Jim Calhoun all-star game brings UConn alums together for charity

Former UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will be a part of the Seventh Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star basketball game Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Former UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will be a part of the Seventh Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star basketball game Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. Tim Martin/Day File Photo

Jim Calhoun has a lifetime of stories revolving around his charity all-star game.

Some memorable ones have nothing to do with basketball.

Take what recently happened when the former UConn coach was out to dinner with his wife, Pat.

"A guy walks up and says, 'Coach, thanks for everything,'" Calhoun said on Wednesday. "He said, 'It has nothing to do with basketball. My life was saved at the Cardiology Center.'

"That kind of thing is really incredibly moving."

Those touching moments only reinforce the importance of his charity work that includes holding the Seventh Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star basketball game at 7:30 Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The UConn alumni game is part of the Mohegan Sun/Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic weekend, which has raised in excess of $6.5 million since 1999 for cardiology research and life-saving care at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the UConn Health Center in Farmington.

"Our first year, we made about $18,000," Calhoun said. "Obviously, it's exploded since then."

This year's event will include former players and coaches from all four national championship teams. The national title trophies will be on display at the arena.

Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Rudy Gay, Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Jeff Adrien, Taliek Brown, Scott Burrell, Jeremy Lamb, Donny Marshall, Donyell Marshall, A.J. Price and Charlie Villanueva are some of the ex-Huskies expected to play.

That's if Calhoun, who's nearly two years removed from his retirement, can convince them to leave the locker room. It's hard to break them up from talking about their glory days at UConn.

"To get them to get dressed to go out for warm-ups is virtually impossible," Calhoun said. "It's like they're back in the locker room when they played with each other. That's astounding thing to see, just the caring that they have for each other. It's a reunion for them."

Current head coach Kevin Ollie and several other former assistants under Calhoun will be on hand.

Howie Dickenman, now running his own program at Central Connecticut State University, and Quinnipiac's Tom Moore will serve as head coaches. Ollie will help out Dickenman.

Over the years, Calhoun has considered changing the game, toying with UConn alum facing a team of former Big East all-stars. There's also been conversation about playing former Duke players.

But Calhoun's players overwhelming prefer to keep it a purely UConn event. And they're committed to carving out time in their demanding schedules to attend. Gay has set up a private plane to fly him and his family from California, while Doron Sheffer, who's on a speaking tour in the region, is hoping to delay his flight home to Israel so he can make it.

Caron Butler was disappointed to learn that he couldn't come because of a planned family vacation.

"One of the reasons that it has lasted is because it's not just about a basketball team," Calhoun said. "It's more about a basketball family and a basketball culture. That's really important. … Those kinds of stories epitomize the kind of guys that the program has developed."

Calhoun missed the last charity game two years ago, fracturing his hip in a bicycle accident earlier that same day.

"To me, it's probably one of the highlights of my year, without question, to see those guys," Calhoun said. "It's great. I couldn't be happier with the turnout."

A healthy 72-year-old, he's still riding his bicycle. Since the accident, he's a bit more careful about his equipment and choosing routes.

He may take it easy before Friday's game.

"I think I'll stay in bed until three," Calhoun joked.

As far as the future of his charity game, Calhoun once thought he'd stopped the event when his coaching days ended. Not anymore.

"I still want to, in some form or another, have this thing," Calhoun said. "Secondly, the benefits that come to the Cardiology Center are just incredible. … I know a lot of things that occurred just from what we've done during the summer. It's obviously very special."

Tickets, which range from $12 to $25, can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Box Office, by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-345-7000 or going online at Ticketmaster.com.

g.keefe@theday.com

Twitter: @GavinKeefe

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