How can Conn justify not hiring Tyson Wheeler as its basketball coach?
How fitting, indeed, that Connecticut College's perch, looking down on the rest of the city, continues to offer such geographical symmetry for an institution that continues to act above it all.
Conn's latest dismissive wave came last week with the hiring of someone other than Tyson Wheeler as its new men's basketball coach.
Tyson Wheeler: The most beloved athlete to ever hail from the 06320. The former whiz kid at New London High who grew up practicing the unspoken value of constant effort, relentlessly honing his game at Toby May, with an omnipresent magnetism.
The kid who was never big enough or strong enough but proved that if the dream is big enough, the facts don't count, becoming a Division I player at Rhode Island, leading the Rams within an eyelash of the Final Four.
The kid who played in the NBA and then professionally for years in Europe.
The kid who defied the rhythms of hard-marking New London, remaining a beloved figure here and all over the region, even to opponents on whom he'd rain threes like hailstones. Tyson: Where never was heard a discouraging word.
Now the man who is a husband and dad with Div. I coaching experience at Fairfield, the man who would have given Conn immediate relevance and local context.
Instead, the most beloved athlete in the history of the city is still looking for a job.
He wasn't good enough for Connecticut College.
Conn instead hired Tim Sweeney, who has an impressive resume, with Div. I experience at Davidson and Div. III head coaching experience at Hobart. A solid hire by any fair measure.
Except that this is New London. And this is what Connecticut College officials don't ever seem to understand: Where you are matters. Conn is not some independent educational contractor who happens to share a zip code with the rest of us. It is part of the community.
Yet its arrogance and bewildering tone deafness tugs at its credibility.
Nothing has changed much since the days school officials did nothing to help New London grad Doug Henton, who had the acumen but not the means to attend Conn. Henton's story became a local cause celebre, leading to an inspiring outpouring that eventually covered the final part of the tuition Conn just couldn't help with, not even for a kid from the city.
Think about this: Chris Soto, a local politician at the time who has become a key member on Gov. Lamont's team, conspired with prominent local businessman Mike Buscetto to help Henton's cause. A local philanthropic group, Power of Together, read the story in The Day and illustrated the true power of togetherness, pooling enough monetary resources to make Henton's dreams come true.
There was never a more positive story in this region. Ever. It crossed racial and cultural lines, involved hundreds and hundreds of business leaders and other professionals from several different towns. The essence of community.
And Connecticut College was absent through the process, neither interested nor aware of the positive impact. Even the day Buscetto did a fundraiser at Filomena's and hundreds of people stopped in to give what they could, there was no representation from Conn whatsoever. None.
And nothing has changed.
Conn officials can hyperventilate if they so choose to defend Sweeney's hiring. Again: solid resume. He'll probably do well here — or as well as possible with some of the worst facilities in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. And when he does well, there might even be a few I-told-you-so's forthcoming from the gallery.
Which would, once again, illustrate the place's tone deafness. This is the most beloved athlete in the history of the city you call home. With a professional playing background and Div. I coaching experience. He could provide instant connectivity with the city and region.
And yet Conn practiced the dreaded "going in another direction," completely having lost the light for the way.
Somebody at Connecticut College ought to realize that we cattle down here in the rest of the city have our own brains and insights, too.
Some of us don't think much of your institution right now.
And haven't for quite some time.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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