise to her.”
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s worked in Jim Calhoun’s orbit for the last 40 years. Deep down, Calhoun has hoops running through his veins. He loves to talk basketball, watch basketball, breathe basketball. Beginning next month, he will be back. The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford is admitting men for the first time and is looking to ramp up its athletics as quickly as possible. Hiring a Hall of Famer to coach basketball can only be described as the school’s first coup.
So when school opens, Calhoun will leave Point Judith, pack up the Green Hill house and shuttle between his longtime home in Pomfret, Conn., and an apartment near the Saint Joe’s campus. He says he can’t wait for practice to start in mid-October.
“I tried the ESPN thing. It was fun, I liked it,” Calhoun said of his analyst role on some Big Ten hoop games. “We’d go out with [Michigan State’s] Tom Izzo after the game and I hadn’t lost, but I hadn’t won either. I missed being a part of it.”
Glen Miller could see that hole in Calhoun’s heart. Miller, the ex-Brown coach, played for Calhoun at Northeastern and spent years next to him as an assistant coach. Now he’s the associate director of men’s basketball at Saint Joseph’s. He spent the last year laying the groundwork for creating the new program, doing everything from recruiting to scheduling to pushing for a new gymnasium on campus.
Announcement Coach Jim Calhoun will serve as a consultant to the @USJ_BlueJays‘ 1st-ever MBB program.
— NCAA Division III (@NCAADIII) September 28, 2017
On Monday night, both coaches were at a Hartford Pro-Am game where many of their new recruits were playing. Things didn’t go well for the future Blue Jays but both coaches like where things are headed.
“Everything was fine but Coach almost fired our summer league coach after the game,” Miller said as he stepped off Point Judith’s 11th tee. “That’s all you need to know about his fire.”
Ah, that trademark Calhoun fire. It’s the persistent ingredient that lit the fuse for the Huskies for all those winning seasons. Sure UConn eventually became UConn and Ray Allen, Rudy Gay, Emeka Okafor, Kemba Walker and so many other super players waltzed through the Big East but it was the prodding arm (and foot) of Calhoun that pushed the program to great heights.
Now that Calhoun fire is coming to a Division III gym near you. He says he watched over 60 prep and high school games last winter, scouring the Northeast for talent. Instead of battling Syracuse and Duke for the next Andre Drummond, he needs to find the right mix to baffle Johnson & Wales, Albertus Magnus and the rest of the leaders in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.
Kids used to getting calls from Wesleyan, Eastern Connecticut and Mount Ida now have a Hall of Famer on the line. The old coach says he’s even getting used to sending texts.
“Glen has done a great job,” Calhoun said. “Kids are listening and we already have some good players. I tell ’em ‘If you want to be a player, we can make you a player. You want to play in Europe? I can help you.’ “
Calhoun has famously battled a host of health woes, starting first with prostate cancer in 2003. In the last several years he’s fought through skin cancer, had a pin inserted in his hip and replaced a knee. He says he’s “healthier than most people, but just get a little tired,” and isn’t leery about driving back and forth across a state where he’s still as recognizable as anyone.
“These kids may not be headed for the NBA but we’ll make sure they love basketball and have a great experience,” he says. “We’re excited about it. We want our own Ray and Kemba, at this level.”
This article is written by Kevin McNamara from The Providence Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.