Calhoun, raises money for charity, takes a little ribbing from former UConn crew

Former UConn star Ray Allen crouches down next to Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena, where men's and women's basketball alumni took part in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)
Former UConn star Ray Allen crouches down next to Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena, where men's and women's basketball alumni took part in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)

Mohegan — When word got out about Jim Calhoun returning to coaching, he heard from his former players.

"I had a couple of guys kid me a great deal about it," Calhoun said.

Calhoun, 76, is building another program, starting on the ground floor at the Division III level with the new University of Saint Joseph men's basketball team that begins its first season this year.

It's no surprise to the former Huskies, who gathered for the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night, that retired life didn't sit well with the Hall of Fame coach.

Calhoun, who stepped away from coaching in 2012 and holds an advisory role at UConn, needs competition like others need air to breathe.

"He's a competitor," said Ray Allen, who'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month. "For him, sitting at home on the couch there's only so many card games, so many apps you can download, until you start realizing this is what you're made of, this is what you are.

"So it doesn't surprise because he's a competitor and he finds every opportunity throughout his days to figure out a way to compete or make somebody around him compete. If he's happy doing it, I'm happy for him."

Niels Giffey, a two-time national champion at UConn making his first charity all-star game appearance, is all for Calhoun returning to the sidelines.

"Good for him," said Giffey, who's still playing in Germany. "You want to do what you love. I feel like, you know, why not?"

Calhoun, who also has former UConn assistant Glen Miller on his staff at Saint Joseph in West Hartford, already has put together his first recruiting class. He went to watch his future players compete in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am. He couldn't resist pointing out the lack of defense played in the summer league.

"That's about to change in a couple of weeks as we get the kids to work out and do some things," Calhoun said.

Nothing could prepare Calhoun's incoming players for what they'll face this season. When practice starts, Calhoun will change from Teddy Bear to Grizzly Bear. The first box-out drill of the season should be interesting.

Donyell Marshall, who's coaching Central Connecticut State University, had the full Calhoun experience during his UConn career.

Here's what he'd say to the Saint Joseph players: "He's unlike any other coach you probably have played for before. It doesn't matter if you were at UConn as an All-American or there as a Division III player, he's going to coach you the same. Be prepared for the hard work.

"But, at the end of the day, he's going to show them that he loves them and he's going to get the best out of them."

Charlie Villanueva, a member of the 2004 national championship team and restaurant owner in Houston, offered this advice: "Good luck. And be prepared."

After posing for a group photo at center court, the UConn basketball family reunion continued with what was basically a pick-up game. Both former men's and women's players competed.

There was an impressive turnout, with about 45 players and 10 coaches attending the game but not all playing. Ryan Boatright (11 points, six assists) earned most valuable player honors for the men and Kalana Greene (eight points, four rebounds) won the women's honor.

The story-telling and reminiscing will continue this weekend at the Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic with two golf tournaments. Since the event started in 1999, over $8 million dollars has been raised for the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health in Farmington.

"It basically sums up how we all feel about the university," Allen said of the weekend. "What I love is that now the women are a part of this. Because UConn basketball is more than just men's basketball. Obviously, the women have done some incredible, incredible things.

"... We have an opportunity to celebrate what we've done because I don't think in this state, as good as our teams have been at this university, we talk about them enough. ... We have a great school and we have to talk about it more."

News and notes

• Former head coach and player Kevin Ollie, who's in a legal battle with the university to collect $10 million on his contract, didn't attend. He was fired in March. Allen on the sticky situation: "We all know who he is, who he's been. We've just got to make sure that we resolve the situation." ... Calhoun on his Celebrity Classic: "You guys have your Christmas in December, I have mine in August." ... Current head coach Dan Hurley and his staff watched the game. ... Announced attendance was 5,323. ... Ed Nelson led all scorers with 15 points and Rashad Anderson had 14 points. ... Other notable players on the roster included Rudy Gay, Khalid El-Amin, Daniel Hamilton, Rip Hamilton, Amida Brimah, Stanley Robinson, Taliek Brown, Rodney Purvis and Chris Smith. Svetlana Abrosimova headlined the women's list, joining Carla Berube, Ashley Battle, Maria Conlon, Rita Williams and Jessica Moore as well as others. ... Boatright, who played in China last season, plans to stay home and purse an NBA career. ... Purvis, a free agent, on his brief NBA debut last season with Orlando: "It was great. That's something you grow up thinking about as a kid. For me to be out there on the NBA floor, living out my dream, there's no better feeling."

g.keefe@theday.com

Former UConn men's and women's basketball players gather for a team photograph Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena, where they participated in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)
Former UConn men's and women's basketball players gather for a team photograph Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena, where they participated in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)

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